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Now that Spring is finally putting in an appearance, and we move toward Summer, it’s time to start planning activities, and ways to get involved in our archaeological heritage.

To this end, the current issue of Current Archaeology magazine includes a five-page listing of digs to get involved in. Many are free, whilst others require a payment – up to 4-figures in some cases! Some are suitable for beginners, others allow students to gain academic credit toward a degree, so all tastes and needs are catered for. There is a fuller listing available on their website.

For those that are less active or unable to get out and about, our friends at Dig Ventures have created a six-week online course, tailored for absolute beginners. the course covers:

  • What happens before excavation
    • how to locate and identify archaeological sites
    • the different stages of an archaeological project
    • what happens in pre-excavation planning and research
    • what should be included in an archaeological Project Design
  • What happens during excavation
    • how to set up a trench
    • which tools to use, and what techniques are best practice
    • how to identify and record what you find
    • how to recover artefacts and take environmental samples
  • What happens after the digging is finished
    • analysis of the data and archaeological materials
    • interpretation of the site
    • making the archaeological record accessible
    • what to do with an archaeological archive

The course costs £49, is endorsed by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) and starts on Tuesday May 1st, so get in quick and register now.

Dare we say, for the cost of a couple of decent hammies, many metal detectorists would do well to follow this course, and learn how to do things correctly, for the good of all!

The authority running the Lake District National Park has been accused of “violating its World Heritage status“. It’s a shattering accusation to level at official guardians for it is saying they have failed to do the very thing they were appointed to do. It’s all about a “massive increase” in motorbikes and 4×4 vehicles which have “profoundly changed the landscape”. In their defence the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) said it would be “preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes” but it was legal. A familiar, metal detecting style reaction – a shrug, a grin and the words – “it’s legal, innit?

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Of course it could do more to prevent it. It has statutory powers and a statutory duty. Campaigners are asking UNESCO to force it to use its traffic regulation powers to keep off-roaders off unsurfaced tracks. For its part the LDNPA is refusing to do so and says  although traffic regulation orders “cannot be ruled out”, using them was a last resort and it has “no immediate plans” to do so. So it would be “a last resort” to prevent the World Heritage status being violated! Why isn’t it a first resort?

Are you indignant? Do you think the guardians of the Lake District should take action against off roading which violates World Heritage status? Presumably. What then do you think abot the fact the guardians of Stonehenge are supporting a massive, mile long new road being ruthlessly driven through that World Heritage Site? Please write and express your opposition here.

 

 

Did you see the recent April Fool joke about a detecting rally at Stonehenge? A joke, yet tens of thousands of people DO detect legally on thousands of  other archaeological sites. How come? Because the essence of detecting is maximising finds rates by finding hot spots – and hot spots by their very nature ARE archaeological sites!

So “laissez faire” has delivered to Britain a simple grotesque reality: the vast majority of archaeological sites aren’t protected and of those the more precious they are the more likely they will be collected away to obscurity!

The simple, sad logic of  Britain’s detecting “laissez faire”. Of course, if any archaeologist, official or otherwise, wants to deny it be our guest!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The final end of the land train era. Six “greener, cleaner buses” have arrived. But pardon us for mentioning it but exactly eight years ago, in April 2010, we wrote:

“Why not just use buses? These days there are as many environment-friendly innovations applying to them as to land trains – electric, hybrid, low-impact, you name it. And in addition, they are arguably just as or more flexible, inexpensive, safe, weatherproof, robust, long-lasting, reliable and easy to load – and they have a pretty small turning circle (hence require only a small footprint near the stones). Half a dozen of those and the job could be done – with no expensive, exclusive maintenance agreements with manufacturers, no equally expensive “custom built” elements – and let’s face it, buses are rather well-tested technology so they’d definitely give a high degree of reliability. There are thousands currently on sale, you’d get some beauties for £15,000 each so we’ll wager you could solve the whole visitor transit issue for a shed load less than the combined supply and exclusive maintenance packages the land train companies are quoting.”

and pardon us for also mentioning that exactly two years ago in April 2016 we wrote:

“The latest, and most eye-wateringly expensive debacle is the purchase and now abandonment of the Stonehenge land trains in favour of buses. The claim that they were privately financed seems rather economical with the actualité but it’s a fair bet we’ll never hear exactly how much money was lost. What IS absolutely true is that not a penny of it would have been if they hadn’t been so insistent that they were right and all those who said otherwise weren’t worth listening to. Less arrogance, more listening to the public seems to be the lesson to be learned”

Is there a moral? Listen to the public, sometimes they’re right? (And that goes for the Stonehenge tunnel too, as some in English Heritage are now admitting, we hear!)

Remember the big red Brexit Bus? Highways England does and they’ve been driving a flat bed up and down the A303, no doubt eagerly seeking traffic hold ups over the Bank Holiday, asking people to respond to the Consultation. Not in London or Cardiff or Leeds, places that have vastly more stakeholders in the matter, or at times when there was zero chance of a hold up.

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It’s surely not how a public body should be acting? Here’s a democratic alternative….

Please warn your elderly relatives. Numerous people are going door to door offering loft clearance for free – but with 3 disreputable conditions:

Scandalous or what! “Finds of a lesser value I shall own”! “We’ll keep you informed of what’s gone by sending photographs! You may well wonder why don’t they just charge a flat fee like any respectable contractor would? It’s clear why, and it’s clear whose interests are being served – and whose aren’t! No doubt the police would like to hear of any sightings of these cowboys. .


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But actually, the above isn’t quite true. Those 3 statements are not from a loft clearance firm, they’re from a model “metal detecting finds agreement” published in this month’s UK Detectornet online magazine!.

It’s strange, isn’t it, how something that is so readily seen to be blatantly unfair, disreputable, unprofessional, exploitative and worth reporting to the police when it refers to lofts is tolerated in silence by The Archaeological Establishment and the Police when it refers to fields! But that’s the horrible mess Britain has constructed for itself. The authorities know it’s wrong but feel they have to keep quiet. And farmers suffer as a result.

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It’s happened before so you never know, but it would put English Heritage in a terrible position. The Government wanted a tunnel for transport reasons and told English Heritage to support them – so they came up with some heritage improvement reasons. And it’s those which may yet leave them in an embarrassing self-made mire if the road project is cancelled – for which of these two possible announcements would they make?

In our role as guardian of Stonehenge, English Heritage regrets the Government’s plans not to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km” thereby implying they still thought a short tunnel would be good for Stonehenge and they’d continue to campaign for one forever!

Or …..
In our role as guardian of Stonehenge, English Heritage welcomes the Government’s plans not to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km” thereby implying they don’t think a short tunnel would be good for Stonehenge and their stance for the last 4 years was insincere!

It seems that it only takes a simple game of “just suppose” to cast a searing light onto the role of the main guardians of Stonehenge. It’s not a pretty sight.

Easter has been and gone, and in timeworn tradition, Cornwall is now ‘open for business’ to tourists once again. The ancient village of Chysaucester was open for the season again from the weekend, and I took a quick run down to see what was going on.

The atrocious weather we have been having meant that visitors to the site were being warned to take extra care as there is a lot of surface water on the slopes of the village at the moment and some areas are very muddy indeed.

My first stop after the entrance booth was to the education hut, where a ‘Living History’ exhibition was put on by local re-enactors. Wool was being spun, clay was available for children to have a go at modelling their on pots, various tools and implements were on view and I met Jasper ‘the Iron Age dog’ – who was very friendly and well behaved! The group have a Facebook page Dark Age Cornwall to discuss what everyday life may have been like for inhabitants of villages like that at Chysaucester.

Moving on up to the main street, I noticed a new wooden intrusion poking over a wall at the top of the hill, which wasn’t there on my last visit.

Over the winter English Heritage have built an observation deck to give an elevated view, principally over House 6, but from where the rest of the village can also be seen. Hopefully it is incomplete – a dark green woodstain would help it to blend into the background and be less intrusive.

The site was quite busy with visitors, but as can be seen from the wideangle shot below of House 4, the ground water was quite bad, so I didn’t stay long in order to minimise my footfall.

On the way back down the hill, I stopped at the fogou, and the effects of the winter could plainly be seen as daylight is now showing through where the ‘filling’ that was used to block the fogou (for Health and Safety reasons some years ago) has been washed away by the rain.

Chysaucester fogou, taken through the railings and showing the clear erosion at the back

When told about the erosion, the site custodian said that the area will be fenced off shortly to avoid people trying to get into the fogou via the back entrance. Only time will tell as to whether English Heritage will do the right thing and excavate/open up the fogou, or if they will decide to refill it again.

Latest news: “Sale of ivory to be banned in the UK as part of government plan to help protect elephants”

Public sentiment and legislation opposing animal cruelty are all moving in one direction. So how much longer will the Trust persist in pretending trail hunting is innocuous under pressure from the Countryside Alliance? It should take a look around, the world has moved on and it is looking more foolish by the day …

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“That bloke is defending the indefensible!”


PS….
The Trust says it believes this from the Countryside Alliance: “Live quarry species naturally live in the countryside, so on occasion, the hounds may pick up the scent. If this occurs, the huntsman and other members of hunt staff stop the hounds as soon as they are made aware that the hounds are no longer following a trail that has been laid.” But it’s not true, as is demonstrated on numerous occasions.

So the public is entitled to ask why is an organisation as respectable and venerable as the National Trust supporting what it must know is a false statement and is it thereby abandoning its claim to respectability?

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