6 years ago today we highlighted that “Minelab has just launched the GPX5000….it can easily find small objects at 24 inches” whereas a farming forum survey showed 80% of farmers plough no lower than 9 inches. So people with GPXs could now detect small objects 15 inches below most ploughsoil. But now things have got even worse. See this from Minelab’s website :

gpz-7000So you can now detect small items two feet below most ploughsoils! And nighthawks on the Staffordshire Hoard field (and they do exist – we’ve photographed their holes here and here) can detect small gold objects far lower than the machines used by the two archaeological surveys there. What shall we all  do about that? Pretend technology hasn’t changed out of all recognition? For our part we’ve written to the Archaeology Forum yet again …..


To The Archaeology Forum   taf@archaeologists.net

Dear Sirs,
You may recall we’ve previously written to you 4 times (see
here and here and here) asking you to address the growing threat posed by the new deep seeking metal detectors such as the GPX 5000 and the Blisstool LTC64 V3 and you ignored us. The position has just got 40% worse with the advent of the GPZ 7000 (see our latest article – “Enhanced technology leaves remaining Staffordshire Hoard wide open to theft”). Any chance of you reacting?

As a minimum, we would have thought, the amendments to the detecting code currently being drafted ought to include a very clear statement that using a machine that detects lower than the ploughsoil is not responsible detecting.

The Heritage Journal





This week we said Mike Pitts had scolded people who worry about a tunnel portal. But scolded is too mild. He said the Stonehenge Alliance acted like “the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign” and their leaflet imagery was “worthy of Putin-supporting trolls”. Hmmm. We know some of the members of the Stonehenge Alliance and they are dedicated, well-informed and genteel and not how he seeks to portray them. Hope that’s now crystal clear.

On the other hand, we find Mr Pitts’ account of why that trench was dug exactly on the solstice line far from crystal clear. Specifically this: “In this particular case thirty trenches were dug over a wide area south of the A303. If each trench was a sign of where a tunnel would end, we’d have a portal that reached half way across the world heritage site.” But the question remains: if there’s no chance whatsoever a portal will be located on the solstice sunset line why has one of the trenches been dug exactly on that line? 

An explanation from the authorities would be appropriate, one that doesn’t involve belittling legitimate stakeholders.

Mike Pitts has just scolded those who worry about the Stonehenge Tunnel :

“all this stuff about portals and midwinter sunsets is premature. Currently routes are being identified – not decided on ….. There will be a public consultation next year. If I was an objector, I’d wait until next year. At least I’d know what it was I was objecting to, always a help in these things…..

I don’t think Highways would be able to secretly put a tunnel portal just where the sun sets at midwinter. The eagle-eyed people at Icomos would notice. [The Heritage Journal] “could have said that as HE, EH and the NT want to protect and enhance the world heritage site, it’s unlikely they would’ve wanted the tunnel portal there. But where’s the fun in that?”


Well Mr Pitts,

First, please be assured there’s no fun in worrying a tunnel portal may be built on the solstice line. It’s a sincere concern which we share with many people, OK?
Second, thanks for the advice to wait, not worry but we’d prefer to exercise our democratic and natural right to worry, not wait.
Third, a fundamental reason why we are worrying is because HE, EH and the NT are welcoming the idea of a 1.8 mile long tunnel inside a 3.5 mile wide WHS –  which is not an indication of wanting “to protect and enhance” this special landscape but quite the opposite.

However, since you seem to be in close touch with them you are perhaps in a position to help. Rather than scold legitimate stakeholders for being worried without cause, please ask those three bodies to publicly announce that they would all resolutely oppose the placing of a tunnel portal anywhere near the line of the solstice sunset. If they won’t, please respect the public’s right to worry. Simple really. We’ll watch with interest.

Historic England says the Stonehenge tunnel would be “the biggest single investment ever made by Government in this country’s heritage.” No. It was always a road investment. For avoidance of doubt: the Government’s published purpose was “to turn the A303 into a strategic corridor to the south-west” (and of course, to get votes!) It was subsequently painted as a heritage investment by the 3 bodies trying to put lipstick on a pig.

Neither “heritage” nor anything like it passed David Cameron’s lips when he visited the site for the announcement. In fact, he let the moggy out of the bag that day. Just after being briefed by the Highways Agency and the Trust he stated, unconvincingly: It’s quite a long tunnel but I think that’s what makes it such a successful plan. No David! They may have told you it’s quite a long tunnel but actually it’s a far too short tunnel for conservation purposes and that’s what makes it a disastrous plan and one of the biggest single destructive actions ever made by Government against this country’s heritage!


[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

Dear Colleagues,


This week CBA Director Mike Heyworth chaired a meeting “to agree a revised metal detecting code”. Good. We farmers need a “Tesco clause” saying “show everything you intend to take home and get a receipt for it” (like millions of Tesco customers, including all detectorists, do all the time.) Which honest detectorist would object to that? And how could archaeologists oppose it (given that it would stop PAS’s database being infected with nighthawked items and/or false findspots).

So the new code will be a litmus test of who controls Britain’s buried heritage, professionals or the rough wing of detecting. If a Tesco-like clause is inserted it will be a step towards resource and landowner protection whereas if the code is emasculated, as happened to the original one, then the pressure from dishonest detectorists will have prevailed. Over the years there have been 15  “recording strikes” threatened when reforms were proposed. Soon we’ll know if a sixteenth (and there will be one – just watch!) has succeeded or not.

In case you doubt it, here are the previous fifteen:

“Don’t criticise us or we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t tell us what to do or we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t undertake surveys of nighthawking else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t let PAS dominate us else we’ll stop reporting
” (and later: “
“Don’t reduce PAS’s funding else we’ll stop reporting”),
“Don’t impose a Code of Responsible Detecting else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t discuss licensing us else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t ban inappropriate rallies else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t impose restrictions under stewardship schemes else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t tighten up EBay else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t ever short change us on our Treasure rewards else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t abate rewards for not calling an archie out else we’ll stop reporting”
“Don’t use some of our Treasure rewards for proper excavations of our findspots else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t extend the items covered by the Treasure Act beyond what we say else we’ll stop reporting” and perhaps most telling of all:
“Don’t write to farmers without us dictating what is to be said else we’ll stop reporting”.

Update, 18 October
The anti-heritage wing of detecting has reacted to the idea of reform already:

“I can see that following the new Code will be mandatory and any deviation of for example finding a Treasure item on grassland or digging below the ploughsoil will carry an abatement of any award.”

“Exactly! However many folk, me included, often fail to see the “desired end result” of such political manouvering. We are lucky to have individuals with such foresight & knowledge looking out for the hobby.”

“The Rally Guidance note will be next to Review i am sure. Why do one and not the other. However none are compulsory and so unenforceable.”

Nice, heroic attitudes! (And one of them is a NCMD official!). Can’t see the “desired end result” of resource protection measures; they are merely “political manouvering”  and not too worried because the codes aren’t compulsory and are therefore “unenforceable”. Does Britain really need such people on the fields? Which farmer, if only the authorities explained it to him, would let them through his gate?

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow Farm,



Surprise, surprise! A planning application has just been submitted to North Yorkshire County Council by Tarmac applying to extend its Nosterfield Quarry. As part of it, it is proposing to ‘gift’ to an appropriate body in perpetuity control of the Central and Southern henges. Sounds kind. Until you recall that Tarmac has wrecked most of the landscape of the henges already. And that giving gifts has long been part of its strategy….


In July 2005 the Journal reported that “In an attempt to appease local opposition a strip of land between Thornborough Moor and Nosterfield has been offered to the village for recreational purposes” and the next month it was reported they’d offered to donate 60 acres of land around the Northern Henge to the nation. However, six months later we were reporting the other side of the story: “Quarrying in the vicinity of the Thornborough Henges has caused widespread concern for many years. About half of the original complex has been destroyed, a landfill site is being operated immediately adjacent to the central monuments and quarrying is still ongoing close by at Nosterfield, also within the monument complex”.


So Tarmac’s latest gesture isn’t something to celebrate greatly. Gifting control of the Central and Southern Henges is no big deal since they are scheduled and can’t be quarried – and indeed are probably a burden to be responsible for. So it’s probably best to think of Tarmac more as a crocodile, to be treated with caution not gratitude. Just over ten years ago we quoted our colleague, Thornborough campaigner George Chaplin.  His words turned out to be prophetic: “Tarmac have not given up in their ambition to extend the existing quarry. They intend to appeal against the refusal and the danger remains very real for the whole of the remaining surroundings”.


After more than 4,000 years, does this generation have the right?

What is widely accepted as Stonehenge’s central purpose and significance, the spectacle of the winter solstice sunset as seen from the stones, is under threat from the UK bodies charged with protecting the World Heritage Site. Will it soon be dulled and outshone and the iconic final flash be lost in an intense glow or even direct beams of light coming from the entrance dual carriageway of a too-short tunnel just 800 metres away? Is this how it will be?



If the tunnel entrance is built where digging is currently happening we’ll surely be robbed of the ability to “go back in time” and experience what the builders of Stonehenge intended. The Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, Andy Rhind-Tutt, has just put it with great clarity: “If they are going to put a tunnel in and it came out where they are exploring at the moment, you’re going to have this glow coming off the ground as the sun sets, so it would destroy the whole purpose and meaning of Stonehenge.”

As always, the public are being treated like fools. Highways England say they are “still looking at all options” and this is “just one part of a wide range of surveys” yet it has always been clear from the maps that if a short tunnel is to be built then the spot which is currently being dug is the lead probability – indeed, the almost inevitable position for the western portal. Just watch, they haven’t arranged a dig there for no reason. Meanwhile, English Heritage has dutifully repeated the same completely misleading phrase it has used ad nauseam for many months: it supports a tunnel “if it is designed and delivered well“.

The bitter truth though is that a short tunnel can’t be designed and delivered “well” and that glow and those lights can’t be spun away. English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust are in the excruciating position of trying to put lipstick on a pig. Please sign and share The Stonehenge Alliance’s petition, it really is important if something very precious and more than four thousand years old isn’t to be stolen.

PS….. It has just been pointed out to us that in the BBC article that quotes Andy Rhind Tutt’s comment there is also the assertion that earlier this year a Unesco report backed the idea of a short tunnel. It’s a total lie and it was the second yowling moggy. We dealt with it here: https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/can-icomos-be-got-at/


[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

Hard to believe, but true. Even though Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust say they are committed to ensure that “only schemes which protect and enhance the World Heritage Site are progressed” it has just been revealed that Wessex Archaeology are secretly test digging (see this) at the very spot where the entrance to one version of the route would be and it’s at the very place where it would do maximum damage to the significance of Stonehenge:



[Hat tip to Tim Daw]

Ask English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust, they’ll all confirm that the central purpose of Stonehenge was the alignment with the winter solstice sunset as seen at that very spot. Yet the bizarre situation has arisen whereby they are all three pushing for a short tunnel which would involve the visible evidence of the central meaning of Stonehenge being destroyed.


[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

by Nigel Swift

There’s a big shadow over Britain’s portable antiquities policy. It’s that PAS’s data can’t be authenticated. So it’s right to speculate on the level of false reporting. Many nighthawks lie about findspots, for obvious reasons, but PAS data is likely to be further corrupted due to what I term the “share gap”. See below, two very different documents dealing with the sharing of finds:




Detectorists can insert whatever figures they wish in the first. Typically they offer a 50% share of items worth over £300, whereas under the second they don’t have to share at all if items are worth below £2,000. That’s the share gap. Clearly, if you find a £1,900 item at one farm you can “save” £800 by “finding” it at a Central Searchers’ rally down the road and have it laundered and enhanced to boot by getting it authenticated by PAS. Common sense suggests masses of findspots get falsified that way but the matter is never mentioned by PAS. We’re all losing out in secret due to the survival instinct of a small quango.




October 2016
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