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The Transport Action Network has some hopeful news for those opposed to the damage: “Boris Johnson has reportedly instructed his Cabinet to cull large “legacy projects and told them that everything is on the table, including ‘sacred cows’ and ‘pet projects’.” Nothing fits that description better than the Stonehenge short tunnel, a vote-catcher proposed two Prime Ministers ago and not needed for vote-catching by the current incumbent.

Indeed, it may well be calculated that Mr. Johnson risks world-wide reputational damage if it goes ahead: new destruction to a world-famous icon in the teeth of opposition by UNESCO is yet to fully register in the international conscience but may do so the moment Grant Shapps gives the go-ahead. “The British are going to dig up a mile of the Stonehenge landscape for approaches to a tunnel, surely not?”

Then there’s the cost: it’s been £1.7 or £1.8 billion for ages, and there’s no sign of an up-to-date figure. We can all work out why that is and everyone knows that, like all such projects, the cost will escalate vastly before the end, especially as it involves tunnelling in unpredictable phosphatic chalk.

But worst of all is that even on those costs it has “an unusually low benefit-cost ratio of just 29 pence benefit per £1 spent” and only if you include the highly implausible cultural heritage valuation study, does the BCR creep over the £1 mark to £1.08.” Highly implausible is putting it kindly! How do you cost the negative cultural cost of destroying millions of cubic feet of the upper levels of Europe’s most important prehistoric landscape?


Slowly slowly

So far so good! Plus, the Trust has plans to create new green corridors for people and nature, provide 25,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, run a campaign “to connect people with nature” and be “carbon net-zero by 2030”.

Better still, their Director-General has just said: “On 29 February, we will mark the leap year by asking the nation to make a leap for nature, pledging a simple act that will make a difference to nature on their doorstep.”

So let’s all help The Trust make a simple leap: if you become a Member and use your vote at the next AGM the Trust could be cruelty net-zero this year!

See also this Comment:

Steve Miller
Definitely worth joining the Trust or not leaving until after the AGM this year. Only Trust members get to vote on the issue. Also worth remembering not to leave the decision to the Chairman who will use your vote to support the continuation of hunting.

The current story of a bluestone being stolen and used as a garden feature put us in mind of the bad old days when half or more of the houses of Avebury were constructed from sarsen stolen from the Avebury monument, as well as the bad new days, when English Heritage et al are conspiring to effectively steal ALL the Stonehenge stones from the traveling public! So stone-stealing isn’t new, and an eBay search for Preseli Bluestone gets you over a hundred hits – and has done for many years.

This prompts a variety of thoughts: Do bits of bluestone have healing qualities or is it a racket? Do any of them come from the original Preseli quarry or are they simply from the broad vicinity? Or are many of them simply offcuts, of which there are many, picked up from molehills near Stonehenge?

Whatever the truth, it may be centuries before the total of bluestone pieces sold on eBay adds up to a fiftieth of a whole bluestone or a billionth of a bluestone quarry so as conservation scandals go this is not too bad. More concerning (to us) is that this weekend alone our friends the metal detectorists will fail to report something like ten thousand recordable artefacts!

What if you find a hoard but the FLO is on holiday? PAS has just said this is OK: “If the findspot is public and it is not safe to leave the find in the ground, you may feel that you have to lift it yourself.” No! Even though there’s a danger some of a detectorist’s mates might come back at night and steal the hoard that’s not an excuse for him to dig it up himself. Ever.

We’ve said so before (e.g. in November 2011 and in both July and November 2015) but PAS doesn’t listen to amateurs unless they’re detectorists. But we’ll repeat it here: if you want to be regarded as a history lover, a responsible detectorist, a potential reward recipient – or even just a half-decent citizen,you MUST take on the role of guardian on behalf of the State and spend sufficient time and money to ensure its security. What sort of entitlement-obsessed person wouldn’t?

Here are some of the blindingly obvious ways it can be done: Detectorists can wait in their cars overnight, security firms can be hired to work nights, including at Xmas, lighting rigs or generators can be hired for £37.50 per 3 days, a farmer’s flatbed trailer can be parked over the find.


““there was no way we could guard that hoard overnight”… Oh really?


In 2011 the Salisbury Museum director was glad a detectorist had stopped digging the Tisbury Hoard but said you could count on two hands the number of Bronze Age hoards which have been recorded professionally by archaeologists in this way”. Have things changed in the subsequent 9 years? Hardly, and it won’t until PAS stops giving detectorists a perfect excuse for digging up hoards or graves in future: “I was alone, my phone battery went flat, so I got out my long spade and “did the right thing” OK?” The bits are in this bag!”  What a damn scandal!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Detectorists are discussing how to get permission to detect on Council land (including the fatuous “So can you organise a rally and sayn it is a archaeological dig?“) Some Councils allow it, many do not. In 2017 we wrote to the National Association of Local Councils (and CBA, Rescue, LGAO and APPAG) about this and are still awaiting a reply.


We should be grateful if you would forward this message to each of your 10,000 members. They will all have received many requests over the years for “metal detecting permission”. We hope your Members will accept that although a variety of non-damaging recreational uses of public land ought to be permitted, anything found within publicly owned land belongs to the public authority and it is not at liberty to allow private individuals to claim it as their own. That principle also applies, for instance, to harvesting flowers and the removal of fish, birds and mammals. In the case of archaeological artefacts the principle is of particular importance since objects may not only have monetary value but also historical value.

We commend them to The Deefholts-Billingshurst method. See Item 064/09 of the Deerhurst Parish Council, Gloucestershire, in 2009 []
“Mr Ray Deefholts wished to speak about agenda item 9 on metal detecting. Mr Deefholts stated that he is a member of the Federation of Independent Detectorists and is seeking permission from the Council for himself and two friends to use metal detectors on Parish Council land. Smaller items found will remain in the possession of the land owner i.e. the Parish Council, but Horsham Museum may be interested in these finds. Other finds may fall under the Treasure Act….” (In other words, nothing found during metal detecting would be claimed by Mr Deefholts or his two companions).


We think that is fair – to the public and we suspect that very few detectorists will wish to pursue their “interest purely in history” on the basis of such fairness to the public.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



On Twitter, English Heritage has just asked:
“From wonderful Whitby and spectacular Stonehenge to glorious Goodrich and terrific Tintagel. With so many of you receiving a shiny new membership for Christmas, which historic places are top of the list to visit this year?”
It’s obvious!  Stonehenge before they damage it forever.

Quick, before they also close the curtains on the “Turner view” on the A303 and start charging you a fortune to even look at our national icon!

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has just said that targeting cultural sites in Iran would breach international warfare conventions. He did not criticise the US president directly over his threats but said: “We have been very clear that cultural sites are protected under international law and we would expect that to be respected.”

This makes Grant Shapps’ decision very simple: will he authorise massive damage to Stonehenge and such monuments in peacetime which Britain wouldn’t countenance in wartime?

How many cups of coffee will it take?


Will the President’s threat to target sites important to Iranian culture work against Stonehenge?

  • At this moment Grant Shapps is making the final decision on the tunnel and everyone knows it will be a political decision, not one based on the merits of the case.
  • It will be against the background that we have just voted to make ourselves totally dependant on Donald Trump’s goodwill.

So … what are the chances the British Government will make a big declaration that it is profoundly wrong to deliberately damage our leading cultural site at the very moment when Trump is threatening, perhaps with our help, to damage Iranian ones? Slim, it would seem.


Given their well-known willingness to support damage to Oswestry Hillfort’s setting, you might think they’d also be pro-metal detecting. But actually, they subtly signal the opposite:

  • “Metal detectors can be valuable archaeological tools when used responsibly”. On the face of it, that would please detectorists and PAS but significantly they say they are valuable archaeological tools, not acquisition aids!
  • “Metal detectors are sometimes used to check the spoil for any objects missed”. Indeed. But again, they are careful to say detectors are useful in archaeological excavations, not detectorists!

So it’s pretty clear what they think. But in case there’s a scintilla of doubt this statement makes it crystal clear, beyond all argument or denial:

“Metal detecting on land owned by Shropshire Council is not permitted”


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Hounds ‘rip seven-month-old kitten to pieces’


The mind boggles about how the National Trust would spin it if the above “accident” happened at one of the many hunts they allow.

Yet whatever they claim, similar things have happened before and are just a bite away at every single one of their approved events. Please keep that in mind when the matter comes up for a vote later this year.


January 2020

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