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We’re pleased to report that there is a new player in the site guardian arena. A new group has been formed to look after several sites on the Derbyshire Moors. We welcome GSSN, the Guarding Sacred Sites Network, who introduce themselves in the guest post below. We look forward to hearing good things about their work going forward.

There are many beautiful, ancient sacred sites on Stanton and Harthill Moors, in Derbyshire. Nine Ladies, Doll Tor, Rowter Rocks, Nine Stones Close, Robin Hoods Stride, to name a few. These sites are always under pressure of various kinds.

The damage at Doll Tor during lock-down didn’t go unnoticed as the images spread across social media sites. Although shared on Facebook, no one had reported it to the PDNPA, English Heritage, or the Rural Heritage Police. This is where our group began. We reported the damage and realised there was a lack of information about what to do if one witnessed or discovers damage at sites. We made a poster, set up a Facebook group, and became inundated with messages of hope and offers of help, from people across the country.

Since then we have created an adopt a site monitoring scheme which covers Stanton Moor and Harthill Moor. We have a monitoring form and some guidelines for volunteers to follow. We’ve listed the potential hotspots for rubbish and damage in the area and created a ‘How to report damage’ leaflet. Sites on the list have been monitored every weekend since we started the group.

Many of you will have seen the posts on Facebook about the recent and very busy solstice celebrations at Nine Ladies over the past weekend. Thankfully there has been a group of volunteers on the moor acting as unofficial stewards and collecting rubbish from the site, as well as educating people. At the time of writing this, I can happily say all the rubbish has been collected and taken off-site. Indeed, it may now be cleaner than many other spots in the area.

Organisations who are officially responsible for large numbers of archaeological sites, such as the National Trust and English Heritage, have recognised that one of the most productive ways to ensure their long-term survival and conservation is via a regular and systematic monitoring scheme undertaken by local volunteers. In this way, sites which might not be encountered that often by archaeological staff (e.g. due to their out of the way locations on moorland, farm fields, and cliffs) can still be visited regularly, and any actual or potential damage can be reported and acted on before it gets out of hand. This information is then fed into a database designed to record each site’s current state, including any problems and the subsequent response to them. By recording such information, the database becomes a tool with which to make informed decisions about the management of a broad range of sites, based on their type, construction, location, and so on.

Our second shared responsibility is to create interpretation material that informs visitors about the importance of the sites through an educational website, books, artworks, and so forth, that encourages a sustainable love and appreciation for our sacred sites. ‘Sacredness’ is not simply a matter of joy in experiencing a beautiful or historic place, but a component which motivates people in how they interact with places. Our network is a platform to explore ways that we can help to educate people through positive, informal, and relaxed experiences. Our goal is to help protect sacred sites in this area from any damage. Damage includes digging, rubbish, graffiti, fires within the circles or close to the stones, machinery damage, vehicle access, and other types of damage to the natural environment.

Stanton Moor, in particular Nine Ladies, is a contested space. Many people have very strong opinions about how it should be treated. How can the complexity of meanings surrounding a place, be represented, through formal management and interpretation? This question is difficult to answer. There is no easy solution, there are many. Each site has its specificity, each visitor, their preferences. Such issues are faced by environmental educators, archaeologists, heritage managers, landowners, those who provide information for others regularly.

If you would like to join us on our quest for preservation and education, please like our Facebook book, Guarding Sacred Sites Network, or email guardingsacredsites @

Yesterday we opined that Wiltshire’s landscape shouldn’t be open for “taking”. Today we thought we’d highlight Wayne from Wallasey’s first visit to Wilts. The year is 2005, the place the Marlborough Downs, North of Avebury. You can see the White Horse on the left and on the right, those are detectorists’ cars.



The spot is overlooked by The Ridgeway, the White Horse, 2 Iron Age forts, and countless bronze age barrows but Wayne wasn’t there for that he was there for stuff. 480 people lined up and rushed forward (“like the start of the Grand National,” said the press), to grab what they could of our history to take home.

Sadly they may be back if lockdown is loosened further (a 700-person “Near Marlborough” rally is already planned). PAS has abandoned its Guidance for Rallies as it was universally flouted so isn’t it time they told the Minister what they must surely think privately: rallies are damaging, toe-curling, displays of cultural philistinism which bring international shame to both PAS and the country and if they don’t come back for years it will be far too soon!

‘‘Landscapes of Detectorists” (just published) analyses the TV comedy’s “engagement with landscape, ecological resonances, and attention to place and identity. But is that really what detectorists do? Or are they simply after stuff?

A Wiltshire website (@VisitWiltshire) is clear landscape engagement doesn’t mean taking stuff: “If you’re planning to come and enjoy the timeless countryside in Wiltshire over the coming weeks, please have a look at our guidelines on how to visit responsibly … Respect our ancient landscapes. Please leave our landscapes as you find them

There are many ways people can harmlessly engage with landscape. To characterise metal detecting as one is false and misleading. It is the countryside which is bucolic and lyrical, not those who come to it. Wayne from Wallasey doesn’t come to the Marlborough Downs for the views but for what he can take home from there. Anyone disagree? English Heritage? Historic England? Rescue? CBA? PAS? No? Then no more lyrical talk, please. Detecting is exploitative.


By broadcasting the Solstice live, perhaps English Heritage sought to give 3.5 million people throughout the world the impression they are trustworthy guardians of the World Heritage site and not a body that is supporting massive new damage to it at the behest of the British Government.
However, the fact their broadcast was manipulated to avoid showing this man by the Heel Stone says it all:



In order to illustrate the solstitial alignment, you would expect them to show the view from the centre of Stonehenge out towards the Heel Stone. Instead, they featured views only from the other side of Stonehenge………a classic case of EH just giving a viewpoint that suits their own agenda.

To the astonishment of archaeologists” the largest prehistoric structure ever found in Britain has just been discovered in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. “A series of vast shafts – each more than five metres deep and up to 20 metres across – were found to have been aligned to form a circle 1.2 miles in diameter.

It’s a lucky site as it’s not in the path of Highways England’s bulldozers, so will survive and be studied far into the future. But what about Unluckyhenge, as we dubbed any sites yet to be discovered on the route of the new access roads? They will have to be recorded very hurriedly and therefore not fully before being destroyed totally, surviving only as incomplete digital records.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson summarised the grim lesson this latest new discovery has delivered: The problem is that this is a scheme that was hatched back in the 1980s when they really had no idea about the potential of what might be there.” Professor Gaffney of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project says “future generations are unlikely to forgive us if we damage this unique landscape”. But the Unluckyhenges won’t just be damaged. They’ll be obliterated.


“Unluckyhenge”. If it falls anywhere within Highways England’s “total destruction corridor” it will be briefly available for study, and then never. Highways England say their investigation of the whole destruction corridor has been to “Historic England-required standards”. But they haven’t said there’s nothing there – they can’t, there will be lots.




Yesterday’s call for landowners to sign nothing and get their own independent advice on both the significance and value of finds has caused quite a stir and we had the most visitors for years. (Readers will know why).

Farmer Brown has long said the same thing. Back in March 2013: he said:
Don’t do it. Sign nothing, especially if it contains the word “share”. By all that’s logical, legal, practical, safe and just it should be YOU alone who decides what (if anything) you give away, and then only when you’ve seen everything the detectorist has found, not before.

and again in May 2014 he said:
I’ll give a bag of mangel-wurzels to any detectorist, archaeologist, lawyer, philosopher or priest that can show why ALL artefact hunters shouldn’t be doing it too. Anything else, like getting the farmer to sign away 50% of his property while still undiscovered (which most detectorists and the whole Archaeological Establishment encourage landowners to do) is plain wrong.

When will PAS and the Archaeological Establishment protect the interest of landowners?

Dear Fellow Landowners,

Maybe, as lockdown eases, you’ll be getting more requests to allow detecting. If so, you might be told by a detectorist or an archaeologist that a “finds agreement” is needed. It’s not. Everything in the field is yours (or the nation’s) so if anything is removed without your permission it’s simply theft!

Archaeologists (including PAS) know that, yet they still recommend a finds agreement even though NO archaeologist would dream of contracting to share the unseen contents of their granny’s loft with a loft clearer.

No, if you must allow detecting. this simple notice on your gate will not only fully suffice but may give you additional protection from being swindled.


Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow

More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

In America, US/ICOMOS has just Tweeted: “Did you know a coalition of preservationists are working hard to have U.S. Civil Rights sites added to the World Heritage List?”
No, we didn’t. But what we DO know is that here in Britain another coalition of preservationists is working hard to prevent the Stonehenge World Heritage Site being greatly damaged in defiance of UNESCO and at the risk of it being removed from the World Heritage List!
English Heritage has just issued a statement saying: “We can’t support deliberate damage to historic monuments”. And yet … they DO support massive deliberate damage to the World Heritage landscape surrounding Stonehenge.
Will they explain to UNESCO and the world how their principle of not supporting damage to historic monuments isn’t applicable at Stonehenge?
Of course they will. The day this happens:

Professor Mike Parker Pearson has just repeated his contention that half a million artefacts may be lost to science as a result of the Stonehenge Tunnel Scheme. It is no idle claim, it is based on Highway England’s own revelation that in defiance of normal professional standards for research projects at Stonehenge (100% sieving of topsoil) they will only sieve a sample of between 4 and 14% because “100% sieving would take too long and prove too expensive!“.

In other words, they are saying they can’t afford to do it right! That, at least, we believe, but not the re-assurance from their spokesman Jim Hunter: “We are confident we can deal with the archaeology in an appropriate way …

How can that be true? How can not sieving between 86% and 96% of the material dug up from the archaeological levels removed in the path of a mile of new dual carriageway be dealing with the archaeology in an appropriate way?


June 2020

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