You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.

Paul Barford’s blogs, including his main one that has a major worldwide readership, have currently been made “Invitation only”.

He has just sent us the following account:

“A few months ago I raised the perfectly valid question of whether finds shown on You Tube videos made by a Gloucestershire metal detectorist have been responsibly reported. Since then, I have been stalked and harassed by this individual, who even started a scurrilous blog initially impersonating mine, apparently with the aim of turning readers away from the real Paul Barford blog []

In the last few weeks I have also been bombarded by a large number of malicious electronic communications from this person sometimes as many as eleven in one day, all written in an aggressively abusive style, some consisting of threats against myself and my family. Among them was that the detectorist had Polish contacts who would be paying me “a visit” soon. At the same time a thread appeared on a Polish metal detecting forum indicating that this was no empty threat. Suspicious activity has since been observed on my websites and around my home, an incident on Friday led me to take the matter to the police.

The same individual has also attempted to blackmail me into deleting my blog. He stated that, having already entered into a no-win-no-fee agreement, London legal firm Carter-Ruck [] was advising him how to bring a 100,000 pound lawsuit against me on the basis of his unsupported allegations. At the end of last week, this individual demanded [] 10,000 pounds or “delete all you blogs on heritage subjects, and never write one again, if you do I will still take action out on you…” making his actual aim clear. This matter has also been reported to the police.

I was given until 6.00pm on Saturday 17th September 2011 to pay up or delete my blogs. The date is significant, the next day was slated to be a national joint effort by metal detectorists to get my blogs deleted. As we read: [ ] “Anyone who’s been mentioned in his blogs, should delve through his archive, where you will find plenty of material pinched off the net. Google will close his account down if enough people hit him at the same time, so now is your chance to get your own back. […] There must be plenty of folk out their (sic) with an axe to grind.”

The writer of those words seems a little confused about the difference between using the internet as a source of information and quoting the source, and “a copyright infringement”, nevertheless I determined that a lot of people had been searching my blog all week, some of them for over an hour, and downloading material relating to metal detecting in the UK. None of the posts they examined of course actually contained anything that could conceivably regarded as a copyright infringement.

It was clear however that the plotters counted on being able to persuade the web host to delete my heritage blogs by the sheer number of nuisance claims they could muster. I run my blog, as a “coffee break activity”, and at the expense of other activities. Obviously I am concerned to protect four years of my hard work from loss through malicious mass action by UK’s metal detecting community. Dealing with this threat directly by answering each spurious notification would have been time consuming, the blog has been made private until further notice”.

COMMENT  (Nigel Swift, Heritage Action).

This has been met with great glee by metal detectorists and perhaps elsewhere. However, in my view it is shameful. Over the past few years metal detectorists have used disruption in response to all difficult questions on the PAS Forum, the Heritage Action forum and Britarch and succeeded in getting the  first two closed down and the subject disallowed on the third. Detectorists have threatened me and Heritage Action (“we know where you live” and much else) and our appeals for any of their colleagues to let us know the real name of the perpetrators have been ignored. Paul has suffered the same thing but this time it has come in an organised, cross-border manner which I personally find very disturbing. I hope someone is brought to book this time but in the meantime it is not rocket science to calculate that HA is likely to be next –  for at present our Site is one of the few places left that is able to openly say to the public that the reality of  the situation is very far from what most detectorists and The Establishment are telling unwitting landowners it is. For that situation I blame everyone that  thinks what has happened is a welcome development or a victory. Tell that to those who believe that conservation outranks recreation and that the public has a right to be properly informed that metal detecting has a major net damaging effect upon the buried common archaeological resource. Or the hapless landowners, misinformed from all sides.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


More than five years ago we campaigned for “Achievable Stonehenge”, suggesting a good first stage ought to be changing this…

to this…

It didn’t happen, but thankfully it soon will (albeit not as the speedy two stage project we had hoped for). There’s a problem though. The above is a distant view. It closely equates with English Heritage’s published intention and their vow to work towards “returning Stonehenge to splendid isolation”. But it doesn’t show a close-up of the stones.

There isn’t a clear, definitive account of what is proposed regarding access to them. EH say the high chain link fence will be replaced by more appropriate stock fencing and other fences will be removed “where possible” – but their video shows the fence simply being swept away and no other fences replacing it at all.

So WILL there be fences? And far more importantly, where? And even more crucially, will visitors have free access into the circle or not? It’s not that we don’t like the idea of splendid isolation, it’s that certain compromises are probably inevitable yet aren’t being discussed. A lot of people – particularly those of a “Free the Stones” persuasion – seem to think “splendid isolation” means “access at will”. On the other hand, in the sixties half a million visitors a year were allowed inside the circle and unsurprisingly the grass died and was replaced with orange gravel and then the circle was closed. These days twice as many people come. So what’s the plan? There must be one by now so why not simply tell the public exactly what it is?

Reconstruction of Stanton Drew. Image © Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin

In this short video, Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin introduce Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury and Stanton Drew, along with some stunning reconstructions of what these places may have once looked like and their  possible uses. Their book and longer video, Standing with Stones, is a remarkable and unprecedented documentary film that takes the viewer beyond Stonehenge on an incredible journey of discovery that reveals the true wealth and extent of Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain & Ireland.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the length and breadth of the British Isles, visiting the most intriguing and enigmatic monuments that our ancestors left us, from Cornwall through England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland to the outer reaches of the Hebrides and Orkney, then you will love this film.

Described by one magazine reviewer as “A stunning study of standing stones. A work of art.” (Fortean Times), this is no amateur travelogue. Written and presented by writer and explorer Rupert Soskin and shot and edited by broadcast producer Michael Bott, this film is a stunningly beautiful and absorbing two and a quarter hour tour of our ancient heritage in the company of an engaging and knowledgeable host – the journey of a lifetime.

See also Standing with Stones, The adventures of two men and a camper van by Rupert Soskin.

To Heritage Action,

It seems that eco and heritage safeguards in our little country have changed again, largely behind the scenes and in silence. Since this week; 11/09/11, the control of rural planning; on Rath and hedgerow removal, field tree cutting, swamp drainage, habitat and heritage has been moved to the Department of Agriculture; a department known for making things easy for farmers and the cleaning away of things farmers don’t like. How do these new measures help us meet our commitments to safeguarding heritage, habitat, wildlife and in particular birds? Just last week Birdlife Europe reported that Europe has lost half its farm birds since 1980. Will the easier removal of hedgerows help birds? How do these new measures manage to slip the net of European Environmental standards and law, that other countries are obliged to conform to and obey? Do they overrule the old Forestry Act’s safeguards for country trees and hedges and if for instance a farmer wishes to remove four acres of hedgerow with its trees and plants now, do no regulation or restraint apply? And if his neighbour does the same what will be left of our land?

Also over the last few months while researching a recently destroyed heritage site I tried to access a Department of the Environment site; , one of the main sites for heritage designation. However a message states that “The National Monuments Service regrets the continued unavailability of our website which is due to serious technical difficulties caused by a breach of security on the site”. Why does it take months for an Irish government site to be repaired and got working? The current Department of the Environment website states that national monuments are in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and managed by the OPW, yet on another current government website it states that in March 2011, Brian Hayes was appointed by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny as Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for Public Service Reform and the OPW. So who now has responsibility for our heritage sites and indeed for the OPW in Ireland. The Department of Finance? Why suddenly are we doing everything wrong; why is Ireland now falling apart?

John Farrelly.

Mike Pitts blog: Bluehenge is an oval not a circle…

BluehengeHere’s an interesting thing that raises all sorts of questions about the Stonehenge Riverside Project’s discovery of a stone circle by the river Avon in 2009. Henry Rothwell told me about his attempt to put digital megaliths in excavated empty pits of the ring – and thereby he and Adam Stanford realised they seem to be on an oval, not a circle. Which, as he says, echoes the layout of the bluestone oval at Stonehenge – or, perhaps more significant… Read More

via Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

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


Day 5

Today started with a trip into Kirkwall as I wanted to visit some of Orkney’s amazing islands and the main booking office was there.  It is not difficult to find, sited close to the ferry port in Kirkwall harbour and is signposted Orkney ferries.  I had already had some idea of the ferry times and knew that the ferry for Eday sailing the next day had to be booked in advance.  Also as I was taking my hire car I would also give them details of this and driving license.  The young lady behind the desk was very helpful and once I had explained what I wanted to do she sorted it all out there and then.

Tickets bought, I thought I would travel down to see Mine Howe as having consulted my notes, this was supposed to be the day it was open (according to certain resources).  After driving past it again a number of times (when will I learn to look at a map) I eventually turned down the little side road the leads to it. Disappointment again!  The place was deserted, the sign covered up and nothing to see.

The information cabin was still closed but there were no signs to say what was happening – ie how permanent it was. After my second attempted visit to this site I do feel a little let down. It was not like there was a big sign or anything, just a potentially good site gone to rack and ruin. Although saying that I expect the actual tomb is still OK, it was just the rest of the facilities. I am not sure what has happened here but I may investigate when I get back home.

OK now what… I did consider going down to the Italian Chapel but that was quite far south even from here. I decided to try to find one of the little known sites around Kirkwall again, this one was called Saverock. This was located just north of Kirkwall by the new jetty and is a possible ancient settlement which looked interesting in the photos I had seen. Unfortunately it had started raining quite a bit as I walk around the area trying to find the place. The notes were a little difficult to understand for somebody not used to the place, and of course it was not identified on my map. Running between the road to the jetty and the shoreline was a fenced off ditch area. Crossing this ditch was what looked like a bridge which looked like it could be part of the pictures on my note. This was a little disappointing again as it was not only raining but the area was behind a fence that (by now you will realise) I wasn’t keen to climb over. The rain also meant that I couldn’t really get the camera out and take a decent picture either.


Next I decided to go and book ferry tickets to Rousay, this was back up towards Finstown. I got there and it had started to rain quite hard. I scurried across the car park to the booking office in this very small village. As I stood by the booking hatch the guy on the other side was at his desk on the phone. I didn’t mind this at first but after the first 10 minutes I started to get a little fed up. By 20 minutes I had picked up all the Orkney island pamphlets and read most of the interesting text. I had read the poster and taken notice of the safety things but the guy just kept on rabbiting on. It wasn’t even like his conversation was interesting either… no juicy gossip or tales of woe… just boring stuff. I started to feel sorry for the person on the other end!! However, he eventually stopped saying to the other bloke he had to go to lunch. Not before I have booked my tickets you are not I thought to myself. But to be fair he was very helpful once we started talking. He even advised me that I would need to reverse onto the ferry boat, where the best place to park was and how to do it. I drove away from Tingwall very happy and content that weather permitting (it was still raining) I should get to see at least 2 more islands during my stay here.

Broch of Gurness

Right, now to go somewhere that would definitely be a bit of a treat. Driving north from Finstown I travelled to a complex broch that I had heard about called Broch of Gurness. I arrived in even more rain and the place looked quite busy. As there were many cars in the ample car park I decided that I would wait for the heavy rain to pass over and with a bit of luck some of the people would disperse at the same time (being the partial misanthrope that I am!!). After a period or time my luck had changed; more people left than arrived and the weather improved (a little anyway). Putting on my waterproof coat I went into the entrance. I paid my money and had a quick look around the little museum first. This, like a lot of these sorts of museums, show local finds from the side and try to describe how the people lived based on the finds and various other archaeological activities. I always like to have a good look at these places wherever possible as you are unlikely to see them in any of the great museums in the big cities. But I do quite often think that some of the ‘model settlements’ always look a bit tacky in there presentation… you know the sort of thing, blue painted plaster for the sea and ‘action man’ style clothing, only of an even more ill fitting type! But as I say I still think they are enjoyable and I thought this one was no exception.

I walked outside and by now the rain had stopped (periodically anyway) and the sun was starting to make an appearance (periodically anyway). There were a few people hanging around still so rather than going straight in I hung back and explored the outside of the broch first. This is another worthwhile place to visit. A good portion of the intact circular house sits among a myriad of stone walls, banks, walkways and structures that surround it. There are so many in fact that from a normal standing position it is difficult to see any real organised layout. The gleaming stones glare back at you when the sun comes out making it difficult to get good pictures. Like the Barnhouse settlement near Stenness, I always think the places could do with some sort of viewing platform so that you could look down and see the structure of the community more easily. But I suppose that would detract from the site itself. The information boards suggest older building may lie beneath the present ones, meaning this settlement may be much older than its late iron age would suggest.

Like most brochs this one is sited on the edge of an inlet, again suggesting the sea provided the main food source. To back this up there is a large stone tank set into the floor where it is believed live bait for fishing could have been kept. The close proximity of each of the houses means this was likely to have been a very crowded place, and probably quite claustrophobic as there were no windows and the straw roofs would have kept in the thick black smoke of the fires and the smell of meat and fish hanging down would have stifled the place. The entrance to this broch is considered the best in Orkney.

A huge portal stone spans the narrow passageway. The information board suggest the small roofed structures either side of the easily defended doorway were used for guard dogs. The low door pivot points can be seen as can the holes either side of the portal used to put a bar across the door. When you walk in you are forced around a corner before entering the central tower. You are now in the central tower and before you lie a number of small rooms, cupboards and other structures. There are walls constructed not of piles of precision placed stones but rather of single slabs of stone only a few centimetres thick. A great hearth dominates the centre of the tower and to a degree the whole place reminds me of Skara Brae but much more complex. You could spend a good part of the day just looking around this place (just like many in Orkney) and I did. It wasn’t difficult imagining this place bustling with people doing various tasks just trying to survive in what is often a very hostile environment. I wandered the pathways for some time before returning to the car and the next place to visit.


Like most tombs on Orkney Cuween, or Fairy Knowe, is placed high up on a hillside and this one overlooks the bay between Kirkwall and Finstown. You can drive a large portion of the way up to a purpose built sizeable car park. From there though there is a footpath up the ever steepening hill to the tomb.

And to finally do you in at the end there is a tall and quite slippery ladder style to get over before you can actually get to the tomb entrance. Still outside the tomb there is an information board. These all seem fairly new so I assume there has been a general desire to improve the experience of visitors to Orkney.

The entrance to the tomb is via a passageway that was just about big enough for me to get through. Inside it is big, dark and wet so you will definitely need a torch (one isn’t provided here) and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. The head height is 2m so plenty of room for even the tallest to stand but may have originally been higher. This tomb is more or less the same as the one on Wideford Hill (see earlier posting) which I imagine can be see from here (although I couldn’t locate it).

The information board says that at least eight human skulls were found here and that there was a general on-going clear out every now and then so it is likely there were many more. More incredibly there were also found the remains of 24 dogs, possibly used as totems in a similar way that sea eagles were used at Ibister on South Ronaldsay (and possibly otters at Banks tomb just over the road). There are four side chambers which I can just about squeeze the top half of my body in to have a look around. This is a magnificent tomb just as good as Wideford, the inter-layered stone work is meticulous as it funnels up to the ceiling vault. It is also very silent and only my own heavy breathing and rustle of clothing could be heard. What a great place and without all the pomp and circumstance of some of the other pay sites. This and Wideford Hill are a must see in my opinion.


After my visit I walked to the top of the hill for the view. Up here are stacks of stones forming pillars on the top of the hill. From the bottom they look as if they could be standing stones. The are obviously not ‘old’ but do for a surreal landscape at the top.  Time to go back to the cottage after a good day or organising and site visits, and I look forward to my trip to one of the major islands in Orkney tomorrow morning.

Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons license

A historic site’s true purpose may have been revealed – as an Iron Age boozer.  Experts believe that 4600 years ago, thirsty natives may have been enjoying a pie and pint at Jarlshof in Shetland. They say the layout of the stone settlement near Sumburgh Head suggests it may be the oldest pub ever found in Britain.  And a dozen or so quernstones – for grinding barley – indicate it may have served as both a drinking den and a bakery….  read on

but DO be careful or you may end up in an apple tree!!

                                                                                                                                                 Drunken moose in an apple tree

The Giant, Cerne Abbas in 1790 by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm 

The god is a graffito carved on the belly of the chalk,
his savage gesture subdued by the stuff of his creation.
He is taken up like a gaunt white doll by the round hills,
wrapped around by the long pale hair of the fields.

Taken from Jeremy Hooker’s book of poems titled 
“Soliloquies of a Chalk Giant” 

You may recall English Heritage recently issued a tender document with a view to assessing those scheduled monuments that may be at risk from arable cultivation. We suggested amateur enthusiasts could perhaps have a useful role to play.  Unfortunately we’ve heard nothing to indicate our suggestion might be being considered so in order to stir the pot we thought we’d be more specific about what amateurs could do. In particular it looks as if the effectiveness of Tasks 4 and 5 might well be greatly increased by public involvement: 

Task 4: Contact landowners and enter data – The owners of those `at risk’ monuments not under an existing English Heritage or Environmental Stewardship management agreement will be sent a letter explaining the survey together with a brief questionnaire based on that used for COSMIC 2 Stage 2. The questionnaire will elicit responses on past and future management regimes and will be used to fill in the Site Management Factors part of the COSMIC model.
Task 5: Interrogation of aerial photographs and LiDAR data – For those monuments where no response was obtained from the questionnaire or there is little relevant data from English Heritage, information on past and current management will be obtained by interrogating aerial photographs and LiDAR data held in the National Monuments Record at Swindon.

It seems from the above that the assessment of the condition of many “at risk” monuments will be ascertained by sending a questionnaire to the owners and/or looking at aerial photographs and LiDAR data -and there will be no eyewitness accounts from people that are both impartial AND visiting the sites! So surely, amateurs would be helpful in filling that very obvious gap, thereby providing useful, extra, up-to-date background information – and all for free? Isn’t this a golden opportunity for English Heritage to demonstrate that “Public Engagement” is more than just a slogan?

Stonehenge © Littlestone

“Visitors to Stonehenge in Wiltshire rarely experience the historic site without the rumble of traffic noise from the nearby A303. But UK researchers have managed to recreate the sound of a ritual there, as heard by our ancestors 4,000 years ago. The research – which starts in an echo-free recording chamber and uses latest computer modelling techniques – has also been used to recreate the acoustics of Coventry Cathedral before it was destroyed in World War II.”

Hearing the Past can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 1102 BST on Monday 12 September, and on BBC iPlayer.


September 2011

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