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It’s a fair question. How did we arrive at a situation where tens of thousands – perhaps millions of people don’t want the hill fort’s surroundings developed and a very small number – perhaps in single figures do, and the latter may get their way? It has been a multi-threaded process but here’s just one of the threads, lest anyone forget. Years ago someone spoke to us unfondly of Peter de Figueiredo who has provided an expert opinion for the developers, citing this. Not sure if any of that is fair, we’re not saying it is, but what we can do is refer everyone to his paid-for opinion on Oswestry Hill Fort and suggest they decide for themselves if it’s fair or otherwise.

We love Section 5.3.9 about “views from” ….

” The sense of detachment the viewer feels, however, comes from the elevated viewpoint and the otherworldly character
of the structure (as described in paragraph 4.2.16-17 above), rather than
because of the particular nature of the setting. Hence the view over open
fields and woodland seen to the west may be very attractive, but it
contributes no more to the significance of the hill fort than the view of pylons
and traffic passing along the A5 to the east. Indeed the view of modern day
activity as seen in the buildings and roads that are spread more densely
across the eastern side can help the viewer to understand the continuity of
human occupation on the site and the links with its hinterland.”

and Views To  (where he says it’s best viewed from very close, i.e. the only valuable setting is a very small one!) ….

“5.3.2 Distant views providing broad-ranging panoramas can be of particular
significance since they place the hill fort within its wider urban, rural and
topographical context. The relationship between the hill fort and its setting is
important to understanding the history of the area. Yet given the restricted
number of views, and the fact that many of them can only be glimpsed from
a travelling vehicle, their kinetic nature means that understanding of
significance relies on a matrix of views rather than a few static viewpoints.
This makes it difficult to model the potential impact of the proposed
development, since the setting changes in a dynamic sequence of vistas.

5.3.3 Localised views can provide more information about the hill fort itself, since
its form and structure is better revealed when the viewer is close to the
monument.”

and this is just amazing …..

9.5
“A number of changes in the setting of the hill fort are identified. These have
been assessed in terms of impact on significance. Slight adverse impacts are
found in relation to kinetic views from the A5 by-pass and from a single
viewpoint on the B5069 travelling north. A beneficial impact is found in
relation to kinetic views from the B5069 travelling south. Other effects of
development are found to be either neutral or beneficial.
9.6
Mitigation measures are proposed in relation to archaeology; access to the
hill fort, car parking and interpretation; and landscape and ecology. These will
substantially offset the adverse visual consequences of development.
9.7
On balance this assessment finds that the consequences of development of
land at Oldport as proposed would have a neutral impact on the significance
of the Old Oswestry Hill Fort, providing that suitable mitigation measures are
taken. This would accord with Policy 134 of the National Planning Policy
Framework that states that where a development proposal will lead to less
than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this
harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal.”

by Nigel S

OK, this article is mainly about non-prehistoric stuff but my excuse is that it didn’t start that way as I visited the village of Kempsey in Worcestershire to see the ramparts of an Iron Age promontory hill fort,  just west of the church and close to the River Severn. Not spectacular these days but real enough. I chatted to the priest and he made me feel silly by saying some of it might be the “bund”, the very recent flood defences, but I don’t think the bit in the picture is, at least.

Kempsey 2

What caught my eye though was this, adjacent to the churchyard…..

Kempsey saxon 1

It was erected by the locals following the discovery of 42 ancient graves during the construction of the flood defences and it contains the inscription: “Marking the reburial of our Saxon and Mediaeval ancestors 800-1300 BC”. The actual interment was just the other side of the fence, within the churchyard, but the stone was erected outside the fence so that passing ramblers would be able to see it. That strikes me as a great example of a village taking the trouble to mark its past, a past that is still connected to the present in some ways: as the priest pointed out, those who had been re-buried would all have been familiar with this …

Kempsey 4

Not all of Kempsey’s past is cherished though. Some of it is being exploited IMHO.  First (like every village by now probably), Kempsey has been visited by metal detectorists under the unique Bonkers British legal umbrella which says they needn’t tell anyone about 99.98% of the historical finds they come across.  One wonders just how much cultural knowledge of its past that has cost Kempsey bearing in mind that ARCHI UK, the database aimed at metal detectorists, lists 271 archaeological and historical sites within 10 km of the centre of the village!

Second, over on the other side of the village from the church there’s this new estate being developed ….

Kempsey 3

Note the name, Saxon Meadows.  I bet there’s a new estate near you with a similar name. Being a bit of a cynic I read it as:  “We’re probably destroying archaeology but this name shows we really care”! In the event they found a bit of Roman but no Saxon.  Still, it’s the apparent caring that matters – although some gestures of caring in Kempsey are more obviously genuine than others!

silas15.

It’s been put about that we country folk all support foxhunting and the like. Don’t you believe it, a lot of us don’t. Personally I’d rather eat my own turnips than support it. So I was shocked that last Sunday at Tisbury, Wiltshire there was a metal detecting day in support of the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles. Lots of detectorists turned up and many hundreds of pounds were raised.

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beagles

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Hunting hares is illegal these days so they make do with watching rabbits being torn apart (well it’s legal, innit?!) They want the Hunting Act repealed (so they can resume killing hares) and I wonder how much of the metal detecting money will be put towards that noble aim? Not that there’s any point telling the attendees, they obviously don’t mind but that doesn’t mean other people (including the ladies and gentlemen of PAS and the British Museum) might not be affronted by the spectacle of cultural exploiters filling the coffers of wildlife exploiters. PAS was scheduled to attend, thereby legitimising all concerned. I don’t know if they did. I hope they didn’t and that they don’t go next year when the whole sorry, uniquely British spectacle is to be repeated. Uniquely British? Yes, you can travel the world and never come across such a grotesque event.

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On the subject of awful, the fragrant Central Searchers are holding their massive annual Summer Rally. today and tomorrow. It ought to be called “The Convenience Rally” because look:
1. Their usual rule applies – if you find something which you alone reckon is worth less than £2,000 you can just pocket it and the farmer can whistle for a share. Very convenient. 2. Dealer John Phippotts will be there to “identify, value and buy any finds, he’s interested in single pieces or whole collections”. Even more convenient. 3. As he says in his adverts, Confidentiality assured. Discreet and professional service “. Yet more convenient! And all for just £44 a ticket.

Are the Archaeological Establishment  looking? How’s the voluntary reporting system going chaps? Really well, with nearly all finds being declared? No need to call for proper regulation? And English Heritage, are you still standing by your stated position: “English Heritage will support the general principle that archaeological material should not be sold for profit” or were you just kidding?


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Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop

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Like all good blogs, we are always looking to improve, but in order to do that, we need your help!

As originally conceived, the Heritage Journal was aimed at a readership of like minded-individuals. The kind of people that read the Modern Antiquarian, the Megalithic Portal and similar sites, but we were also hoping to pull in others who were maybe not quite so enthusiastic about tramping across desolate moors to look at ‘lumps and bumps’ in the landscape, but who were maybe curious about the ancient remains scattered around the countryside in the British Isles. The idea of raising awareness of such sites was intended to offer them some protection – after all, the more that people know and care about something then the less chance there is of it being lost to development, deliberate damage and desecration or just sheer neglect.

But as time has passed it’s become obvious to us, largely from browsing our Twitter followers list (around 7500 of you at the time of writing!) that our audience has extended far beyond our original target, to embrace many heritage protection professionals, other organisations and more than a few politicians (local and national). Whilst we take this to be a sign that we’re doing something right, it does leave us wondering how many of our readers still fit our initial intended profile. And moving on from that, whether we should change our content to either better fit (and grow!) our current audience or try to regain those we first targetted. After all, as Abraham Lincoln famously said “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

With this in mind, it’s time for a bit of audience participation. We’d like you to peruse the categories below, simply select the most appropriate and click ‘Vote’ to let us know which category best describes you.

The poll will be open for one week only, after which we’ll assess the responses. Thanks for your help!

“The Sentinel”
[ © Denis Martindale. Reproduced with permission. See more of his poems on his blog ]

As if he were a statuette,
The meerkat struck a pose,
Without a frown, without a fret,
Serene with upturned nose…
He was like some superhero,
Cape blowing in the breeze,
While he stood firm, looked high and low,
With no thought to appease…
The meerkat was the Sentinel –
The first to raise alarm,
Called on to be reliable,
So others could stay calm…
He was the Captain in control,
The General standing guard,
The Brigadier whose heart and soul
Kept vigil long and hard.
The Sentinel’s experience
Helped others take their ease
And through maintained resilience,
He stood steadfast for peace.
One meerkat can make the difference!
A hero through and through…
If he can take a noble stance,
Then why on Earth can’t you! ?

NT Sentinel

Osw view

HOOOH Press Release 5th September 2015

Heritage groups ‘slam’ hillfort development in final round of consultation

Shropshire Council’s ‘master plan’ for housing within the historic hinterland of Old Oswestry hillfort has been pulled apart in new criticism by heritage experts.

Proposed guidelines for the 117 houses in Shropshire’s SAMDev local plan have been slated by RESCUE (The British Archaeological Trust) as ambiguous, inappropriate and contrary to national planning policy, and in parts as ‘impossible to implement’ and ‘a nonsense’.

The Prehistoric Society also condemns the proposals, stressing the national significance of the monument and its landscape and the harm that would result from development.

This latest backlash is in response to modifications made by Inspector Claire Sherratt as her examination of the plan comes to a close.

Modifications to the hillfort allocation, known as OSW004, have been taken from a statement of common ground negotiated between Shropshire Council and Historic England (formerly English Heritage). This effectively reframed robust objections by the heritage guardians to the soundness of the site into an agreement to develop subject to a range of master planning conditions.

In its response, campaign group HOOOH has challenged the fairness and transparency of introducing, outside of public consultation, a signed agreement for a highly contentious development aimed at passing Inspector examination.

RESCUE dissects the 300-word policy statement in a detailed representation highlighting points of non-compliance with the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) on heritage setting and sustainable development.

The heritage protection group claims that Shropshire Council has not met its obligation to give great weight to the conservation of heritage assets of the highest significance, which includes scheduled monuments such as Old Oswestry.

It quotes NPPF paragraph 132 stating that significance can be harmed or lost through alteration of the heritage asset or development within its setting. RESCUE concludes that housing would ‘obviously adversely affect the setting of the scheduled Old Oswestry hillfort despite any mitigation proposed.’

Citing the national significance of the hillfort, RESCUE goes on to say that development would be unsustainable since the LPA ‘has not demonstrated that OSW004 is vitally necessary to meet its objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirement.’

Design principles

RESCUE also criticises design principles for delivery of the site, including the ambiguity and inadequacy of master planning which simply states a requirement for ‘high quality design and appropriate integration within the sensitive historic landscape.’  It argues that the principles are highly subjective and impossible to implement impartially without prior exposition and predefined guidance to define and manage them.

Highly critical that a full archaeological investigation is being left to master planning stage, RESCUE continues: ‘It is inappropriate and also contrary to national planning policy to allocate this site for development without the archaeological significance of the site having already been established through appropriate assessment and evaluation.’

The group slates yet another design principle to ‘consider measures to improve the access, interpretation and enjoyment of the hillfort and the wider historic landscape.’

While pointing out that this cannot be implemented without defining the scope and responsibility for such measures, RESCUE asserts: ‘It is simply not possible to envisage any situation whereby a development on this particular site could improve anyone’s enjoyment of the hillfort or the wider historic landscape. The principle is itself a nonsense.’

Moving on to question the proposal for a landscape buffer and screening to ‘create a clear settlement boundary’, RESCUE argues that this is incompatible with the existing character of the hillfort’s open landscape.

The group also criticises the principle of ‘ensuring long distance views to and from the hillfort within its wider setting are conserved’, saying that this contradicts the requirement for screening. It concludes: ‘Conservation of views cannot be maintained if development proceeds on this site, so this principle is impossible to implement.’

Prehistoric Society

In a letter of representation for The Prehistoric Society, president Dr Alex Gibson disputes the same point on preserving long distance views, saying: ‘This cannot be achieved by constructing 117 dwellings within the immediate setting.’

Underlining NPPF guidance on the importance of the setting of designated assets, he also cites Historic England conservation principles for sustaining ‘historic, evidential, aesthetic and communal values’ that contribute to the significance of places.

Dr Gibson writes: ‘The designation of the monument indicates that it has high historic and evidential values, and it is clear from the strong and vocal campaign that the communal value is also extremely significant, both within the local community and further afield. The aesthetic value, of a designed earthwork in a strategic position within a glacial landscape, must also be considered high.’

The Prehistoric Society also questions policy wording requiring that the ‘form, massing, height and roofscape design’ of the development should minimise landscape impact. It argues that the terminology is more suited to urban zones in reference to harmonising with existing architecture, and therefore inappropriate for a rural landscape where there are no pre-existing buildings against which to judge impact.

Stating like RESCUE that OSW004 must be removed from the plan, Dr Gibson sums up: ‘To compromise the setting and impede views both from and to the monument must be considered as significant harm.’

‘Defies reason’

Neil Phillips of HOOOH said: “Between them, these responses completely dismantle the SAMDev policy statement and design principles that supposedly make the hillfort development sound. It defies reason as to how OSW004 can be kept on the plan.”

Meanwhile, Shropshire Council has stated publically that it ‘does not accept that proposed development would result in substantial harm to the significance of the hillfort.’

Described as the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’, the 3,000 year old hillfort is a scheduled monument as is the medieval defence, Wat’s Dyke, which incorporates the hillfort as it crosses north-south through Oswestry .

The Inspector is expected to submit her approved plan to Shropshire Council for adoption this autumn.

Under consultation since 2010, SAMDev will identify land to meet Shropshire’s employment and housing needs to 2026.

OSW004 lies within the most archaeologically significant quadrant of Old Oswestry’s setting, straddling historic farmland that would have sustained centuries of hillfort communities and currently preserves open views to the monument. This area of its landscape fanning east to south cradles evidence of Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman and medieval activity, as well as the footprint of military use during two World Wars linked to the nearby Park Hall Camp.

The housing proposals have been fiercely opposed through several stages of consultation by thousands, including residents of Oswestry and across Shropshire, multiple stakeholder groups, eminent archaeologists and concerned observers around the globe.

You sure?

You sure?

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Pc Andy Long, Heritage Crime Officer for Essex, recently tweeted: “Most detectorists follow the Code of practice for responsible metal detecting – nighthawkers don’t!”

Er, no Andy, that’s a gigantic whopper. The police and others are constantly confusing the crime divide – between those who break the law and those who don’t – with the cultural damage divide – between those who keep to the official code and those who don’t. Not being a nighthawk just means you’re  not a criminal, nothing else. It doesn’t mean you’re responsible – and the reality is that most legal detectorists don’t keep to the official code or report all their finds – and because there are so many of them the knowledge loss they cause dwarfs that done by nighthawks. The figures prove it and PAS agrees. It’s not on to tell the public otherwise.

But what about the second policeman? Well, that’s Chief Inspector Mark Harrison, Policing and Crime Advisor to English Heritage and part of the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage. He re-tweeted Andy Long’s untrue statement, thereby apparently endorsing it. It’s crazy. How many more times must we point this out Mark? Don’t take our word for it, take a look at the words of Penny English, Head of Anglia Law School, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge: “a disjuncture exists between law (which defines activities that are illegal) and morality (which identifies behaviour that is wrong).”  It is not for the police to avoid mention of  – and indeed misrepresent – “behaviour that is wrong” simply because it isn’t illegal.  To do so is not merely to mislead the public it is also to aid and abet heritage damage. Can the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage please, finally, desist?

So that’s the two policemen we mentioned in the title. What about the detectorist? That’s easy. It’s Pc Andy Long. He’s one.

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A guest article by Heritage Action member Jamie Stone.

Several years ago with fatherhood looming on the horizon, I had the great fortune to have to move to the Peak District to be near family. It’s not that I was lacking in prehistory in Somerset where I lived, living fifteen minutes walk from a hillfort and ten mins from the second largest stone circle in the country as I did, but the Peaks is something else. The eastern moors have mostly escaped modern farming leaving a landscape of bronze age fields, with associated barrows, cairns and stone circles, whilst the white peak’s more intensively farmed and mined landscape, still has several long barrows and many round barrows, not to mention a henge or two.

Hatch-a-way cairn, 4 miles South East of buxton.

Hatch-a-way cairn, 4 miles South East of Buxton.

After a couple of years getting properly acquainted with the Peaks by myself, I started to look about online for similar minded local types to go for walks with and to bounce ideas and potential sites off and found very little unfortunately so I decided to start a group on Facebook; Peak District Prehistory. With a stated aim of a “Group to discuss prehistory in the Peaks; Sites we’ve been to, can’t find and/or organise meet ups.”, a bit of shameless promotion on a few prehistory website forums and 2 years on, we are a motley crew of just over 100 members. We natter a bit, share weird carved rocks and unusual sites we’ve encountered, delight each other with great pictures of prehistory in the Peaks and generally promote and protect the scarce and precious resource we share with the wider community.

Two weeks ago saw the latest in a series of organised bimbles or leisurely walks, sorted out via the medium of Facebook using the group. This time around was Gardom’s Edge, or more precisely the shelf between Gardom’s Edge and Birchen Edge, an area used from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and beyond, with evidence of Bronze age fields, standing stones, rock art, hut circles, an enigmatic row of pits and an equally enigmatic bronze age/neolithic horse shoe shaped enclosure. The walk took in most of that and more, with us chewing the fat over a 3 mile walk which took about 5 hours to complete including a lunchtime picnic next to a replica of the most impressive piece of rock art in the peaks.

Rock art on Gardom's Edge.

Rock art on Gardom’s Edge. Credit: Dean Thom

If you have an interest in Peak District prehistory and would like to talk about it with like-minded types, please feel free to join our Facebook group. We have plans for many more bimbles over the next few years which we would love to see you on.

We received some bad news yesterday of yet another attack on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. As you can see in the photos someone has carved a few bits of graffiti into the fallen stone at the circle. The police have been informed and we hope the offender is swiftly found. If anyone has any information on the identity of the culprit they should notify Derbyshire Police.

[Edit: It looks like the majority/all of this damage actually took place back in July, but may have been added to recently]

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

The guardians of our national heritage take various forms.  In Scotland the lead body is Historic Scotland, whilst in Wales it is Cadw and in England the new Historic England (formerly English Heritage) champions all that is special about our heritage. There is a common held belief that these organisations are about protecting nationally important heritage. All three proclaim this loudly in their mission statements and it is therefore hardly surprising that most people believe that these organisations are responsible for *protecting* the best sites in their respective countries. Sadly this could not be further from the truth.

ESW_Logos

All three organisations are actually responsible for enabling development and change within the historic environment.  All three are paid for from the public purse and rely for their very survival on keeping their paymasters happy. The results of this relationship are inevitable and from time to time we have highlighted here on the Heritage Journal some of the apparently bizarre and contradictory decisions these organisations inevitably make.

Recently we heard of a prime example from Scotland which illustrates our point admirably.

A proposal to develop a large part of a designated heritage asset (a battlefield in this case) was submitted and Historic Scotland responded as you might expect by opposing the scheme.  The result was that the proposal was withdrawn. Hurrah! – this how the system is supposed to work. The developers however subsequently tweaked their scheme and re-submitted it. Despite the fact that there were now more buildings and the area to be destroyed was exactly the same, Historic Scotland now concluded that the development “would not have a significant impact on the battlefield landscape”.

So what was so different between the two proposals to justify this meteoric change? Apparently very little and most importantly the impact on the heritage asset under both proposals was the same – a substantial proportion would be destroyed. So why did the piper change his tune? The success of this development was a high priority for the Scottish Government, which of course funds Historic Scotland.  It would be a brave piper indeed who ignored the wishes of their master…

sadnote

This story was originally covered by “The Scotsman” but we now understand that despite Historic Scotland’s acquiescence with the annihilation of a place they had identified as being of national importance that the developers themselves have since withdrawn the scheme.

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