You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2012.

Why has the Polish flag been flying over rural England for the past few days?

It was an artefact hunting rally for Polish people. Intrigued, we sent two moles to see the Poles at Lilley Bottom Farm. Here’s their report:

Let us say, first of all, they struck us as generally a step up from many of their English counterparts. More polite, better educated and by all accounts keen to do the right thing. (Does the European approach of having rules attract more thoughtful people than the British one of no rules? Could be.) Still, we should also say no-one was there to increase Britain’s archaeological knowledge, they were there to take things – otherwise they wouldn’t have been there, they’d have been at the (non-existent) Polish Amateur Archaeology Club of Britain!

Still, it was a lovely picturesque spot and everyone was obviously very happy at Lilley Bottom Farm. But we noticed this…

The farm is owned by the Crown Estate. So that means Her Majesty! Presumably they had her permission to be there and she (or someone on her behalf) signed a Finds Agreement saying they could take her stuff home? Maybe the organisers will publish the text.

The Queen is of course as entitled as any other landowner in Britain to flog off non-treasure artefacts. On the other hand, she probably shouldn’t cite the defence “Its legal, innit?” as legal it may be but right it isn’t – after all, she’s letting them do what they’d be jailed for at home and  even though we’ve let her keep her head and a lot of land with artefacts in it it’s still OUR history not hers. In France she’d have neither her head nor her land nor the artefacts nor the legal capacity to let a non-French group of people hoist their flag in rural Aquitaine and spend five days stealing French history.

In the end though neither who the landowner was nor whether there was a finds agreement are the main issues. The real point is that the archaeologist isn’t born that will say random extraction of this nature is a good thing yet there they were, a big crowd of foreign artefact hunters digging up our history and taking it home. Something is wrong.

Bonkers Britain

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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In our recent article on ‘Experimental Archaeology – Roundhouses‘, we incorrectly stated that the roundhouse at Bodrifty in Cornwall “has now been fitted with all mod-cons and is available for let as a holiday home with a difference!“, a false impression we gained from reading the holiday company web site. We are happy to be corrected, and have been contacted by the site owner with the following information, which we print by way of an unreserved apology:

The Roundhouse reconstruction at Bodrifty has not been fitted with mod cons. These facilities are in a separate building elsewhere (a converted stable block) There are NO modern materials used in the construction of the Roundhouse except for polypropylene based fishing line for lashings- if natural fibres had been used they would have decayed by now.

The 4 poster green oak bed has a modern mattress and some very soft electric lights have been installed.  When not ‘occupied’ – mostly by honeymooners it is used in conjunction with the original Iron Age settlement as an educational resource – The Settlement though on private land is open to the public. Off season the Roundhouse is available to visitors by appointment.

The replica Roundhouse is based on the largest (‘Hut A”) in the settlement but there is no knowledge of it having been occupied by a ‘Chief’.

Whatever your views on building windfarms in sensitive locations, you’ll find this short video by Sandy Gerrard well worth viewing.  There’s an unmistakeable and powerful symbolism to it. Welcome to the future!

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By Sandy Gerrard

A turbine blade being transported along a new road above the scheduled historic farmstead and field system at Bancbryn (outlined in red). Building a windfarm around several scheduled monuments without impacting upon their setting was always going to be an ambitious task. Inevitably the character and appearance of this rich archaeological landscape is being permanently altered and whilst the turbines themselves may be here for only the blink of an eye their infrastructure will remain for centuries.

The arrival of the windmills seems surreal  – the turbine blades look like stranded alien spaceships and the all-pervading smell of diesel fumes reminds one that green energy comes at both an environmental and archaeological cost.  Over the past 8 months miles of roads capable of carrying 150 tonne lorries and the massive platforms needed to erect the windmills have been gouged into a substantial area of moorland effectively transforming its character and meaning. The variety and range of archaeological sites within the area tell us that this sort of thing has happened many times before – the difference lies in the scale. In the space of a few months large numbers of different machines have re-shaped this landscape damaging and destroying the often fragile remains of earlier generations.

 

 

 

Did the paper get it wrong? ….

The archaeological community is looking for guidance from the case of a Mendip landowner into the penalty that may be imposed for damaging historic sites

The archaeological community can express an opinion (just as we did recently ourselves) but only the judge can decide the penalty. So probably what the journalist meant was that the archaeological community was wanting a debate on what reinstatement work is appropriate. That discussion probably wouldn’t have arisen at all, due to the cost, but for the fact Mr Penny seems to be wishing to demonstrate a willingness to “put the damage right“.

While it may be a good idea for him to finance some exploratory archaeological work at the site to establish just what remains and what doesn’t, building an actual replica seems a less useful thing to do. For a start, both he and the public ought to be left in no doubt that if you remove prehistory you CAN’T put it right and anyone that does it shouldn’t imagine they can later gain brownie points by offering to.

In addition, please let’s not take up his barrister’s suggestion, that any work should be “done or supervised using Mr Penny’s resources under the eye of English Heritage”. Wouldn’t that mean Mr Penny’s distinctive orange bulldozers working at the Priddy Circles once more? Wouldn’t it be best if that never, ever happened again?!

Maybe there is one way Mr Penny’s money  could do some real good. What if he voluntarily gave English Heritage a million or two to spend on general heritage preservation projects elsewhere? That would have a genuine beneficial effect and he’d be welcome to claim as many brownie points as he liked!

Just eight months after the stone row at Mynydd y Betws was first recognised, the first large component of a windmill crossed the row yesterday morning. During the coming eight weeks all the parts of fifteen 110m high wind turbines will make the same journey across the row, between the cairns and over the early coal mining remains.

11.03am, 12 September 2012:  The first blade arrives on the Mountain and crosses the Stone Row.    (Can you spot the Stone Row?)

Today, Thursday, it is expected that the first of the massive towers will lumber along the new purpose-built track to the large platforms cut into the side of the mountain. There they will be lifted onto the ground to await assembly in the coming months. The setting of the numerous scheduled and unscheduled sites on the mountain will be altered for years to come and of course some will bear the scars of the past few months for ever.

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For previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box.

See also this website and Facebook Group

When we say tarmacked we mean treated like Tarmac plc would – utterly destroyed for money while lots of aren’t-we-caring claptrap is mouthed by the culprits. Why can’t they just build on the ruddy thing without insulting people with the silly chat?

The site is at Bishop’s Stortford. Thousands of new homes are to be built on the town’s ironically termed “Areas of Special Restraint”. The county council’s historic environment unit says:

“Interpretation is tentative at this stage but the Hazel End site, involving trenches on both fields alongside Hazel End Road, has identified the remains of a probable burial mound, of Late Neolithic (c4500-2500BC) or Early Bronze Age date (c2500-1700BC) several ditches, pits and post-holes of probable Bronze Age date, and, in the lower field next to the River Stort, a roughly cobbled surface covered with Late Iron Age and Roman pottery. “Investigations within the larger area, enclosed by the bypass, have identified an enclosure and ditches of probable Iron Age date (c800-100BC) an enclosure of possible Roman date (further excavation may clarify this) and also another prehistoric burial or possible henge (a ritual enclosure) of late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date (c3000-1700BC). “This circular, ditched feature appears to contain several cremation burials in the ditch and it has a central feature that may also be a burial. If so, it is potentially, an important find.

It adds: “The finds would have to be excavated in detail and recorded before new homes could be built.  Alternatively they could potentially be protected and preserved – barring new construction.”

Compare and contrast the caring, sharing developers:

“As expected on a site of this size and in this location – on the edge of a historic town – there’s archaeology but not of any particular significance and it would not prevent development occurring on our site.
“As a responsible developer we are responding to the finds by extending some of the trenches to check whether there’s anything else there.
The finds are of local interest, but the condition is such that do not warrant preservation in situ.”

Dear English Heritage and Council for British Archaeology,

How come you professionals haven’t told us farmers what “theft from landowners” means? Glasgow Uni says it’s failure to disclose finds but that isn’t right as most detectorists ask farmers to sign a paper allowing them to take most finds home without disclosing them. So PAS says something different, that theft is removing without permission i.e., without a Finds Agreement. But that’s wrong too. Most Agreements are far from blanket permissions to remove everything – see the NCMD Model Search Agreement. Two massive groups of finds are not pre-authorised to be taken home. So consider a rally attended by 500 people and PAS – but not the busy farmer:

Under the agreement an agreed percentage of finds worth over an agreed value is owed to the farmer. So when they have been taken home to Bootle or Brussels he gets lots of cheques in the post does he? Hardly. Also under the agreement the detectorist must follow the NCMD Code which says all “unusual” finds must be shown to the farmer. So when those have been taken home to Leeds and Lourdes they get posted back for him to see do they? Hardly. Yet if they don’t then removing them is theft through failure to disclose finds under the Glasgow definition and theft through removal without permission under PAS’s definition. In other words, theft by any definition!

It seems everyone knows what’s going on except us farmers! We assume little was found but PAS must often know better for it gets shown most finds at rallies it says – yet neither they nor EH nor CBA nor academics say a word. Lots about nighthawking but nothing about this, which is surely theft on a far grander scale? So I wonder who will speak out for farmers? PAS has the primary duty but history suggests they’ll always put detectorists’ wishes first. Which leaves CBA and EH. How about it chaps? PAS is hamstrung but are you?

You both encourage us to sign agreements so aren’t you obliged to advise us on the wording? Why not write one? (It would be a logical complement to the Guidelines for Rally Organisers you wrote.) Why shouldn’t we be the ones to specify the terms under which people search our land? The clue’s in the word: landowners. Something needs doing. Widespread metal detecting may be legal but widespread theft isn’t. There’s a thieving elephant in the room and you professionals aren’t telling us about it. How awful that an honorable profession such as yours can stand accused of such a thing and have nothing to say in its own defence. It’s time you regularised your position. Please.

Yours faithfully,

Farmer Silas Brown

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Work to provide a new Stonehenge Visitor Centre seems to be progressing well – see our photograph. A veritable swarm of yellow machines are working up there….

But of course, it wouldn’t be Stonehenge if there wasn’t a mystery:

Can anyone throw light on a report that a digger has recently been working up there with distinctive orange livery and the word “PENNY” on the side?

Has one of the contractors hired it from Pennys? That would be unfortunate, to say the least as if there was any payment involved it would mean the man that has just been convicted of the heritage crime of the century at Priddy was earning money at Stonehenge!

UPDATE: See here

And you thought she was a bit slaggy!
Northumberlandia has now been opened. We apologise for previous Micky-taking. According to an Arts correspondent of the GruniadThere’s a slumberous dreamlike delicacy to this work of art that dares to proclaim the wonder of the human body, that fertile marvel“.
Does this mean there’ll be a clamour for more like her? In the middle of Berkshire for instance. Or what about Surreyandia?

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Thumbs up!
An amorous naked man was recently captured on CCTV trying to hitch-hike up the A1 in the direction of Northumberland.

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Was it done by the book?

According to the website ….

“Complying with Health & Safety legislation will mean that any project that RM Penny carry out either as principal contactor or subcontractor will benefit from;
> Full Risk Assessment
> Health & Safety Plan and Method Statement
> Regular visits from RM Penny staff
> Non working supervisors”

So lets hope all Health & Safety regulations were complied with in relation to the earth-moving activity at Priddy, a project carried out by the firm as principal contractor for its client, Mr Penny and that the firm has been asked to produce the relevant Risk Assessment, Safety Plan, Method Statement,  log of visits from RM Penny staff and the name of the Non working supervisor!

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For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box.

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