Who needs a history book?! The depressing cul-de-sac that is Britain’s portable antiquities policy can be deduced from just three flyers…. . .

First, British archaeologists expressed outrage…. .


Then they settled for “do it if you must but please tell us what you find”. And that’s where we’re stuck, 17 years later, with most finds still not being reported. Meanwhile, over in Ireland they have THIS flyer in every library and police station….. . .

.irish flyer.

It says things that are unspeakable in Britain, things like unregulated detecting “causes serious damage” and it’s illegal to do it “without the prior written consent of the Minister”  and that will only be forthcoming if “the greatest possible level of archaeological knowledge is obtained”. The British Government and all 8,000 British archaeologists bar none strongly agree but the boat you see, it mustn’t be rocked..

So there we are, two countries, one of which makes the other’s policies look ludicrous. However, there’s a third flyer, something we published 3 years ago, that could save Britain’s blushes for now, without waiting for legislation. Both CBA and EH have signalled that its aims correspond with theirs so it’s an open door waiting to be pushed…..


Stop6 .

(Vistaprint will supply 5,000 flyers for about £70 – enough to put one in every public library and police station in England and Wales. If PAS, CBA or EH can’t afford to pay that then we could. Alternatively here’s a version the public could print off and deliver to their local library or police station. Why not? It’s their heritage knowledge that’s not being delivered.) . PS…… In fact, you could print it off and apply to put it on your Parish Council notice board or sweet shop window. After all, if you don’t, this is the sort of message farmers will get (which appeared just two days ago): “Please let us onto your land….. We will pay the farmer or landowner £10 cash per member on the day of the search (which normally takes place between 8am and sunset) and also give 50% of the value of any item found worth over £500 to the landowner.”


History ISN’T something that should be treated like that. As the Irish know.

The Council for British Archaeology’s Local Heritage Engagement Network are holding an event in London on 20th June, entitled ‘Activism, Advocacy and Supporting your Heritage’. The event is designed to help attendees gain skills and confidence to begin to engage in local advocacy and activism to support their local historic environment, or to increase the impact of their present advocacy work.

Speakers will provide up to date background information to threats facing local authority archaeology and heritage services. They will discuss what can be done to protect and advocate for these services, as well as present examples of best practice from community groups currently engaged in campaigns. The programme also includes workshops which will allow for discussion of attendee’s present work and how it could be adapted or used for advocacy impact and will provide information on how to get in the media, and get your message across to members of the public and decision makers.

Anyone is welcome to attend this event – you do not need any previous experience of heritage advocacy. There is a small cost to attendees (£5), to cover refreshments during the break and speakers travel expenses.

Bookings can be made via the Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/local-heritage-network-training-activism-advocacy-and-supporting-your-heritage-tickets-16747136135 web site, but be quick! Tickets are going fast!

Once again, CASPN‘s  ‘Pathways to the Past’ event, a weekend of daytime walks & evening talks among the ancient sites of West Penwith is rapidly approaching. 2015 is the ninth year of this event, which has only gone from strength to strength. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several of the previous year’s walks, but sadly my holiday dates don’t coincide this year – poor planning on my part!


There is a good mix of items this year, so to help you plan your time, here’s the full line-up for the weekend of May 30th/31st 2015:

Saturday May 30th

10.00-12.30pm Catching the light of the sun and moon

A guided circular walk with Cheryl Straffon & Lana Jarvis to visit prehistoric sites that were aligned to the sun and moon, including the Mên-an-Tol, the Nine Maidens barrow & stone circle and Bosiliack barrow.

Meet at Mên-an-Tol layby beside Madron to Morvah road [SW418 344]

2.00-4.30pm Living at the Edge

A guided walk with archaeologist David Giddings to visit the lesser-known Nanjulian courtyard house settlement, perched at the edge of the land between St. Just and Sennen.

Meet at Nanjulian off the B3306 St.Just to Sennen road [SW360 294] TR19 7NU

8.00-10.00pm Hot Metal: the discoveries that changed the world

An illustrated talk by Paul Bonnington about the invention of metal making and the effect this had on the Bronze, Copper and Iron Age societies.

At the Count House at Botallack. TR19 7QQ

Sunday May 31st

11.00-12.30pm Sites on the Scillies

An illustrated talk by archaeologist Charlie Johns, exploring some of the unique and beautiful ancient sites on the Isles of Scilly and the prehistoric people who built them.

At the Count House at Botallack

2.00-4.30pm Stories in the Stones – the Merry Maidens and more

A guided walk with archaeologist Adrian Rodda to sites in the Lamorna area, including the Merry Maidens stone circle, associated standing stones and Tregiffian entrance grave.

Meet at Boleigh farm on the B3315 Penzance to Lamorna road. [SW436 349] TR19 6BN

8.00-9.00pm Community Archaeology

To round off the weekend, Richard Mikulski will chat about community archaeology projects. At the North Inn, Pendeen.

Each individual event is £5 but free to members of FOCAS (Friends of Cornwall’s Ancient Sites). You can join FOCAS (Friends of Cornwall’s Ancient Sites) at the beginning of the individual event, by telephoning 07927 671612, or by e-mailing: focus@cornishancientsites.com

A telling contrast is on display at this very moment in the tranquil, picturesque Worcestershire village of Wichenford…..

. In the village centre there’s this poster on the Parish Council notice board. It’s all about persuading the 200 residents to do some “gleaning” – that’s gathering left-over produce from the local fields so it can be given to needy people.


Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the village hundreds of people from all over Britain have been persuaded by a foreign detector manufacturer to come and do a spot of self-seeking (and a coin dealer has been invited to set up a stall, naturally) …. .


By any measure, the first activity is selfless and involves no depletion whereas the second is the opposite in both respects. They say the quality of a civilisation can be measured by its relationship with its land. Makes you half proud to be British.


The Institute of Art and Law blog has published a review by Richard Harwood QC of the recently introduced Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. Two matters struck us as particularly significant:

1. In the case of damage to a monument the bill proposes that any defence should require due diligence to be demonstrated, not just lack of knowledge. 2. A remark by Mr Harwood: “Perhaps the most significant amendment that could be added to the Bill is to introduce a statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of protecting scheduled monuments and their settings, to match the greater protection already given to listed buildings.

We can’t help reflecting that such provisions would have great benefits on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. In fact, the Journal would have a lot less to write about!

As a boy I was furious when the bit of Enville Common where we played cricket every Sunday was suddenly fenced off and planted with small trees. Here they are now ….

enville trees

Fortunately for young cricketers the Enville Estate practices sustainable forestry and shortly a lot of them are to be felled and the land will revert to how it was in 1955, for a while at least. I plan to take my grandson there to play cricket.

What has this to do with the price of beans? Well, it crossed my mind it’s a good example of harmless change. A circle has turned and no harm has been done. Whereas, the change that’s proposed at Stonehenge is on a line not a circle. If EH and NT and Mr Cameron and the road lobby get their way a new massive scar across one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the world will still be there long after all of them aren’t – and indeed long after there’s no more petrol.

It’s amazing what you can find when you look. Back in 2007, Dartmoor expert Alan Endecott discovered an arc of recumbent stones high up on the moor, some 1700 or so feet (525m) above sea level.

Initial investigations of the area are now completed, and what Alan discovered has been identified as a previously unknown stone circle, some 112 feet (34m) in diameter, and consisting of 30 or 31 stones with extensive views in all directions. This is the highest stone circle recorded on Dartmoor thus far.

sittaford circle

The stones were previously all thought to be upright, due to the surviving presence of packing stones and the large stones themselves, all of a similar size, may have been quarried from nearby Sittaford Tor. The location of this new circle places it within an arc of known circles in the NE moor, which includes Buttern Hill, Scorhill, Shovel Down, Fernworthy and the Grey Wethers double circles, described by some as a ‘sacred arc’ which suggests some measure of wider landscape planning by the circle builders. Preliminary radio-carbon dating of samples taken from underneath the stones suggests that they had fallen close to the end of the 3rd millenium BC, some 4000 years ago.

Geophysical work at the site has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Funded scheme, Moor Than Meets The Eye. Although full results are not yet available, initial results have identified a possible linear ditch just outside the eastern side of the circle.

The find was announced in the announced in the January 2014 edition of the Devon Archaelogical Society Newsletter, No.117. Further investigation is planned later this summer, we’ll be watching this one with interest!

Useful Links:

We picked this up from The Pipeline blog. Here’s what Mr Whittingdale said in the Treasure’s Act debate in 1996. Can we dare hope Britain is moving towards a position closer to the rest of the world by regulating artefact hunting and unbonkering itself?

“…there is a need for a much more wide-ranging measure to cover all portable antiquities.”

“Although I welcome the Bill and the provisions that will clarify and extend existing protection considerably, I believe that there is a need to go still further. The Bill refers only to treasure, and treasure is very strictly defined. It must have at least some gold or silver content, and the Bill will clearly be a major improvement in respect of the protection of such items, but there is a need for a much more wide-ranging measure to cover all portable antiquities.

Some protection already exists in legislation covering ancient sites and monuments, but not all ancient sites and monuments have yet been discovered. By the time we have agreed that something is an ancient site that should be afforded protection, we may be too late and many of the artefacts there may have been lost. I hope that, in due course, we shall re-examine the law in this respect.”

In due course, I hope that we can go further still and re-examine ways in which we can best protect that heritage and learn more about it for our children and grandchildren.”

So has “in due course” been arrived at, nineteen years later? Who knows? One thing CAN be predicted though. Ed Vaizey (who is to stay on as Culture Minister, reporting to Mr Whittingdale as Culture Secretary) is unlikely to be having any more days out like this:

At the launch of the annual Portable Antiquities and Treasure report in May 2011 Ed refused to answer questions (on the future   of the library service, which was looking bleak) and turned to a government press officer and said: “I’m not sure what to do. Can I speak? You are here to protect me from things like this.”  On the other hand he was far less reticent about speaking to artefact hunters: “After the launch, he again refused to discuss his party’s policy on libraries and instead chatted with a treasure hunting “mud larker”, securing a promise of a guided trip to the tidal banks of the Thames with his five-year-old child.” No surprise there though as at the equivalent launch the previous year he boasted that he was proud of “being cover boy for a metal detecting magazine”....
More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

A Culture Secretary who thinks archaeologists are the real heritage heroes? Fingers crossed!

John Whittingdale, the new Culture Secretary. The first one for some time who is crystal clear about the pre-eminent value of archaeologists in archaeological investigations?

Here’s what he said in the Commons 18 years ago:

“Anyone who has been on an archaeological dig will know of the painstaking, enormously slow process that is involved in uncovering objects. The precise position in the ground of every revealed object and its proximity to other finds is carefully recorded. When people come along who are not experts or who are not necessarily interested in the history of an object, but whose main motivation is simply to try to uncover a pot of gold, and they root around without paying much attention to the archaeological importance of their finds, the archaeological information is lost. All too often, they simply chuck aside anything that does not immediately appear to have a monetary value.”

He sounds indistinguishable from his Irish and French counterparts. How refreshing!




You can write to the Trust very easily here . (Just say to Dame Helen Ghosh that as a stakeholder you support the simple but compelling principle of no new damage to Stonehenge and you think she should too.)

You can also write to UNESCO very easily here. (Tell them that the things that they’re liable to hear from EH and NT, they ain’t necessarily so, and a lot of people in Britain don’t support what they are trying to do to the World Heritage Site).


May 2015
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