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UNESCO has just confirmed its firm opposition to the tunnel scheme so the public will be puzzled as to why so called “conservation” bodies are supporting it. In the case of English Heritage the possible motivation is clear: it stands to gain a monopoly on the viewing of the stones if the tunnel goes ahead (see our complaint about this to The Competition and Markets Authority). A monopoly! By what right? Whose heritage is it anyway?! Yet they have form – see the suggestion that was made in 2011:

“The magic of Stonehenge could be shared every evening with all who pass, many of whom can’t afford a ticket, just as it was a magical place thousands of years ago, sometimes with the Moon and clouds shining as well. With subtle lighting sunk well out of view and endless possibilities of solar energy, the monumental power of ancient man’s achievement in another age would inspire all who pass by.

“Perhaps in depressing times a cocktail of cost-free magic is the very least we can expect from the guardians of the national heritage.”


An interesting idea, at least for a few days a year. “A cocktail of cost-free magic, for free“. But no. English Heritage hasn’t done a thing about it. Maybe they sided with archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles: “It would spoil the dark skies over the monument at night” (that’s the monument no-one can see because it’s dark!!). Or maybe they cited previous road accidents during floodlighting (yet didn’t explore measures which could obviate them). But maybe they also didn’t like the fact that, even for a few days a year, more people would have a free view?!

To repeat: Whose heritage is it anyway? It categorically isn’t theirs, mere functionaries, hired to look after ancient monuments, nothing else.

They’ve just said we’re “completely out of touch” and not “looking at the wider picture” for opposing the short tunnel scheme and that most others are wrong too: “The majority of people against doing something about the A303 past Stonehenge, do NOT live where we live!” We’re grateful, as they’ve given us the opportunity to explain some fundamental realities to them:

1. It’s true, most people who object to the scheme do NOT live in the local villages. They live in 195 countries world wide and while none of them wishes for the local villages to be blighted by rat running, all of them think the Stonehenge landscape shouldn’t suffer as a solution to that.

2. They have the sense to know a longer tunnel would prevent both the rat running and the new landscape damage and that the cost of that is tiny relative to BREXIT and HS2.

3. They also know that if this was a bland agricultural area, a few square miles with little character, there’d be no problem. But it isn’t. It’s a World Heritage Landscape, Europe’s greatest prehistoric area.

4. Hence, if STAG is supporting a short tunnel as a solution to traffic in the villages it is they not we or the people of 195 countries who are “out of touch with the real world, focusing on one thing without looking at the wider picture”. If they were campaigning for a longer tunnel which caused no damage to the World Heritage Landscape they wouldn’t be out of touch, they’d be rational and well-informed. But they’re not doing so. Blaggarding the many thousands who are doesn’t make STAG rational or well informed. Quite the reverse. It should change. It could tip the balance.

“Hot spots” are places where detectorists find loads of finds. Almost every detectorist seeks them – why wouldn’t they, since finds are what they seek? But by their nature they are archaeological sites so you might wonder how many detectorists give full and frank details about them to PAS or local archaeologists? Maybe PAS could clarify, but we suspect its very few.

If so it’s tragic – for as “Henery Iggins” has just pointed out on Twitter, an unreported hot spot means “an archaeological site being progressively and secretly destroyed without trace. The reluctance to give accurate find spots comes from many detectorists, including NCMD, being paranoid that other detectorists or indeed archaeologists will find out where their continuing exploitation of a “hot spot” is going on.”

Thus it seems the unregulated, grabby nature of metal detecting in Britain means that the very places that shouldn’t be secretly and repeatedly harvested to the point of extinction are the very ones that are being deliberately sought out and will suffer that fate. As Henery Iggins further observed: “It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if PAS, HE, Rescue, BAJR et al told the world “hot spot” means “archaeological site being progessively and secretly being destroyed without trace”. We live in hope.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Historic England has just launched a consultation on how lithic scatters should be managed and recorded. But pointedly, (and in line with its other advice documents) they don’t pretend the advice is for detectorists. It’s accepted (though never officially admitted) that a proper standard of conservation behaviour can’t be expected from most detectorists.

Yet PAS has just published a “guide and protocol for recording pottery (and other non-metallic finds) aimed principally at detectorists! (Where is their mandate for that?!) People are entitled to wonder why? Is it a number-boosting stunt, “bring us your non-metallic finds, as many as you can”? It seems so, yet shouldn’t they actually be telling detectorists to leave lithic and pottery scatters exactly where they are?


How is science served by people being told it can be responsible to cherry pick not just metallic artefacts but also some of, or even the whole of, lithic and pottery scatters?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


It’s looking more and more likely to happen if Highways England and its heritage allies succeed in plans to drive a mile of new dual carriageway over the protected landscape. But no-one – least of all the three heritage protection bodies – is likely to know yet how they’ll spin it to the public.

It will be quite a challenge, for UNESCO will have effectively implied to the world that Britain’s behaviour is uncivilised. We think there are only four possibilities. Which one do YOU think they’ll choose?.

  1. UNESCO is too expensive and rotten to the core. We’re best out of it.
  2. UNESCO doesn’t understand. Making a new road at the cost of converting a complex historic landscape into a bland new parkland is good for everyone! We have loads of likes on Trip Advisor and Top Gear that prove it’s true.
  3. JMW Turner is dead but you can still see his paintings at the Tate, so who needs to see the real thing? Duh!
  4. We’re going to set up a new and far better protection body called (something like) The Stonehenge Protection Trust in which all the bodies and individuals who have been complicit in this unprecedented destruction (and those who’ve opposed it as they’ll now be incapable of preventing it) will be invited to regular, expensive, mainly self-satisfied gatherings to issue periodic positive press releases saying: “We’ll protect the landscape forever, for everyone this time, honest”.


Wiltshire Police are launching a new initiative against Heritage Crime (“any offence that harms heritage assets and their settings.”) They specify areas affected by Heritage Crimes:

Listed buildings – like Salisbury Cathedral
Conservation areas
Scheduled monuments
World Heritage sites – like Stonehenge
Registered parks and gardens

….. but that’s misleading. If they wanted to cover all heritage crimes properly they should have included YOUR land. It may not be a conservation area but if you let someone onto it to metal detect and they find recordable archaeology but don’t report it that harms heritage.

It’s not a legal crime in Britain, sadly, but it’s undoubtedly a moral crime as it robs us all of knowledge of our past, in exactly the same way as another selfish scruff who tried to steal Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral last year by wielding a hammer. So please, no metal detecting on your land unless you are 100% sure the person will act properly. Ask PAS or your local archaeologists if they’ll vouch for them. It’s not hard to do your bit for heritage.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

A farmer who damaged just a few yards of Offa’s Dyke has been fined £1,500 with £500 costs and a £150 surcharge on top of the £2,100 he has already spent on remedial works.

Pretty harsh, don’t you think? In comparative terms at least, bearing in mind metal detectorists don’t report hundreds of thousands of archaeological finds a year thereby causing incalculable heritage damage and English Heritage are pushing as hard as they can for 175,000 square yards of new surface damage to be inflicted on Britain’s greatest treasure – and all of them are entirely immune from prosecution!

So, Justice for Farmers! Let them all damage heritage as much as they like, without fear of persecution.

Fair’s fair, isn’t it?!


Please note, the foregoing is irony. The reality is that unnecessary heritage damage can’t be justified, whoever causes it.



Hopefully, this was the colour of the faces of those in English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust who are lobbying to defy UNESCO by causing a mile of massive new damage to the World Heritage Landscape surrounding Stonehenge, upon hearing that last night Stonehenge was nominated Britain’s Greatest Treasure.


Update: Yes, they DID mention it!

Proud to share that Stonehenge has been voted No.1 in ITV’s Britain’s Greatest National Treasure poll. Obviously we’re biased, but we think Stonehenge is very special and we’re thrilled that the nation agrees.

English Heritage says the best way to do it is like this:

“We want to get more young people engaged in archaeology and history at our amazing sites across the country. This is why we have started the Saturday Archaeology Club at Wrest Park….”




But consider this: weren’t a large number of the present generation of archaeologists inspired not by digging in a pretend pit but by their first sight of the iconic view of Stonehenge as they went on their summer holidays – you know, the view English Heritage are lobbying to hide from all potential young archaeologists forever!

What unworthy motivation impels present archaeologists to deprive future archaeologists of the transformative childhood thrill which they themselves enjoyed?


July 2019

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