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So where HAVE they gone? Speculation has been rife since they were spirited away “for servicing” [what, all of them?] and possible “design improvements” and English Heritage announced, unhelpfully, that “they have all gone for the moment. They went about a week ago. We do not know when they will be back”. One bystander suggested they were going to be converted into luxury holiday cottages for Druids. Someone else thinks they are going to be tipped up to create a new and lucrative attraction to be called Trainhenge.

Me, I have another theory. It’s about the fact that down in Cornwall, as Sandy Gerrard has explained,  Historic England have hit on a moneymaking wheeze. They have said yes to planning permission saying that one reason is that it will result in finance to benefit the monument that is being damaged. Not a bribe you understand, just basing a decision on monetary benefits. As Sandy says, once housing developers get to hear that Historic England will support the destruction of the historic environment in return for a promise to care for what remains, it will be open season on our heritage. 

So maybe that’s where the land trains have gone …. Historic England have got ’em, have given them a new paint job and are going to drive them up and down the country bringing the good news to developers?


HE Planning

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the Leeden Tor stone alignment in the Meavy Valley on Dartmoor is examined.


On the eastern slopes of Leeden Tor is a single stone row leading downhill from a somewhat maltreated cairn at SX 56524 71473. The alignment is at least 165m long and includes twelve stones, most of which are recumbent. Much of the damage to the cairn was probably caused during the Bronze Age when a reave (field boundary) was built over it. Lack of respect for antiquities is not a modern phenomenon but in this instance at least this behaviour has enabled us to establish with certainty that the cairn and row are earlier than the reave which is of Middle Bronze Age date. We can also be fairly confident that the ritual practices connected with the row had fallen from favour and now the area was being brought into agricultural use and the old rituals abandoned. We have already seen this type of behaviour at Hook Lake and it is clearly part of a widespread pattern. The evidence for the stone alignments being damaged in the Middle Bronze Age serves as a poignant reminder that changing beliefs and attitudes have consequences. What was once so important to the people living on Dartmoor became an irrelevance and the previous special places became mundane and disposable.  The Middle Bronze Age people on Dartmoor had no time for the rituals of earlier generations although perhaps an element of superstition ensured that the fabric of the earlier beliefs was not entirely swept away – for this we should be grateful.

The Leeden Tor alignment stands within an incredibly rich archaeological landscape including large numbers of cairns and stone alignments as well as Middle Bronze Age settlements, enclosures and field systems. The stone alignments at Hart Tor and Stanlake are visible from here and indeed seem to share noteworthy visual inter-relationships, some of which are considered below.


Simplified map showing the relative positions of the Leeden Tor, Stanlake and Hart Tor stone alignments. The Middle Bronze Age settlements in the vicinity are shown in black.


 The lower end of the stone alignment. View from the north.

 Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the lower end (east), the second from the point mid-way along the length of the row and the third from the cairn at the top of the alignment.


Standing at the lowest point (eastern end) of the row a very restricted view towards the sea is visible.  It is hard to convey in words just how fleeting this sight of the sea is.  A few metres upslope (west) from this point the view is lost behind the lower slopes of Leeden Tor whilst about 20m to the east the sea vanishes behind Sharpitor.  We cannot be certain that the row terminated at this point but it is at this point and only at this point along its entire length that a view of the sea exists. This would suggest a very strong element of deliberation and provides further evidence to support the crucial link between alignments and the sea.


Ten metres west of the bottom of the alignment the sea is no longer visible.  Another huge coincidence or is the alignment acknowledging a link to the sea?  If so, the views to the sea must have been special to those who built the alignment and could have played a part in the rituals.


The sea remains hidden from view at the top of the row. An alternative view towards the east provides a further insight into why visual connections are likely to have been important to those who built and used the alignments.


From the top of the row the alignments at Hart Tor and the double row at Stanlake are visible (shown red).  The Stanlake row would have been particular impressive because from this position it would have been silhouetted against Raddick Hill. It may also be more than a coincidence that the Leeden Tor alignment points directly at the cairns at the southern end of the Stanlake alignment. This pair of clear visual links between the stone alignments provides further evidence of precise visual connections and these may have been important.


The lower eastern end of the alignment. View from west.

Mapping the Sea Triangles


The very restricted view from the bottom of the alignment provides a focussed view towards the sea. During the winter months at around 1.00pm a bead of bright light similar in character to the “Baily’s Beads” associated with total eclipses of the sun will be visible on clear days.


Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West”, 50.

Previous articles in this series:

As we were saying, PAS publicizes good detecting practice but rarely bad practice (for fear umbrage will be taken presumably). It’s a dubious strategy – for ignoring misbehaviour rarely reduces it and anyway PAS has no mandate to offer an inaccurate picture to the public. Also, the strategy is demonstrably damaging.

Here’s why: landowners are the sole group with absolute power to allow or disallow detecting so they are pivotal gatekeepers both metaphorically and literally. If they aren’t made aware of bad practice (or the fact PAS’s statistics show it is very widespread) they aren’t equipped to make informed, heritage-friendly decisions or to curate the history in their fields on our behalf.

So here’s some “advice to landowners”. We’ve sent it to the PAS management with a polite request that they publish something similar on their website and in the farming press. We are certain that if they did it would make a huge difference to conservation. We’ll let you know how they respond.


Bad practice in metal detecting: what landowners need to know:

“Bad practice” in metal detecting is any behaviour that results in loss of historical knowledge (such as digging in sensitive places or not reporting all archaeological finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme). In Britain it is not usually a crime but it invariably damages the interests of the rest of society. As such it is strongly opposed by the Government and every archaeologist bar none. Please don’t allow metal detecting bad practice on your land.

What you can do:

1. Good and bad practice are defined in The Code of Practice for Responsible Metal-Detecting in England and Wales which is supported by all the main archaeological and farming organisations. Please make sure any detectorist on your land adheres to that code and no other. There are numerous other codes and assurances in existence and it’s vital you do not confuse them with the official one or assume any of them are officially sanctioned. They are not.

2. Before granting permission please obtain from the detectorist two things:
a.) Written proof that they are in a detecting club that insists on all members adhering to the official code, no other.
b.) Contact details for the local Finds Liaison Officer and Local Archaeology Service so you can check on both the detectorist and the suitability of the land as necessary.


The Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus. Like landowners, blissfully unaware that bad metal detecting practice has absolutely nothing to do with nighthawking.

The Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus. Like landowners, it is left blissfully unaware that bad metal detecting practice has absolutely nothing to do with nighthawking.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


After a short hiatus, we’re pleased to be able to continue our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series, with the co-operation of Professor David Breeze OBE, FSA, FRSE, Hon FSA Scot, Hon MIFA.

Brief Bio

David Breeze was educated at Blackpool Grammar School and University College, Durham. After graduating in modern history he carried out research on the junior officers of the Roman army, being awarded his doctorate in 1970. He was formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland and has written books on both the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall as well as Roman Scotland, Roman frontiers generally and the Roman army. David prepared the bid for World Heritage Site status for the Antonine Wall, which was successfully achieved in 2008. He retired in 2009 but continues to write about Roman frontiers and the Roman army. David is an honorary professor at the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and is chairman of the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, on which subject he presented at the recent Current Archaeology Live! conference in London.


The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I have always liked history. My longest running research project started when I was 10, which is studying my family tree. So I went to university to read history and happened to have Eric Birley as my first tutor. He sparked an interest in archaeology. After my PhD, I was appointed an inspector of ancient monuments in Scotland and therefore a cultural resource manager, which I found that I enjoyed!

How did you get started?

see above

Who has most influenced your career?

In Durham in the 1960s, each student had a tutor and Eric Birley, Professor of Archaeology and a specialist in the Roman army, was my first tutor. He encouraged me to attend the university excavation and I was hooked. Eric asked Brian Dobson to supervise my undergraduate dissertation and Brian went on to supervise my PhD. I learnt a lot from his approach to archaeology and teaching.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I would like to offer two. In 1971, I excavated a complete Roman fortlet, Barburgh Mill in Dumfriesshire, and this became a type site. Then, from 1973 until 1982 I investigated the fort at Bearsden on the Antonine Wall. This has been the largest excavation project on the Antonine Wall since before the second World War, and led to the developer gifting the land on which the bath-house sat to the State and I was able to completely excavate it and lay it out for public inspection. We found the sewage which had drained from the latrine into the fort ditch and this showed what the soldiers ate, and, most interestingly, that the diet was mainly plant based.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Hadrian’s Wall! This is marvellous monument, sitting in a wonderful landscape, with centuries of study behind it but at the same time with many secrets to reveal. I have written 5 books and guide-books on the Wall yet I continue to learn more about it year on year.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Missing the opportunity to visit archaeological sites in those parts of the world which are now off limits. This is, of course, a personal regret, but there are wider issues. For a proper understanding of an archaeological site, it is important to visit and seek to appreciate it in its setting: this is now denied to a whole generation of students. Over and above that, we are witnessing the terrible destruction of elements of our world heritage: this is a catastrophe for us all and diminishes us all.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

One problem with our legislation is that it is still site-based and I should welcome an approach which focused more on the landscape in which these sites sat.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

What is important to all of us is a sense of place. This permeates so much of our life, not only the streets we walk along and the buildings we admire, but our attitudes and prejudices. Our sense of place is deep seated and extends well into the past. There is a reason that the treaty establishing the EU was signed in Rome, but we also want to understand Stonehenge and the people who lived in Skara Brae. This desire to understand where we came from and how we have related to our neighbours in the past is so important to helping us understand our position in the world today.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

Teaching in a school (I have 10 teachers in my family).

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I have 3 grandchildren who I am lucky enough to see regularly, and I have a project to take each of them abroad – so far my grandson has been to Rome twice and this year my elder granddaughter goes to Paris for the first time. I also have a garden, and I enjoy walking and reading.

We’d like to express our thanks to David for his thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Some might see it as fitting that the Nine Maidens stone alignment in Cornwall, which may have originally been linked to the stone alignment at Bancbryn in Wales, is being considered for a wind farm development. Almost everyone with an interest in heritage might have expected that Historic England (formerly English Heritage) would have opposed such a development, but they would have been very wrong.  Historic England have instead, according to the Cornish Guardian, written to the planning authority “recommending that the planning application should be approved”. The reason for this unbelievably stupid decision is that they believe that the successful applicants could be asked to carry out “major works of conservation, access, presentation and management to the Nine Maidens stone row that would not only see it removed from the Heritage at Risk Register but would make this enigmatic monument once more easily accessible and in a setting that would allow a better appreciation of the monument”.

So there we have it – Historic England consider that wind farms enhance the setting of ancient monuments.  This is not what they were saying a couple of years ago but now in a change of heart they are happy for the setting of nationally important ancient monuments to be trashed providing the developer contributes to the care of the very monuments that are being trashed. Complete madness on all levels and a very dangerous precedent. Any developer can now rely on Historic England’s blessing to mutilate the historic environment providing they are happy to stump up a few quid to pay for nearby conservation works. Where will this end?

Perhaps in the future we shall see a wind turbine next to every scheduled monument with a percentage of the profits being used to care for it. Certainly this action will make it much more likely for wind farm developers to see heritage not as an obstacle, but rather as a magnet. This I would suggest is a bad thing and once housing developers get to hear that Historic England will support the destruction of the historic environment in return for a promise to care for what remains, it will be open season on our heritage.


The Nine Maidens stone alignment in Cornwall might thanks to the stupidity of Historic England soon share another characteristic with the Bancbryn alignment

For years PAS has dismissed us as “trolls” and this week they have added “prejudiced and ill-informed” to the list. Their complaint is never about what we say (how could it be? If our facts were wrong they would have said so, not just insulted us) but about what we don’t say.  Our sin is that we point out that loads of detectorists behave badly but we don’t add yes but some don’t. So we’re accused of not providing “a balanced picture”. Sorry but we aren’t going to play. Here’s why:

Detectorists who behave themselves really don’t need constant praise, it’s patronising and insulting, implying that it’s a surprise that they should do so (ask some of them, we have!) No-one deifies amateur archaeologists or people who don’t park on double yellow lines or the millions of people in every walk of life who quietly do right by the community because it’s the civilised way to behave. It’s the disfiguring of Stonehenge that matters, not banging on about those who don’t damage it. How ludicrous it would be if there was a quango issuing weekly press statements praising people who don’t shoplift!

It’s damage that matters, not its absence and (as PAS knows very well from their published figures), the great majority of detectorists don’t comply with the official code, don’t follow best practice and don’t report all of their finds. That is crucial information that is owed to the public and landowners in plain, unvarnished form, not glossed over by the addition of the “yes but” platitude (or, even worse, totally falsified with the demonstrably untrue statement that “most detectorists are responsible”). PAS and thousands of detectorists misinform thousands of farmers weekly in that way and have been doing so for years and years and years. We’re not going to join in, whether PAS continues to call us prejudiced and ill-informed or not.


Update Sunday 5 April 2015
Paul Barford has just posed a simple question about PAS that is relevant to the above: “Can they commit themselves to a firm policy of not only in a somewhat passive manner promoting best practice but actively condemning bad practice?” You might think that after 17 years and millions of words and pounds they had already done so. But no, there’s no trace – unless anyone can show otherwise. I think perhaps it’s time we wrote a succinct statement for them (as is our prerogative as prejudiced and ill-informed trolls), one which actively condemns bad practice and acknowledges for the information of taxpayers and landowners that the evidence indicates it is very widespread not rare, and publicly ask them to concur. So that’s what we’ll do in a few days.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Day 12, and our last trip out for this holiday. Our holiday days are usually filled by trips to sites, or to see friends. This trip was to include both as we’d arranged to meet with HA member Mark Camp (accredited Blue Badge tour guide) for lunch and a stroll on Caradon Hill. But first, we took a brief diversion to visit the Nine Maidens stone row at St Columb, in order to check out Sandy Gerrard’s thoughts on alignments and reveals.

Nine Maidens St Columb

Sadly, the ground was very boggy, and only got worse the further uphill I went. In addition, the hazy sun from earlier in the week continued and it was not easy to tell where the clouds ended and the sea began. It was only when I was about halfway up the hill that I realised a sea vista had at some point opened up to my left.

Sea View St Columb

(apologies for any colour aberrations – my  camera threw a glitch)

Although I would have liked to continue on up to the Fiddler Stone to see a possible northwards sea vista appear, the combination of strong winds and thick gloopy mud underfoot meant I beat a hasty retreat back to the car instead, to continue to Minions for lunch.

Having arrived early, I took the chance to take a very brief look at the Hurlers complex, following the Mapping the Sun project and excavations there in 2013 which uncovered a ‘crystal pavement’ – shades of Carwynnen Quoit? Whatever, the moor is very open to the weather, and it was quite blowing a gale, so I took a couple of quick photos (via my glitchy camera) before heading to the warmth and shelter of the pub. I have to say that whether its a result of the excavations, or the wind scouring the ground, the third circle was more prominent than I’ve seen it on previous visits, and it’s easy to make out all three circles from the base of the hill.


After lunch at the Cheesewring Hotel in Minions during which we caught up with Mark’s latest news, he led us up the trail to the summit of nearby Caradon Hill to investigate some prehistoric cairn sites. If I thought it was windy down by the Hurlers, on top of Caradon Hill can only be described as ‘blowing a hoolie”! We were nearly swept away as we made our way around the TV station masts, investigating various clumps of rocks. Some, it has to be said looked distinctly ‘cairn-like’. Others looked as if they may be remains of hut circles, but the ground was so lumpy and bumpy that I’m sure most of it was mining spoil or natural, despite being marked as ‘Cairns’ on the OS map. Without excavation, it is near on impossible to definitively identify what is what up there.

Caradon Hill 1Caradon Hill cairns 2 Caradon Hill cairns 3

After an hour or so of battering by the wind, taking a last look around from the summit we had a good view of Stowe’s Pound, the Hurlers and the rest of the moor. Turning around, we could just make out Trethevy Quoit next to its cottage, we said our goodbyes to Mark, and headed back to our base in West Penwith. Our last day on holiday (and the first with non-stop rain!) was spent circumnavigating the peninsula, making note of sites to investigate further on our next visit later in the year. That’s what I like about Cornwall, there’s always more to come back for!

If you’ve had (or are planning) a heritage holiday, why not jot a few lines of where you’ve been, add a couple of pictures and submit it us here at the Journal? We’d love to know where you’ve been, and what you thought of what you saw.

Day 11 of our holiday in Cornwall, and we decided to revisit Carwynnen Quoit, just south of Camborne.

I was last here at the reconstituted quoit in June 2014, when the capstone was finally placed upon the uprights, amid much celebration. The paraphenalia of the restoration has long been removed – although some outlying stones in the field are still exposed in their excavation pits – and it was wonderful to have the quoit to myself for a short period of reflection.


The quoit is now settling nicely into the landscape, and a new tradition is being established that visitors may leave a pebble on the pavement. This pavement reflects the original (buried and preserved in situ) pavement that was originally discovered during the excavations.

Carwynnen Pavement

I left a pebble, and on my way back to the car spotted myself in one of the photos on the information board, which describes the restoration work. A lovely memory of a wonderful Midsummer day.


April 2015

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