Day 7 of our holiday, and time to escape the confines of the West Penwith peninsula, but not too far! We drove the short distance from the westernmost peninsula, to the southernmost – the Lizard.

We’ve covered many of the sites on the Lizard here before but I wanted to return to the Three Brothers of Grugwith site near St Keverne, where the volunteers from the Lizard Ancient Sites Network (LAN) have recently been busy at work clearing the scrub.

And a marvelous job they’ve made of it too! Where previously I could barely make out the burial chamber (was it a cist, a dolmen or natural setting?) the entire site is now cleared, bar a pile of cut scrub temporarily left nearby, allowing for some interpretation of the monument.

LIZ_0009

LIZ_0014

There are three main stones, a large earthfast stone, rectangular in shape, half of which is flat and around a foot or so high, with the other half rising to three of four feet. There is an obvious cup mark on one of the high corners of this stone. A couple of feet away from this is another earthfast stone, upright to the same approximate height, and about the same width. These two are topped by a capstone, which also has cupmarks on it – I counted 3 definite and a couple of possibles.

Grugwith Cupmark 1 Grugwith Cupmark2

Although the area of scrub abounds with natural stones, the immediate area is largely clear of stones, with a singular large exception, against which the cleared scrub was piled. Other than that, slightly further away are a couple of arcs of stones, which are very open to interpretation. Kerbstones? A circle of toppled stones? Investigation is under way to try to understand the site – James Gossip of Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment Service has produced the plan shown below of those stones uncovered so far, and has kindly allowed its inclusion here.

Grugwith plan

As stated, interpretation is far from certain as things stand at the moment. Another clearup has been scheduled, and should have been completed by the time you read this, so the picture may be much clearer. There are also plans to clear a wider area in an effort to identify which are natural stones and which have been placed. A write-up of the clearances will appear in the Cornwall Archaeology Society newsletter in due course.

It’s a simple story. A hoard is found but the museums say the Treasure Valuation Committee valuation is too high so they decline to buy it. So it has gone to auction and out of the public’s view forever. In the event it sold for a little more than the Treasure Valuation figure but of course anyone other than those with the playground mentality of most detectorists will know that valuations comprise a spread of probabilities and ranting about and appealing against the half you don’t like makes you look like a greedy, illogical dimwit. As always, if these were amateur archaeologists that would be understood and there would be fewer complaints about the system.

There hasn’t been much public fuss over the loss of this hoard, probably because people mistakenly equate “not wanting to buy at that price” with “not wanting”. But of course, the hoard IS wanted and in any logical or civilised scenario it should be in a museum. But Britain’s portable antiquities laws and practice are not a logical or civilised scenario and the two finders and the farmer are flogging it for as much as they can get and there’s not a thing anyone can do to stop them.

One thing shouldn’t be forgotten though: if the finders (who reckon they are part of a history-loving group who aren’t motivated by money and who are permitted to pursue their activities on that basis) had offered to forego or significantly reduce their share a museum would have bought it and the rightful owners, the public, would be able to see it.

Update I think we’ve just been Orwelled! A Finds Liaison Officer, no less, has complained on the Rescue facebook page that we are “ill-informed” and “prejudiced” and we haven’t highlighted those who DO give up their rewards. That is because they are a tiny minority and frankly we aren’t in the PAS game of pretending the majority (in this matter and in the whole of best practice) are well behaved and responsible. They aren’t, and even PAS has conceded that in its published figures. We aren’t apologists for metal detecting and our continuance isn’t dependant upon praising them. Can PAS say the same? “Prejudiced” means taking a particular line in defiance of the evidence. Hasn’t PAS done that for 17 years?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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by Nigel Swift

I recently re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four and it brought Britain’s current portable antiquities stance to mind. In both the central theme is fiction relentlessly presented as fact. A couple of instances have just emerged, one from the Head of the PAS and one from blogger-detectorist John Winter.

Mr Winter benefits from the fact some of his readers are pretty uninformed so it’s easy to play to the gallery. Thus he has just resurrected Minister Lammy’s “heroes” statement using the same selective justifications, emphasising the positives and totally ignoring the massive downside, the widespread knowledge theft. That might get you backslapped Mr Winter but it’s not being honest with the public. It’s Orwellian.

As for PAS, in Orwell’s book the party seeks power for its own sake and that’s the connection. Who can fail to notice that much of what it says and does is devoted to delivering a relentless propaganda of success, presumably to promote its own continuance? Winston Smith rewrote old press articles to ensure they supported the party line, PAS does the same in real time. I offer you ten thousand examples as evidence! Here’s Dr Bland this week in full Winston Smith mode, spinning the hurried hoiking of the Lenborough Hoard: “This was a rescue job and Ros, as our sole FLO at event with about a hundred metal detector users, did a heroic job in the circumstances and ensured that all the coins were recovered”. Note the use of the H word, heroic, instead of hurried, echoing Minister Lammy. Pure Nineteen Eighty Four!

It was a rescue alright, but presented like a corkscrew. Why not tell the public straight out (rather than coyly hinting it to those in the know) that the main peril was from some of those present? And why not admit that the FLO’s otherwise inexplicable and otherwise unprofessional decision not to ensure the hoard was guarded overnight was due to pressure and opposition from those around her? Had they been amateur archaeologists the matter would have been dealt with properly. Fact. Metal detecting is simply not as heroic or educated or moral as PAS constantly portrays it to be. Like in the case of Mr Winter, presenting a concocted account is not honest, it’s Orwellian.

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"PAS is a huge success. Detectorists have almost all responded heroically. Their levels of co-operation and ethical behaviour are indistinguishable from amateur archaeologists. Only a minority don't report all their finds". PAS deserves continued funding to maintain this highly beneficial status quo which is the envy of te rest of the world."

PAS is a spectacular success. Detectorists have almost all responded heroically. Their ethical behaviour makes them indistinguishable from amateur archaeologists. Landowners should invite them onto their fields as they can trust them as they are almost all responsible and beneficial to national heritage. PAS deserves continued funding to maintain this marvellous, marvellous status quo which is the absolute envy of the rest of the world.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Day 5 of the holiday and time for more heritage sites. I’d heard on the grapevine that discussions are under way concerning plans for a fairly major archaeological project in West Penwith. Chun Castle being the main focus of these plans, I decided to pay the site another visit. We parked on the north side of Chun Downs Nature Reserve and I made the ascent (a 150 feet climb over a third of a mile) in less than 10 minutes, despite my knees!

One thing that immediately strikes me about Chun Castle is that you don’t see it until you’re right on top of it. And the converse is true. Due to the shape and slope of the hill, it is unlikely that any attackers would be seen by lookouts on the ramparts until they were almost at the castle gates. So what was its function? The ditch and double banks with offset entrance suggest a fortification, and there is certainly enough granite in the walls to withstand an attack, but the location and siting seems all wrong to me. Discussion with Craig Wetherhill a few days later enlightened me: at their peak, the walls may have been at least 20′ high, affording good all-round visibility. The castle would have been intervisible with several other hillforts and rounds in the area: Caer Bran, Lesingy Round, Faughan Round, Castle an Dinas etc. Chun Castle itself may well have been used as a fortified ‘warehouse’ for the tin traders.

A few hundred yards away from the castle entrance, and barely inter-visible at ground level is the much older Neolithic site of Chun Quoit, a chambered tomb which we’ll be covering in more detail in future…

Chun Quoit

Returning to the car, we drove the short distance to the hamlet of Bosiliack, and I walked the old Tinner’s track up to Ding Dong mine. I have visited Men an Tol many times, but have frequently been foiled trying to get up to Boskednan Downs, by flooding. Starting from the old mine workings avoids the flooding in the valley below, and is an easy walk through the scrub.

The first site I reached was an old Kerbed ring cairn, which has been cleared (by CASPN?) since I was last here, and is therefore much easier to see.

Boskednan kerb cairn

The (restored) Nine Maidens stone circle is a short distance further on, and gives good views in all directions, with Carn Galver, Hannibal’s Carn and Little Galver dominating the views to the north and north-east. There is a Standing Stone marked nearby on the map, but I’d never previously identified it myself. This time, with the help of my trusty ViewRanger app, the GPS showed my exact location and I was surprised to find it’s just a short stump of a stone, directly on the main path!

Boskednan Outlier

I moved on to the last target of the day, another kerbed barrow a few hundred yards away. This has been extensively cleared by the CASPN stalwarts, and the central cist is plainly marked by a wonderful Quartz stone just to the west of the cist.

Boskednan Cairn Quartz

When I was last here, shortly after the stone was uncovered, it was difficult to make out the details of the barrow, but the further scrub clearance has now made the layout plain to see.

Whilst here, I met a couple of gentlemen who asked if I knew anything about the monuments. I imparted what little I knew, and pointed out that we were amidst a packed landscape of ancient features, with the remains of settlements at Chysauster, Bodrifty, Bosiliack, Bosullow and Chun surrounding us. They were continuing down the hill to the Four Parish stone, so I warned them of the possibility of boggy ground there, wished them well and retraced my steps back to the car to complete the day’s excursion.

Over the years the Heritage Journal has highlighted various issues regarding the protection of archaeology in Wales. It now seems that the Welsh Assembly Government agree with most of our concerns and have acknowledged problems with the existing system.

A Heritage Bill designed to tackle these problems is to be introduced in late Spring 2015 and amongst the proposed changes is the idea of making the designation process “more open and transparent by introducing formal consultation with owners and establishing mechanisms to review decisions”. Currently the process sometimes gives outsiders the impression that it is very secretive, inconsistent and often ill-informed. The move to a more transparent system should be welcomed by everyone with an interest in protecting Welsh heritage. Clearly as well as ensuring the creation of a designation system that works it is crucial that it is funded adequately. Providing that the Welsh Assembly can deliver on their promises to change the system and ensure that sufficient  resources are made available Welsh heritage may have a better future.

Every year large numbers of scheduled ancient monuments are damaged. Cadw’s own figures (which are probably very conservative) indicate that between 2006 and 2012 there were 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales. Furthermore Cadw acknowledge that there has been only one successful prosecution under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in the last 25 years. There is clearly a very large problem here and it is therefore somewhat disappointing that Cadw initially overlooked it. It is tempting to think that the recent case of damage to a length of Offa’s Dyke jolted them into making a late change to the proposed Heritage Bill. Hopefully their proposed remedy will work and ensure that the really important archaeological sites in Wales are finally offered some degree of protection.

 A scheduled farmstead at Mynydd y Betws severely damaged in 2012 did not even appear on Cadw’s list of damaged sites.  The site remains on the schedule but no remedial works have been carried out to protect the battered vestiges.  Let’s hope the new proposed heritage protection system serves us better than the current one.

A scheduled farmstead at Mynydd y Betws severely damaged in 2012 did not even appear on Cadw’s list of damaged sites. The site remains on the schedule but no remedial works have been carried out to protect the battered vestiges. Let’s hope the new proposed heritage protection system serves us better than the current one.

Day 3 of our holiday was packed with ‘lumps and bumps’, and a major disappointment. Those who follow our Twitter feed may have noticed the picture below, taken during a mid-morning visit to the stone circle at Boscawen-Un, my favourite site in Cornwall.

not fair

I had seen the tent during my approach from the A30, but had assumed it was pitched in the adjoining field. Imagine my anger and surprise when I realised the tent was actually within touching distance of the stones! Some of the guy ropes were staked within the area of worn grass immediately outside the circle. The tent flap was completely open and the occupants were fast asleep. I’ll never understand the mentality of such people – the stones are there for us all, and to ruin the ambience in such a way is totally selfish behaviour.

I don’t know if they had, or even asked for, permission, but I made a call to the CASPN hotline to inform them of the proximity of the tent to the stones, and the site manager was subsequently informed – on my return the next day the tent was gone, with flattened grass the only evidence. But I wonder how many others had the ambiance of their visit spoiled by the thoughtlessness of that couple. I left the site reluctantly, and walked across the A30 to the Goldherring settlement which I last visited 2 years ago. I was pleased to see that the clearance has been maintained and extended – even the small tree which dominated the centre of the site previously has now been removed.

DSC_0020

Back to the car, and passing through St Just, I parked and started on the long walk uphill to the remaining Tregeseal stone circle. There were originally three circles here, but two disappeared in antiquity. I always approach this site with trepidation now, as long horn cattle are used on the common, and have been witnessed causing damage to the stones, as well as being somewhat frightening in appearance, especially to a bovinophobe like myself! However, on this occasion I was in luck, with no cattle to be seen. But my visit was unfortunately timed to co-incide with a group of over two dozen walkers from the West Penwith Footpath Association who decided to stop at the stones for their lunch break. I therefore continued across the common to look at the the two major barrows, and the group of holed stones which sit within the shadow of Carn Kenidjack. There are five stones here in total, four in a rough E-W line with the fifth a short distance off to one side at the western end of the row. None of the holes are aligned with anything obvious in the surrounding landscape, and the single stone was recently damaged (and poorly repaired)

DSC_0051DSC_0061For those who are following Sandy Gerrard’s series on Stone Rows here on the journal, I tried to see if a sea triangle view was possible at the Western end of the row, looking toward St Just, but the sky was just too hazy on the day to make anything out.

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The walkers having concluded their lunch stop, I returned to the circle just as they were leaving, and finally managed to take some more photos of the circle for my collection, just as the sun decided to put in an appearance. The clouds above Carn Kenidjack seemed to be mimicing the shape of the carn below. Grateful that I’d had some time alone in the circle, I thanked the spirits of place, picked up an empty food wrapper, and made my way back to the car.

tregeseal

2 stone circles, a stone row, barrows and a settlement. Not a bad day’s work!

You’d think Stonehenge had troubles enough, what with proper protection being ditched in favour of proper vote catching and the National Trust inexplicably going along with it. So what it doesn’t need is loads of American detectorists piling in to support the short tunnel. (Nor, truth to tell, does the Trust, bearing in mind the ramshackle case they are trying to maintain and the fact they don’t allow metal detectorists onto any of their land!)  Yet supporting the short tunnel is exactly what a British detectorist is urging American colleagues to do:

May I through the comments section ask that support be given to the UK’s National Trust who favour the ‘short tunnel’ option to protect Stonehenge from traffic. We need to counter the propaganda nonsense spouted by Heritage Harry, aka, Nigel Swift of Heritage Action who is desperate to see the ‘short tunnel’ option binned. Write to:- enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk . I already have. Please support the ‘short tunnel’ option.”

"Awesome"

The new Stonehenge World Heritage landscape. “Awesome”

If, on the other hand, you aren’t an American detectorist and you oppose new damage at Stonehenge, please sign the petition. Plus, if you’re an NT Member please write to them saying: I see you are submitting the short tunnel to a Members’ vote. I vote NO.”

The first day of a two week holiday, and (purely co-incidentally, honest guv!) the day of a guided walk organised by the Cornwall Archaeological Society.

We had been warned that if the weather was inclement there may be a last-minute cancellation, so it was with some trepidation that on a very cold, but importantly, dry day 7 souls plus our guide gathered in a small car park at Balwest, prepared for an attack on the heights of Tregonning Hill. A multi-period walk had been promised by our guide, Steve Hartgroves, covering Bronze Age barrows, an Iron Age hillfort and accompanying settlements, medieval field systems, right up to comparatively recent China Clay quarries and workings. All of this was delivered, and more!

Tregonning Hill stands some 6km West of Helston, and rises to the magnificent height of 194 metres, overlooking Mounts Bay to the SW. It is surmounted by Germoe War Memorial, and an OS trig point. The hill is a SSSI, and the major importance of the site is the occurrence of an extremely rare liverwort, Western Rustwort Marsupella profunda, which is found growing on bare outcrops of weathered granite within and around the old china clay workings. Tregonning Hill is the only known British location for Western Rustwort and internationally it is restricted to this site in Cornwall and a few locations in Portugal and Madeira. (source: Natural England)

Steve showed us several aerial photos and old maps of the area (which would be referenced throughout the day), pointing out the various barrows and features that we would be visiting, and then we were off! The main track from Balwest is metalled, and gave no difficulties other than the incline, and we soon came to a side track at which point we paused. An old (parish boundary?) wall was our first marker and an obvious kink in line of the wall, along with a couple of suspicious bumps, marked our first Bronze Age barrow. Continuing on, we soon found ourselves clambering down and up across a wide banked ditch – the fortifications of the Castle Pencaire hillfort at the summit. It’s difficult to actually make out the fortifications on the ground, as quarrying has impacted upon the defenses, much stone has been robbed out, (some of which was apparently used for the war memorial which stands within the fort) and what remains is hidden in the extensive undergrowth. We moved on up to the memorial, and sheltered from the biting wind in its lea. A short geology lesson ensued, Steve taking us back to the pre-Cambrian and explaining how the rocks below our feet were formed. Informative, but a little over my head, I’ll admit.

The views from the summit are extensive, but unfortunately there was a haze to the day, and the distance views were not as clear as they could have been, though the field patterns all around, and particularly to the north could be easily made out. Our prehistoric geology lesson over, we retraced our steps back across the ditch to the track. We continued south for a short distance before bearing off to the right, to an area with an information sign, ‘The Preaching Pit’. Our lunchtime stop, the ‘pit’ is the site of an old quarry, which provided a much needed break from the wind, and commemorates John Wesley’s visits to nearby Kennegy Downs and Breage in the mid-1700s. The pit was used extensively for Sunday School meetings on Whit Sundays, and is still apparently used at Pentecost for multi-denominational services.

After a picnic lunch, we moved further south to look at the main quarry, site of a plane crash in the war. A commemorative plate is apparently in place, quite near to the edge of the quarry, but we didn’t look too hard for it! The quarry was an early China Clay site, having first been discovered here in 1746 by William Cookworthy. There was some discussion around the quarry, but I was personally more interested in the prehistoric aspects of the walk. We continued to the south-east, toward a lookout house which dates to the Napoleonic era, until we reached an area marked ‘cromlech’ on the old map. This was actually a rather nice kerbed cairn dating from the Bronze Age, which I would guess is around 40 metres across. Many of the surrounding kerb stones are still visible, and there is an obvious mound in the centre. This was an undoubted highlght of the walk for me. Retracing our steps a short distance, we turned to the north, where alongside the track was yet another BA barrow. No real distinguishing features, but an obvious ‘bump’ in the landscape.

Finally heading downhill, discussion turned to the landscape of fields below, and an obvious progression from Iron Age enclosed fields, to medieval strip farming, and finally the much larger fields of today was presented to us. We passed an (inaccessible) Iron Age settlement area, or ’round’ near the base of the hill, but attention then switched to the ground to our right, which was the site of an old brickworks, with one of the kilns still in place, but the rest left as faint traces on aerial photographs.

As we moved across the north base of the hill, a field boundary was examined – a double bank and ditch identifying it as a partial boundary of another Iron Age Round. All too soon, the path started to incline again, and we knew the end of the walk was not too far away now. I’ll admit to struggling on the final climb back up to the summit, and our small band split into two groups – one lagging to discuss the mine workings between Tregonning and Godolphin Hills, and the rest of us eager to finally get to the top once more for a final look at the views before returning to the cars to make our way home.

TregonningMap

So what were my impressions of my first CAS walk? I was impressed with the extent of knowledge shown and imparted by Steve the group leader – from the Pre-Cambrian to Napoleonic times, he covered it all with good humour. The other participants were not slow in coming forward if they had something to add to the discussions, and there were questions aplenty at all stages of the walk. If others are like this, I’ll make sure to coincide my holiday dates again in future!

Last year  we celebrated the news that an Inspector had dismissed a developer’s appeal against a refusal to allow an estate of houses at the entrance to Laurie Lee’s Slad Valley. As we said at the time it would have been “one of the most vandalistic actions that could be committed in the whole of rural England” so everyone won (except the developers).

But it wasn’t quite the end. The builders spent lots of money on a final throw of the dice – they sought a judicial review to try to reverse the decision. But now they have abandoned it so that really is the end.

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fat lady quaffs

It is “great news for Stroud” says Richard Lloyd of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. “[It] should give some hope to other threatened landscapes across the UK which have particular heritage value.” (Like Oswestry, perhaps?)

“When sound explanations and a reasoned defence are mounted against an unreasonable planning application, developers can see their plans defeated, however big their chest of fighting funds.”

Just when you thought it was ignoring democracy,  the National Trust has launched a review of itself and has invited its 4 million members to comment on how it can deliver its core purpose…..

The working party is focusing particularly on the role of the Council – the body of 52 people which appoints the Board of Trustees, holds it to account and generally ensures the National Trust stays true to its core purpose. All our members will be invited to share their views on the review – do take the opportunity to have your say.

So if you’re a Trust member you have a great chance to make a difference. Why not write to them – enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk saying you wish them to drop their support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge because supporting massive new damage within the World Heritage Site is completely at odds with their core purpose of preserving special places …

for everyone

 Update….

Dan Snow has put it more succinctly….

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