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As mentioned recently, the latest deadline for objections to the most recent planning application at Old Oswestry Hillfort expires in two days time (April 2nd).

As of last night, less than 30 objections have been registered, but it’s hoped this will increase with last-minute submissions in the two days remaining.

If you’ve not yet submitted your own objection, the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOH) group have put together a handy guide with suggestions for inclusion in your submission.

As one protester has stated:

Hillforts were built to stand guard and benevolently look out over their surrounding territory and protect it from intruders. They were also designed to be looked up to from that territory with reverence and respect. So it would be a great tragedy if you were to allow this very intrusive planning application as it is much too close and would seriously damage the historical and aesthetic setting of the hillfort.

Something heartening, if it’s true, for those who care about the preservation of the World Heritage Site for future generations:


“Given the current situation, with the anticipated effect of the Covid-19 virus on the UK economy, the business case for the project will be called into question, as it was early in 2019.

Months before the outbreak in China, the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) publicly stated that it was not convinced the Stonehenge project offered value for money. Amya Morse, then head of the NAO, said, “The tunnel at Stonehenge is only just value for money by the department’s [Department for Transport’s] own business case,” adding, “It will take a very special effort by the department to protect public value up to completion”.

The UK’s Planning Inspectorate has sent its report and recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, but a decision on the project is not expected until after the lifting of the government’s current coronavirus measures.”


 

The National Council for Metal Detecting has told members to stop. But many people aren’t members and some have been saying they’ll carry on (“I’ll say it’s exercise”). PAS has also asked people to stop but by adding “We ask that you temporarily retain your non-Treasure finds for full recording at a later date” they hint they know some won’t stop.

So, given that those who defy the rules are unlikely to report any finds or refrain from digging up a hoard or a grave we suggest PAS should ring the Minister to request he clarifies that leaving home to metal detect is forbidden.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The three groups invited to bid are:

  • BMJV [comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics and J Murphy & Sons)]
  • HDJV [consisting of Hochtief Infrastructure GmbH and Dragados)]
  • MORE JV [comprising FCC Construcción (42.5%), Salini Impregilo (42.5%) and BeMo Tunnelling UK/Austria (15%)]

So British involvement is minimal. Why would that be? Do we lack the expertise and competitive edge despite being in the country already?

Or could it be that major local firms are more aware of the geological difficulties and the possibility the plug would be pulled mid-project; the vast archaeological jeopardy; and the possibility that any firm involved will end up reviled by the British and the public worldwide?

 

Explain this!

 

As we suggested earlier this week, the government have now (half-heartedly, it must be said!) implemented a much stronger lockdown regime, asking people to remain in their homes as much as possible apart from essential trips for food, medicines etc – key workers excepted and for which we are all grateful.

As this situation is likely to last, in our opinion, for months rather than days, here are a few more suggestions for heritage based activities to enjoy at home:

  • Get crafty – build a model of your favourite site. Take a look at Brick to the Past for some Lego-based inspiration. Or draw or paint an ancient site, maybe taking inspiration from one or other of your favourite artists (for instance, see Jane Tomlinson, Sarah Vivien or Anna Dillon) and let us see the results, either via our Contact Us page, or in our Facebook Group!
  • For those locked down with younger children, Mr Donn’s web site, although American is a useful resource, with presentations, lesson plans for home schooling etc. covering all aspects of archaeology and ancient history, among others. Wessex Archaeology and the Museum of London also have a very good selection of teacher’s resource packs, more suited to a British audience (other providers of educational material are available)
  • Another for the younger members: an archaeology colouring book, “this colouring book illustrates how archaeologists are working today applying new approaches. It was published by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University.”  Or do a Google Image search for linear images to colour – e.g. “Stonehenge Colouring” returns some interesting results. Try your site or subject of choice and see what comes up.
  • As well as looking after the younger members of the household, why not try to find the time to take an online course yourself? The live broadcast talk on the Must Farm excavations on Monday drew a crowd of nearly 500 people live on Facebook, and the recording of the talk has already had almost 10,000 views! The following organisations all provide online archaeology courses and talks, and are worth checking out:

Others are also available. Let us know your favourites.

What have we missed? How are you coping with the lockdown? Please let us know your suggestions in the comments below.

Given the almost hourly Coronavirus updates on the news, the self-isolation, social-distancing, and other measures being taken (Cornwall is closed, dont’cha know?), it is apparent that much stronger action is almost inevitable to reduce the spread of the infection, and the most likely step we can foresee happening is a much stronger social lockdown. This would involve the cessation of all face-to-face social interaction and restrictions on travel to essential journeys only. Such measures are already in place in countries such as Spain and Italy.

When and if these restrictions are imposed, what is the heritage-lover to do? While trips out to sites may be restricted soon, here are five internet-based suggestions to help get your heritage fix over the coming days.

  1. This is a special one, is being held later today, and should not be missed. The team at Must Farm Archaeology have announced an online talk (including a possible Q&A session) to be held via their Facebook page on Monday 23rd March at 4pm GMT. Learn all about the excavation and finds at this most amazing site.
  2. Listen to a podcast, or watch a video. Our current favourites are from the Prehistory Guys, Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin. An educational way to spend a few hours of self-isolation! Or lose yourself in the rabbit-hole of YouTube, searching for your favourite subject, but where the quality is more variable.
  3. For the younger members of the household, the Young Archaeologist’s Club, run by the Council for British Archaeology, has a range of suggestions for indoor activities. There are also resource packs available on the web, for KS1 and KS2 history – see the BBC for some good examples.
  4. Why not visit a virtual museum? We mentioned last week that the British Museum, along with many others, is closed to visitors, but many museums are extending their web sites to allow virtual viewings of many of their exhibits. My own local museum, the Museum of Cornish Life, in Helston even has a 3D walkthrough where every gallery of the museum can be experienced as if you were there! Why not check out what your own local museum has to offer on their web site?
  5. Allow us to be a little self-indulgent here: Why not take time out to research/write an article for the Heritage Journal? Tell us a little-known fact about a site local to you, or which you have visited frequently. Dig out your diary, and regale us with details about one of your trips to a heritage site or if you’ve been on a dig in the past couple of years, tell us about what you found. Write an opinion piece on a controversial subject: the Stonehenge Tunnel, Oswestry Housing Development, the Rollright Bypass, or a planning application or rule change near you that we haven’t heard about yet. The list of topics is almost endless! We look forward to seeing what you come up with, but please try to keep it within the pre-Roman period in Britain if possible.

However you decide to spend your time while locked down, please let us know how you manage to get your own heritage fix.

PAS has stopped accepting finds for recording. No-one can blame them as many detectorists haven’t been social distancing. They’ll resume recording sometime “in the future” which signals a bleak outlook for recording: most finds don’t get reported already, even fewer will be after a year.

So Britain is back to where it was more than 20+ years ago with an army of artefact hunters combing the fields and all the knowledge being destroyed. Except that now Britain’s laissez-faire policies have allowed the army to grow three times larger.

Of course, if detectorists were amateur archaeologists or of average intelligence, they’d desist while the knowledge can’t be promptly shared with professionals. But they aren’t: asked on the largest detecting forum if the virus would curtail their activities scores of them have just said no and that they’ll go out detecting far more!

Above are the 27,000 people who will now be mining our resource at an increased pace, using their extra leisure, in an entirely unmitigated fashion. Imagine what will happen when these greedy people find new sites or a grave or a hoard! Will they call a FLO (unlikely) and should the FLO put their families in danger by going? Scandalous doesn’t begin to cover it, it’s legal unmitigated knowledge looting and it should be prohibited while PAS is inoperative – let PAS, Rescue, CBA, BAJR, ALGAO, EH, HE, APPAG et al publicly say so if they agree, which they surely do. And straight away please. They should ask the Government to instruct detectorists to stay at home.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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As the Coronavirus COVID-19 ‘crisis’ apparently deepens, and mass paranoia sets in, the heritage sector is as badly hit as any other. The situation is changing day by day and almost hour by hour but at the time of writing the following measures have been announced so far:

  • English Heritage has closed all their staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March until 1st May, although this will doubtless be reviewed and probably extended at some future point. Unstaffed and free to enter sites are not affected, as they are deemed to be sufficiently spacious to allow ‘social distancing’, and many such sites are often off the beaten track and uncrowded.
  • The National Trust will, where possible, open many of its gardens and parks for free, but close its houses, cafes and shops.
  • The British Museum has taken the decision to close temporarily but will make many of its collections and exhibitions available online where possible.
  • CADW are following the lead of the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales in closing all sites with staffed visitor centres to the public until further notice.
  • Historic Scotland has also taken the decision to close public access to their staffed properties and offices until further notice.

In addition, many regional and local museums and other attractions are closing or seriously restricting their access, on government advice, as are many record and archive centres. In short, if you are planning a visit to such facilities, check first!

Many local archaeology societies following government advice have had to cancel lectures, walks and talks, and local fieldwork and clearups – essentially shutting down operations to an absolute minimum.

Although the current government advice is for self-isolation and social distancing, there is a possibility that this may change in the near future – Spain has introduced a severe lock-down and people there have been arrested/fined for unnecessary travel. Until such measures come into effect in the UK however, it is still feasible to visit many of our ancient monuments, for the purposes of exercise and fresh air, as long as the guidelines for risk reduction are followed.

 

 

As mentioned last Friday, the developers at Oswestry recently withdrew two plans to build upon the site.

But as anticipated, a further plan has been introduced in its place, as the latest newsletter from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) campaign explains:

April 2nd is the deadline to object to yet another revised development bid in Old Oswestry’s near landscape.

This 3rd one (for 91 houses) is still as big and as damaging to the significance of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its setting as all previous ones. Be warned that the 18 or so days left to object are likely to be the very final countdown to have your say – this latest application comes with an actual deadline date for determination (July 1st).

The new planning application and object can be seen here.

Planning reference: 20/01033/EIA, Land To The North Of Whittington Road, Oswestry, Shropshire. Proposed residential development of 91 No. dwellings with associated access, public open space, electricity sub-station, drainage and landscaping.

Please be aware:

  • Fields shared with/next to the proposed land (OSW004) have been protected from housing development in the local plan review to 2036 due to their heritage importance as part of the hillfort’s setting. OSW004 would also meet these criteria if it had not been controversially allocated back in 2015 – it stands out like a sore thumb as an unnecessary and wrong place for housing.
  • Additional land has been identified for housing east of the bypass at Park Hall, keeping town growth away from the hillfort.
  • Oswestry has received funding to help unlock yet more land for over 1,150 new houses in the next 10 years.
  • Oswestry’s delivery target for housing is 90/year, including a proportion of affordable houses. Almost 100 affordable homes alone have been built in 2017/2018. There is no need to encroach into the hillfort’s landscape.

With only two weeks left for objections to be lodged, our supporters are urged to object via the http://www.shropshire.gov/planning website, as soon as possible. Further details of how best to formulate an objection will be released soon.


The organisers have at last canceled the Spring Detectival event. Yet rather than doing the obvious – issuing prompt refunds of £81 to all those who aren’t getting the service they paid for, they are offering “options”: move your ticket to September 2020 or, if you can’t make that, April 2021 or, if you can’t make that, September 2021!

There’s a final option: “If you cannot make the new dates please contact us directly and we will let you know your options”. Whether your final option is getting your money back isn’t clear but it’s strange you’ll only be told in private.

We suggest that if you don’t get it back automatically within 14 days (as the Jockey Club is doing over the Grand National) you write to them quoting the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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