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As predicted, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have stonewalled in response to UNESCO’s report on the short tunnel proposal. Here’s their statement in response:

“We’re disappointed that the report largely ignores both the benefits of removing a large stretch of the A303 and the danger of doing nothing at all. We believe that if well-designed and sited with the utmost care for the surrounding archaeology and chalk grassland landscape, the tunnel proposal presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a setting worthy of some of the nation’s most important ancient monuments and will bring huge benefits in terms of public access, nature conservation and protecting the nation’s heritage.”

Yet it’s blatantly clear to all that UNESCO’s report doesn’t ignore the benefits of a short tunnel and doesn’t recommend doing nothing at all, it simply says it is “highly likely to bring adverse impacts” and “it is not considered satisfactory” to suggest the benefits can offset the damage and urges Britain “to explore further options“.

So the English Heritage / Historic England / National Trust statement says far more about them than they intended. To defy UNESCO is bad enough but to misrepresent what UNESCO said is even worse. We feel they would be better employed lobbying Government to take heed of what UNESCO is actually saying.

We’ve spoken many times on the Journal about the lack of sensitivity when it comes to local opinion at heritage sites – Stonehenge being the prime example. And last year we highlighted several issues at Tintagel in Cornwall where the heritage of the site seemed to be taking a back seat to the need for cash generation for English Heritage’s (EH) coffers, and to hell with the history.

Sadly, once again it seems that EH’s need for finance is over-riding any consideration for the actual history and heritage of the site at Tintagel, which was the seat for several kings of Dumnonia in the early medieval period – a fact apparently of no interest to the site’s guardians. Read the rest of this entry »

By Jim Rayner

More information is gleaned each year about how to take the summer solstice forward. The alcohol ban / car parking charges continued and English Heritage filmed some of the event with a static camera and placed the footage online for the first time. Security issues also meant an appearance of armed guards. The crowd of 13,000 who watched the sunrise was slightly up from the 2016 attendance due to a range of factors, such as the good weather and people travelling on to the Glastonbury Festival. Overall the event passed off fairly peacefully, apart from the usual handful of (mainly drug related) arrests.

The event however, is a continuing process of evolution. The ongoing issue about overcrowding in the centre of the circle is yet to be resolved and a gate still hasn’t appeared in the old A344 northern stock boundary fence. The whole point of closing and grassing over the A344 was to open up the Stonehenge landscape, not leave the fence in place without any immediate plan for its removal. Not being able to walk up and down the Avenue is a real detriment to the solstice experience and does little to discourage overcrowding within the centre of the circle. The Avenue needs to be reconnected with the stones in order to provide the space for a more authentic gathering. This could be achieved by placing a small gate in the fence or by simply just having a small roll-back section of fencing which would be manned by security guards for an hour or so at sunrise. This would help spread attendees out over a wider area for the benefit of all concerned.

The live stream was a success, but English Heritage (EH) need to work in conjunction with BBC Wiltshire to produce a short supporting film with interviews with attendees and provide a closer view of the sunrise itself with the use of a thermographic camera. BBC Wilts. Broadcast a radio programme from the stones each year and their live segment really needs to be combined with what EH attempted to do. This would provide a better focus for those watching at home.

Jim’s website is www.stonehengesolstice.org.uk

A MAN found Anglo Saxon jewellery while digging a fence post in his York garden and, inspired by the Treasure Act, was  furious after it was valued at a “paltry” £2,800. He said he had rejected the “disgusting and insulting” offer.

…. and then there’s Eilith who found a bead from a necklace that may be 7,000 years old and, inspired by an old-fashioned pre-Act sense of morality, gave it to her local museum.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the Government, the British Museum and PAS jubilated about people like Eilith and never about her avaricious, unthinking, “sense of entitlement” elders?

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PS …. Any similarity between the case of Eilith and the one of 7 year old Isobel is purely accurate. 8 years ago she found a bronze age arrowhead while helping clear an allotment and promptly donated it to the town museum. We did wonder if PAS would feature her on their website, as an example of proper behaviour but suspected they wouldn’t for fear of offending the “I found it so I want paying for it” brigade. It seems we were right. Maybe they could now feature Eilith?

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It’s now 10 years since Culture Minister David Lammy dubbed metal detectorists “the unsung heroes of the UK’s heritage”. It caused astonishment amongst archaeologists at the time as it flew in the face of what was happening in the fields and it makes even less sense now after another 2.3 million bundles of knowledge have been lost to science through blatant non-reporting. Yet PAS has never said he was wrong. Instead they’ve gone quiet about it, dubbing detectorists, variously, as their “partners” and “citizen archaeologists”. Lately they’ve pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treasure Act which is actually a tiny part of detecting but a great success, ergo they claim is a success for them. All this year there are “Treasure20” exhibitions at a host of museums and the public is being invited to vote for “The Nation’s Favourite Find”.

However, the whole jamboree is based on a claim that the Treasure Act “marked a radical change in the fortune of objects found …..allowing thousands of important finds to be acquired by public collections for all to enjoy” But that’s a fib. The Act didn’t “allow” anything. All it did was to start offering your money for your property. The number of detectorists who hand in their Treasure finds has grown greatly for sure, from a derisory number twenty years ago to over a thousand a year now, but neither PAS’s outreach nor the Act have done that. Your money has. Although it’s your treasure Dear Reader you’ve been paying many millions to the finders to ensure they hand your property over instead of doing what they mostly did before – quietly flogging it elsewhere. So although most Treasure is now probably declared there’s no heroism involved, just a ransom. At the same time 98% of non-Treasure items aren’t reported – but you don’t offer a ransom for those.

Not that you’ll see that reality reflected in the many Treasure 20 exhibitions round the country. At those, David Lammy rides again. They’re all about yes, wonderful things (that are yours), heroic finders and praiseworthy PAS. No mention of you paying for your own property or the endless talk on detecting forums about “how much” and “was the valuation too low?” and “are you going to appeal against it?” You should keep all that in mind if you go to look at your property.

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Poland’s environment minister, Jan Szyszko, whom green activists have criticised for allowing large-scale logging in the ancient Białowieża forest, has called for the woodland to be stripped of Unesco’s natural heritage status, banning human intervention.

“This is an attempt by the minister to impose his own narrative,” said activist Katarzyna Kościesza of the ClientEarth environmental group.”

Meanwhile in England, despite what UNESCO has said to them (“It is not considered satisfactory to suggest that the benefits from a 2.9km tunnel to the centre of the property can offset significant damage”) English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust are attempting to impose their own narrative on the Stonehenge Landscape.

 

Libya’s General Tourism Authority has criticized the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to place five archaeological sites in Libya on the endangered world heritage list!

Imagine that! A country resisting UNESCO’s concern for the preservation of its cultural sites!

And yet…. UNESCO’s statement that Britain’s intention to inflict massive damage on the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape is not acceptable has so far been met with a wall of silence from English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust. It can be confidently assumed that they are set to fight UNESCO on this issue, every bitter step of the way. (Unless of course the Queen says the too-short tunnel is being dropped this morning in which case they’ll all be saying how damn pleased they are!)

Still, those bodies are not Britain. Please demonstrate that fact by signing the Stonehenge Alliance petition and by writing to UNESCO. By the way, the Government absolutely, categorically doesn’t want you to write to UNESCO direct about this. They say it will “serve no useful purpose” and your concerns “would be better directed to the UK Government, where the facts can be properly addressed and clarified“. Bet they would!

English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust contend that a short tunnel at Stonehenge would be a net improvement and therefore justified. But now UNESCO has delivered a very clear no:

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“It is not considered satisfactory to suggest that the benefits from a 2.9km tunnel to the centre of the property can offset significant damage from lengths of four lane approach roads in cuttings elsewhere in the property…. The potential impact of some 2.2km of four lane approach roads in cuttings on the Stonehenge landscape could fundamentally compromise the OUV of the property….. The World Heritage Committee….Urges the State Party to explore further options with a view to avoiding impacts on the OUV of the property, including: (1.) The F10 non-tunnel by-pass option to the south of the property, (2.) Longer tunnel options to remove dual carriageway cuttings from the property and further detailed investigations regarding tunnel alignment and both east and west portal locations;

They appear to have deliberately left zero room for argument – for in 2015 the Government stated: “the UK Government has committed to working closely with UNESCO and its advisors ICOMOS throughout this process”. That surely means they wouldn’t and couldn’t defy UNESCO on a central matter of principle?

At a time when detectorists persuade farmers to deep plough to maximise their loot, when a huge registered business called Lets Go Digging is paying up to £1,000 to get access to farms and at a time when Dr Sam Hardy’s work is pointing to between 90 and 98 percent of recordable finds not being reported, we’d like to make the point we made a few years ago:

“Ever heard PAS or the Government say “not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” How come? Well, Britain is special. It’s the country where theft of society’s knowledge of it’s past isn’t morally indefensible – even though it used to be. Back in 2001 PAS asserted “The Scheme believes that people have a moral obligation to their heritage.” Not now though. They won’t even say not reporting finds is irresponsible so there’s no chance of them saying it’s immoral!

Why the change? We think it dates from when it became evident that most detectorists take “voluntary” to mean “not necessary”. At that point, for the Scheme to assert reporting was necessary on moral grounds would be to point out a too-painful truth to their partners and indeed to their funders. Thus, “moral obligation” has been dropped. Oh to be a British artefact hunter, free of an obligation to the rest of society!”

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Bonkers Britain, uniquely in the world, has painted itself into a corner where theft of society’s knowledge can’t be described as immoral. Don’t believe us? Write to PAS, or one of the FLOs or the Government. Ask them straight out: “do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” If they don’t say yes you’ll know we’re right. PS: Paul Barford has just done it. In case he doesn’t get a reply why don’t YOU do it too, Dear Reader? (You can get the PAS email addresses from his article).

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The PAS Guidance is clear:don’t detect below the disturbed plough soil“. So are the Guidelines for Landowners: “if requested by a finder deep-ploughing should be resisted.”  Trouble is, most detectorists don’t care about doing right – why else are more than 90% of recordable finds not reported? And why else do we get outrageous public statements like this:

“Have you got a permission that’s stopped producing? If you get on well with the farmer why not ask them very, very nicely if they will drive their deepest plow over it for you. Might take a bit of cash incentive but will completely refresh the field”.

And this (just this week, from the organiser of a detecting rally): “The farmer has been persuaded to deep plough and sub soil all worked land so the already productive fields will surely yield more!

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The upshot of 20 years of laissez faire: enhanced ransacking by “refreshing” the fields.

 

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