Launching the A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme in December 2014, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, summarised ‘those conversations we’ve all had’:

I didn’t get stuck in traffic on the way in, the traffic is moving … It reminds me of all the times going down to Devon and Cornwall on holiday and sitting in the car often shouting at my mum saying when we are going to get there… those conversations we’ve all had. I’ve been many times before, the times when I did pester my mother to stop on the way.

Those pestered to stop are among the number paying English Heritage an entrance fee at Stonehenge each year, which is around the number attending a middle of the table football club in a season.

In the context of those ‘conversations we’ve all had’, even with ourselves alone in a vehicle, the number of times Stonehenge presents a free opportunity to engage with the site when travelling the A303 each year, is equivalent to the combined number paying to go through the turnstiles at several of the top Premiership football clubs in this country.

In 1599 Samuel Daniel speaks of the ‘gazing passenger’, that ‘Enquires and asks his fellow traveller’ what he knows of the site and his opinion of it.

the gazing passenger,…looks with admiration,

And faine would know his birth, and what he were,

How there erected and long agone,

Enquires, and asks his fellow traveller,

What he hath heard and his opinion,..

Then he turns again,

And looks and sighs, and then admires afresh,

Angry with time that nothing should remain,

Our greatest wonders wonder, to express.

That a ‘good view of Stonehenge from the A303’ is important, was acknowledged by English Heritage when launching the ‘Save Stonehenge’ campaign in September 1995. Writing to The Times in November that year, Lady Bowman announced that ‘The glimpse that I get of Stonehenge, halfway through such journeys, never fails to rejoice my heart.

Stonehenge c.1832 / 1843 Stonehenge, Mezzotint by David Lucas after John Constable.

We’re told:


“The WHS is full of rights-of-way offering free views of the stones. How has it come about that people purporting to defend the WHS from development and damage are arguing that cars are the only way to see Stonehenge? (that sign below, incidentally, is what we might call unalloyed bollocks)”



Point of information: we never said the A303 was the only place from which to see Stonehenge, we said it was the only view of Stonehenge that 99% of the public ever see, so for them, it is the best view, and soon it will be gone.

We do wonder whether such misrepresentation and attacks by an archaeologist unconnected with the project are shared by EH, HE, and NT. And what would the CBA’s view be? Perhaps they’ll clarify.

One might expect the decision to go ahead with the Stonehenge short tunnel would prompt quite a reaction among Britain’s 27,000 metal detectorists – who are, PAS tells us, mainly in it because of their interest in history. But no. So far as we can see there’s not a word about it on metal detecting forums, blogs, and Facebook pages. Except on one blog:

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“This happy news is not only an Agincourt Salute to that employment bureau for ex-commies, UNESCO, but arguably best of all, humiliates the smug, preserve-the-countryside-in-aspic, Heritage Journal… a gormless, vacuous, fringe archaeology outfit. There’ll be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth in Mercia tonight. Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw! Trebles all round.”


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The swipes at the Journal don’t matter, they’re our punishment for wanting metal detecting to be less destructive. But UNESCO as an employment bureau for ex-commies? And the destruction of part of the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape is an occasion for “trebles all round”?

Neither that nor the silence about the issue from most detectorists suggest PAS’s term “citizen archaeologists” and its claim that most detectorists are in it purely for a love of history are valid, Indeed, we’d suggest most metal detectorists do as much for history as trophy hunters do for zoology and the main difference between the two is that in Britain the former are praised and paid!

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A Productive site mate! And if we show the bodies to the Portable Animal Site they’ll praise us. We might even get a massive reward from the British Government. So stuff UNESCO and their conservation claptrap!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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There have been attempts to present the tunnel as a struggle between ill-informed amateurs and well-informed professionals. It is inaccurate. Indeed, we suspect most archaeologists not connected with the scheme, including those abroad, are dismayed by it. What is beyond denial is that the opposition of both UNESCO and the Government’s own planning executive was ignored.

So there’s scant reason for English Heritage et al to rejoice or self-congratulate. They prevailed only due to Government intervention and have achieved what, on some levels, they must know is wrong. Rescue’s statement, “A sad day for our archaeological heritage” will be uncomfortable reading for them, as will this letter to the Times by 17 prominent independent scholars:

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The Stonehenge Alliance has just tweeted, not unreasonably:
We expected the National Trust to agree with the Examiners that recommended Refusal because of cultural damage.

And the answer from the Trust:
We’ve a long-standing ambition to resolve the ongoing damage caused by the current A303 as it passes through the Stonehenge Landscape.


So they want to resolve the ongoing damage by supporting vastly more damage! Is there anyone who doesn’t find that unconvincing and shifty? It matters, because the Government has said the Trust’s support for the scheme has been “pivotal” in it going ahead.

It has been pivotal, for the Trust used to say the exact opposite! In 1994, speaking for the Trust (AND English Heritage) Sir Angus Stirling, Director General of the National Trust said: “We have concluded that the only feasible on-line route for the A303 which meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site is a long bored tunnel …there is no historic site in England where we shall uphold that duty with greater resolve and determination.”

Why the change? What on earth is worth such reputational damage? One day, perhaps, it will be clear, but just now it certainly isn’t!

We understand that English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are planning to release a joint statement:


“We are delighted that the Government has rejected the recommendation of both UNESCO and its own Planning Inspectorate and has announced it will go ahead with the tunnel, as advocated by us. This is indeed a momentous decision and we have decided the tunnel should be named in a way that will constantly remind posterity of what we achieved in the face of fierce opposition from UNESCO, people in 168 countries and the Government’s own so-called experts.

In particular, we feel the memory of the free view of the stones should be memorialised since, as Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Commons last week, “one of the joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge and I think that is a great benefit and it’s uplifting for people to see”.

It would be tragic if the memory of that free view, enjoyed by millions of people a year, slipped from the world’s memory. By naming it the Stonehenge Free View Memorial Tunnel we feel confident that won’t happen and it will always be remembered by future generations, along with our pivotal role in it’s disappearance. We did it for ever, for everyone and now everyone will remember what we did, forever.”


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A pro-tunnel archaeologist has just publicly said:
“Michael Smith may be a great historian for all I know, but his ideas about Stonehenge are unalloyed bollocks. Are we really to believe the best ever view of Stonehenge is from the A303?”

Well, we’re not qualified to say, but it’s certainly the best ever view of Stonehenge and its World Heritage Site in the eyes of the millions of travellers who experience it, and it alone, with total delight every year and who might soon be unable to. No unalloyed bollocks in stating that! Also, we suspect that the rather more famous archaeologist, Jaquetta Hawkes, would have agreed with us:

“The traveller who wishes to approach Stonehenge most fittingly should keep along this road, crossing the little river Till at Winterbourne Stoke. As he reaches the quiet crossroads on the summit, he will be on the edge of one of the greatest, and certainly the richest, congregation of burial mounds in all Britain. Here was a kind of vast scattered cemetery on ground hallowed by its proximity to the renowned sanctuary. Barrows cluster round Stonehenge on all sides – three hundred of them – but here to the west is the greatest concentration and the area most sequestered from the blighting military activities of Amesbury. Close within the north-eastern angle of the crossroads is a well preserved longbarrow and its spine acts as a pointer to a line of round barrows starting just beyond the small wood. These in their range of forms make a typologist’s heaven. First there are two striking bell barrows and on their left two disks – one of normal type, the other with twin tumps. Just beyond them is perhaps the best known example of that rare variety – the pond barrow – which consists of a circular depression with a low bank on the lip. Back on the line of bells are four bowl barrows, and there are many more of this type beside the left-hand road as it leads very happily northwards to nowhere.”

 

Dear Fellow Landowners,

On a detecting forum this week, there were two succinct confessions by someone who might not even realise the fact:


“I always try to give them a printout from the NCMD”. But that NCMD code is a pound-shop version of responsibility, not the official one and merely give the impression it’s the official one. The NCMD won’t endorse the official one and its code doesn’t even say detectorists must report all recordable finds to PAS! 

“Oh and present them with a nice find every now and then.” So no suggestion of immediately delivering everything significant to the rightful owner, US, and let US decide if we wants to give anything away!


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And on the same day, on Gumtree, another detectorist is seeking detecting permission with this false claim:


“I am a member of the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) which comes with a strict code of conduct that any proper detectorist follows.” Why does he say that? To be charitable, perhaps he’s a bit thick. But if HE thinks their code is strict what hope do we landowners have?


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For the avoidance of doubt: this is standard behaviour at tens of thousands of farm gates yet PAS et al who have a duty of care to tell landowners only the official code will do, don’t. What epic, exclusively British, irresponsibility! Looks like we’re on our own, Friends, and it’s up to us alone to  protect both our own interest and that of Britain’s buried heritage. Don’t have anything to do with anyone who says they follow a code that isn’t the official one.

Your Friend,

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Andrew Adonis recently tweeted:


“I canceled Stonehenge tunnel as Transport Secretary a decade ago, it was such a waste of money at £300m. 
 
Now it is being prosecuted by Cummings at £1.7bn, despite huge concern from archaeologists & transport experts.
 

Just cancel it. Invest in local rail in the south-west instead.”


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But Cummings, and all his works have just been sent packing from Downing Street and we are told a number of his aggressive, populist policies will now be reversed. Is there hope the Stonehenge short tunnel will be one of them?

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 Does that box contain his Stonehenge landscape ruination plans?

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