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Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (14 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.

A moggy of omission? It’s like this: you’d think, since the Government said the Trust’s volte-face on the tunnel was pivotal, the 2016 National Trust AGM would be full of the subject. But no, no-one mentioned the word Stonehenge  and there were only two Members’ Resolutions (and they were about the Tenants Association and saving a café at Studland). Nothing about the biggest decision the Trust has ever made (and ever will) – the decision to support massive new damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. 

You’d also think, wouldn’t you, that out of 4.5 million members some would have tried to table a resolution about that. But no. Or did they? (The Board can refuse to accept a resolution if it has been covered before, if it’s defamatory or if at least three quarters of the Board think it’s not relevant). Whatever the reason, the omission is bizarre by any measure, is it not?

Maybe though, you think Stonehenge was covered within the 22 questions from the floor? No it wasn’t. Or the 24 questions submitted in the simultaneous webchat? No, it wasn’t. Still, the Chair, Tim Parker, did say “I hope you can see we’re not just trying to take on the nice easy questions”. No, actually, we can’t.

code.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is about to stage a conference asking “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists“.  If the PAS was honest it would be a very short conference for it would start and end with a simple statement:

Yes of course they can. However, searching at random, targeting only metal artefacts, doing it for personal pleasure or profit and, in the great majority of cases, not putting what you find on public record for the benefit of others, is damaging and in each instance the antithesis of archaeology. Proof lies in the fact that any archaeologist who acted like that would be sanctioned and expelled from the profession.

Clearly, PAS knows all that but shamefully it is attempting to morph the difference by saying: This conference explores the various ways in which detectorists (working alone or with archaeologists) have undertaken archaeological fieldwork“. Fine, but it’s expressing in a coded fashion a basic truth which they are frit to say in the public arena: “Yes OF COURSE detectorists can be archaeologists – but only if they act like archaeologists.”

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Long Meg and her Daughters, the ancient stone circle near Penrith is being damaged by vehicles and has been placed onto Historic England’s ‘at risk register’.

long-meg

As someone on Trip Advisor wrote recently: “My American visitor was stunned to find we could just drive up, park and wander at will with no red tape and for free.” Freedom of access in that way is to be welcomed but it’s clear there are limits.

We’re sometimes asked which of our articles have been most popular.  It’s a good question. Some attract a readership of only a few hundred while some take off and are read by very many thousands. So we thought we’d revisit the ten most popular, starting today with number 10, Crop Circles and Aliens, which we published in October 2009.

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Crop Circles and Aliens

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Crop_circles

I looked away for a second and when I looked back they were gone.
“Quick lads, he’s not looking, lay down in the crop!”

No, we don’t believe in them either but the following news article in the Telegraph brightens up a rainy day…

A police officer contacted British UFO experts after seeing three aliens examining a freshly made crop circle near Avebury, Wiltshire. The sergeant, who has not been named, was off-duty when he saw the figures standing in a field near Silbury Hill, and stopped his car to investigate. However, as he approached the ‘men’ – all over 6ft tall with blond hair – he heard “the sound of static electricity” and the trio ran away ”faster than any man he had ever seen”. The officer returned to his home in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and contacted paranormal experts and told them he had spotted a UFO…

Photograph taken with thanks from Wikipedia Commons

Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (13 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.

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Placebo politics? In 2010  Conservative MP John Glen certainly pleased the voters, saying he would not rest until a Salisbury bypass was built. But this year he changed: “I have always said that I will not rest from seeking improvements to Salisbury’s roads infrastructure.” Not quite the same thing! Anyway, he has now applied placebo politics to Stonehenge (and added a dash of muddle!):

On 4th March 2014 he wrote: there is one option that would address the demands of those who crave a fit for purpose dual carriageway and those who rightly seek to protect the precious archaeology of Stonehenge. A long deep bore tunnel would enable safe passage through without disturbing the hidden barrows and earthworks of the wider World Heritage site.” Sounds pleasing! A long tunnel and no disturbance to archaeology. But next day at a Westminster Hall debate he said  “In the past there has repeatedly been one solution that has united all parties, a deep bore tunnel if it was at least 2.8 km long.

For his information … all parties were NOT united, in fact nearly every archaeological and heritage body was strongly against it! In addition, his “long tunnel” turns out to be a short tunnel, and that of course would disturb the archaeology of the wider World Heritage site! Placebos (and yowling moggies) are bad enough but describing damaging quack remedies as reliable cures is worse.

[To see the others put ‘Yowling’ in the search box.]

6 years ago today we highlighted that “Minelab has just launched the GPX5000….it can easily find small objects at 24 inches” whereas a farming forum survey showed 80% of farmers plough no lower than 9 inches. So people with GPXs could now detect small objects 15 inches below most ploughsoil. But now things have got even worse. See this from Minelab’s website :

gpz-7000So you can now detect small items two feet below most ploughsoils! And nighthawks on the Staffordshire Hoard field (and they do exist – we’ve photographed their holes here and here) can detect small gold objects far lower than the machines used by the two archaeological surveys there. What shall we all  do about that? Pretend technology hasn’t changed out of all recognition? For our part we’ve written to the Archaeology Forum yet again …..

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To The Archaeology Forum   taf@archaeologists.net

Dear Sirs,
You may recall we’ve previously written to you 4 times (see
here and here and here) asking you to address the growing threat posed by the new deep seeking metal detectors such as the GPX 5000 and the Blisstool LTC64 V3 and you ignored us. The position has just got 40% worse with the advent of the GPZ 7000 (see our latest article – “Enhanced technology leaves remaining Staffordshire Hoard wide open to theft”). Any chance of you reacting?

As a minimum, we would have thought, the amendments to the detecting code currently being drafted ought to include a very clear statement that using a machine that detects lower than the ploughsoil is not responsible detecting.

Regards,
The Heritage Journal


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This week we said Mike Pitts had scolded people who worry about a tunnel portal. But scolded is too mild. He said the Stonehenge Alliance acted like “the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign” and their leaflet imagery was “worthy of Putin-supporting trolls”. Hmmm. We know some of the members of the Stonehenge Alliance and they are dedicated, well-informed and genteel and not how he seeks to portray them. Hope that’s now crystal clear.

On the other hand, we find Mr Pitts’ account of why that trench was dug exactly on the solstice line far from crystal clear. Specifically this: “In this particular case thirty trenches were dug over a wide area south of the A303. If each trench was a sign of where a tunnel would end, we’d have a portal that reached half way across the world heritage site.” But the question remains: if there’s no chance whatsoever a portal will be located on the solstice sunset line why has one of the trenches been dug exactly on that line? 

An explanation from the authorities would be appropriate, one that doesn’t involve belittling legitimate stakeholders.

Mike Pitts has just scolded those who worry about the Stonehenge Tunnel :

“all this stuff about portals and midwinter sunsets is premature. Currently routes are being identified – not decided on ….. There will be a public consultation next year. If I was an objector, I’d wait until next year. At least I’d know what it was I was objecting to, always a help in these things…..

I don’t think Highways would be able to secretly put a tunnel portal just where the sun sets at midwinter. The eagle-eyed people at Icomos would notice. [The Heritage Journal] “could have said that as HE, EH and the NT want to protect and enhance the world heritage site, it’s unlikely they would’ve wanted the tunnel portal there. But where’s the fun in that?”

relax

Well Mr Pitts,

First, please be assured there’s no fun in worrying a tunnel portal may be built on the solstice line. It’s a sincere concern which we share with many people, OK?
Second, thanks for the advice to wait, not worry but we’d prefer to exercise our democratic and natural right to worry, not wait.
Third, a fundamental reason why we are worrying is because HE, EH and the NT are welcoming the idea of a 1.8 mile long tunnel inside a 3.5 mile wide WHS –  which is not an indication of wanting “to protect and enhance” this special landscape but quite the opposite.

However, since you seem to be in close touch with them you are perhaps in a position to help. Rather than scold legitimate stakeholders for being worried without cause, please ask those three bodies to publicly announce that they would all resolutely oppose the placing of a tunnel portal anywhere near the line of the solstice sunset. If they won’t, please respect the public’s right to worry. Simple really. We’ll watch with interest.

Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (12 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.

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Historic England says the Stonehenge tunnel would be “the biggest single investment ever made by Government in this country’s heritage.” No. It was always a road investment. For avoidance of doubt: the Government’s published purpose was “to turn the A303 into a strategic corridor to the south-west” (and of course, to get votes!) It was subsequently painted as a heritage investment by the 3 bodies trying to put lipstick on a pig.

Neither “heritage” nor anything like it passed David Cameron’s lips when he visited the site for the announcement. In fact, he let the moggy out of the bag that day. Just after being briefed by the Highways Agency and the Trust he stated, unconvincingly: It’s quite a long tunnel but I think that’s what makes it such a successful plan. No David! They may have told you it’s quite a long tunnel but actually it’s a far too short tunnel for conservation purposes and that’s what makes it a disastrous plan and one of the biggest single destructive actions ever made by Government against this country’s heritage!

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[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

Dear Colleagues,

happy-silas

This week CBA Director Mike Heyworth chaired a meeting “to agree a revised metal detecting code”. Good. We farmers need a “Tesco clause” saying “show everything you intend to take home and get a receipt for it” (like millions of Tesco customers, including all detectorists, do all the time.) Which honest detectorist would object to that? And how could archaeologists oppose it (given that it would stop PAS’s database being infected with nighthawked items and/or false findspots).

So the new code will be a litmus test of who controls Britain’s buried heritage, professionals or the rough wing of detecting. If a Tesco-like clause is inserted it will be a step towards resource and landowner protection whereas if the code is emasculated, as happened to the original one, then the pressure from dishonest detectorists will have prevailed. Over the years there have been 15  “recording strikes” threatened when reforms were proposed. Soon we’ll know if a sixteenth (and there will be one – just watch!) has succeeded or not.


In case you doubt it, here are the previous fifteen:

“Don’t criticise us or we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t tell us what to do or we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t undertake surveys of nighthawking else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t let PAS dominate us else we’ll stop reporting
” (and later: “
“Don’t reduce PAS’s funding else we’ll stop reporting”),
“Don’t impose a Code of Responsible Detecting else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t discuss licensing us else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t ban inappropriate rallies else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t impose restrictions under stewardship schemes else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t tighten up EBay else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t ever short change us on our Treasure rewards else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t abate rewards for not calling an archie out else we’ll stop reporting”
“Don’t use some of our Treasure rewards for proper excavations of our findspots else we’ll stop reporting”,
“Don’t extend the items covered by the Treasure Act beyond what we say else we’ll stop reporting” and perhaps most telling of all:
“Don’t write to farmers without us dictating what is to be said else we’ll stop reporting”.


Update, 18 October
The anti-heritage wing of detecting has reacted to the idea of reform already:

“I can see that following the new Code will be mandatory and any deviation of for example finding a Treasure item on grassland or digging below the ploughsoil will carry an abatement of any award.”

“Exactly! However many folk, me included, often fail to see the “desired end result” of such political manouvering. We are lucky to have individuals with such foresight & knowledge looking out for the hobby.”

“The Rally Guidance note will be next to Review i am sure. Why do one and not the other. However none are compulsory and so unenforceable.”

Nice, heroic attitudes! (And one of them is a NCMD official!). Can’t see the “desired end result” of resource protection measures; they are merely “political manouvering”  and not too worried because the codes aren’t compulsory and are therefore “unenforceable”. Does Britain really need such people on the fields? Which farmer, if only the authorities explained it to him, would let them through his gate?

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow Farm,
Worfield,
Shropshire.

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