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Like many places Cockfield Fell, near Bishop Auckland, has suffered from the intense periods of snow and ice in 2018 that has left precious archaeology vulnerable in the wet conditions. This Scheduled Monument has though a knight in shining armour. Lee McFarlane, an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, has been quoted as saying that:

“Cockfield Fell contains archaeological remains from the prehistoric period through to the 19th century and is a very important scheduled monument, which is protected by law.

“We are very concerned about the damage by 4×4 vehicles to the archaeology on the site and will be working with the landowner and the police to restrict vehicle access to ensure Cockfield Fell can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Image credit: Sarah Caldecott

Well done Historic England, credit where due and all that.

The Northern Echo


Not your laws (they protect archaeology far better than ours). The problem is your words. Both your academics and media repeatedly call detectorists “archéologues amateurs” which misleads landowners and insults real amateur archaeologists – who are in it for knowledge not personal gain. Why doesn’t France make it clear that people who pocket finds are not archaeologists?

In contrast such confusion no longer exists in Britain and pardon us for being proud of the fact but the change happened in 2012 when we shamed the BBC into desisting from calling detectorists amateur archaeologists. Almost immediately everyone in Britain including the BBC and PAS stopped saying it and substituted the coy phrase “metal detecting enthusiasts” (a Google search of that now gets you 16,200 hits where previously it got you none!)

We hope our French counterparts,  Halte au pillage du Patrimoine Archéologique et Historique, will try to bring about a similar change in France.
More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

The various current proposals for altering the A303 around Stonehenge all share a common theme in that they will all be bad for local wildlife. The Great Bustard Group (GBG) has worked hard to try and ensure the iconic Great Bustard is at least considered during the various meetings, consultations and reviews.

It has been an uphill battle with each new team of consultants or experts having to be identified and then briefed from scratch. One expert working for Highways England confidently announced they had been told there were no Great Bustards in the area.  GBG staff took them out and showed them over 15, almost in sight of the Stones. The next meeting comes along and there is a new face, who knows nothing about the birds.

A new threat to the recently restored population of Great Bustards now exists. Ground Water & Ecological surveys are taking place in the fields around Stonehenge. These are now involving teams in hi-viz clothing and vehicles with loud reversing beepers and they will be roving the fields used by some of the rarest birds in the UK for nesting.

That this should be taking place anywhere during the bird nesting season is concerning, but in an area with nesting Great Bustards and the rare and sensitive Stone Curlew it is particularly concerning.  The birds will either be denied the places to nest, or the worse scenario is that they will abandon their eggs due to the disturbance. The GBG was told about the latest works but only days after they had started.

No Great Bustards have been released within miles of Stonehenge and the birds have moved into the area naturally, and have nested there.

The GBG works closely with local farmers and land owners to do everything possible to ensure the Great Bustard nests are successful.

David Waters
Executive Officer
Great Bustard Group

The National Rural Crime Network recently launched a National Rural Crime Survey.

Do you think rural crime has gone up or down? Do you feel safer? What’s your view of the police in your community? Why not have your say and make your voice heard in the 2018 National Rural Crime Survey?

Please spare a few minutes to take part –

Sadly, the desecration occurring at Stonehenge is not, for some reason, defined as a rural crime, or indeed, an illegal act of any sort.

In response to the Heritage Journal’s plea to the world’s media to monitor Highways England’s invasive work in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, David Bullock, Highways England’s project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme said:

The suggestion that survey work will destroy layers of archaeology is alarmist and untrue.

Perhaps the public can judge if this is the case.

The attached images are of one of the dozens of trenches Highways England excavated in the field where Mr Bullock was interviewed by Paul Clifton of BBC South yesterday, it cut straight through Bronze Age archaeology already known to be there. Why then destroy it? Oh, we forgot, according to Highways England they were looking to see if anything was there and if it was then it isn’t destroyed – David Bullock can perhaps explain how the layers of archaeology and context destroyed by this trench simply reassembles itself when backfilled?

The worrying actuality of this typically brutal assault in the Stonehenge landscape is that more archaeology has been destroyed by ruthless evaluation schemes connected with visitor centre sites and proposed road routes in the World Heritage Site than anyone wants to publicly admit. The vast majority of this destruction, as in the present case, is carried out in the name of a perceived threat as opposed to a scheme that was actually known to be going ahead. Depressingly, the methods used in these cases have not been to the same standards to which academic research is carried out. As for what happens to the archaeology that isn’t dumped back in the trench as spoil – even the archaeological evidence painstakingly collected by Julian Richards during the Stonehenge Environs Project was dumped without even asking him or the landowner if they wanted it back.

“Alarmist and untrue”? We think not!


BBC News

New Civil Engineer

In recent weeks farmers have kept machinery off the fields due to the wet conditions, pedestrian access to the Stonehenge permissive path has been closed by English Heritage and access to Avebury henge has similarly been closed by the National Trust to prevent footfall erosion. And yet Highways England’s contractors have been using a mechanical digger to excavate archaeological evaluation trenches in a field adjacent to Longbarrow Roundabout, just beyond the western boundary of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS). This work is being undertaken in connection with the proposed Stonehenge tunnel scheme.

The use of a heavy machine, which in continually moving back and forth in the current wet soil conditions would likely devastate any fragile archaeological deposits, underlines the threat that will soon reach the WHS. This was signalled when Highways England’s contractors started hand digging test pits in a nearby farmer’s field within the WHS last week. Located alongside the A303, between the area currently occupied by pigs and the A360 at Longbarrow Roundabout, this area is ankle deep in a crop masking the environs of an Early Bronze Age settlement lying across and within the boundary of the WHS.

This area of archaeological interest lies in the path of a proposed 1.2 km length of dual carriageway within the WHS, which would lie in a cutting 40–78 metres wide and 8 metres deep. The cutting stretches east from the A360, through the area now occupied by pigs to the proposed western tunnel portal location, at Normanton Gorse. We are told hundreds of archaeological test pits are proposed, to be followed by a herringbone pattern of trenches over the whole area.

Why has Highways England started this archaeological evaluation now when a growing crop will thwart field walking surveys, cloying earth is difficult to sieve for finds, and the introduction of a digger onto saturated ground could see fragile archaeological evidence lost forever?

If the investigations had been put off until the ground dried out the risk of damage would considerably reduce, but the timetable has been compressed by Highways England’s failure to engage constructively with landowners and farmers in the WHS, with no account of the farming calendar or extremely wet conditions exacerbated by periods of heavy snow. More to the point perhaps – why is this invasive and destructive investigation taking place at all when, if the road scheme is agreed, the archaeology in its path would have to be properly excavated anyway?

The public traveling along this stretch of the A303 will unwittingly bear witness to the impact of Highway England’s industrial approach to WHS archaeology. The archaeological work will continue for many weeks to come, yet the public can hardly be aware of what this activity means without the focus the media can bring. We hope the world’s media will help by monitoring what Highways England is doing, supposedly in the public interest, because there is no one that will keep an eye on this activity like the independent media can!

Further press enquiries:

An Irish detecting site has just echoed the lament of countless British detectorists. They believe they should have access to state lands …. where many other groups already enjoy the hobby of their choice.”


It’s a claim to equivalence – on the grounds that metal detecting is just like rambling, birdwatching, kite flying and a host of other pastimes. But actually, there is no equivalence. People who pursue those other interests on public land don’t pocket public property. Simple really. That’s why most Councils, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission allow rambling and birdwatching and kite flying but not detecting.

Is there a solution? Of course there is! The decision would be entirely different if detectorists offered to keep to “the Surrey Council Premise” – detecting in a way similar to an archaeological survey with the landowners and the public being the main beneficiaries and “all finds being Council property.” But guess how many detectorists have proposed that?

No. Lower.


Permitted fun on Avebury Henge. No pocketing, see?

More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Hilary McGrady, the new Director-General of The National Trust, has just been on Radio 4 and has said that The Trust is “right in the middle of the Trail Hunting debate” but it WILL continue to allow Trail Hunting on its land.

Well Ms Mc Grady, that means you aren’t in the middle, you’re on one side – and the wrong one at that for more than 90% of the public are against the cruelty which you cannot deny trail hunting repeatedly involves. It follows that the Trust’s stance on the matter runs counter to its mantra “forever, for everyone”.

Please reconsider.


In its State of Conservation report to UNESCO the big question, how would Britain wriggle out of UNESCO’s opinion that the short tunnel was too short, has been answered. It seems that a longer tunnel isn’t  “viable”. Wow, but what does that mean? Highways England says it had already explained what it means but not clearly enough so now it has had another go: 

“although the evidence that had been submitted to the 2017 Advisory mission was extensive, the reasons why these particular routes were not deliverable had not been clearly articulated. Further work has been undertaken by Highways England to better collate the evidence and set out more clearly the reasons why neither the F10 southern bypass nor the longer tunnel option are deliverable.”

Are you on tenterhooks? What is the clearly articulated reason Highways England has revealed for saying a longer tunnel isn’t deliverable? What is the further evidence it has collated?  Please read it. It’s simple. It’s the MONEY, and they say so very clearly. Britain is unwilling to spend little more than it has bribed the DUP with to deliver a non-damaging solution for the World Heritage landscape at Stonehenge!

See here (we’ve highlighted the relevant bits below in red). When reading them keep in mind UNESCO has stated very clearly that the tunnel is too short so would do more harm than good!

Derek Parody, project director for Highways England, said: “We were grateful to the representatives from UNESCO/ICOMOS who took time to be with us on a three-day visit to understand the scheme we are proposing. We look forward to the panel’s report in due course, which will help us further refine the scheme”. Highways England said ….. it has continued to work with heritage groups and experts in the field to ensure a new route is built with sensitivity to the WHS.

.Whereas in fact ….
They’ll never get UNESCO to “understand” the scheme they are proposing
– as UNESCO says the tunnel is too short!
They’ll never adequately “further refine” it – unless the tunnel is lengthened
– as UNESCO says the tunnel is too short!
They’ll never ensure that the new route will be “built with sensitivity”
– as UNESCO says the tunnel is too short!


April 2018

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