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The proposals (in the words of Mike Heyworth) involve “far-reaching (and possibly controversial) suggestions about ownership of archaeological material in general, mandatory reporting and permit systems to regulate what is today just a free-for-all in most of the UKand there are “considerable concerns over financial value approaches to portable antiquities”.

There’s are some predictable opponents: a detectorist writes “Thanks to the myopic and compliant Department of Media Culture and Sport, unsurprisingly, this Marxist nightmare is about to come true” (!!) and a US coin collectors’ lobbyist warns clients a permit requirement could be used to preclude detecting from archaeologically sensitive areas” (But WHY would they be against that?!)

Fortunately the proposals originate high in the Government, as part of Brexit planning, so won’t be “emasculated” this time. Indeed, they may be further improved so we’ll approach the protection elsewhere, e.g. in Ireland where the leaflet below has been in every library and police station for years. British archaeologists have never disagreed. Soon they’ll be free to say so.

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In a stunning about-face the National Trust has today announced in the press it will now fight against all damage to Stonehenge:

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“We have been clear throughout the process to date that we would oppose any proposal that would damage Stonehenge or its setting.”

Paul Forecast Regional Director for the National Trust said: Stonehenge sits is one of the most widely recognised places cared for by the National Trust. It is admired for its breath-taking scale and unrivalled in its dramatic views. The landscape here provides a home for a huge variety of wildlife and offers a much-loved place for both the local community and visitors from further afield to explore.

“Whilst we recognise the need for improved public transport, we are clear that we will oppose any scheme that will irreparably damage such a wonderful place when alternatives are available. We will continue to actively work with all those involved to ensure that the special nature of this part of the country and the places we look after are safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.”


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The above is true and verbatim (it’s here) except for the fact it doesn’t say Stonehenge, it says Wimpole Hall,  a National Trust stately home in Cambridgeshire. What more vivid illustration could there be of the hapless, rudderless state of the Trust – when it can fight so hard for one place yet support massive, immortal, avoidable damage to a far more important one?

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The National Trust is getting loads of publicity on TV this morning because it has been given £800,000 to improve Hambleton Hill and other Dorset and Wiltshire hill forts by removing scrub. Naturally we thought of Stonehenge, not far away, where it is campaigning for all it’s worth to cause massive, immortal damage.

But we also thought of this from 2015…..


The National Trust has written to the Portman Hunt amid claims made locally that its horses and hounds damaged Hambledon Hill, one of the finest examples of an iron age hill fort in Dorset.

Local resident Jerry Broadway, believes this is the second time the hunt has damaged the hill fort. He said: “After leaving the bridleway the hunt scattered livestock which were panicked by the hounds who were completely out of control.

“On this occasion extensive damage was done by the horses to the hill generally, and most worryingly the Neolithic Longbarrow which is over 3,000 years old.

They have now twice been guilty of damage to a scheduled ancient monument. What, I wonder will it take to make them actually take real notice?


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What indeed?

Prosecution? Hardly. Not really what the Trust does to its friends in hunts, is it?

 

According to a report in the Telegraph :


“Ministers are now “actively considering” scrapping High Speed 2, amid growing concern that its budget could spiral out of control, according to a new documentary.

Senior government sources have claimed that ministers were “increasingly minded to kill off” plans for the £56 billion rail line and divert its budget to existing commuter routes.

The claims, which contrast sharply with Theresa May’s public defence of the project, come in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which also reports that annual spending on the scheme is due to rise by 40 per cent to £6 billion.”


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This could well fit with fears that Brexit will impose financial austerity.

On the other hand, we have it on very poor authority it is untrue ….

However, if it is true then a fascinating situation arises. Would the Stonehenge tunnel be cancelled too? And if so: would English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust issue a joint statement saying how terribly disappointed they were?!

 

Unthinking or what? Historic England has launched a totally ill-timed campaign:

As Valentine’s Day approaches we want you to share the buildings and places close to your heart. They are the backdrop to our lives, the setting of treasured memories and the familiar sight that says you’re almost home; the unique buildings we live and work among have a special place in our hearts. So tell us: what building can’t you live without? Where is it that makes your heart sing, or stops you in your tracks, every time?

Didn’t it occur to them that for millions of people the answer would be the timeless view of Stonehenge, the one they want to hide forever?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Historic England is half way to getting its wish, so why taunt people by asking what is their most loved view?

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It will be its custodians, surely, for giving up too soon? For example, see English Heritage archaeologist Heather Sebire’s recent words in The Guardian: “Everyone knows the scheme’s not perfect. But it is the best we’re going to get at this point in time.” Really? Is it? Is there a rule that no more can be spent?

No there isn’t and if EH and the others had said no, the tunnel must be longer before we can support it, the Government would not, could not have gone ahead with the short one. And, whatever the politicians say, more money IS available:

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A FLO recently told us: “You & your ilk would have us back in the bad old days 1970s Archaeology. The rest of us have moved on. Catch up.” A tad rude maybe, about amateurs who help pay his wages and who’ve been studying this issue since he was at school?

Plus, he’s totally wrong: we don’t want the 1970s, we want the reverse, detecting regulated by law like nearly everywhere else. And why is it different here? It has to be PAS, a fine idea on paper but doing what its founders never dreamt it would: seeing its own interest in constantly telling Parliament and the public it has knowledge theft under control! It doesn’t. The vast majority of finds are NOT reported and it’s getting worse as the number of detectorists has ballooned. So we’re the only country with a band of archaeologists acting as cheerleaders for metal detecting despite the massive net damage it does.


PAS Conference 2018: “The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has recorded over 1.3 million finds – each one a unique discovery made by a member of the public. This conference celebrates 15 years of the Scheme


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But the unreported finds are vastly greater, why not mention it? If each was an inch wide they’d now stretch from the British Museum almost to Bristol. You won’t hear that said or even denied at the PAS Conference or anywhere else. Still, the pending changes to the Treasure Act suggest there are many who now DO know the scale of the knowledge theft. Our ilk are happy to take a bit of the credit for that.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Here’s an image of the contentious borehole at Blick Mead, beyond it the upper level of the westbound car transporter on the A303 is roughly the height the proposed flyover will be. Four raised lanes of traffic plus slip roads with breakdown bays will loom over this important Mesolithic site, so in addition to water run-off this flyover will inject noise and fumes that will overwrite the atmosphere of this special place.
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How then can Highways England or Historic England, claim that the proposed scheme does not damage Blick Mead?

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Perhaps when you are paid by the government that is the developer of this A303 tunnel scheme, it encourages a different definition of the term ‘damage’ to that understood by the rest of the public.

 

Yesterday we pointed out the embarrassing gulf between The National Trust’s words and the reality. Today, in the space of an hour came two headlines delivering further proof ….

Great! But will some of it go on paying someone to tell the public the short tunnel isn’t horrendously damaging!

That’s also great, but will he be fox-friendly too?.

All canines welcome on National Trust land?

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