You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2014.

.

Hervan Menhir © Alan S. Heritage Journal

Hervan Menhir © Alan S. Heritage Journal

Hervan  (in Cornish hyr means long and ven means stone) Menhir (in Middle Breton men means stone and hir means long) …..  so “Long Stone Long Stone” ) is situated on the Lizard and once marked the boundary of Predannick moor. Whether it has prehistoric credentials is not clear (so far as we and Google can say) but now it forms what may well be Britain’s best rockery feature in some lucky person’s back garden.

Seven weeks from today it’ll be Spring!

Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle, Shropshire,  in early Spring

Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle, Shropshire, in early Spring

SH fog

The Prime Minister has just said  the Government is “committed” to ending the traffic nightmare on the A303 between Devon and London. Everyone will welcome that (although even the preliminary study isn’t going to be produced before the next election). But from the point of view of prehistory fans the big issue that springs to mind is what will it mean for Stonehenge? There are three big reasons for concern:

1. For years English Heritage supported putting the A303 at Stonehenge in a massively damaging cut-and-cover tunnel.

2. Then, they supported a bored “short tunnel” despite the opposition of UNESCO and nearly all archaeological and heritage organisations on the grounds it too was very damaging.

3. It was cancelled due to cost but just last month Simon Thurley said they’d continue to argue for the tunnel, “with all our strength”.

We did ask WHICH tunnel [see here] but no-one seems to know. Surely, if EH are arguing for a tunnel with all their strength on behalf of the public they owe the public an explanation of which tunnel they’re arguing for? Don’t you think?

os222.

From The Old Oswestry Facebook Group about last night’s meeting:

“….we are seeing signs that the town council is starting to listen. In brief, they have agreed to revise their SAMDev draft response to ask Shropshire Council for a review of current archaeological reports and heritage assessment supporting the Oldport proposals – a point that HOOOH has been strongly campaigning on. What’s really encouraging is that Oswestry Town Council is forming a view of the Oldport proposals outside of English Heritage, and taking the initiative to query the evidence base … “

Comment from Dr George Nash:

Quite clearly witnessed last night was the confusing statement from English Heritage [on] the council members. In their various guidance documents, setting is paramount but in the case of Old Oswestry Hillfort little thought appears to have been given, especially the views towards the south and south-east. The Council Members are not experts in cultural heritage, so some of them can be forgiven for voting the way they did and basing their assessment on the so-called experts from English Heritage. I urge all council members to read .’The Setting of Heritage Assets’, published by English Heritage in 2011 (by the way, it’s a FREE download from their website). What they say in this document is very different to the advice that council members were given.

The document referred to can be found here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/setting-heritage-assets/

protest

Oswestry Town Council has posted its draft response to the hillfort housing sites ahead of it’s meeting tonight. As HOOOH explain:

“They have basically voted to go with English Heritage’s view that was made back last August – which is to accept housing on OSW003 and OSW004 (with some observations…) and reject OSW002. Also, like EH, they have said ‘no’ to the car park by the eastern entrance. 

However, we feel from feedback from councillors that they have certainly felt the pressure of the campaigning and have begun to wobble. One has stated on Facebook that Oswestry Town Council are opposed to building by the hillfort but voted to support English Heritage recommendations, adding that it is “EH who have withdrawn opposition to 2 of the sites, NOT the town council.”

Sounds a bit like “It’s EH’s fault, not ours, we’d love to have voted not to damage the setting but the big boys (EH and the deep-pocketed litigious developers) made us do it…”

HOOOH are urging as many people as possible to attend the protest and the public Q&A session at the Council’s meeting straight after.

*********************************

See what happened here. A glimmer of light?

by Nigel Swift

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, believes the Portable Antiquities Scheme “is envied the world over“. Not enough for any country to have ever copied it I think. However, in case any are thinking of doing so they should be aware of some basic realities. Well one actually. In Britain, doing without regulation and promoting a voluntary system for 15 years has preserved the overall situation of ADWIM – “avoidable depletion with inadequate mitigation”. I believe Neil MacGregor could not disagree that that is indeed an accurate description and any wannabe overseas PAS-cloner should take heed.

However, if any foreign heritage professionals are thinking of going down the British route (which I sincerely doubt) they would also need to consider how they could persuade their taxpaying and stakeholding public that overall “Avoidable Depletion with Inadequate Mitigation” is fine – and both preferable and more effective than statutory regulation. As to that task, they would clearly be well advised to emulate the way Britain has done just that (not willingly but forced to by the lack of legislation – but successfully nevertheless). It involves some actions and inactions they might not be too keen on from the point of view of archaeological ethics (just as Britain’s archaeologists may not be) so I’ve drawn up a wall chart showing what they must say and not say. Here it is –

.

pasCHART4

._____________________________________________________________

More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

______________________________________________________________

Remember our article a couple of weeks ago, What on earth is going on at Duddo Stone Circle? Well now we know, it’s setting IS going to be damaged.

.

Duddo Stone Circle.

Mrs Clare Dakin, who allows the public to visit the stones on her land, spoke of her anger at the decision to allow the wind turbine.  She said: “I am absolutely furious and devastated. The amount of effort we have put in, not only to open the stones up to the public, we have gone to great effort to make it a place for people to enjoy and appreciate. What is the point in working hard to keep the place special?

What point indeed, when a family that embraces the Big Society ideal of taking responsibility for their local monument ends up unable to protect it? Particularly in view of the basis of the Inspector’s decision. He said the turbines would “cause some harm to the setting” of the stones but that it would be “less than substantial harm” – which is no basis at all. Most people thought it WOULD be substantial harm so how can it be judged otherwise?

Anyway, the lucky winners, power company 3R Energy Solutions declined to comment. Maybe they were feeling shy, even though they haven’t been up to now. So let’s supply their comment for them: Hooray, the system came up trumps!

Another month, and another question in the blogging carnival being run by Doug’s Archaeology. The carnival allows arcaheology-related blogs to participate in answering various questions about why and how the blogs are composed, and what experiences can be gained from running an archaeology blog. Whilst we’re not strictly an ‘archaeology’ blog we’ve been invited to participate thus far. 

blogarch2

So, this month’s question is: “What are your best (or if you want, your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.” Looking at the carnival posts so far this month, many participants seem to have gone for the ‘highest/lowest hits’ approach, and that’s one we can certainly relate to here. As previously stated, our hit rate is fairly constant, with a slow but steady increase over the months and years. The Heritage Journal, in it’s present incarnation has been running since 2009, but has been running in various forms since March 2005. In that time, we’ve posted an article pretty much every day, with a few exceptions – weekends tend to be quiet in terms of our readership so we miss an occasional Saturday. That’s a lot of articles to pick a best/worst from, we have published over 1650 posts so far! That adds up to over 400k hits since 2009, as measured by WordPress – I’m not sure if that includes RSS readers and other aggregators/republishers, which may swell the numbers still further.

If we were to look at statistics alone, then some of those early posts (and the first few dozen seem to have disappeared without trace from WordPress, so I can’t say what the first story was about) would win the ‘Worst’ title hands down – our readership was minimal, and getting even a dozen or so hits was seen as something of a victory. On the other hand, some of our most recent posts have almost gone ‘viral’, one story last December racking up over 4500 direct hits on the day of publications, and nearly doubling that figure in total hits since. And those figures don’t include those readers who head straight for our main page, rather than the story-specific links that we broadcast on our social media channels.

StatsSpike

But enough of stats. Let’s take a brief look at why our figures have increased over the years, without looking at specific stories, and also what might cause them to dip.

Audience

Firstly, many of our early posts were very focussed on an audience that was quite different from our current readership. We were aiming primarily at antiquarian enthusiasts like ourselves, people who like to get out and about in amongst the stones, lumps and bumps that form our prehistoric heritage. At the same time, we were (possibly naively) hoping to attract ordinary members of the public, hoping to encourage them to maybe take note of what excited us about these places. However, over the years, that approach has changed. We still run articles that would hopefully be of interest to newcomers to our hobby, highlighting specific sites or site types. We now concern ourselves much more with planning matters (windfarms, housing and road developments), threats to the archaeological resource – whether that be from the aforementioned developments or from unenlightened detectorists – and reporting on community archaeology project successes.

As a consequence of this shift in focus, our readership now includes a lot more ‘professionals’; archaeologists, students, and decision makers. This was shown by one of our more popular posts looking at the work that volunteers do at digs. This morphed into a discussion about pay rates and amateurs versus professionals, with comments from all sides of the argument.

Marketing Tactics

Another factor in the popularity of a post is a more judicious use of marketing tactics, with regard to article titles. In this regard, we can recommend a short (free) report, entitled ‘Headline Hacks‘ which is full of suggestions and templates for titles that could improve your traffic. Using some of the suggestions in the report, it’s been our experience that any title that alludes to a list of some kind, or includes the words ‘how to…’ will garner more than the average number of hits. Likewise, any title that could be considered ‘contentious’ (such as our ‘Ed Vaizey insults every archaeologist and heritage professional!‘ story which gave the high numbers mentioned above) or is unexpected improves our hit rate. Most of our ‘dips’ can be related to either straying from our main focus, or forgetting to utilise the recommendations in the report.

Any discussion of marketing tactics wouldn’t be complete without a mention of social media. There’s a fine balance between announcing a new post, and spam. We use Twitter and Facebook, but to be honest, interaction with our readers on both leaves a lot to be desired, and is something we’ll be looking at during this coming year.

Content

Finally, content. Anything that references Stonehenge, or Time Team, even by association (barely a day goes by without at least a couple of hits on our ‘Inside the mind of…’ stories on Raksha Dave from 2012 – or Carenza Lewis from 2013) is guaranteed to be an ‘above average’ article in terms of those pesky hit rates. Great content, that an audience can connect to, is what draws readers in. If you write it, they will come.

And for us, at the end of the day, despite all this talk of numbers and hit rates, it’s only about the content and raising awareness of sites under threat. And those high hit rates can only help spread the word, right?

See also our earlier responses in the carnival:

To read other blogs participating in the carnival, search Twitter for the hashtag #blogarch.

We feel the recent letter to The Times from RESCUE, The British Archaeological Trust, is worth reproducing in full:

Dear Sir,

After the report in the Times (Letters, 2nd Jan, p29) is it time to stand back and look at what we may be allowing to be done to this country in the name of development and its presumed role as the only solution to our economic woes? Those aiming to surround Old Oswestry hillfort with a housing development offer the feeble excuse that they are not building on the hill fort itself, while at the same time ignoring the impact on views both to and from the monument (a material consideration for Scheduled Monument Consent). The people of Bath are facing plans to amend green belt land around the city with housing, roads and commercial development which will severely compromise the setting of the best surviving part of the western Wansdyke, another Scheduled Ancient Monument and landscape-scale earthwork.

Against growing threats like these, the number of people employed to examine the impact of development on our heritage is diminishing as local governments across the country cut their conservation, archaeological and museum staff, leaving some regions without cover at all, while those who are left have overwhelming work-loads. At the same time changes to English Heritage appear likely to reduce its influence. As we are only on the edge of economic growth, what other ancient monuments will be threatened as the pace of development picks up? We need to call a halt and reinstate the ground rules for protection of our Historic Monuments (and Green Belt land) before it’s too late and we need to fight for the jobs of those whose task it is to mitigate the negative effects of economic development. Our national heritage is not a luxury; in 2013 alone heritage tourism contributed some £26.4 billion to the British economy. Of what lasting value is recovery if we lose some of our most evocative and irreplaceable heritage in the process?

Yours sincerely
Dr Chris Cumberpatch
Vice-chair
RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust

ADDITIONAL COMMENT FROM DR GEORGE NASH:

Dear Heritage Team,
I would suggest that in addition to the term ‘Green Belt (which actually accounts for little statutory protection these days)’ would also include the term ‘Green Space’. This certainly applies to land that surrounds Old Oswestry Hillfort. Alas, it is not designated ‘Green Belt’ but according to earlier accounts it was considered ‘Brown field’. To me and the majority of people living in North Shropshire, the fields a clearly green.

On January 23 a wind farm company is bringing a legal test case which is expected to set a precedent on how much protection stately homes and historic sites have from people wanting to build turbines. (See here).

Arguably that’s a very good thing as there seems to be a lot of inconsistency in decisions but on the other hand it’s a high-risk case. The issue is whether four 400ft-high turbines should be erected less than a mile away from Lyveden New Bield, a Grade I-listed, unfinished Elizabethan lodge and moated garden. When the original go-ahead was given Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said it was “a despicable & disastrous decision”.

If the developers win and the National Trust, English Heritage and East Northamptonshire Council lose, it theoretically leaves a vast number of ancient sites vulnerable to gross intrusion onto their visual settings.

Lyveden New Bield: the question to be finally resolved is whether four 126 metre high turbines less than a mile away would cause “less than substantial” damage to its setting.

Lyveden New Bield: the question to be finally resolved is whether four 126 metre high turbines less than a mile away would cause “less than substantial” damage to its setting.

On the other hand, if the developers lose it could be good news for heritage in general. Or will it be? When the decision went against them originally a spokesman for the developers said:  “It would be wrong to suggest that any kind of precedent has been set on this occasion, as each wind farm application is considered on a case-by-case basis” – which sounds a bit like ” it’s always worth a try, sometimes you get lucky!”

Archives

January 2014
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,100 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: