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Stones in the south-east quadrant at Avebury. Notice any marks? 
Image credit and © moss

Image credit and © moss

Sheep rubbing up against the stones have left a dark stain at the base of each one, the result no doubt of lanolin in the fleeces. The reason the sheep are in the Henge is to keep the grass short – an environmentally friendly way of doing things although the downside is the (hopefully harmless) deposit on each of the stones… and the fact that sitting down and having a picnic can be a hazardous experience! 

Quite a row blew up last year when English Heritage sent a message to a picture agency saying… “Please be aware that any images of Stonehenge cannot be used for any commercial interest, all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage’. It turned out that wasn’t quite what was meant and a statement was issued saying“We regret the confusion…. We do not control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge and have never tried to do so.”

But in fact the clarification was less than clear because although it is strictly true that they don’t seek to control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge they DO seek to gain a fee from the taking of some images: “If a commercial photographer enters the land within our care with the intention of taking a photograph of the monument for financial gain, we ask that they pay a fee and abide by certain conditions … The majority of commercial photographers respect this position and normally request permission in advance of visiting.”

Thus, to clarify their clarification: although they have never sought to control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge nevertheless if someone enters land within their care with the intention of taking pictures for commercial gain they are asked for a fee…

It’s a distinction that’s indistinct, to say the least, and bound to create difficulties. For instance, what if a person enters the land as a tourist but later decides to publish his amateur snaps in a coffee table book? On the basis of English Heritage’s own criteria no fee could be anticipated or incurred or retrospectively owed since the essential element, intentionality when they entered the land, cannot be shown. Indeed, the only person that can bear witness on that matter is the photographer himself.

So a clarification of the clarification is surely needed. The position is so unclear that even EH staff have recently been getting in a muddle over it, telling an old soldier he had to pay a fee.

Indeed, rather than a clarification a confession might be best. Don’t these phrases used by English Heritage… “we ask that they pay a fee” and The majority of commercial photographers respect this position and normally request permission in advance of visiting” suggest awareness that in practical terms (and perhaps legal ones) no fee can be enforced; only requested?

Yet in the latest incident “the spokesman explained that commercial photographers must obtain prior permission for pictures taken for ‘financial gain’ and pay a ‘small fee’…

 “Must”? Should that actually be “we request”?

Incidentally, here’s a puzzler. Should or did EH claim a fee for the Guardian for this ? ? It’s a bloke leaping off the top of the monument, something EH say isn’t allowed and indeed don’t acknowledge happens (the year it happened their Chief Exec said there was “no trouble”!) So, should a quango whose duty is to prevent people climbing on Stonehenge, but lets them year after year and doesn’t mention it is happening charge for pictures of it?



Avebury – Graphic Novel: A short novel about the mysterious village of Avebury by Tom Manning.

Avebury, south-east quadrant. Image credit and © Littlestone

This is a university project that was given out in order to induct us into the second year of the Illustration course. The theme of the project was that it should be based in the strange village of Avebury, north of Stonehenge, UK. Avebury is a very mysterious and ‘weird’ place filled with standing stones, deep trenches, rampaging druids and man made hills, theres no knowing what you might find there. WIth this in my mind I planned to introduce Avebury as an isolated, desolate area of wilderness, not unlike ‘the Zone’ in the 1979 Russian film ‘STALKER’.
Tom Manning.

Not really, this is one of several info markers in the car-park next to St Davids National Park Visitor Centre

“The newest facility which opened in 2008 is the Oriel y Parc Gallery. The National Park visitor centre has been extended to accommodate a gallery to house a state of the art gallery. Used to display national treasures including the works of Graham Sutherland who was a Pembrokeshire resident for much of his life. The gallery also has a cafe, resident artist and a Tourist Information Centre. It’s open all year and free of charge.”
Good place to stop off before visiting megalithic sites in the area.

It must be a nightmare running the forum UK Detector Net, a real juggling act between appearance and reality. The problem is it used to harbour lots of anti-PAS sentiment but a few years back it suddenly flip-flopped “for hobby survival purposes” and is now ostensibly very pro-PAS and pro-recording. But of course an awful lot of their users don’t agree in word or deed so heavy moderation is needed to ensure “off message” messages don’t appear. Lots of people have been thrown off the forum over the years for saying the “wrong” thing and most of the forum is kept locked from outsiders. Not for nothing is the site now dubbed “The Dark Side”. Think George Orwell without the finesse and you’ll get the idea.

But lately it’s not just the non-recording behaviour of 60% plus of detectorists that is being covered up, it’s the fact a lot of them sell their finds. To this end a new forum rule has been announced:

UKDN does not allow any reference to any sales of coins or artefacts on EBay at all. This is a blanket ruling and no exceptions will be allowed“.

[Update, 12 April 2012 – Today, a few hours after this was highlighted elsewhere, the above disappeared, having been deleted altogether or transferred to the members-only portion of the site. Whichever is the case, it confirms that (despite the denials of their spokesman) the purpose of the rule is indeed to mislead the public – since it has been deemed necessary for it’s very existence to be hidden from the public. From now on, any visitor to the site such as a landowner considering granting permission for detecting on his land will be given the impression that none of the forum members are in it to make money and will have no idea that the real truth is being secretly manipulated.  A forum that trumpets it wants to establish “best practice” is still helping liars to bamboozle farmers, but now it’s doing it secretly!] 

The intention is unmistakeable – it is to mislead the public. The standard claim at a farmer’s gate, “I’m an amateur archaeologist and my sole interest is history” gets you permission to detect whereas “I’m going to find stuff in your field and flog it on EBay for my own benefit” doesn’t. Ask a farmer near you which he was told. Then look up “metal detecting finds” on EBay. It’s a misrepresentation so crass as to be little short of theft and aiding people to commit it en masse is not something that the responsible elements of the metal detecting community should be doing.

But they know that’s what we think. We’ve told them often enough. They should split away– for their own sake and that of the resource. In an association of truly ethical detectorists there would be no need to warn morally challenged people to keep quiet about what they got up to – they wouldn’t be tolerated at all, and quite right too. When will thoughtful, responsible detectorists finally acknowledge the logic of that? Paul Barford has said it so well in his piece The Hidden Dark Underbelly of UK Metal Detecting

“is it not precisely the passivity of the majority of the “responsible guys” towards the extent of the loutishness in their ranks of the hobby that leads to this situation?”

Yes it is.

UPDATE 1 August 2011:  Anyone who remains puzzled about how asking detectorists not to mention on the forum if they sell their finds isn’t deliberately misleading the public by omission might care to note the contents of the LAND-OWNER / DETECTORIST CONTRACT that is displayed on the site… Not a single solitary word about acting in accordance with the Code of Responsible Detecting or recording finds with PAS and plenty about the monetary value of the finds – and selling them!  Just how that fits in with detectorists being in it for the love of history is hard to see – or with UKDN saying, “we do not support the selling of finds”, “UKDN does not want to be seen to be any part of this side of the hobby” and “UKDN took the stance that the only way forward for the hobby (and for our membership) was to make sure that, as far as we could influence people, we would pursue the highest standards of recording,  following the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting” ! Let’s hope they don’t try to “clarify” further. A donkey’s a donkey, not a thoroughbred n’est-ce pas?

UPDATE 2  11 October 2011: A posting by “geordies lil bub” querying why selling finds mustn’t be mentioned: “why not dont some of you people want some dosh some wonga!!!!!!!!!!!” …………. and the official reply: “It’s the forum AUP, failiure to comply will get you carded or account suspended/ deactivated… you have been advised not to break any of the AUP.”

Жизни Сталин !  QED!


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


Carn Meini (middle distance, right of treeline) the possible source of the Stonehenge Bluestones
Photo taken from Foel Drygarn at the end of the Preseli range of mountains
Image credit and © Littlestone

There are few organisations as cynical in their attitude towards the public as open cast mining companies. Have you noticed how they always say what they are doing is almost entirely for the benefit of the local population and hardly for their own benefit at all? There should be a word for it. “Doing a Tarmac” maybe.

It’s very hard to find a mining company that has dug a huge ugly hole in the ground that doesn’t then say they’re going to flood it to make a water park or nature centre and that (almost) that was why they dug it in the first place. In some places migratory geese must go cross-eyed wondering which lake to land on. Of course, the fact that filling the hole with water is the cheapest and easiest solution for these holier than thou hole-makers never forms part of their motivation, oh no!

But here’s a double dose of generosity from The Banks Group and the aptly named Blagdon Estate who are not only favouring the locals by filling the hole with water but are ALSO being kind enough to sort of sculpt their spoil heaps into the world’s biggest figure.

The Shotton Surface Mine provides a unique opportunity to create a spectacular art form, which otherwise would not be constructed, whilst winning the much needed local coal for local industries.”  The Banks Group.

“How kind. Everyone’s a winner. Bladybladyblah. Heard loads of versions of that. Pull the other one.  Why not put the slag back where it came from rather than leaving us with a giant fat lass looming over us while you go off to Monte Carlo? Oh no, forgot, that would involve more expense.”  A Passer By.

There are lots more pictures here. It is hardly being sculpted at all is it? It’s some slag heaps with an enigmatic grimace! The slag (referred to by some as ‘Slag Alice’) is being dumped in much the way it would have been anyway – by the same lorries that would be dumping slag if it hadn’t been rebranded as sculpture – and with a minimal amount of sculpting – i.e. a minimal amount of real expense whatever is claimed. (What’s the sculpting fee as a percentage of the profit? 0.01% ? …. No? …. Let’s see the figures not just the figure!). Just look at those two breasts – they look like, well, slag heaps or should that be a slag’s heaps? Has no-one at Blagdon Estate seen a lady lying down? Or a recumbent goddess? Other than Madonna? Or is it that the sculpting budget is actually rather niggardly? Niggardly as in merely a part of the PR budget. No prizes for guessing.

By the way, we’re not against land sculpture, far from it. It would be great if the talented Charles Jencks was allowed (and adequately financed) to make a truly noble piece of landscape art. But for someone who actually wanted just that, not for the purpose of conducting a limited and inadequate makeover of an embarrassing eyesore! We know as heritage enthusiasts that landscape art can last for millennia, it’s not reversible. Should a project dreamed up as a PR stunt be imposed on the next 50 generations? Naaah.

Follow the debate on The Modern Antiquarian here.

by Chris Brooks, Heritage Action. All images © Chris Brooks.

The route back was quite hard going against the wind and now the rain had started again. In fact at times it was hitting my face so hard it felt like riding a motorbike in a hailstorm with the helmet visor open (trust me, not recommended). But as I rounded the hill both the rain and the wind died down a little and the ground levelled out. For some reason the walk back seemed shorter somehow; I am not sure why but I didn’t care as I was ready to get back in the car.
I decided to drive back to the cottage and change my clothes as my trousers had got soaked through. After a little food and a bit of a rest the weather improved a little (well it stopped raining anyway) and I drove out again.

I made my way along the A965 passing Maeshowe on my right then turning off onto the B9055. You can not help but take your eyes off the road as you realise the three huge stones on your right. There is a very large parking area to your right into which I pulled. For a moment I just sat and looked out of the window of my car realising even more now that I really was here at last.

To me the Standing Stones of Stenness are the icons of Orkney, and from my little house in Wiltshire I had always dreamt of seeing them. Now in front of me the dream had come true and I had arrived at the place that had grabbed my attention in so many books, websites and TV programmes. You may be amazed to know that I did not stay, this was really because I wanted to meet these stones alone and the field had a number of visitors at that moment.
A little way up, the road turns into a single track road as you drive passed the Watchstone on the left and then further still the fantastic Ring of Brodgar appears on a small hill to the left. Signs guide you into the purpose built car park. Along with the large but surprisingly lacking information board, an eye pleasing raised wooden path meanders its way over the watery marshland towards the great circle commanding the side of the hill in front of you. You have to negotiate the mainly quiet road that you have driven up and then, after the gate, a reinforced grass path takes you up the hill. By the gate there are a couple of parking spaces for those who need them but you still need to negotiate the grassy but gentle slope. Further up there was some erosion control taking place where one of the paths crosses the ring ditch.

Despite the grey clouds and cold breeze, this place really does grip you. I spent a good hour just walking around taking in the stones’ size, texture and shapes. The central area is covered in heather and the a few small signs request you stay off – which I was happy to do. There is no bank so it is technically not a henge but it is the third largest stone circle after Avebury and Stanton Drew.

The landscape in which this place stands is inspirational, even on such a miserable day. Both the nearby water and the distant surrounding hills give weight to the probable importance of this place. However it may be a surprise to know that when it was built it is thought that Stenness Loch was a watery marshland (similar to that which the wooden footpath crosses) and only became waterbound when the sea breached it over 1000 years after its construction. After a while I was joined by some of the people who were at Stenness so I took this opportunity to leave and head back there.

The stones stand proudly in a fenced off field, and you approach them through the normal kissing gate arrangement. Yes, the stones are big, massive in fact, and the two largest are shaped so that they seem to cut into the dark cloudy sky like knives. Just as in the car you can not help constantly looking up at the tops of the stones while you walk around. Their shape definitely leads your eyes up and you can’t help but notice how very thin they are compared to their height.

Fortunately it was becoming obvious also that the weather was improving. The dark rain filled clouds started to retreat like rivers of fog over the loch, with patches of blue appearing in-between. The sun was setting and the remaining high cloud had a pink hue to it. I scrabbled to put my wide angle lens on the camera in order to get this magnificent sky, and I snapped away getting as many shots as possible. Eventually it got dark and the crescent moon appeared above the stones. Again there was a level of serenity only disturbed by the odd passing car and now, as I watched and took in the atmosphere, I am sure the shape of these stones are significant and our ancient ancestors must have thought the same to have put them there. I could imagine a complete ring of stones pointing to the sky… maybe they pointed to object depending where you stood – I don’t know, but there must have been a reason for it.
It was a bit dark now and I drove over to the Watch Stone and parked in the nearby lay-by for a while. It was difficult to get a good shot without a powerful flash now but there was plenty of time to return and I will do so.

Many politicians have called for an end to Regional Development Agencies and The Taxpayer’s Alliance is scathing, to say the least, about  one in particular – “Advantage West Midlands”.  It’s really worth a look   

We aren’t fans either. You may recall it was Advantage West Midlands that insisted on building a road (that a government Inspector twice said wasn’t needed) over the Rotherwas Ribbon (that the County Archaeo said was as important as Stonehenge). See here… Of course, that’s all old news now, the road went ahead sweet as a nut, English Heritage having declined to schedule the Ribbon in time.

All that being so, we aren’t overjoyed to see on Page 67 of English Heritage’s just-published Annual Report and Accounts that Advantage West Midlands are listed as one of the 26 “Grant Making and Public Bodies” that have given EH money. No doubt there are some technical or accounting reasons why that should be but at first sight the fact that taxpayer-funded heritage wreckers are handing over taxpayers’ funds to support taxpayer-funded heritage guardians is a bit irritating to anyone that supports heritage guardianship – or pays tax.


“Well, it’s allowed at Stonehenge so what’s the problem?”


July 2011

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