You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2017.

Researchers at Newcastle University have highlighted how illegal levels of metallic waste spread on fields damages heritage by obscuring geophysical surveys. To this end the university has  issued an  app for the public to report it when it is seen so that a geographical database can be built up. So if you are walking along the road or a public footpath and you see something like this please use the app to report it.

green-waste

You’d think that detectorists (who’ve been running a furious campaign against green waste on the grounds it reduces their ability to hunt artefacts) would be mad keen to use it, but no, they’re all terrified if they report it the farmers will sling them off their land: Here are some disgraceful but genuine quotes:

“I am just hoping the detecting community will see sense before they embark on a mission of “DOBBING UP” our most valuable supporters”
“the App is an outrage to common decency”
“Pressing the button on the app, is equivalent to pressing the self destruct button on your detector!”
“Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app, or details appear in Farmers Weekly”
“The danger is that farmers find out it exists”

Needless to say, those alleged friends of heritage, the National Council for Metal Detecting have advised members not to use the App unless the farmer has given permission. Compare and contrast a similar App launched by the Ramblers Association. But then, ramblers are a different breed. They’re not on the land to take stuff for themselves.  As for “Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app” we hope they do. If you know any farmers we suggest you tell them!

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by Nigel Swift

Can I borrow £100 granny?”  “No indeed you can’t” “Two shillings then?” “Certainly, here you are”.

That’s how my brother raised finance in the fifties and I’ve noticed the technique – ask for the world to soften people up till they’re grateful to agree to what you really intend – has been used by public bodies ever since. Especially when it comes to roads. In the eighties they told me the Hagley bypass would go straight through my house unless I expressed a preference for an alternative route – one which they always had in mind.

Their successors, Highways England, have adopted the same scare ’em tactics at Stonehenge, trying to manipulate local opinion by cynically recommending a rat run through the villages. Now they’ve apologised saying it was merely to highlight traffic in the area but they’ve removed the tweet “to avoid confusion”. Hmmm. I was amused by the comment of one member of the public leaving one of the consultation events: “I found it hard to talk to robots who are pre-programmed to talk bollox”.

Now Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust have used the same tactic by saying that after all the tunnel they’ve supported is too damaging and they favour amendments. How noble and caring! What’s left is still 99% outrageous but they’d like credit for suggesting a 1% improvement. Well I for one find that awful. These are three bodies which are mandated and paid to look after the World Heritage landscape not to support massive new damage to it or to do so by inflicting cheap granny-cons on the public. I hope the public and UNESCO don’t fall for it.

by Dr Professor George Nash
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Supporters of the proposed tunnel will be aware of the potential harm of burrowing underneath the Stonehenge landscape (using either the North or South options) and will forget to consider that the A303 is actually a cultural heritage asset in its own right. Historic map regression shows that the A303 has not deviated from its original route for over 200 years, forming part of a then important east-west arterial route between London and the west of England. I hope that the powers-that-be acknowledge this along with the significant historic road furniture that is associated with it (e.g. mile stones) – so please do not bury it.

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Map of 1817 showing our beloved A303

Map of 1817 showing our beloved A303

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LiDAR plan of the Stonehenge landscape and the beloved A303

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What of the proposed tunnel – a capital project? Well, dare I suggest that it’s a complete and utter waste of money – why not divert the money to more worthy causes. I do think we have a critical NHS crisis and the closure of Libraries and Museums across the UK – that’s just for Starters. Whilst I think about it, get shot of HS2 as well.
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Cautionary notes, to all those so-called eminent archaeologists (and you know who you are) who have suggested that such a project would be an ‘opportunity’ [to explore this landscape], remember the heritage disaster that was the Winchester bypass [Twyford Down]? Well, based on the projected options for that tunnel, as promoted by Highways England, there will be a massive impact on both Stonehenge’s archaeological and natural landscape, including the nation’s beloved A303. Let’s keep the archaeology of this ancient land where it is – in-situ please.
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Dr Nash is Erasmus Mundus Professor of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, member of the Geosciences Centre of Coimbra University (Quaternary and Prehistory Group) and Research Fellow within the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Bristol.

Hundreds of voices set to ring out from iconic Shropshire hillfort at annual heritage hug

-Community prepares to send out big message about heritage and greenspace for Valentine’s week-

Oswestry will be displaying its affection for local heritage and greenspace in a landmark initiative as part of annual celebrations devoted to Old Oswestry hillfort.

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The town is aiming to encircle the 3,000-year-old Iron Age monument with a 1 km long chain of people and string of hearts with messages of appreciation for the hillfort from all parts of the community.

The ‘Hearts Around the Hillfort’ project is set to provide an eye-catching focus to this year’s hillfort hug on February 12, organised by the HOOOH Community Group.

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“Red hearts are going out to schools, groups and organisations, as well as shops and public outlets,” said HOOOH member, Kate Clarke. “We are hoping that as many individuals as possible, from young to old, will donate a heart-felt message about the hillfort for this super-long bunting.”

She added: “It means that anyone unable to attend the hug in person can still play a part, especially older residents who may be less able to get out. Many of us have fond memories of the hillfort which this project aims to capture.”

The group is also keen for hearts in support of local greenspace and heritage in general.

John Waine of HOOOH said: “As the ancient heart of the town, the hillfort is an outstanding attraction presiding over Oswestry’s northern gateway. But it also forms part of a precious network of green environment, recreation fields and historical fabric vital to preserving Oswestry’s character and quality of life for residents. The bunting is an opportunity to reflect the importance of all of these assets and the community’s concerns that they are respected in local decision-making.”

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HOOOH estimates that around 650 people will be needed to form a complete human chain around the hillfort top. The group stresses that the event is being organised and stewarded with due care for the monument and people’s safety.

Now in its third year, the hug is part of a weekend of events taking place February 11 and 12 celebrating one of the country’s largest and best preserved hillforts. Old Oswestry has been acknowledged by eminent academics as the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ due to its importance to the archaeological understanding of Celtic Britain.

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A full day’s seminar will be held in Oswestry Memorial Hall on February 11 examining wider aspects of the hillfort’s role, including its natural heritage and ecology. Family workshops with a wildlife theme and an evening of live performance are also planned at Hermon Chapel. Further events exploring the hillfort’s flora and fauna are set to follow through 2017 under an educational initiative called the ‘Hillfort Watch’.

Allied group, Artists Hugging the Hillfort (AHH!), is currently showing a retrospective of hillfort initiatives and artwork called ‘Heritage Matters’ at the Oswestry Heritage and Exhibition Centre. Running until the end of February, it traces HOOOH’s evolution from campaign to community group working in the broadest interests of the hillfort.

Shops, outlet, groups and organisations who would like to participate in the ‘Hearts around the Hillfort’ initiative by making or collecting hearts should contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 or via its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OldOswestryHillfort)

The Government has announced a lofty ambition. Ours is to be “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”. Quite a thought when we’ve just voted for Brexit and will lose £3 billion a year in European Environmental subsidies to farmers! Environment Secretary Angela Leadsom’s speech to the Oxford Farming Conference was strong on platitudes but weak on reassurances. Farming has been around “as long as mankind itself” has it?! That’s about as convincing as her other claim – that the Hunting Act “has not proven to be in the interests of animal welfare”!

All that’s known is that funding will continue until 2020, but what happens thereafter is unspecified. The Commons Environment Committee wants the UK to have “a new Environmental Protection Act , ensuring that the UK has an equivalent or better level of environmental protection as in the EU” but what are the chances, and what are the chances it would include archaeology  – given that ours is the only country that allows thousands of people to attend hundreds of horribly acquisitive and unregulated metal detecting rallies targeted at archaeological sites every year?

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Mrs Leadsom's post-Brexit vision of Britain: fox hunters trampling a scheduled monument without sanction and artefact hunters helping themselves to hidden archaeology - with encouragement!

Ms. Leadsom’s post-Brexit vision for Britain, in which we’ll be “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it“. Fox hunters arrogantly trampling a scheduled monument with impunity and artefact hunters arrogantly digging up buried archaeology with encouragement!

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by David McGlade, Chairman and Trustee

The Offa’s Dyke Association (ODA) turns 50 in 2019. A membership-based charity the ODA operates a visitor centre complete with interpretive displays, tea room and a library, named after Frank Noble, the ODA’s founder. It also publishes a full colour newsletter three times year, an annual accommodation guide to the National Trail, organises talks and walks and will soon have a new website rebuilt entirely from scratch.

The classic view of Offa's Dyke, curving across Llanfair Hill in south Shropshire © jimsaunders.co.uk

The classic view of Offa’s Dyke, curving across Llanfair Hill, South  Shropshire     © jimsaunders.co.uk.

In 2016 the ODA launched its own Conservation Fund with the simple aim of financially assisting maintenance works and projects that promote the long-term conservation of Offa’s Dyke, other scheduled and non-scheduled archaeological features along the line of the National Trail, also areas with a nature conservation interest. Anyone, for example, a farmer or a local authority, can apply to the fund as long as the proposed works have a long-term conservation aim and are deliverable. The first grant was awarded to Shropshire Council towards the cost of a small drainage scheme in the Shropshire Hills AONB designed to reduce walker and livestock pressure. The ODA has since agreed in principle to provide a matching funding contribution for a conservation scheme designed by the National Trail Officer for works to the Dyke and Trail in the Wye Valley near to the Devil’s Pulpit.

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Shropshire County Council conservation works to the Dyke and National Trail at a site called ‘Scotland’ in the Shropshire Hills AONB to rectify a drainage issue. (Photo copyright Andrew Lipa, Shropshire County Council.

Shropshire County Council conservation works to the Dyke and National Trail at a site called ‘Scotland’ in the Shropshire Hills AONB to rectify a drainage issue. (Photo copyright Andrew Lipa, Shropshire County Council.

The ODA sees the Conservation Fund as being crucial to its own future survival. It meets perfectly its charitable aim and establishes a direct link between an individual membership subscription and the wellbeing of the monument. Trail walkers, other visitors and locals alike will hopefully see this as a tangible benefit of joining the ODA. The fund’s most significant involvement to date is an on-going collaboration with Cadw and Historic England towards a strategic conservation management plan approach for the full length of the Dyke. As an equal partner in this project the ODA’s status as a serious conservation focused organisation in both countries is firmly established.

Not everything in the past two years, however, has been plain sailing for the ODA. The writing had been on the wall for some time but 12 months ago the Association was hit with the news that its long-standing contract with Powys County Council to provide tourism information functions at the Offa’s Dyke Centre would cease at the end of 2016. The financial realities of the day meant that the Offa’s Dyke Centre, together with all of Powys’ other community supported Tourism Information Centres, would lose their funding. This only speeded up the root and branch review of every activity undertaken by both the charity and within the Offa’s Dyke Centre with the aim of making good the loss of direct funding support. The tea room, library/second meeting room, improved newsletter, plans for the website, improved financial and management systems, and the conservation fund, are facets of a strategy that is starting to pay off.

View of the display in the Offa’s Dyke Centre (Photo copyright Jim Saunders).

View of the display in the Offa’s Dyke Centre (Photo copyright Jim Saunders).

The ODA hopes to broaden its appeal and give potential members more reasons to join the Association, pay a visit to the Centre to view the interpretive display, buy a souvenir or a coffee and cake, browse the library, (it has an unrivalled collection of books on the Dyke and Welsh Marches), hire a meeting room or perhaps make a donation. Offers of help at the Offa’s Dyke Centre are always welcome. We are likewise always on the lookout for contributors willing to write original content for the newsletter and website and also currently need people with skills in marketing, fundraising, as well as website management. The ODA is now financially on its own but it will strive to both maintain its existing functions at the ODC as well as be innovative and start conversations with anyone willing to collaborate.

The Association’s AGM is always a highlight of the year and 2017 is no exception. The guest speaker is Pieta Greaves, Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Coordinator for Birmingham Museums Trust who is talking about ‘The Conservation and Research of the Staffordshire Hoard’. (Talk at 4pm, 29th April 2017. Free to ODA members, £3 to non-members).

For membership information, opening hours, room hire, library, conservation fund, tickets to AGM talk: contact the Offa’s Dyke Centre on 01547 528753. Email: oda@offasdyke.org.uk  Website: www.offasdyke.org.uk

It has to be a lie because there are lots of things which the British Government is spending vastly more money on, including tunnels – one that is 3.3 times longer through the Chilterns, another that is 4.4 times longer through South Manchester and a possible one between Manchester and Sheffield that is 10 times longer!

In addition, how come neither the Government nor Highways England nor English Heritage nor Historic England nor the National Trust are facing up to the fact our country has signed up to this:

Article 4
Each State Party to this Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and co-operation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and technical, which it may be able to obtain.”

 

The UNESCO mission is at Stonehenge this week. It is to be hoped they aren’t diverted from those two fundamental realities.

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