This week an article about metal detecting in an Essex newspaper ….

fell into a black hole  – and came out in the early 1950s !.

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A helpful County Council leaflet might well have been issued to every child in case the “wonderful education” resulted in many of them taking up egg collecting (rather than ornithology) when they were older …

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As you may know, if you allow metal detecting on your land you should follow the official Guidance for Landowners: “Ask to see all finds and ask that all archaeological finds are recorded with the PAS.”

But have you ever wondered if you (and PAS) are being shown everything the detectorists are taking home? The limited number of finds PAS records each year scream loudly that a vast number are going walkies. So YOU may be losing out, big time. Fortunately, it’s very easily checked:

You could buy something on EBay like this “Rare Old Collection of Small Coins” for £19.99, put a distinctive mark on them and bury them 3 inches down, next to a distinctive boulder. If they’re brought back to you, fine. If not, and they’re no longer in the ground, well, it means you’re losing far more than £19.99, and maybe many thousands.

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UPDATE: here’s a relevant discussion from the largest metal detecting forum implying metal detecting rallies and commercial events pose the greatest risk of dishonesty. Swany wrote: Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:17 pm Not good, just wondering if these paying peeps will be declaring finds to the landowner and Flo’s. I know where my bet will be going. A good Few £££’s to detect, so finds most likely will go under the radar.
That’s what I think also. If people have paid a lot to detect then there maybe less incentive to declare anything of value they find. Farmers / landowners need to get wise to this, they could be losing out big time in the long run. [Topic speedily deleted, as always!]

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From a recent Oxford County Council meeting:

  • Transport cabinet member Yvonne Constance said councillor Mike Tysoe’s proposal to divert traffic past the ancient site was “doable”.
  • Speaking after the meeting, Mr Tysoe said: “Would our Neolithic ancestors mind too much if we save future generations? I don’t think it will basically damage the site. I’ve been told it probably won’t or there are ways of ensuring that any damage doesn’t happen.”
  • George Lambrick, chairman of the Rollright Trust, said such a scheme would be “bonkers” and would “trash” a “key landmark”.

Mr Tysoe’s suggestion that our Neolithic ancestors wouldn’t mind too much is factually true since they are indeed dead, but morally vacuous for the implication is that nothing from the past needs preserving as the people from the past are all dead!

His remark has the saving grace that it was spoken out of pure ignorance. There is no such excuse for English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust who are campaigning to wreck the Stonehenge landscape for a road scheme.

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” Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me, those have always
been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Beware of letting someone else cast your vote! 6,700 people did just that at the 2017 National Trust AGM and surprise, surprise the Chairman used their votes to support the short tunnel scheme. He did much the same that day to oppose a ban on Trail Hunting on Trust land.

Now it has happened a third time! At the recent 2019 AGM he used 4,327 discretionary votes to support a continuation of the Trust’s partnership with Cadburys – despite the Cadbury’s Easter Egg scandal – which @NatTrustArch described as “Utterly appalling.” So there’s a clear pattern: like trail hunting and the short tunnel, Cadbury’s has been given undeserved support by the Trust management’s deployment of discretionary votes.

Of such murkiness is the continued existence of the short tunnel project built. The Government has said the Trust’s support for the short tunnel was “pivotal” so if the destruction does go ahead, in the teeth of opposition from UNESCO, it will certainly have been built upon the less than praiseworthy actions of the National Trust management.

With so few days excavating on site every year, seeing an ever richer but changing picture emerge of Blick Mead, it is unsurprising that media reporting of this community project as news can tie itself in knots. This doesn’t, however, explain why the media do not trouble to straighten out knots of their making.
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Just over a week ago the Sunday Telegraph posted an article online suggesting Blick Mead was a ‘city’. It turns out none of the archaeologists involved came up with this fantastic claim, the ‘city’ was the projection of a TV series titled ‘Lost Cities’ about to air on the National Geographic channel.
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Having initially followed the rest of the media flock in regurgitating the Telegraph’s ‘city’ hype, the Salisbury Journal deleted its first account and replaced it without mention of a ‘city’. Well done William Rimell of the Salisbury Journal. Now, why can’t the Telegraph and all the other ‘city’ types do that?
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A mischief-maker has altered a news article about metal detecting by replacing each mention of “treasure” with the phrase “rare egg finds”…

“The county played host to a total of 37 rare egg finds last year, according to figures co-released by the British Museum and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. It is part of a surge of interest in rare egg hunting which has seen more than 1,000 rare eggs discovered across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in each of the last five years.

The newfound popularity of rare egg hunting can be traced back to the passage of the Rare Eggs Act in 1996, formalising the ways someone could be paid for their discoveries.”

We understand the British Museum is to join in the fun by holding annual Rare Egg Collecting Conferences at which they will praise the responsibility of the finders and jubilate about the finds, in particular, the very rare ones.

 

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The Council for British Archaeology has just tweeted: “The new book on the Staffordshire Hoard is out today. To celebrate, we have opened up 4 articles from the British Archaeology archives“. So we looked. Four bits stood out:

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As we’ve long said, military-grade detectors were not up to this task. They were Ebex 420H models, in use by UK and US forces to find mines in Afghanistan, with little depth capability (mines being at shallow depth) and not recommended by manufacturers to find very small targets.

Modern hobby machines are vastly superior at finding small pieces of gold deep down; they were designed for it.  Minelab say their GPX 5000 can “easily find small objects at 24 inches” (i.e. more than 2X the depth achieved by the Home Office team), Blisstool’s LTC64 V3 can too and the GPZ “can find gold 40% deeper than that” (so nearly 3X deeper than the Home Office). The use of such machines by detectorists is widespread, including by nighthawks.

The Hoard deserves better than this. Ten years of “intensive conservation and expert research” cannot deliver the full story until a further search is held. When will that be?

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Update, just:

Oh!
The purpose of the search was to recover or prove the absence of finds              “at shallow depth”!


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We have held very many gatherings at Avebury, frequently in front of the old chapel now owned by the National Trust, where we’ve often discussed how those who did most for Avebury are not commemorated at Avebury. So here’s our suggestion for doing so, at a point overlooking the South Circle and what is probably the most significant part of the monument.

William Stukeley recorded the position of the stones in the face of the monument’s destruction and without Lord Avebury purchasing land in order to save the monuments, we may wonder how much of Avebury would have survived.

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I recently attended a very interesting one-day workshop held by the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) here in Cornwall. The subject of the workshop was ‘Rights of Way, Surveying and the Law’.

The course was designed to help volunteers become proficient in surveying access routes, reporting any problems found and teaching about the law regarding different types of access. The day was led by Linda Holloway, a Senior Officer in Cornwall Council’s Countryside Access Team, well versed in all aspects of the subject.

We discussed the three main categories of public routes, which are:

  • Public footpaths – designed for walkers only. Dogs are allowed, but no special provision is made for them (at stiles, etc).
  • Bridleways – For horses, walkers, and cyclists.
  • Byeways – Which allow vehicles in addition to the above (sometimes restricted, e.g. for landowner access only).

Unrestricted access to the above is determined by the Definitive Map, which was set in 1952 (with some subsequent additions). If a path is marked on this map, then the public has the right to access, by law. Of course, in many cases, landowners find it inconvenient to have public pathways across their land, and will often try to discourage their use. This may be by use of off-putting signs (beware of the bull, trespassers will be prosecuted, etc.) or some form of obstruction such as locked or blocked gates, overgrown paths, intimidating livestock in fields, etc.

We heard of several horror stories where landowners had been prosecuted, including some awful cases where people had been severely injured in accidents.

All incidents of lack of access, or damage to paths on the Definitive Map should be immediately reported to the local council, who will follow-up and take appropriate action to restore access.

So how does all of this affect those of us who like to visit ancient sites? Well, it’s a sad fact that many pathways are not included on the definitive map. In 2012, the government announced plans to simplify the recording of definitive paths. Under these plans, all unrecorded footpaths and bridleways created before 1949 will no longer be recorded after 1 January 2026. This means that pathways that have been available for use to access the countryside that are not on the definitive map are in severe danger of being lost/closed for future use.

So what can be done to protect these unregistered pathways for future generations to use? There are several initiatives underway to get pathways added to the Definitive Map before the deadline expires.

  • The Ramblers organisation has produced a downloadable guide to help identify and register ‘lost’ pathways.
  • The British Horse Society provides online maps for most of the country, showing definitive and lost pathways, and providing links to older maps to assist with evidencing historical usage of paths.
  • Restoring the Record illustrates the sorts of evidence that are valuable in recording paths of historic origin. This is important because unrecorded routes will cease to exist on Path Extinguishment Day (1 January 2026).
  • Rights of Way Maps provides a search facility for maps showing existing (registered) rights of way. Useful for identifying existing registered paths.

In order to be added to the Definitive List, evidence of the use of a pathway must be provided. This may be a witness statement indicating regular usage, documentary evidence on old maps or tithe apportionments, or other historical evidence.

If you care at all about rights of way, and particularly if you regularly use a currently unregistered path to access ancient monuments in our countryside, please consider getting involved in registering our paths via one of the projects listed above before they are irretrievably lost!

 

It may well be that PAS will soon be swept away (or replaced with a decorative “shell” of itself.) Not what Sir Anthony Grant hoped for in the Commons in 2001: “I trust that we will now join the great majority of other civilised countries in passing a law to protect our rich and important heritage of portable antiquities” nor what Baroness Blackstone hoped for in the PAS Annual Report:It is the long term aim of the Scheme to change public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries so that it becomes normal practice for finders to report them

20 years later there is no “law to protect heritage” and no major change in “public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries”. All must agree that what was a great and generous offer to detectorists has failed. Soon they won’t have PAS to use as their figleaf but they’ll have another, equally effective one: the widespread belief held by the public (put around for 20 years by PAS to get their annual funding) that most detectorists are responsible and metal detecting is mostly fine.

The public belief that detecting is mostly “a good thing” has caused incalculable damage yet will survive long after PAS has gone, like cockroaches after a nuclear war. It’s not a good legacy. Will the PAS employees, free of their employment, start saying it’s wrong? We’ll soon see.

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