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Dear Fellow Landowners,

For 6 long years I’ve wondered why no-one turned up to my rally!

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Now I know why. It was because it was based on the Surrey County Council Premise which says “all finds will remain the property of the owner”. A question on the Detecting Wales forum, “Would you still detect a site where the owner wants everything?” revealed that detectorists DON’T like that at all:

  • “I see no point in dragging myself around an almost empty farm for absolutely nothing.”
  • “if you was finding a lot of low value items on said farm I would say yea go back but if everything your finding he wants then seems like many wasted days to me. Its never a good idea to broadcast everything you find …”
  • “If he wants all the finds to date and into perpetuity it’d be a ‘no thanks’ from me. What’s the point.”
  • “I’ve heard this sort of situation crop up before and it never ends well. Cut your loses and get out.”

It seems that if you mention the Surrey County Council Premise you won’t see them for dust. Only archaeologists, amateur or professional, accept it.

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The UK and European Detecting Forum has had to suspended its Finds Identification Service as it was getting requests from people still  detecting.  They intended to re-open it but have now decided nothing will stop what’s happening. We could have told them that. The “hobby” includes:

  • nighthawks
  • people who dig up hoards in the absence of archaeologists
  • people who hide from farmers what they’ve found
  • and tens of thousands who don’t report all their finds to PAS.

Of course some of those will carry on detecting. They’ll be able to do so for as long as PAS pretends to farmers (and taxpayers, and the Government) that the only wrongdoers in detecting are “a tiny minority of nighthawks.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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We were saddened yesterday to hear of the passing of Aubrey Burl, well-known to many afficionados of our megalithic past. Indeed, it is unlikely that any of our readers will be without at least one of his books in their library.

Arguably the leading authority on British stone circles, his work encompassed megalithic structures on the Atlantic seaboard from the Orkneys in the north, to Brittany in the south. Whilst his work focussed on the astronomical aspects of many of the monuments, he assiduously avoided embracing some of the wilder claims of the archaeo-astronomy community.  Eschewing the idea of ‘observatories’, instead he believed that many of the monuments were associated with, and used for, ritual practices concerning death and fertility.

The various versions of his gazetteers will be considered as standard reference works on the subject for many years to come. He will be sorely missed.

A guest post by Heritage Journal reader Paul:

When new discoveries are made, they sometimes show that a previously held view is wrong and history is then rewritten. This is a healthy and normal process, which enables us to fully understand the past.

The same principle applies to science as otherwise, people would still think that the sun revolves around the earth.

Photo credit: University of Buckingham

When the Stonehenge tunnel was first proposed many years ago, nobody knew about Blick Mead’s significance for understanding how hunter-gatherers evolved into the people who built Stonehenge. And Mike Parker Pearson hadn’t constructed his theory about the western burial grounds “dating to before Stonehenge, the long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is” and “may be related to the one or more stages in the construction and use of Stonehenge”. (These quotes are from his written representation dated 3 Jan 2019)

In their own ways, Blick Mead and the western burial grounds are each Rosetta Stones that will unlock many secrets of Stonehenge…..if they get that opportunity.

Now that we know about the profound importance of them both, English Heritage and National Trust should re-evaluate their views and withdraw support for the tunnel. This is their last chance to go down in history as having done the decent thing…..unless of course they don’t care about them and have a purely selfish agenda.

(PS. We are reasonably sure that they don’t think the sun revolves around the earth.)

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Here’s the AA Members’ outing to Stonehenge on Easter Saturday, 1899. Today they’ve mounted a second outing. This time it doesn’t involve a visit, it comprises the “outing” of the tunnel scheme as unviable!

“The aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis will transform the way we live, work and travel in the UK, the AA says. It predicts a permanent reduction in the demand for travel because people have learned during the crisis to use home-working technology. The implications are profound for commuters and for government finances.”

Prof Greg Marsden of Leeds University’s Transport Studies Unit concurs, saying post-Covid-19 an actual fall in traffic is likely and that the number of peak-hour commuter journeys was already falling before the crisis.

So hopefully, given that the National Audit Office had already expressed damning misgivings about the scheme’s “value for money” even before the current crisis, it may be that this intervention from the AA – a body that has been the champion of the Government’s road expansion plans – will be the final straw. Easter Saturday 2020 could go down as a very good day for the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the recent deadline for objections to the latest planning application at Oswestry Hillfort was delayed by 2 weeks. This expires next week, and the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) campaign have issued another press release, calling for one last push from objectors to help save the hillfort and its hinterland:

Campaigners make final stand as deadline looms to save hillfort’s landscape

Campaigners are urging people to unite one more time to protect Old Oswestry hillfort’s historic setting as an 8-year fight over development reaches a climax.

The call comes as campaign group HOOOH releases guidance on objecting to Galliers Homes’ latest planning application (20/01033/EIA) to build 91 houses in the hillfort’s near landscape. The final deadline for comments is Thursday 16 April. Full details of the planning application can be viewed on the Shropshire Council website at: www.shropshire.gov.uk/planning/

Among objections raised by HOOOH is that the proposal:

  • exceeds Historic England’s northern limit for development, with an estimated 40% of the built form lying outside it.
  • does not proportionately account for the very high national significance of Old Oswestry, with a resulting underestimation of the degree of harm from the OSW004 development on the hillfort’s setting and on its significance. The development proposal assesses that only ‘some’ harm will be caused, including harming 11% of views to/from the hillfort – this is ‘substantial’ given the hillfort’s national significance while representing only part of the harm/impacts. A photo montage visualising the development submitted by the developer suggests there will be a far more harmful visual impact.
  • fails to meet the SAMDev Oswestry S14.1a policy requirement for ‘pedestrian and cyclepath links to the former railway and a new footpath link between Whittington Road and Gobowen Road to improve access towards the Hill Fort’. The applicants concede in their planning statement that there are significant material issues, raised in a previous objection by the Cambrian Heritage Railways, in providing access to Gobowen Road across the railway line. Therefore, the proposal fails to deliver a key requirement of the S141a policy and fails to provide a major public benefit that gave weight to the case for the OSW004 allocation.

HOOOH goes on to say:

“Exactly eight years since major development by Old Oswestry was first proposed, we are asking for your support once more in opposing the latest bid to build houses in the hillfort’s immediate hinterland landscape.

“This third planning application, for 91 houses, is still as large and as damaging to the significance and experience of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its setting as previous ones.

“Be warned:  this is likely to be our final chance to stop this widely opposed and unnecessary development. It will have very tangible, negative and irreversible impacts on a nationally important heritage landscape – entirely senseless when Oswestry has alternative sites for housing.

“We know these are hugely challenging times; we are all very rightly prioritising the protection of our families and livelihoods through this devastating COVID-19 pandemic. As you stay safe and maximise time at home, we hope you will find time to stay with this fight in protecting this fascinating hillfort and special landscape, ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’. These places of calm, escape and connection with our ancestors and nature will be all the more valuable to us when we come through this awful crisis.

“While we are striving to safeguard family and friends in our community from this dangerous virus, let’s make sure that ruinous planning under cover of a national crisis does not usher through development that we have passionately opposed for almost a decade.”

HOOOH’s guidance can be found at www.oldoswestryhillfort.co.uk

Of course there are ways to control fox numbers that don’t require men with an underdeveloped sense of rightness to go after them with dogs and guns. So why are you allowing it, Mr. Ewing? At a time when the need for human kindness is more obvious than ever, why is Scotland’s Government supporting needless human nastiness?

Surely you don’t think the “countryside campaigners” who applaud your “responsible attitude towards necessary predator control” are really countrywide campaigners or give a damn about anything except shooting animals for fun?

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Pound shop wolf hunters posing as “countryside campaigners”?

The National Audit Office was already unconvinced that the Stonehenge project was value for money – and that was before the world was engulfed in the greatest economic crisis in generations! So clearly, the Transport Secretary would need an additional reason to approve the project, one that transcends mere economics.

Historic England, English Heritage and the hapless National Trust have obligingly tried to supply one to the Government: “the scheme will be a net cultural improvement to the World Heritage landscape”. As to that:

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On the left, the cultural “improvements” made in the 50s and 60s. On the right, the landscape now, with most of them gone. What one generation of experts classed as visitor improvements were seen by the next as a national disgrace and removed! “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains” …. except for some scars and an area left utterly devoid of archaeological evidence.

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Food for thought, bearing in mind that the area of cultural destruction now being promoted by EH, HE and the Trust is a thousand times greater than the area previously admitted to having been “a national disgrace”. Making “cultural improvements” is closely related to “irreversible cultural disasters”, as history has often shown. Should we really take the chance?

By Nigel Swift

Thankfully, knowledge theft through metal detecting has almost ended for now so we won’t now be highlighting it weekly. However, I’d like to point out that although our 1000+ articles on the subject have been largely ignored by British archaeological officials, they haven’t been abroad (as evidenced by hundreds of references on Academia.edu.)

We were particularly pleased this Wednesday that Happah, the French archaeologists’ conservation body, published a French translation of our 2014 chart, “An overseas PAS-enviers Guide: How to get the Public to Assume Avoidable Depletion with Inadequate Mitigation is Fine.”

We compiled it in 2014 in reaction to the words of the Director of the British Museum claiming the Portable Antiquities Scheme “is envied the world over“.  It’s simply not true, as French archaeologists understand.  Our original is here, followed by Happah’s French translation.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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