You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2009.

By Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

 Road works on the A4, in Northern Ireland, seem to have uncovered yet another ‘Stonehenge’. The circular, timber structure, found in Armaghlughey, near Ballygawley, has been roughly dated to the years around 3000 bce and has contents that are said “to bear a strong resemblance to Stonehenge and the Giant’s Ring near Belfast.” Excavation was by the Headland Group, whose report is due to be submitted next spring (2010) and work apparently “proceeded without damaging historical sites and artefacts”. That would be wonderful, if it’s the case.

Just one pedantic quibble, however and that with the frequent use of ‘Stonehenge‘, as a name for any newly discovered prehistoric circle. There is a point, like the ‘new Bob Dylan’, or the amount of scandals that get the word ‘gate‘ tacked on their end, or persistent media hyping of each global scare up to the swine flu, at which it will become counter-productive, both for consideration of the original and for each ‘new’ monument. The ‘oh yeah, whatever’ point. While famous comparisons are undoubtedly useful for protecting, or publicising a discovery, each site is ultimately distinctive, if not unique. Even a different comparison would be welcome, for some occasional variation.

Perhaps our sensation-drunk age is merely getting, not the Stonehenge it deserves, but the amount of diluted Stonehenges it deserves.


Not exactly megalithic news but it just so happens that this festival in the Mendips  which attracts thousands of people has been cancelled just before it was about to open today.  Judge for yourselves the motivations behind the ‘crackdown’ or ‘political decision’ that has been made, and ask what  has happened in our country when green festivals are closed down for security reasons!

Police today set up road blocks around a music festival site to keep thousands of environmental campaigners away from one of Britain’s longest-running festivals.

Up to 15,000 people had begun to gather for the Big Green Gathering in the Mendip hills, Somerset, which was officially due to start on Wednesday. But organisers were forced to cancel it on legal advice yesterday after the police took out an injunction to prevent the festival going ahead.

And yes the Guardian have put a correction in today to their article, but are we  not yet seeing another G20 Protest ‘State’ tactic being employed against innocent people.

The following correction was added to this online article on 28 July 2009:

Police say that no injunction was served on the Big Green Gathering. Mendip council’s application for an injunction was due to be heard in the high court, but because the organisers of the festival had surrendered their licence before this hearing, our article is not correct to say the police served an injunction. The article also mentions the organisers’ need for a road closure order from the Highways Agency; in fact, this was a matter for the local highways authority.

Update; 5th August 2009; George Monbiot  in the Guardian – The Busybody-state

I am told that there are people who do not care for maps, and find it hard to believe. The names, the shapes of the woodlands, the courses of the roads and rivers, the pre-historic footpaths of man still distinctly traceable up hill and down dale, the mills and the ruins, the ponds and the ferries, perhaps the Standing Stone or the Druid Circle on the heath; here is an inexhaustible fund of interest for any man with eyes to see, or tuppence worth of imagination to understand with.

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Anyone very familiar with the anti-collecting lobby will be able to spot likely astroturfers. They frequently hide their identities and do not attach any real name to their blogs etc. They also frequently show up in blog responses of their allies. Sometimes, they adopt a number of identities for this so that one appears as many….  Heritage Action is almost a text-book definition of the term, although we cannot know if they are funded from other sources and thus are true astroturfers or are merely adopting many of the techniques of astroturfing….”

Crumbs! Well Mr Hooker, all we can tell you is that our identities are well known, we receive no funding from anyone else and despite your fantasies we are exactly what we say we are, ordinary people caring for extraordinary places.

As such, we think we are more representative of the British people than you or your metal detectorist suppliers and our message to you is the same as our message to metal detectorists (who also often attack us in the same way):  it is not Heritage Action members who are damaging the British archaeological resource, it is not Heritage Action members who are helping themselves to history uninvited. And especially for you Mr Hooker: it is not US that are paying oodles of dollars to those that do – it is YOU.

When you stop, we’ll discuss morals with you.

Cornish landscape artist Sarah Vivian has an exhibition of new work at the Shire Gallery, Shire Hall in the heart of Bodmin town, Cornwall. It runs from 3rd August until 5th September, and is open between 10am and 5pm every day except Sundays. The exhibition is entitled This Beautiful Land, and whilst there will be a few megalithic paintings on view, the exhibition focuses on the landscape from morning sunlight and the bright colours of the day through  to evening light, sunset and moonlit landscapes. The paintings will be set out in  order to represent this, and if previous shows are anything to go by, it promises to be very special.

14.-Blind-Fiddler-Above: The Blind Fiddler by Sarah Vivian, will form part of the current exhibition.

Sarah’s paintings celebrate the Spirit of the Land and often depict the ancient sacred places of Cornwall. Sarah is actively involved with the protection of ancient sites in Cornwall, and she has been a member of the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network, since it began.

Two stunning examples of Sarah’s megalithic paintings can be seen below. Neither will be part of the current exhibition.

16.-Piper-of-Boleigh The Piper of Boleigh by Sarah Vivian

18.-Men-an-tolMen-an-tol by Sarah Vivian

Please see the following websites for more information:

Spirit of Albion

Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network

Strolling round the henge and through the stones, memories of previous visits filled my mind, individual stones calling up reminders of who did this, how this happened, where particular photos were taken, what conversations took place. I smiled inside, at a tapestry of life, friends, lovers, experiences and growth woven over the years amidst the stones – stones that never change, yet can change your life in subtle degrees from the moment you enter their world.


Just a reminder that we’re now one day away from Heritage Action‘s fourth annual Avebury Megameet on the 1st of August. If you haven’t ventured forth for one of these before please give it a try. Put faces to names and meet up with some of the folks you may have only ever cyber-chatted to before. The Avebury Megameets are an informal gathering of people from all walks of life (artists, archaeologists, conservators, historians, pagans and others) but all with an interest in the Avebury Henge and our megalithic heritage in general.

The Megameet will be in the south-east quadrant, either by the Obelisk marker stone or close to the stone here and will kick off from around noon. It’s a good idea to bring something to sit on and something to eat and drink too if you fancy it. If the weather’s bad we’ll be in one of the rooms at the Red Lion (the front largest room if it’s available). Look out for this T-shirt – designed by BuckyE for the 2007 Avebury Megameet!

The Cove, from an engraving by William Stukeley. Designed by BuckyE

The British country side is a great place for walking, we have moors, hills, mountains and valleys for this outdoor sport, problems arise though when the footfall of many walkers start to erode the paths over the higher ground, and also the rather bad practice of creating walker cairns and wind breaks  on top of the old Bronze Age burial cairns.

Also, modern walker cairns can often be seen next to the burial cairns, the Bronze Age cairn being quarried to add to the modern one. Such acts of vandalism may be unintentional on the part of the walkers, maybe they are unable to distinguish between modern and old, but such foolishness often obscures and destroys valuable prehistoric remains.

There have been efforts made by archaeologists to redress the destruction of the Bronze Age cairns, one such is Fan Foel in the Brecon Beacons. In June 2002 a survey found that severe erosion was taking place due to a combination of ‘wind, rain, and from visitor’s removing stone for a walkers cairn’.

June 2004 – the walker’s cairn was removed from the site and the area of the burial cairn was partially excavated, and what is left of the monument is now protected beneath ‘terram matting and has been backfilled with turf and stone.

Another example is the Yorkshire Beamsley Beacon, where an old burial cairn lies under a modern walker cairn, and was also probably part of a defence hut in the Napoleonic war in the 19th century, and in the words of the article.

“Much of this cairn, which is now about 11m in diameter, still survives but in recent years it has suffered a lot of disturbance due to people using stones from it to make modern cairns and wind breaks. Another smaller historic cairn lies further along the ridge at Old Pike and that has also lost some of its stones.”

There is one more cairn that seems to have suffered damage fairly recently and this in Cornwall at West Penwith, a field note on The Modern Antiquarian highlights a recent visit by Sweetcheat to the Watch Croft cairn and his findings there.

One thing I noticed that I didn’t spot last time is that the eastern barrow (with the trig point) has been subjected to the building of one of those annoying walker’s windbreaks that are made from the stones of cairn itself (this is a problem on the North York Moors, but I haven’t seen it here before).

So this quarrying of stone from cairns is an ongoing problem which needs resolving or at least education by the local authorities to explain to people the folly of such actions. Of course it is not only the public who are at fault, some burial cairns because they are at a high point, also have the indignity of Ordnance Survey ‘trig’ posts inserted into the cairn, examples can be found here on The Modern Antiquarian….

Walker cairns are only the latest manifestation of a historical ‘vandalism’ that happens through time, but in this case it is something that can be rectified and stopped through the process of education, informing people  that it just is’nt right to destroy prehistoric monuments that have been around for four thousand years, and enforcing the scheduling laws that apply to our protected monuments.

by Alex Langstone, Heritage Action’s Cornwall correspondent.

Stannon 001Above: The largest stone still standing, with Rough Tor beyond.

Stannon stone circle (SX125801) lies on the western side of Bodmin Moor, on the wild slopes of Dinnever Hill. It is reputed to be one of the earliest stone circles constructed in the district and it has a diameter of 42 metres. The circle would have had commanding views to Rough Tor, a very prominent notched hill, and one of the highest points upon the wild, desolate and sometimes compellingly beautiful moor. Unfortunately the view is somewhat obscured these days, by the china clay spoil heaps running along the opposite side of the valley.

The tallest of the remaining upright stones aligns very nicely with the twin peaks of Rough Tor, and there is a Beltane/Lughnasadh sunrise viewable from the circle, where the sun rises from Rough Tor’s summit notch. The circle is easily accessed by the road leading to the China Clay works, and there is limited roadside parking. Other stones nearby may be linked to the circle, and the site also boasts an equinox sunrise alignment, where the sun can be seen rising, due east over Cornwall’s highest hill, Brown Willy, whose craggy dark peak is just visible on the horizon. The hills strange name is a corruption from the Cornish Bron Wennyly, which translates as Swallow’s Hill, a lovely poetic sounding name for a truly wild and beautiful place!

Numerous cairns are sited on the wide rolling expanse of Dinnever Hill, mostly in clusters, and there are four small upright stones to the north-west of the circle that appear to be part of an alignment through Stannon towards the Louden circle. A number of straight alignments have been identified between circles and other monuments in this area; a line from Stannon circle via Fernacre circle passes close to the large cairn on the northern summit of Brown Willy for example. A line from Rough Tor’s northern summit, runs through Fernacre circle and passes through the cairn cemeteries towards the stony outcrop on the summit of Garrow Tor.

Because of this sites accessibility it seems to be well visited, and during my visit today I discovered that two fires had recently been lit, one in the centre of the circle, and another towards the stream, in the centre of five small standing stones, which may possibly be linked to the stone circle.

There were also various small painted stones left in the centre of the circle,  along with old bits of pottery making the site look particularly untidy, plus lots of litter, which took a while to clear away. Sheep, ponies and cattle all roam freely on this part of the moor, and leaving litter/offerings is completely irresponsible.

Stannon 009

Above: Fire damage and rubbish at Stannon Stone Circle

This stone circle is an amazing treasure from our Bronze Age past, and we should all treat it with the respect it deserves.

From this circle, the two other stone circles mentioned above are accessible on foot. Fernacre (SX144799) and Louden Hill (SX132794). The three stone circles may have been part of a Bronze Age ritual landscape, which looked towards the two high peaks of Rough Tor and Brown Willy.

When visiting ancient sites, please enjoy them, learn from them and above all let these special ancient places inspire you. But please only leave footprints and  only take photographs.


The Earth Mysteries Guide to Bodmin Moor and North Cornwall by Cheryl Straffon. Meyn Mamvro Publications. 1993

Cornovia by Craig Weatherhill.  Cornwall Books. 2000


All oceans, waterfalls, pools, rivers and streams came from the giant Ymir’s blood. Nordic Creation Myth

A fascinating radio programme tracing the land that once existed and joined Great Britain and the continent. The programme which was broadcast last Saturday can be found here on BBCi Player

Open Country – Helen Mark explores a land lost beneath the waves near Craster on the Northumbrian coast.  Archaeologists, with the help of storyteller Hugh Lupton, evoke the contours of Doggerland, reclaimed by the North Sea at the end of the last Ice Age.

There is also an interesting book that charts this landscape under the sea..

Europe’s Lost World – the rediscovery of Doggerland, written by Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch & David Smith.

More information here;


July 2009

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