You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2019.

1. Target somewhere with no buffer zone
Stonehenge doesn’t have one, despite UNESCO wanting all World Heritage Sites to have one. Somehow, and no prizes for guessing why, Britain hasn’t got round to it. But you know that – how else could there be current plans to drive a mile of new dual carriageway across the Stonehenge landscape?

2. Make sure any buffer zones are soft words not hard lines
There’s plenty of airy-fairy talky-talky buffer zones but what are needed are crystallised, defendable lines on a map. 10 years ago English Heritage Commissioners talked about defining buffer zones. Anyone heard what they decided? Thought not! For a perfect example of how useful airy-fairy talky-talky buffer zones are to developers see Oswestry Hillfort where until recently there was talk of executive houses right up to the monument.

3. Make sure, if all else fails, that your protected zone is “flexible”
Back in 2013 there was an early sign of this. The Government advised local authorities that the progress of wind farm developments should not be blocked by “inflexible rules on buffer zones“. In other words, any pre-existing protection was to be infinitely elastic or non-existent. Now, infinite elasticity is being applied to the standards, rules and promises implicit in the Stonehenge’s Landscape’s iconic and World Heritage status.

The Treasure Act Consultation ends on Tuesday. Many detectorists are saying there’s no need for reform”. We disagree. (And since when do exploiters get a say in setting exploitation parameters? How’s that worked out so far?!) Here are some incidents from just this week that suggest massive reforms ARE needed:

.                                                [1.]

Yet more nighthawking (in broad daylight and next to the byelaws notice forbidding it) on Malvern Hills. As usual, no-one said anything. PAS and the Treasure Registrar praise detecting so much people assume everything will be reported, despite it being 100% untrue for nighthawking and 90% untrue for “legal” detecting!



A British detectorist with a rare gold coin dating from the reign of Henry VII. He “struck it rich” gushed the BBC and he was praised by the FLO, yet guess who gets to keep the coin – him! Finders keepers, innit! And 4 Israeli schoolboys who came across a rare Byzantine gold coin, the first of its kind in their country. They handed it over and were awarded not money but certificates for good citizenship. “Finders-keepers of national heritage” doesn’t apply in civilised countries!

PS, 29/4/19

(Thanks to Paul Barford for highlighting this): Against the background of this national disgrace the DCMS Consultation Document contains two massive lies – designed presumably to re-assure detectorists that reform is hardly needed at all….

“The growth of online markets means that there is more scope for a small minority of unscrupulous finders to sell unreported finds.[…] The growth of online markets has given the rare unscrupulous finder an outlet to sell an unreported find and currently there is no sanction on someone (sic) who knowingly buys such a find.”

Small? Rare? The DCMS knows nothing about it, they rely on advice. Who advised them to put “small” and “rare”? It has to be PAS, surely? Why are we paying that quango to constantly paper over the truth?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Dear Colleagues,

There’s talk of forming an “Institute of Detectorists”. Ostensibly it’s to train people to help archaeologists on surveys. But since metal detecting on archaeological surveys requires zero knowledge that can’t be taught in a few seconds to anyone at all (“keep it low, swing it slow, walk in a straight line, put a red flag in when it beeps”)  I have my doubts about the use of that.

Far, far more concerning for landowners and history is if metal detectorists get given A CERTIFICATE to wave at farmers to get permission to detect. As you all know by now, metal detecting ain’t archaeology and it ain’t amateur archaeology. It’s the pursuit of  random artefacts in random locations to make a private collection or to sell, so not Archaeology, not Science and not service to you or the community. That being so, any metal detecting certificate you’re shown will mean a lot less than bugger-all.

So my advice is: don’t be fooled. Words in the air or on paper from an entirely interested party are cheap. If someone says they want stuff from your field that means they are there for them, not for you and not for the community. Ring your local archaeologist, ask if they’ll give you a certificate vouching for them and confirming they’re doing good. If they do then fine, throw open your gates! And if they won’t, don’t!

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow

PS, see this group of greedy, archaeo-posing clowns with 3,887 members …

“Metal detecting finds auction club”
“This is a group for people to auction metal detecting finds responsibly.”
Respect everyone’s privacy. What’s shared in the group should stay in the group”.

Every single one of their many thousands of finds is YOURS, dear colleagues – or the country’s! What did they tell YOU when they asked for permission?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



Following Wednesday’s article we received an interesting message from Reinhard Gunst of Stuttgart. We had wondered which, if any, of the surrounding hills was auspicious to the builders and he said that from the Growing Stone the sun rises at summer solstice over the summit of The Skirrid in the Black Mountains. He provided a diagram (of the alignment in about 1800BC). Many thanks for that.



Incidentally, should anyone be in the area around the time of the summer solstice a picture of the sunrise from The Growing Stone would be great!

[From the Journal, April 2010 ….]


It’s actually quite easy to forgive the surroundings, a near-derelict military camp just East of Crickhowell, as this stone has a self-contained charm of its own that allows it to blend in perfect harmony with an adjacent tree and keeps your eye from straying to the adjacent MoD squalor.

It’s not instantly clear these days why the stone was placed here on what was and is a flat and featureless flood plain of the River Usk, but if you paint out the buildings from your consciousness it seems clearer, perhaps. There are distant hills in every direction, the Black Mountains to the North and the Brecon Beacons to the South, forming a full circle of peaks. Which of them, if any, were considered auspicious by those who first erected the stone? Who knows? Perhaps they all were.

by Nigel Swift

Rescue’s reaction to the recent presentation to them about a possible detecting institute was polite but suggested they were underwhelmed – it’s only positive comment, that it might provide “a route to incorporating good quality detecting effectively on commercial excavations” meant very little. Training wouldn’t make people supervised by archaeologists walk straighter, swing lower or place a marker more accurately when they heard a beep!

Plus, working on such projects is only about 0.0001% of what detectorists do. What about the rest of the time, when they’re not? Many years ago I and an enlightened detectorist devised the FIRST Institute of Detectorists, proposing better personal standards when working alone…..

It was totally rejected (and he was condemned as a “traitor”) – for a very simple reason: detectorists AREN’T archaeologists or anything like them and don’t want to be! It’s the artefacts, you see, they want them for themselves, or the money, far more than the knowledge, so every request for them to act more like archaeologists is a request for them to be what they don’t want to be. Simple really. Legislation, not pious words, is what is needed.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



According to Guy Shrubsole (Who Owns England?) just 25,000 landowners have control of half of the country. From that Paul Barford has made a leap of logic: it would be better to spend time and money outreaching to those 25,000 landowners who would mostly listen than to detectorists, who mostly don’t!

The reality is that it’s not PAS or archaeologists who control whether detecting takes place, it’s landowners alone and if they’re properly informed via the broadsheets and farming magazines they’ll be immune from farm gate baloney.

Thirteen simple, but true words, “most detectorists don’t report most finds so are the antithesis of amateur archaeologists“, read by the right people, would do far more good than 20 years of expensive outreach to the wrong people. It would be a massive leap forward for conservation. Detectorists would at last have to prove they were “only interested in the history” not just say it!



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting




You might well think so, because they recently said:

Whilst we recognise the need for improved public transport, we will oppose any scheme that will irreparably damage such a wonderful place when alternatives are available.”

But don’t get excited, they were talking about opposing the East-West rail route near Cambridge, not about the Stonehenge short tunnel scheme which will irreparably damage an even more “wonderful place”! Words don’t travel when uttered by the National Trust it seems. See the Trust’s oh-so-carefully chosen words in response to the identical threat at Stonehenge:

“An ambitious plan to divert traffic through a tunnel beneath the site could provide an overall benefit to the whole World Heritage Site, providing it is located and designed with the utmost care.”

Yet common sense dictates that the short tunnel plan cannot provide an overall benefit to the World Heritage Site. Whatever the claimed visit enhancements a mile of brand new dual carriageway driven across the surface of the WHS in defiance of UNESCO’s wishes will cause  undeniable, incalculable, irreversible loss and damage forever to both the outstanding universal value and Britain’s international reputation.

So by all means let the Trust fight against heritage damage on the East-West rail route but let it not pretend to the public at the same time that it is not itself being a key enabler of far greater damage in Wiltshire.


If you haven’t yet signed the Stonehenge Alliance petition please consider doing so here




Replicas, yes, but still awe-inspiring.

In 2017 The One Show ran live broadcasts from an archaeologist-aided detecting rally in Water Newton. It didn’t turn out well for it was later admitted the assurance that “all artefacts will be recorded” didn’t happen. As a direct result archaeologists were forbidden from organising any more such events.

But on Wednesday the One Show featured one of the very many “detecting holidays” for Americans which have sprung up. None of them pretends to be archaeological research, they’re purely to make money (£1,500 a head in this case). As one of the Americans said, “it’s very reminiscent of pirate treasure”.



There’s a case for bitter complaint, but to whom? Not to the BBC as they’re advised by PAS. Not to PAS, for it was there, uncritically implying to 10 million people that Britain’s archaeology is fair game for unthinking, repeated, unstructured exploitation by any random person from anywhere in the world.

Hopefully the CBA, Rescue or others will react, as the timing is perfect since there’s a current national consultation on the future of metal detecting. Maybe part of that should be that the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group is asked to view the 2007 and 2019 episodes of The One Show?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting




April 2019

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