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Here’s a thought. Being a guardian doesn’t make you an owner. You’re far more lowly than that. So if you’re a guardian of public property you mustn’t assume you know best. You might be wrong. In the words of The Talmud,“When a scholar goes to seek out a bride he should take along an ignoramus as an expert”

Examples of guardians failing to acknowledge the public are owners or to dismiss them as ignorami are legion, particularly in the heritage sector. Why else would Shropshire Council be building houses next to Oswestry Hill Fort? Why else would the National Trust be defying the view of 90% of the public over trail hunting? Why else would English Heritage be so secretive over the fact that on their watch building waste, broken glass and asbestos have been incorporated into the soil within tens of yards of the main monument at Stonehenge? Why else are they insisting their multiple mistakes in Disneyfying Tintagel are not mistakes at all? And why else are they wanting to impose this unseemly, overblown cash cow at the base of Clifford’s Tower in York?

Guardians such as those are experts in everything except the ability to understand their own humble status. Or, as George Bernard Shaw put it: “No man can be a pure specialist without being in the strict sense an idiot”. Nowhere is that reality more on display than in the Stonehenge Landscape and no-one has put the guardians in their humble place more powerfully and succinctly than James P, writing on the Stonehenge Alliance petition. He has understood something the guardians haven’t for asked why he opposes the short tunnel he has simply said “Because it’s Stonehenge” .

As regular readers will know, for the last few years we have assisted in live tweeting the annual ‘CA Live!’ conference. Organised by Current Archaeology magazine, the dates for the 2018 event have now been announced.

As in previous years, the conference will be held at Senate House in London over two days. So take out your calendars and mark the dates: Friday February 23rd and Saturday 24th. In previous years, arrangements have been made for attendees to visit an  archaeological site in London, although details of this year’s trip have yet to be confirmed.

The conference has been extremely entertaining, educational and successful in the past, and once again some of the foremost archaeological experts will be presenting their latest finds and ground-breaking research of the past year or so.

And don’t forget the awards! Although nominees are yet to be announced, winners are determined by public vote, so these truly are the People’s Awards, which you can help to determine.

So to be sure of your seat and take advantage of the subscriber’s early bird discount, book your tickets as soon as you can.

Readers may recall the two less than complementary reports about the repairs from one of our our Founding Menbers in 2016 (here and here).

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One reader had mixed feelings, commenting that they considered that some of the repairs were awful but that “overall I think it’s an improvement“.

Today however we had a further Comment expressing major concern:

“I am a lover of West Kennet Long Barrow and have visited regularly for much of my life and studied archaeology to post grad level. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit for a couple of years but I went today with a group of people and was utterly shocked at the so-called “repairs” made to the barrow. Its awful. This webpage is the only evidence I can find so far, so I remain unclear who did the work and why. It seems like a bodge job to me and clearly one done quickly and cheaply. There are remains of plaster within the barrow itself and the skylights are awful. I agree the old windows were tacky but they were a vast improvement to the work that has been done now, which seems to have had no respect for the intricacies of the archaeology within. Raising the floor level was an awful idea. I can only describe what’s been done as desecration and I would like to know further details so I can make a complaint.”

Inspector Mark Harrison, Heritage England’s Head of Heritage Crime, just commented about artefact thefts at Corbridge Roman site:
“We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community comply with the rules relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land, but there are still a significant number who don’t.”

So an acknowledgment that artefacts are stolen by detectorists not an exotic separate species labelled “nighthawks”. However, the other false mantra, that the majority of detectorists “comply with the rules” remains – despite the fact that at any one time there may be 24,000 active detectorists yet in 20 years they’ve only told PAS about 1 million finds. Go figure!

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Sustaining this “false news” means landowners aren’t told that most finds from their fields will be lost to science. In addition, officialdom is reluctant to criticise – thus for example it was we not them who shamed Britain’s largest metal detector store into desisting from selling night vision gear! That was beneficial no doubt but the prevailing paradigm precludes anyone saying so.

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In addition to the Stonehenge tunnel debacle the Trust dealt a second blow to its own reputation at the AGM by supporting a quite ludicrous proposition – that Trail hunting on Trust land is acceptable because hounds can be controlled at all times.

Anyone who has a dog will know that’s a lie. Time and again The League Against Cruel Sports has actually shown the Trust examples of where hounds “ignore the rules” and The Trust went to the AGM well aware of that simple fact of animal behaviour. Now it is in an invidious position. Not only has it shredded its own reputation at Stonehenge it has also done so over trail hunting – for every time hounds fail to be controlled the Trust’s position will be seen to be mistaken.

The Trust has staked its reputation on these fellows, not the humans, keeping to the rules! What are the chances?

It took just a few days for the Trust’s argument to be disproved beyond denial. Hounds (and a man on a quad bike) intruded into the Happy Landings Animal Shelter near Shepton Mallet, “terrifying” one of the rescue dogs. As the Shelter said: “This is totally unacceptable and there was no control at all over the hounds! It is not known which hunt was involved but it’s a fact that the National Trust has issued Trail Hunting licences to a number of hunts in that area, including the Minehead Harriers, the Seavington Hunt and the Portman Hunt.

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