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Never coy about making an ironic mistake, Highways England has sent its entire A303 Stonehenge Project team to Devenish Nature Reserve to spend a day helping to protect Wiltshire’s wildlife. What a jolly change from planning to damage Wiltshire’s most important archaeology!

A spokesperson said: “The team of 12 had a fantastic time burning off excess energy with saws, loppers, and hand knives….. we really made a huge difference to the woodland.” Perhaps the most memorable thing was that “as part of their work they managed to “fence off” 7 tree stumps, to help protect new growths from being eaten by deer.”

A passing cynic was heard to say “Great. Will they also be fencing off all the archaeological sites in the path of their bloody road to stop them being destroyed?


It was quite a coincidence that two weeks after we criticised English Heritage’s unseemly new bridge at Tintagel an article popped up in America praising them to the skies for providing disabled access there and elsewhere.

To be clear, we support enhanced disabled access where possible but NOT where the solution damages the sense of place of a monument. Furthermore. we’re pretty sure that the £4 million spent on the new bridge at Tintagel was primarily to increase ticket sales not to accommodate disabled people.

Why do we think that? Well, if the welfare of wheelchair users was uppermost in their minds why would they have left this gimmicky gap in the middle?!





My understanding is that the bridge gives wheelchair users access *to* the island. Once there, you’re pretty much on your own amongst the lumps and bumps (apart from the crowds). So good luck with that!


We just saw this:
“Proposed ‘Institute of Detectorists’: Very pleased to announce the first of a series of courses looking to ’embed metal detecting into professional practice’, the first being ‘Metal Detecting for Archaeological Projects: An Introduction’ in association with the University of Oxford.”

Yet amazingly you can learn to metal detect for archaeological projects in about ten seconds! (Swing it low, swing it slow and stick a flag in where it beeps.) The point being, detectorists are selective in what they are looking for so learn to select only the “best” targets to dig up. That, and finding hot spots are their two skills, and they’re very good at them, whereas archaeologists want to know about everything that’s on a site so just want detectorists to tell them wherever they hear a beep, nothing else.
It’s amazing the University of Oxford didn’t know that! So, to save the University and all archaeologists time, trouble and expense here’s our far more effective online course on how to train as a metal detectorist on an archaeological project:
1.) Start by being an amateur archaeologist, not a metal detectorist, thus having only ever been interested in gaining knowledge, adhering to archaeological standards and never pocketing stuff for personal fun or profit.
2.) Do exactly what the supervising archaeologist asks.
[Course duration: 10 seconds. Cost: £500.]


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Last Wednesday was the 3rd anniversary of the revised official Code of Responsible Metal Detecting but also the 3rd anniversary of the metal detecting organisations not endorsing it! There can be only one reason for that.

So it’s high time landowners were told about it because every detectorist claims to be responsible by virtue of membership of a detecting organisation when it clearly can’t be true. That leaves both the interests of the farmer and the archaeological heritage at risk. The best way to rectify the situation would be to amend the official Guidance for Landowners. by inserting a simple clause:

“The official archaeological advice to metal detectorists is to strictly abide by the official Code for Responsible Detecting and landowners should keep in mind that sadly the Code has NOT been endorsed by the National Council for Metal Detecting or the Federation of Independent Detectorists”.

(At the same time, two highly damaging and misleading sentences in that document are crying out to be amended: 1.) The phrase “Landowners may wish to see the objects” should be changed to “it is vital you insist you are shown the objects” and 2.) The phrase “It is recommended that all archaeological finds should be recorded with PAS” should be changed to “It is vital all archaeological finds are reported to PAS”.)

No point in waving your NCMD membership documents at me. They aren’t even signed up to the official Code of Responsible Detecting!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



[Clue: sounds like us-but-ee kunvin]

The State of Nature report has painted a devastating picture for Britain. 25% of moths and 20% of butterflies are now lost and a quarter of mammals and a fifth of plants face extinction. The Trust has responded appropriately. Rosie Hails their Nature and Science Director has said:

“we need to pull together with actions rather than words. We need a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term and ambitious targets.”

We agree. But is it seemly that at the time our largest landowner is expressing such concern for wildlife it is also allowing trail hunting – which it knows can result in foxes being “accidentally” pursued and killed?

Our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions will allow participants to undertake a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our conservation aims.”    So is anyone in the Trust capable of explaining what it means by both  “conservation” and “compatible with”?

A comment in response:

Steve Miller
“Trail hunting is a con. It was invented in 2005 as a means to circumvent the Hunting Act enabling numerous “accidents” to befall wildlife. The Trust is fully aware of this having been sent evidence over the years. The Trust is aware that the way this activity is undertaken involves illegality.”

Indeed. Isn’t it beneath the dignity of the National Trust to persist in supporting this blatant falsehood which is opposed by 89% of the general public merely to please its own pro-hunting members? Where’s Integrity?

And another comment ….

Wal King
“There is nothing accidental in hunts killing foxes, deer and hares. I hadn’t seen a hunt in years until I saw them flush a fox out of a woodyard and chase it down the road. It was then that I became interested in anti-hunt movements as I’d considered hunting abhorrent from when I first learnt of it as a child. And it is abhorrent.

There is far too much evidence to deny that hunting continues and that it does, only brings our authorities into disrepute for not stopping it and encouraging the criminals engaged in it. And the National Trust most certainly knows this to be the case. The current board are duplicitous in aiding criminal activity, their day of reckoning long overdue.

We seem to be able to jail people for non-payment of TV licences, but criminals killing OUR wildlife and assaulting anyone who tries to stop them continually get away scot free. What a backward nation we are.”

In March 2018 the Council for British Archaeology announced it had commissioned a special feature issue of its magazine, British Archaeology, “to inform debate about the proposed A303 road tunnel at Stonehenge“.

The trouble is, it was written by the Editor, Mike Pitts, who no-one can be in any doubt is a strong supporter of the tunnel and whose conduct towards those who oppose it falls well short of the dignity the CBA might expect [Tom Holland’s video … is manipulative and misleading“, the Stonehenge Alliance leaflet he held up “features misleading imagery worthy of Putin-supporting trolls” and Stonehenge Alliance itself looks like “the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign”.]

Against all that, there’s this: there is a complete absence of reporting in British Archaeology or any CBA Newsletter of the excellent case put at the Examination by George Lambrick for the CBA. This is really extraordinary, given the importance of the issue and the enormous amount of fine work done by George. Is British Archaeology the Magazine of the CBA or not? If it is, it should cover the CBA’s activities, especially the significant ones. It does so in a number of cases – but not Stonehenge – why?”


Historic England’s latest Heritage at Risk report includes 2,000 archaeological sites they’re protecting. But there are some omissions. Not listed as “At Risk” is Stonehenge (which they favour damaging because the Government wants them to) and also tens of thousands of non-scheduled buried archaeological sites and scatters which tens of thousands of detectorists will be looking for today.

Here’s a tool they’ll be using: It’s designed by archaeologists to aid conservation but it also makes depletion simple. The essence of all artefact hunting is maximizing the chances of finding “productive” archaeological sites and Lidar ruthlessly reveals where those sites are.

Take a look at your home area and zoom in. Did you know all those archaeological features were there? We doubt it, but your local metal detectorists will. Shouldn’t Historic England be publicising to the public the wider reality of Heritage at Risk, see below, and how easily – as happens in other countries – far greater protection could be given?



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

It’s been announced that JMW Turner will be on the new £20 note, along with his painting of The Fighting Temeraire…


We suspect there was a sigh of relief chez English Heritage. It must have crossed their minds Turner’s famous view of Stonehenge might have been selected, to their eternal embarrassment…

Yes, that view, the very one they’re lobbying hard to have hidden forever from millions of travelers – unless they pay them very nearly £20 each!  [Of course, there’s always the thought that the Turner view of Stonehenge WAS under consideration for the new banknote but was vetoed! That would mean they’d hidden it from the public twice!]

Professor Atkinson, who excavated Silbury Hill in 1968, is excoriated these days by English Heritage for his bad techniques. However, Magnus Magnusson asked him what would be his greatest nightmare during the tunneling (see here, 10 mins in). He replied that it would be if they found something really important because that would mean a delay. Hence he recognised the process must be dictated by the nature of what was discovered, nothing else.

But now it’s 2019 and puzzlingly The Examining Authority at Stonehenge has already retired to consider the evidence, even though trial trenching is still going on in search of evidence! What if some is found? What if Unluckyhenge or other significant features are found (as we mused here)? Are today’s archaeologists (and Highways England) going to say STOP like Professor Atkinson would?

It’s a fair question. Is there a clue in the fact that details of all that they’ve found so far haven’t been published! Shouldn’t it be? And shouldn’t the public be told about everything that is found as soon as it is found? And shouldn’t they be assured that the archaeologists involved in the short tunnel project are both empowered and willing to say “stop” like Professor Atkinson was?


October 2019

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