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There’s a proposal for a new Stonehenge to be built just 6k from the original as a “homage” to it and as a major tourist attraction. It will be built using different-coloured stones from around the world and will last thousands of years. The entire structure will be polished and set into a floor of white quartz granite and surrounded by a white stone wall and will give “an opportunity to experience what our ancestors experienced when they went to the original one”! In addition there will be yurt huts for visitors to stay in, a planetarium and an observatory…..

It will cost £50 million but the organisers aren’t supplying the money. Private investment is currently being sought, with organisers expecting the attraction to make back the outlay within 6-10 years of it opening.

A cynical person has suggested it’s all flim-flam mixed up with the adjacent 1250-house development site that Wiltshire Council has proposed – and that once that’s in someone’s bag the whole Stonehenge thing will disappear and be replaced with a childrens’ play area. We don’t think that though, obviously.

This is the first of in an occasional series in which we ask members and readers (including you if you would like!) to give us a brief impression of their very earliest encounters with ancient sites. First up is Founder Member Graham Orriss…

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I’m certain I’m not alone here, but as a child, I didn’t appreciate the wealth of ancient history I had access to. In fact I found the whole idea of “history” quite a boring one! I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which was a shame, as my friends and I were regular visitors to such amazing sites as The Five Knolls, on Dunstable Downs. My Dad frequently took us to the hillfort at Totternhoe Knoll for a run around; the chalk pit at Sewell, which houses part of the ramparts of Maiden Bower; Ivinghoe Beacon… I had no idea what any of these things were until long after I’d moved away from the area.

Ivinghoe Beacon (I now know!)

Ivinghoe Beacon (I now know!)

The trouble, as far as I can see, is that Dunstable (the town that I grew up in) was very important in Roman times, where it was known as “Durocobrivae”. Therefore, anything prior to the Roman’s arrival was pretty much glossed over in the classroom.I have vague memories of mentions of prehistory, but there was very little. Sadly.

I rarely have an excuse to go back there nowadays. I had a great childhood, running around these sites with no knowledge I was doing so. I’d love to see what I enjoyed as a child through adult eyes; see what I missed. Maybe it’s a good thing. I enjoyed them in my own way without hindrance, as I now enjoy them as an adult with respect.

A couple of years ago now, Heritage Action member ‘Scubi’ (Chris Brooks) documented his ‘trip of a lifetime, Scottish Adventure‘ around the highlands and islands of Scotland, visiting many of the prehistoric monuments on the islands.

And now, regular reader Mark Griffiths has documented part of his own trip to Orkney on his personal blog.

As Mark says in his introduction:

Prehistoric Britain exists all around us, with standing stones jutting out of the ground all over the countryside, and chambered tombs tucked into shady corners of modern housing estates. But there are several ‘prehistoric landscapes’ where great swathes of the country are kept as once they were, and it doesn’t take much imagination to feel a tremendous resonance with the past. Remote in both time and space, places like Mitchell’s Fold and Bryn Celli Ddu hold a special fascination for me. Larger landscapes, such as the justly-famous Stonehenge and Avebury sites in Wiltshire, even with the close proximity to the modern world, and the super-attraction tourist status they have, still have the power to evoke a certain something.

Certainly words that resonate with us here at the Heritage Journal! He continues:

Orkney, however, is a particular favourite of mine. A collection of 90 islands off the north coast of Scotland, the islands are made of Old Red Sandstone, which is excellent for building with as it can be quarried into blocks with ease. Perhaps it was this very fact that led to prehistoric folks settling here all those years ago. From about 3500BC it is believed the islands were being settled, as the hunter-gatherer way of life settled down into farming.

His account includes some stunning photographs – I suspect the islands are similar to Cornwall with regard to good light, I’ve yet to see a bad photograph of the monuments there!

Mark visits all the usual sites in his blog: Skara Brae, Barnhouse, Stones of Stenness, Brodgar, Maes Howe etc. and it makes a good read. His blog name includes the epithet ‘Heritage Hunter!’ as a tag line, so we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his future posts…

Visit: marrrkusss – Heritage Hunter!

If you’ve experienced your own ‘trip of a lifetime’ to a British heritage site or sites, why not drop us a line and let us know about it so we can feature your trip here too?

Government joy
A wind turbine is to be built near the Scottish home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother despite planning officials admitting that it will have an “unwelcome” visual impact.

One strange aspect of the affair is that it is reported that the councillors approved the planning application after deciding that most of the protesters did not live in the area – so they appear to be saying that unless you live next to a protected place you have no business complaining about it being subjected to unwelcome visual impacts. The Government will love that! Bribe a few yokels with cheap electricity or a new village hall, discount moans from further afield,  job’s a good un, loadsa development opportunities and the heritage lobby written out of the script!

Boring fields
A second (and third) sign of the Government’s love-affair with development. Last week we had a cabinet minister revealing himself on the telly as a climate change denier. Now we have the Planning Minister, saying if a field is “boring” it might as well be built on!

Germany still ahead on penalties
And then there’s this. Five years ago in July 2008 we wrote in the Journal: Britain shamed by Germany ….. German Ebay has just introduced new rules on the sale of archaeological artefacts. Anything sold must be accompanied by proper documentation showing the seller’s title and proof that it has been properly reported to the authorities”. Seems a sensible idea. Yet Ebay UK hasn’t followed suit. Why? Are there people in Britain who are totally against the idea? Who would benefit from resisting openness about the origins of artefacts? It’s a puzzle.

It was with  very heavy hearts that we heard the news yesterday of Mick Aston’s passing.

Mick Aston

No doubt there will be many worthy obituaries over the coming days, as befits a man who inspired so many. But mere words cannot do justice to his work. In reaching out to millions of viewers on Time Team, he has left a very tangible legacy for generations of landscape archaeologists. Rest well Professor, our thoughts are with your family and friends at this difficult time..

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Soon....

Soon…..

No more... (The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

No more…
(The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

Today at 7:00am, 27 years after the Government promised UNESCO it would happen, the southern half of the A344 road that runs immediately past Stonehenge, over The Avenue and down to the junction with the A303 was closed forever. It’s the first tangible step in the project to bring an element of “splendid isolation” to the stones.

Over the rest of the summer the road surface will be removed and grassed over, the high fences will be taken down and the monument will at last be reunited with its ceremonial landscape.

[Incidentally, all this week there is a recruitment drive for volunteers to work at the new visitor centre and elsewhere under the auspices of the various organisations concerned. Those interested can sign up at Amesbury Library. More details are available from the Salisbury Journal.]

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

silas4.

Dear Colleagues,

Since the authorities won’t explain the law of property to artefact hunters for fear of offending them, I will: taking finds home without the permission of the owner is stealing. The fact thousands of you do it doesn’t make it not so, nor does saying you’re absolutely sure the owner wouldn’t mind. It’s stealing. The issue is exemplified in a recent (now hidden) post on the Detecting Wales forum:

Hi Folks
I need some good advice on a situation I’m in with the farmer of my local permission. Last week i found a Saxon Penny on his land and today i took it to the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge for the Saxon coins expert to view,he confirmed the date and moneyer ect ect. He also suggested its value which shocked me, however the coins expert wouldn’t give me a proper value as its against their policy There lies the problem i haven’t told the farmer yet as i wanted a proper identification first, And being my first proper permission i was very naive and didnt even think of a contract (in future i will) I want to do the right thing and tell him but dont know how to exactly, the way i see it ive got 3 choices.
1 Suggest that i sell it and give him half the value
2 suggest he buys it from me and give me half
3 i buy it from him and give him the money
Now the 3rd option is out as i cant afford to spend that amount (my wife would divorce me) Which leaves me with the other two options the second option would mean i would need to get a proper valuation and i dont know where to get that from. or is there another way around this????

Any help or advice you can offer would be hugely appreciated.

Can you believe it? These are our artefacts and by law only we have the right to decide what happens to them. Imagine people secretly taking stuff home from Tesco’s claiming a belief Tesco’s wouldn’t mind if they knew – and saying that anyway it didn’t matter as they intended to bring it back when it suited them, honest! It’s no different with us yet for 15 years the Government and its agents have conspicuously avoided saying so, thereby enhancing the convenience of artefact hunters and damaging the interests of us farmers.

It’s a damn scandal. Mr Bland of PAS complains the Heritage Journal is too critical of PAS but we farmers should be saying: “not critical enough!”

Silas Brown

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For more from Farmer Brown put Silas in the search box.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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A happy solstice to all our readers! So, how did it go this year?

Much better at Stonehenge, it seems. Fewer arrests and mostly good-natured.  One reason perhaps was that there was a lot of ceremonial around the Heel Stone that drew many people to gather in that area and so reduce the numbers inside the stones. A lesson to be learned for the future perhaps?

But no-one is helped by the authorities failing to comment on the fact that some people STILL insisted on climbing on the stones and weren’t prevented by those whose job it is to protect the monument on behalf of everyone else.

Or were these people levitating themselves?!

solstice 2013

As for the American woman on TV this morning blatantly stealing some of the ‘sacred soil’ from the site in front of millions of potential copycat viewers and replacing it with sandalwood dust as an ‘offering’…. well, people are as ignorant about how to behave towards a World Heritage Site as they are allowed to be.

If you like Stonehenge you’ll love this, BBC footage from 1954 with Professors Atkinson and Piggott.

In some ways it’s obvious how we’ve moved on since that time – for instance, opinions on when the monument was built have changed radically. Also, watch out about 8.5 minutes in for an archaeologist smashing a fallen sarsen with a huge maul. Definitely imprisonable now. Other things haven’t changed though. The much maligned Professor Atkinson’s working model of how the sarsens were set upright (around 11 minutes in) is still simple and elegant and very convincing nearly 60 years later. Equally, the stone-moving experiment which led him to think that just 40 men could transport even the largest bluestone over land easily has certainly not been bettered since.

Professor Piggott’s statement that it is “inescapable fact” that Stonehenge was intended to greet the midsummer sunrise rather grates nowadays since it is no longer considered either inescapable or fact – although thirty thousand revellers are about to act as if it is both. Maybe someone should tell them it’s no longer 1954 and as such it’s highly debatable whether the country should continue to pay out £200,000 every year to support their erroneous understanding of both the time and the place….

Trowelblazers – women in archaeology
“Awesome trowel-wielding women: WE SALUTE YOU!”
(See this excellent site http://trowelblazers.tumblr.com  and https://twitter.com/trowelblazers)

Stonehenge delay may prompt legal action
Work to upgrade a road junction near Stonehenge has been completed six months later than originally intended so English Heritage is considering legal action against the contractors. It is not known whether the public is considering legal action against the Government due to the fact that work to sort Stonehenge out is five decades late! 😉

Tree puzzle
An inspector in Northumbria has ruled that 3 holiday tree lodges would be “incongruous” with a “discordant appearance” that would “detract from local character and distinctiveness”. It’s a fact though that worse things have been allowed elsewhere and it makes one wonder how inspectors measure these things. They don’t explain, they just say that’s what they think. So a tip: if you want to get your tree lodge through, try putting a dirty great wind turbine on it’s roof. The Inspector might like it.

Incidentally, this arose from an original refusal by Northumberland County Council. Yes, Northumberland, the place where they gave permission for the world’s largest human figure to loom over the landscape….

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