Why? Because by then Grant Shapps must announce his decision. What will it be? Will a country that now owes more than the value of its own economy invest an open-ended sum on a route that was designed to catch votes by the last Prime Minister but one and which has now lost much of its traffic and raison d’etre and has scandalised professionals and laypeople worldwide?

Or will it decide there are more pressing needs, such as … just about everything? Who knows? What we do know is that if it’s “postponed” (as cancellations are always presented) they’ll (a.) bury the announcement under other news and (b.) blame anything except themselves and their yes-bodies.

Or maybe they will blame their yes-bodies, just like they heaped criticism on care homes. Might they turn round and say English Heritage et al misled them about both the heritage damage and the insurmountable technical problems posed by soft chalk and the water table – despite knowing about both for years?

 

The Trust says trail hunting “replicates a traditional hunt without a fox being chased, injured or killed”. But everyone knows there are many “mistakes”. Soon, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill could make those mistakes more significant:

The Trust simply can’t prevent cruelty at trail hunts as they involve foxes, hounds, and portly gents on horses, none of whom can be relied upon. So soon, when cruelty next happens at a Trust trail hunt they may be held to be negligent and in breach of the law for having failed to provide adequate safeguards.

Michael Gove has just said: “There is no place in this country for animal cruelty”. Are times changing enough to force the Trust to finally abandon its “accidental cruelty” policy?

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We have loads of visitors here (4,000 in the past four days and lots more on social media) yet we’ve received zero answers to yesterday’s simple question by Farmer Brown: “If metal detecting good practice is such a good thing, how come it’s still only voluntary and hasn’t been made compulsory?”. Guilt from detectorists and embarrassment from archaeologists perhaps? What they should be openly admitting is that detectorists resist reform and threaten lawbreaking or recording strikes if their “freedom” to ignore good practice is curtailed. Here are some things they’ve threatened PAS with on their forums:

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, ever, ever short change us on the Treasure rewards else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t abate our Treasure rewards for not calling an archie out else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t talk of using some of our Treasure rewards to finance proper excavations of our findspots else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t write to farmers without us dictating what is to be said else we’ll stop reporting” …. and now… “Don’t extend the items covered by the Treasure Act beyond exactly what we say else we’ll stop reporting.”

Sad, isn’t it when a tiny group is standing in the way of something that would benefit the whole of the public? We recall that five years ago, almost to the day, we wrote: “The public is entitled to be bitter – not merely because the bulk of a hobby has cocked an 18 [now, 23] year snook at the rest of us but because The Archaeological Establishment is still not publicly admitting the fact.”

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Dear Fellow Landowners,

You might remember back in 2014 I confessed I was confused. I still am. Can YOU answer this simple question: if metal detecting good practice is such a good thing, how come it’s still only voluntary and hasn’t been made compulsory?

It’s very strange and very British: something that everyone says is good can’t be put into law because most detectorists insist it must only be voluntary and they must be free to choose to comply or not. Why? Why is 0.015% of the population of a highly developed, educated, conservation-minded Western democracy allowed to prevent a Good Thing coming about?

Let me put it like this: imagine if a tiny (and demonstrably selfish) section of the British population had successfully threatened, lobbied, and dissembled for 40 years to prevent drink driving laws being introduced.

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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There are twenty of them, each like the one above. Together they could easily house those 60 buses. That’s the scale of ancient features that exist in the World Heritage landscape.

So if 20 massive features like those (and anything they contain!) can lie undiscovered just under the surface, who would risk driving new dual carriageways in cuttings just South of them, in the certain knowledge that much will be exposed in the process but will have to be hurriedly recorded and then bulldozed away forever?

For the answer, don’t apply to UNESCO, it opposes the plan. Apply instead to English Heritage, Historic England, and the National Trust who are straining every one of their claimed conservation sinews to do exactly that.

The Guardian has published a diagram showing the stunning scale of a 4,500-year-old feature found in the Stonehenge Landscape: 20 massive pits in a circle 1.5 miles across and less than a mile from the line of the planned new road.

If that has only just been found, so close, what are the chances something else very important may be found during the works?

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The question arises, would any responsible country or its archaeologists dream of going ahead with the short tunnel scheme knowing that whatever is found will certainly be bulldozed away within weeks?

We’re pleased to report that there is a new player in the site guardian arena. A new group has been formed to look after several sites on the Derbyshire Moors. We welcome GSSN, the Guarding Sacred Sites Network, who introduce themselves in the guest post below. We look forward to hearing good things about their work going forward.

There are many beautiful, ancient sacred sites on Stanton and Harthill Moors, in Derbyshire. Nine Ladies, Doll Tor, Rowter Rocks, Nine Stones Close, Robin Hoods Stride, to name a few. These sites are always under pressure of various kinds.

The damage at Doll Tor during lock-down didn’t go unnoticed as the images spread across social media sites. Although shared on Facebook, no one had reported it to the PDNPA, English Heritage, or the Rural Heritage Police. This is where our group began. We reported the damage and realised there was a lack of information about what to do if one witnessed or discovers damage at sites. We made a poster, set up a Facebook group, and became inundated with messages of hope and offers of help, from people across the country.

Since then we have created an adopt a site monitoring scheme which covers Stanton Moor and Harthill Moor. We have a monitoring form and some guidelines for volunteers to follow. We’ve listed the potential hotspots for rubbish and damage in the area and created a ‘How to report damage’ leaflet. Sites on the list have been monitored every weekend since we started the group.

Many of you will have seen the posts on Facebook about the recent and very busy solstice celebrations at Nine Ladies over the past weekend. Thankfully there has been a group of volunteers on the moor acting as unofficial stewards and collecting rubbish from the site, as well as educating people. At the time of writing this, I can happily say all the rubbish has been collected and taken off-site. Indeed, it may now be cleaner than many other spots in the area.

Organisations who are officially responsible for large numbers of archaeological sites, such as the National Trust and English Heritage, have recognised that one of the most productive ways to ensure their long-term survival and conservation is via a regular and systematic monitoring scheme undertaken by local volunteers. In this way, sites which might not be encountered that often by archaeological staff (e.g. due to their out of the way locations on moorland, farm fields, and cliffs) can still be visited regularly, and any actual or potential damage can be reported and acted on before it gets out of hand. This information is then fed into a database designed to record each site’s current state, including any problems and the subsequent response to them. By recording such information, the database becomes a tool with which to make informed decisions about the management of a broad range of sites, based on their type, construction, location, and so on.

Our second shared responsibility is to create interpretation material that informs visitors about the importance of the sites through an educational website, books, artworks, and so forth, that encourages a sustainable love and appreciation for our sacred sites. ‘Sacredness’ is not simply a matter of joy in experiencing a beautiful or historic place, but a component which motivates people in how they interact with places. Our network is a platform to explore ways that we can help to educate people through positive, informal, and relaxed experiences. Our goal is to help protect sacred sites in this area from any damage. Damage includes digging, rubbish, graffiti, fires within the circles or close to the stones, machinery damage, vehicle access, and other types of damage to the natural environment.

Stanton Moor, in particular Nine Ladies, is a contested space. Many people have very strong opinions about how it should be treated. How can the complexity of meanings surrounding a place, be represented, through formal management and interpretation? This question is difficult to answer. There is no easy solution, there are many. Each site has its specificity, each visitor, their preferences. Such issues are faced by environmental educators, archaeologists, heritage managers, landowners, those who provide information for others regularly.

If you would like to join us on our quest for preservation and education, please like our Facebook book, Guarding Sacred Sites Network, or email guardingsacredsites @ gmail.com.

Yesterday we opined that Wiltshire’s landscape shouldn’t be open for “taking”. Today we thought we’d highlight Wayne from Wallasey’s first visit to Wilts. The year is 2005, the place the Marlborough Downs, North of Avebury. You can see the White Horse on the left and on the right, those are detectorists’ cars.

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The spot is overlooked by The Ridgeway, the White Horse, 2 Iron Age forts, and countless bronze age barrows but Wayne wasn’t there for that he was there for stuff. 480 people lined up and rushed forward (“like the start of the Grand National,” said the press), to grab what they could of our history to take home.

Sadly they may be back if lockdown is loosened further (a 700-person “Near Marlborough” rally is already planned). PAS has abandoned its Guidance for Rallies as it was universally flouted so isn’t it time they told the Minister what they must surely think privately: rallies are damaging, toe-curling, displays of cultural philistinism which bring international shame to both PAS and the country and if they don’t come back for years it will be far too soon!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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‘‘Landscapes of Detectorists” (just published) analyses the TV comedy’s “engagement with landscape, ecological resonances, and attention to place and identity. But is that really what detectorists do? Or are they simply after stuff?

A Wiltshire website (@VisitWiltshire) is clear landscape engagement doesn’t mean taking stuff: “If you’re planning to come and enjoy the timeless countryside in Wiltshire over the coming weeks, please have a look at our guidelines on how to visit responsibly … Respect our ancient landscapes. Please leave our landscapes as you find them

There are many ways people can harmlessly engage with landscape. To characterise metal detecting as one is false and misleading. It is the countryside which is bucolic and lyrical, not those who come to it. Wayne from Wallasey doesn’t come to the Marlborough Downs for the views but for what he can take home from there. Anyone disagree? English Heritage? Historic England? Rescue? CBA? PAS? No? Then no more lyrical talk, please. Detecting is exploitative.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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By broadcasting the Solstice live, perhaps English Heritage sought to give 3.5 million people throughout the world the impression they are trustworthy guardians of the World Heritage site and not a body that is supporting massive new damage to it at the behest of the British Government.
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However, the fact their broadcast was manipulated to avoid showing this man by the Heel Stone says it all:

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In order to illustrate the solstitial alignment, you would expect them to show the view from the centre of Stonehenge out towards the Heel Stone. Instead, they featured views only from the other side of Stonehenge………a classic case of EH just giving a viewpoint that suits their own agenda.

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