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English Heritage has again increased its Stonehenge entry price. It’s now £16.50 if you book and £19.50 if you just turn up. Once again that’s far ahead of inflation. So where’s the giveaway? Well, you get in free four times a year if you’re one of a couple of dozen Druids or a genuine pagan or, more to the point, if you’re one of tens of thousands of pagans-of-convenience-for-the-day or anyone else for that matter. What’s more, unlike most paying customers, they’ll let you go inside the stone circle itself.

So why a million pounds? Well, at some summer solstices thirty five thousand people turn up (and another 10,000 at Winter solstice and the equinoxes), that’s 45,000 visitors not paying £19.50 each, which is £877,500 of lost revenue.

Then there’s the cost of staging the events. EH say that in 2015 the summer event cost the following:
Security & Stewarding  £54k  (inc all security and stewarding, car park management and St John Ambulance)
Event Management  £13k  (inc risk management, health and safety and operation set up, dismantling and clear up)
Temporary Equipment  £56k   (inc lighting and technical production, tracking, fencing, toilets and event accommodation)
Land Lease Charges £10k (inc hire of land for car parking)
Signage & Printing  £2k (inc signage production and installation and conditions of entry leaflets)
Waste Management  £11k (inc litter picking, recycling and removal of all waste off site, cleaning of toilets)
General Site Maintenance £3k (inc general maintenance and operational support required before and after Solstice)
Consumables   £1k    (inc toilet rolls, waste bags and PPE)
Add to that….
Other taxpayer-funded agencies including the police, perhaps £20K

and costs at the other three events, say £50k
Making total costs £220,000. So £877,500 of lost revenue plus £220,000 costs makes a total of £1,097,500 every year.



Since the paying customers are subsidising the free shindigs to the tune of £1 each, they’ve maybe got a case for complaining about this latest price hike! What’s more, they might ask: why stage the summer event expensively at night, when we’re paying for it? As EH tells them very clearly in its literature and presentations: the winter solstice sunset is the one that matters. So it’s all a bit of a muddle, as befits a heritage organisation that is lobbying for massive new damage to Stonehenge’s landscape.

In a long piece, “What did the world heritage site mean to the people who built Stonehenge? Nothing” Mike Pitts has just argued that it’s wrong to oppose new damage within it. However, a moment’s reflection will reveal that for anyone to establish that as a fact requires an attempt to establish a single sine qua non – that the World Heritage Site’s borders are of no significance so don’t need to be regarded as sacrosanct. As to that, Mr Pitts doesn’t disappoint:

“But the world heritage site border is a line on a modern map that has nothing to do with antiquity. It wasn’t there in the neolithic. It’s a reflection of what archaeologists knew about Stonehenge in the early 1980s – recent archaeological research, the historical accidents of survival, and modern history…..”
“So to obsess about preserving the world heritage site on the one hand, and not to care a jot about the land outside on the other, is perverse and unthinking.”

No Mr Pitts, the WHS isn’t a mere line on a modern map, it’s a line in the sand. It was drawn by competent modern people to preseve what lay within it forever against all attempts to encroach upon it or downplay it. They intended for it to be defended, not defeated, and although we now know it’s too small that doesn’t make it any less sacrosanct. To hold that view (as so many honorable experts and laypersons do) is neither perverse nor unthinking. It is not they who have failed to understand.

[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

Dr Hardy’s two metal detecting propositions – that “laissez faire” doesn’t work and that over 92% of British recordable detecting finds may be being lost to science – can surely not be ignored, they are far too consequential for that. We certainly feel vindicated. Dr Bland, previous head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, once said our Erosion Counter “lacks credibility” but now a respected independent academic has implied its figures should be three times higher!

But will The Establishment ignore him? Probably, just like they ignored Prof. Gill’s famous question: “by how much would it [the Counter] need to be wrong to make the losses acceptable?” They could have said 50%, 20% or 10%, but they stayed silent. Now Dr Hardy is implying the losses are actually 300% higher than the Counter proposes and that 92% of finds are being lost to science.** Oh, and that laissez faire systems like Britain’s simply don’t work!

So what should happen next? We think DCMS, APPAG, CBA, NFU, CLA and every single landowner should be made aware of Dr Hardy’s two bombshells. It’s high time, after 20 years, that the portable antiquities of Britain should be treated like those beyond our shores and no longer be victims of fake news. Inertia and a quango’s survival instinct are clearly serving us ill.

** Based on the Counter’s cautious estimate that each detectorist finds only 0.69 recordable artefacts per week. If in fact they find 1.5 per week then it would mean more than 99% of them are being lost to science – a ludicrous basis upon which to hail British laissez faire as a success.






Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that they are lobbying for the Stonehenge World Heritage site to be grievously damaged, but Heritage England has just retweeted this from its archive:.


In 2007 Homer Simpson took a trip to Dorset…….. 


What possessed them to drag that up again after a decade and without a word of criticism? We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve asked heritage guardians not to publicise cheap brandalism stunts at heritage sites, particularly without condemning them, for fear copycatting will happen, but it’s well over twenty. Perhaps an article we published back in 2010 best sums up our feelings:

With the most recent incidents of vandalism affecting the Uffington White Horse and the Wilmington Long Man, the history of hill figures in the present century is dominated by turn overs – adoptions and adaptations by such as political groups, fundraisers, television and film stunts, advertisers, sporting patriots, and pranksters. In some cases this has been done with the consent and assistance of site guardians and heritage organisations that claim it could be achieved anyway with photography or mock-ups so they decide to control and financially benefit. In cases where it was not with the consent of such bodies, whether graffiti spraying, digging, or burning, it can have a lasting impact on the archaeology as well as the appearance. In all of these cases without exception, whether officially sanctioned or disapproved, it has lowered the public perception and esteem of hill figures as monuments.

Time to change stance guardians and heritage organisations – let the media know you disapprove of turn overs and why. Let’s get these cheapening stunts seen for what they are by the public, and let us all afford these unique monuments the time honoured respect they deserve.

Of course, we’re mere amateurs and not being paid so we’re unlikely to be listened to on this subject (and haven’t been for 15 years) but that doesn’t mean we aren’t dead right. It will be interesting to see how Houdini, Historic England’s new media manager, will comply in this case with his/her job description to “respond to sensitive stories that may put the organisation’s reputation at risk“.

[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

Two weeks ago we highlighted a bombshell from Sam Hardy of UCL, the fact that laissez faire regimes don’t reduce metal detecting damage, only regulation does. But there’s more….. Both PAS and we have long assumed there are about 8,000 licit detectorists but he has concluded there are 24,300, three times more. If so, our Erosion Counter is massively understated and the 72,000 finds recorded by PAS each year is a very low proportion of what is found with 9 out of 10 detecting finds in Britain being lost to science.

It is to be hoped that a copy of his paper has found its way to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group. We hope that something else will find its way to them as well: we intend to add the following to our Erosion Counter, some revised figures based on Dr Hardy’s estimate of detectorist numbers. Is it all too shocking to be true? Don’t blame us, we have been saying things are only one third as bad…..


Based on Dr Sam Hardy’s estimate, a running total of the number of recordable archaeological artefacts removed from the fields of England and Wales by metal detectorists (92% without being reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme).
Total per day: 2,385
So far this year: 216,500

Since the start of the Portable Antiquities Scheme: 17,664,000
Total since 1975: 38,250,000




In a move which will bring yet more criticism on its head, the National Trust has attempted to get rid of the main objection to its tunnel ambition by hiring a giant lorry and moving the stones out of the way. A spokesperson said they are to be put in a more convenient spot on Trust land a few hundred yards away. It will be the star attraction in a new National Trust theme park, Foreverland.


April 2017

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