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In planning matters there’s nothing special about Shropshire (other than the fact the Environment Secretary is an MP there but is doing absolutely naff-all to combat an all out attempt to wreck the setting of a fantastic hill fort there). You could say actually Shropshire is a pretty typical slice of middle England so it’s reasonable to think that what is happening there is pretty much what is happening everywhere. Which is why this article in the Shropshire Star is worth highlighting.

salopstar

It’s a remarkable article with some unusually frank statements being made by both sides:

On one side you have property developers, driven by profit and pound signs who are looking to stick homes on every available plot of land….. On the other are neighbours, cruelly labelled by some as Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard), who are desperately trying to protect what little green spaces are left for future generations….. Stuck in the middle are the members of council planning committees, elected laymen and women….. Leanings towards saying no are often accompanied by gentle reminders from planning officers of the potential for costly appeals and court costs running into the thousands. …… Battles are being won on the planning front by people power……. But coming out on top in a few battles doesn’t win the war, which is still waging in all four corners of the county……

So what we can be done? Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard has  launched a petition calling for a block to be put on what he calls “excessive housing development” in the county. Mr Pritchard said he intended to hand the petition to both Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council. “When I travel around my constituency, people tell me that they are not against housing but they are against excessive housing,” he said. “So many of the developments put forward are disproportionate and unsustainable, both physically and socially.

“Disproportionate” may well be the crux. Development yes, but not to excess and certainly not on greenfield sites or on sites of heritage significance when brownfield land is available. As if to emphasise how the system is skewed to making maximum profits for developers rather than addressing housing need, here’s a hobbit house in Pembrokeshire ‘built of low-impact, natural and recycled materials” that is facing demolition for lack of planning consents! The young couple who built it clearly have no pals in the cabinet and, unlike the big builders, weren’t invited to design the current planning regime!

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naxos

Looks familiar? This time it’s not in Britain or Ireland,  it’s on the Greek Island of Naxos. It is the sacred path of  Za, created thousands of years ago by the inhabitants of Naxos in order to reach the top of the sacred mountain of the ancient Axots, Za which was dedicated to the god Zeus. Thousands of tourists walk the ancient path every year but in early May an individual with a bulldozer destroyed much of the trail for about 600 meters, in order to facilitate access to his fields.

The incident triggered strong reactions from the local community and foreign clubs, while the Naxos Environmental Movement accused the police and the Forest Service of negligence.

There however the similarity ends. Unlike at Priddy and Offa’s Dyke the culprit will have to pay the full cost of restoration!

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http://www.thetoc.gr/eng/news/article/ancient-path-vandalized-on-naxos

Bryn

So, one time, Brer Bear and Brer Fox made what was called a "tar baby". They got some tar and whopped it all together....

So, one time, Brer Bear and Brer Fox made what was called a “tar baby”. They got some tar and whopped it all together….

Why must you tar us all with the same brush? complains a detectorist. An excellent question.  Let us explain: we don’t! Artefact hunting is a very broad church, that’s one thing we can all agree about so just because we complain about intellectual scruffs who steal knowledge it doesn’t mean we complain about everyone.  On the other hand, just because you tell yourself and others you don’t steal knowledge it doesn’t mean we have to accept it without question. That’s not tarring with the same brush, it’s proceeding with caution. A few platitudes on a detecting website aren’t enough – sainthood is hard-earned not self-proclaimed, yes?

By way of example let’s take at random the Crewe and Nantwich Metal Detecting Society, a typical group who might complain about being tarred with the same brush as irresponsible artefact hunters. They run rallies “for charity” (hooray!), they don’t hold them on land that is “a scheduled site of archaeological importance” (hooray!), all their members practice the NCMD code of practice (hooray!), they verbally mention to the landowner and charity representative details of the day’s finds (hooray!) and at a later stage a report with photographs of the day’s events and finds (hooray!). How could they possibly not be doing something truly beneficial to everyone?

But what they don’t appear to tell themselves or the landowners or the charities or the public is that:

1. Archaeologists (including PAS) are pretty unhappy about the potential archaeological damage from detecting rallies and say running them for charity doesn’t make them any more justifiable.

2. PAS also says: “Landholders and rally organisers should also be aware that there can be considerable cost implications for both PAS and Local Authority staff in ensuring an adequate archaeological response to a rally”. How come that’s not mentioned on the website?

3. Not running rallies on scheduled sites is no big deal (as it’s illegal!) Not doing it on land of archaeological importance would be a big deal but there’s no sign of that. Holding events only where the County Archaeologist confirms it’s OK is the obvious responsible action and yet….

4. Following the NCMD Code sounds OK but isn’t. It’s completely inferior to the proper, official Code of Responsible Detecting. How come there’s no mention of following that?

5.  Verbally mentioning what was found and later sending a photograph …. It hardly needs saying that’s an almighty cheek considering it’s the landowner’s property and it’s potentially to his and the charity’s great disadvantage not to have the finds revealed on the day. 

6. There are official, detailed Guidance Notes for organisers of detecting ralliess to minimise the archaeological damage they do. How come there’s not a word about following those?

The Crewe and Nantwich metal detecting society is about to hold a rally that will raise £400 for St Michael and All Angels Church in Middlewich and is getting lots of praise for so doing. But does the church understand what that £400 has cost (about £1000 on average to provide archaeological cover and who-knows how much in archaeo-damage and loss to the landowner)  and does the club? Are we wrong to suggest the funds would be better raised in another, less damaging way – or not at all – and to reach for the tar bucket?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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The minutes of  the Stonehenge Round Table meetings rarely disappoint. The latest contain this, under the heading “Special Access”: “A Forum member reported that he had seen a group in the stones during the hours of darkness on 22nd June 2013. He enquired as to who this group were and why they were allowed in the stones at this time. He expressed concerns over their form of worship. ACTION: LB to look into this with NB and report back to member.”

This seems to be about something we mentioned last August“It is reported that a group that was let into Stonehenge to greet the sunrise a few Sundays back (on Midsummers Day, not at the main solstice gathering) was heard from some distance away loudly chanting “Hail Satan”. If so, should it be welcomed as an excellent manifestation of “inclusivity and multivocality”? Or is it just bonkers? Not the fact the Dark Lord was being greeted (or called to appear? who knows?) but the fact that they were let in for free. Does it mean anything at all gets you in gratis?”

It’s a puzzle why anyone should be raking over very hot coals after all this time. Is someone intending to ask EH to decide that Satan and all his hosts shouldn’t be let in to the stones for free at taxpayers’ expense? That would be an outrage as it would involve discriminating against them on religious grounds. What’s more, Satanists have precisely the same degree of proven connection with Stonehenge and the reason it was built as everyone else who attends the solstice event and indeed as every Round Table attendee, no more and no less. It’s their temple too if they say so. In fact, shouldn’t EH write to Satan and invite him to attend all future Round Table meetings?

Update…. Just noticed, EH’s official line is: “During Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, we support all individuals and groups conducting their own forms of ceremony and celebration providing that they are mutually respectful and tolerant of one another.” So all that remains to be decided is whether Satan is mutually respectful and tolerant.

Today we start a brief series of mobile app reviews, looking at those with a heritage or prehistoric remit. First up is the Heritage app, by Little Polar Apps, available for iOS devices only.

HeritageAppLogo

The Heritage app is essentially a gazetteer of around 2000 heritage sites across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Directions to a site can be obtained via the native Apple maps app, and registered users can leave a review of their visit to a site for others to read.

The app had it’s origins in a Cornish holiday when the developer, who struggled with the official English Heritage Member’s Guide, was trying to get a grip on how the sites related geographically to each other. Developed in less than 8 weeks, with over 1000 man-hours spent on collating information about the included sites, the app is a real labour of love. Sadly, although some National Trust properties were included, they later requested that they not be included – an odd decision, given that property listings are free, and effectively provide free advertising for the Trust. But English Heritage properties, the Churches Conservation Trust properties and many independent sites are included and another 500 properties are in the pipeline to be added soon.

So what do you get once the app is installed on your device? Opening up the app for the first time displays your current location (if available) on a map, and a column on the left shows the nearest sites.

HeritageAppOpen

Each site consists of a thumbnail picture and the approximate distance to the site from your current location, along with a series of icons.

Clicking on the right-arrow ‘>’ leads to a screen that displays information about the selected site. The same icons are displayed on this screen, and work in the same way. A back-arrow at top left returns to the original map view.

HeritageAppAvebury

What do the icons do? The first, a Speech Bubble, displays contact details for the site, where available. This wasn’t working on my version, but the developer has been made aware of this and is investigating the issue.

HeritageAppIcons

Next, the Star icon allows a site to be added to a Favourites list. On the map view, the list of nearby sites can be switched to display any Favourites that have been saved, allowing quick access to those sites. The ‘Swirly Arrow’ icon provides access to directions via the standard Maps app. I found this only works if the site is within a reasonable distance from your current location – this distance can be set in the App Settings. Finally the Pen icon allows input and submission of a short review of the selected site for others to read. To use this facility you must be a registered user, and logged in – a simple enough process.

This last item is where the app could really prove very useful, given enough take up by the user base. At present, the app has not yet gained enough ‘traction’ with users within the marketplace.

Back on the map view as previously stated, a list of nearby sites is displayed by default. There is a search box, but this seemingly only searches on place names, and then in a somewhat eccentric way. A search for ‘Chipping’ (expecting to be asked to select between ..Norton, ..Sodbury, ..Campden, ..Barnet etc.) apparently centred results upon Stevenage in Hertfordshire! A similar search for ‘Burton’ centred on a small village in North Devon rather than offering the much better served (heritage-wise) Burton upon Trent as an alternative.

When results are returned, there seems to be no way to filter the list. Although there appears to be a good selection of sites listed, there is currently no control to, for instance, filter out the churches, or to look just at castles, or sites from a particular period (Pre-history/Roman/Medieval etc.) Sadly due to lack of development resource, this is not currently on the development plan (but if things change…)

Looking in the iPad Notification Centre, there are options to receive notifications from the app, of events at participating sites within a set distance of your current location. This feature is still under development and will only improve.

In conclusion, despite it’s obvious shortcomings, I still feel this is a useful weapon in my heritage searching armoury, as it appears to have a good range of sites (there are plans to include some sites in France next) and the ‘near me’ feature is useful. Yes, the info on individual sites is minimal – info about opening times, prices etc is very patchy and often missing completely but this is largely due to the lack of input from the various site management companies rather than lack of effort by the developers. Yes, the search facility is eccentric – but this could be a result of using the Apple Maps app, which has had it’s fair share of problems.

Whilst it will never earn the developer his fortune, it’s a laudable effort that deserves better user participation, and at just 69p this could turn out to be a very useful tool indeed for those days out where you say “I wonder what else around here is worth seeing?” I would strongly recommend as many people as possible to start using it, register and submit your reviews. And maybe contact the developer to say thanks!

Heritage App, by Little Polar Apps Ltd is currently available on iOS devices only (69p), via iTunes or the Apple store, and was tested by us on a 64Gb Apple iPad Mini with retina display.

With less than two weeks to go until the capstone is raised at Carwynnen, the project team have issued the following press release:

ROCK ON AT THE GIANTS QUOIT!
Come and watch the final phase of this project on Midsummer’s Day, Saturday 21st June at 3pm.

This will be a milestone, or even capstone! in this remarkable and unique project.

Musicians, poets and dancers are welcome to perform around 4pm and the ‘Ballad of Carwynnen’ will be sung around 5pm.

Some refreshments will be provided. Bring something to share.

‘This monument, which collapsed in the 1960s, is the focus of a remarkable and unique project, a community endeavour to rebuild the monument, develop the site and its surrounding landscape as an educational and leisure amenity, and create a sustainable monument for future generations to enjoy. The project, run by Sustrust is a great example of how rebuilding prehistoric monuments today, in the modern landscape, can impact on social well-being.

The focus has not just been the monument, but also the ecology of the surrounding landscape. Poetry and music have been composed and performed at the monument. Hundreds of people have been involved in this project in a whole range of different ways, and crucially the focus has not just been on what happened in the distant past, but also the relevance and role of the dolmen for people today and into the future.

This is a fantastic project, and one that demonstrates the potential social, ecological and even economic benefits of megalith construction. The ostensibly simple component parts – large boulders essentially – come together to form something magical, a structure that has great appeal to the public imagination. The numbers of volunteer hours, the effort expended to get this far, are evidence of the passion and potential this project is generating.’ Dr Kenneth Brophy @urbanprehistorian. Senior lecturer in Archaeology, Glasgow University.

Pip Richards, Director of Sustrust, said ‘Great thanks go to all those hundreds of people who have been involved in the project over the last 5 years:- our volunteers, photographers, artists, singers, writers, poets, translators, teachers, local children, archaeologists, engineers and friendly neighbours. Together we have done more than restore a scheduled ancient monument in a Cornish Field, we have engendered a sense of belonging and some local pride during this great time of change for the Duchy.

We also thank all our funders, especially those who contributed to our ‘match funding’:- The Tanner Trust, The Cornish Heritage Trust, The Marc Fitch Fund and The Council of British Archaeology. The Cornwall Archaeological Society, Camborne and Truro Colleges and Plymouth University have helped us too.

The uprights awaiting the capstone © Eustace Long 2014

The uprights awaiting the capstone © Eustace Long 2014

Full details of the day are available on the project website. With a bit of luck and a following wind, we hope to be there on the day, to bring you a first hand account of the placement of the capstone. Watch this space!

As you may have noticed, we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of what the Government’s renewed enthusiasm to sort out the A303 actually involves – and particularly whether it would mean a tunnel at Stonehenge – and very particularly whether it would be a “long tunnel” or a hugely damaging “short tunnel”.

The last time the latter was mooted just about every archaeological and heritage organisation except English Heritage opposed it yet it almost went ahead regardless and was only cancelled when the world plunged into a financial crisis. Now the economy has improved, the pressure to sort out the congestion has built up once again and, by various accounts, technology has made tunnelling much cheaper. The Government is giving out strong signals it’s going to do something major and English Heritage has been expressing enthusiasm for “a tunnel” but our attempts to get them to say which tunnel they were thinking of when they said they were fighting for one (including via a Freedom of Information request) have been unsuccessful.

Something like this? It's not the tunnel that matters but where the approach roads are built

Something like this? It’s not the tunnel that matters but where the approach roads are built

TUNNELS

It’s to be hoped that The National Trust, which was strongly opposed to the previous short tunnel would be equally opposed to any new proposal for one.  Unfortunately they are yet to say so. Instead, there’s this:

“Like many we recognise there are real problems at Stonehenge and we have for many years supported the principle of improving the road network in order to improve the road and the quality of the environment across the Stonehenge Landscape. Some people are insisting change is needed to ease congestion levels no matter what the impact on the landscape. At the Trust we believe that the current round of road improvements might provide an opportunity to finally give Stonehenge the scheme it deserves and that means a world class solution for a world class place. We will be engaging very closely with the Government and our key partners over the next year to ensure we help to protect this very special place.”

Let’s hope they’ll say what they really think very soon, i.e. that their view hasn’t changed, and can’t: a short tunnel at Stonehenge is still unacceptable. The fact they say Stonehenge deserves “a world class solution” pretty much telegraphs what they think already. Hooray for them! You’d rather be in a position where you’re defending that assertion than be a hapless English Heritage press officer chewing their pencil over how to phrase “we support the Government’s wish to impose a damaging solution”!

Actually, as has just been demonstrated, it can’t be done. If you’re in a state of ignorance and have a bulldozer you’re always liable to wreck things. But what the Welsh Government is looking for are ways to ensure that ignorant acts don’t go unpunished. See here.

CONSULTATION

The loophole written into the 1979 Act is this:
“it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that he did not know and had no reason to believe that the monument was within the area affected by the works or (as the case may be) that it was a scheduled monument. “

The Consultation has recently ended. It’s a shame the culprit didn’t do his flattening while it was on, they’d have got a much bigger response, albeit many of them calling for some cruel and unusual measures. Maybe the Welsh Government could re-open it for a short period? In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions to make we’ll be glad to print them here. (Here’s one we made earlier)

To: The Trafficking Culture Department, University of Glasgow
socpol-traffickingculture@glasgow.ac.uk
cc.
Mark.Harrison@english-heritage.org.uk; taf@archaeologists.net
[Sent Sunday 8 June 2014]

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Good Morning,

Your Encyclopedia says nighthawking (in England and Wales) can be 1. not declaring potential Treasure finds, 2. searching without permission, 3. detecting on scheduled monuments or 4. not disclosing finds to a landowner (except if prior-agreed). But isn’t there another: 5. Depriving a landowner of his entitlement by knowingly failing to disclose to him the true value of finds (which constitutes theft)?

Since in most cases the operative judgement on value lies with the detectorist alone this fifth scenario cannot be safely dismissed as negligible. It is equally possible that it dwarfs the other four, no-one knows. So shouldn’t it be added to your definition (a.) for the sake of completeness (b.) because it’s likely to be associated with non-reporting to PAS and (c.) to properly inform landowners, the public and the police?

Regards,
Nigel Swift

The Heritage Journal

Update 10 June 2014
Lest anyone thinks I’m unjustified in suggesting some detectorists with permission to detect think it’s no more than a bit of fun to knowingly deprive landowners of their property, this comment appeared on a detecting blog just after the above letter was published.

“I acknowledge that all finds of gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, in fact all materials found in the soil belong to the true landowner. The true landowner is entitled to it all and if the landowner finds it in his heart to let me have a few quid out of it that’s fine and dandy by me. As God made the heaven and the earth, (I assume earth means soil), he is the true landowner so its him who is entitled to all the cash. So from now on, once a month on a Sunday,  I will take all this cash I make from metal detecting to our local church. I will throw it all up in the air and what God wants he will catch, what drops to the floor is mine………… sorted!”

Ho, ho, ho! And next week this chap (who, share or not, would go to prison in many countries for what he does) will be smiling at another farmer’s door. Would YOU let him on your land? Since archaeologists in Bonkers Britain won’t warn landowners, is that a reason for academia not to?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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