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This would be FOREVER!

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Tom Holland, President of the Stonehenge Alliance, has made many powerful statements about the proposed short tunnel scheme which stand in stark contrast to the visual fibs (8 so far) and “yowling moggy” fictions (39 so far) which the Government-pleasing corporate supporters of the scheme have inflicted on the stakeholding national and international public.

In particular, he says the scheme “constitutes the most grotesque act of desecration ever contemplated by a British government, the driving of a great gash of concrete and tarmac through our most significant, our most sacred prehistoric landscape.”

But what does he mean? Is it mere hyperbole? Don’t august bodies like English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust constantly say it will enhance the World Heritage Site? (As to the latter point, that’s easily disposed of: let no-one be fooled, they are supporting a Government road scheme, not a conservation or enhancement project, and if the road scheme wasn’t planned there’s no way they’d be calling for it. Ask them.

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  • So their stated motivation is false, and reeks of hypocrisy.
  • Plus, their stated goal is patently ridiculous: a large section of the world heritage prehistoric landscape – 10.75 acres of it, five and a half football pitches, four million cubic feet of the archaeological levels, a third of the volume of Silbury Hill – will be bulldozed to a depth that will destroy every speck of ancient archaeology. And this will “ENHANCE” the World Heritage Site?!
  • And finally, their stated mitigation is false. They’ll “record everything for posterity”? No, they won’t. Techniques since the 1950s have developed out of all recognition, imagine how they’ll be in the future and how much more could have been found? Furthermore, Highway England has ADMITTED 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!“.

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So, it would indeed be “The most grotesque act of desecration ever contemplated by a British government”!  And not mere vandalism but utter destruction, a loss just as absolute, permanent and unforgivable as the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan – which was also unilaterally claimed to be an “enhancement” by the intellectually arrogant perpetrators.

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There’s still time to sign the Stonehenge Alliance petition. Please do so here

Someone has sent us these words written in the 1980s about the Chysaucester prehistoric site by the late Craig Weatherhill:

Also part of this settlement is the ruin of a fogou, of which only the inner end and two roof slabs now survive.  Once again, English Heritage distinguished itself in the treatment of this rare monument after it was found that one of the roof slabs had become unstable.  Rather than effect a relatively simple repair, the organisation decided to fill the monument in, a move they initially denied when challenged.  After doing what they told the public on radio they had no intention of doing, the author – in his then capacity as the local authority’s Conservation Officer – had the opportunity of challenging English Heritage’s then Chairman, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, face to face about the matter.  Montagu’s astonishing reply, which seemed to illustrate his organisation’s attitude to Cornish sites and monuments, has never been forgotten:  “It’s not as if it’s Stonehenge, is it?.

Food for thought. These days the issue IS Stonehenge and English Heritage is effectively campaigning to do to a massive mile-long swathe of the protected Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape what it did in the 1980s to a small but significant fogou at a Cornish site: destroy it.

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The Chysauster Fogou when we visited in 2018. A lot more of it remained than will remain of a huge swathe of the Stonehenge landscape if English Heritage gets its way!

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As many know, Moreton In Marsh is a particularly beautiful Cotswold town. However, like most places, it has been touched by Covid. Last month the very famous Moreton in Marsh Agricultural Show was canceled and this week The White Hart Royal Hotel in the High Street had to be closed.

So the very last thing the locals need just now is people from goodness knows where (but including those from High-Risk Zone 2 places) descending on their town and using their facilities. It’s the second such stunt in Gloucestershire in a week. They will be pondering how come their innocent agricultural show had to be canceled whereas a grubby, acquisitive metal detecting rally is allowed. And no, the incomers won’t be keeping out of their town, for the organisers, Let’s Go Digging, have told attendees:

“No catering or toilets but very close to the town of Moreton”

No toilets! Imagine! There’s a pandemic on yet Britain is the ONLY place in the world where the health of locals is being put at risk like this. And for why? “Anything you find under £3,000 is yours without having to split with farmers“ (which speaks loudly of the motivation of the attendees and their propensity to report all they find to the farmer and PAS). A friend of ours in America is putting this on the Moreton Facebook page which is the least the residents are owed. They’re also entitled to expect all archaeologists will take their side. Has PAS lifted the phone to DCMS yet?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Paul Barford has recently said “It’s not about a “love of history” but a consumerist “love of HAVING”.  Blimey! That’s a bold claim when detectorists can validly say “He can’t possibly know what we’re thinking”.

However, there’s other clear evidence he’s broadly right in that the number of finds reported is implausibly small relative to the number of detectorists. But the truth of that is rarely acknowledged publicly. What’s needed, to settle the matter, is some different, concrete evidence that can’t be denied or ignored. He seems to have hit upon exactly that when he says:

“As you can see, this spade has got a nasty serrated edge for cutting through roots and anything else that’s there to get to the good stuff. Of course if you are following the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales and keeping off pasture and out of undisturbed woodland etc, then you’ll not need that.”

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Who can deny it? A huge number of detectorists have one of those. Why? PAS rarely calls a spade a spade in public but not mentioning – and not totally condemning – the use of serrated spades by metal detectorists is really not telling the public a very significant truth.

See here

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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These pictures are unlike anything you’ll see English Heritage, Historic England, or The National Trust publishing at Stonehenge and they aren’t like anything Highways England will be featuring in their forthcoming propaganda video. They show work near the HS2 South Portal approaching the Chiltern tunnel.

Why is that reality being shared and the Stonehenge one isn’t? Probably because the Chiltern tunnel approach roads don’t smash through a mile of iconic prehistoric landscape!

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These are the sort of Stonehenge pictures the Government won’t be submitting to UNESCO (or indeed allowing the BBC to show to the world, if it can help it.) It’s one thing to imply it will all be careful keyhole surgery in which little will be destroyed and quite another to take one look at the reality!

Who would YOU believe, Dear Reader? Michael Gove or one of the blokes driving those diggers?

The fact Highways England, a roads provider, acts like a roads advocate (and often like a used car salesman) is hardly news. But this account from a pro-scheme campaigner revealing what they’re up to is remarkable:
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“This company (Motiv Productions) will be filming in our High Street and around the area commencing Monday coming, on behalf of Highways England. They’re going to “do me first” and will talk to ordinary folks going about their business walking, cycling, riding, or just taking in the general workings of our busy village. The film when complete, will be presented to the Government to assist with their decision on November 13th.”
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Like many places nationwide, the village in question is affected by traffic with its ‘London Road’ a clue to this being an issue of historical significance. The traffic will continue to increase locally no matter what happens to the A303, the tunnel won’t see pavements introduced where absent, nor reduce the speed of everyone rushing about their daily lives. Yet the World Heritage Site would be grievously damaged. The choice really is a no-brainer.
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Highways England has latched on to the people thinking parochially, sending them personal messages and telling the public the star advantage of their wretched scheme is traffic reduction in local villages. But paying for a propaganda film to “assist” the Government’s decision?  that, the decision is imminent, it must be for propaganda to be aimed at the public if the tunnel is approved. So it’s to prepare for a scenario that may well not arise. In other words, they’re spaffing money up the wall. Our money. To persuade us our world heritage should be destroyed.
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Update.
We have now received this message:
“Just to correct my post of 10th October on Facebook/Stonehengetrafficactiongroup The last sentence was not entirely accurate. I understand that the video will not be used ahead of the Secretary of States decision on November 13th. Thank you, Janice Hassett,”
So it seems we were perfectly correct to say the film can’t be to aid the Government’s decision and it is indeed a propaganda film aimed at the general public.

Weekend Wanderers have canceled today’s metal detecting rally in Hampshire because it’s easily accessible from London (Coronavirus Zone 2,  High Risk). The organisers say they cannot go ahead with digs “until we feel comfortable that we are doing the right thing.

By contrast, Let’s Go Digging and “Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys” (sic) are holding digs today in Gloucestershire and Shropshire respectively, accepting people from the equally accessible areas of Birmingham and the West Midlands (also in Zone 2, High Risk).

Behaviours under the British “voluntary” system vary wildly, which is why it was always wrong-headed and against the national interest. Well, PAS? What price “we need to be pragmatic” today?

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UPDATE 19/10/20: The Gloucestershire rally went ahead but we understand the Shropshire one was banned.

That makes two rallies banned recently (Pink Wellies and Sovereign) and one shut down by police halfway through (Let’s Go Digging) but one allowed to go ahead and more than one rally per week scheduled for the rest of the year by Let’s Go Digging (consider the takings, health implications and possible unreported heritage that implies).

Is it too much to hope that the archaeological bodies should get round a table with the police and DCMS and sort this out before next week? (Lest PAS are frit to offend detectorists we suggest they ask around and check the detecting forums for once. All detectorists other than the attendees appear to despise the existence of pay-to-dig rallies, so why the blue blazes are they still allowed to happen?)


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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There have been reactions to last week’s launch of our new (notional) club and before we flesh it out further here are our comments about those:

It’s an obvious truth that our simple Code of Conduct, “detect only to gain knowledge and only for the benefit of the public” is far less damaging than “responsible detecting” and produces more knowledge for society as it involves no finds agreements, no rewards, no taking artefacts home, no profit motive and no acting without the assent of local archaeologists.

Just one archaeologist has said it’s “pointless” because no detectorist will agree. But that’s insulting to those who we know do agree and who already act like that. So we think it’s actually a no-brainer. Of course, it won’t appeal to most detectorists but so what? It’s well worth promoting as for more than 20 years detectorists have been told a sub-optimal, compromise code is the maximum to which they should aspire. They should be reminded there’s a far better way to behave than that, like tens of thousands of amateur archaeologists already do without fuss or complaint.

Various detectorists (but not all) have reacted badly to it, exhibiting the same fury they employed against all previous proposals for reform including by PAS, ourselves and the latest Institute of Detectorists one, namely that it will create a two-level hobby with the ones at the bottom (them!) losing out. All we can say to that, is YES, the sooner the better! PAS has been trying to get them all to be “responsible” for 2 decades yet most still aren’t so it’s high time to admit, like we and the Institute of Detectorists imply, that most will NEVER co-operate and only the others matter. Morlochs and Eloi spring to mind !

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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“We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone.Big Basin was created in 1902 as California’s first attempt to protect the towering native redwood trees which are between 1,000 and 1,800 years old.

A crumb of comfort is the existence of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure vault situated on a remote Norwegian island on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, a last-resort backup for the world’s 1,750 other seed banks in case of a global catastrophe.

However, it contains no archaeology seeds – and, even if that was possible it would be unnecessary in the eyes of English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust since at Stonehenge they are supporting the destruction of unique world heritage archaeology 5 times older than those trees.

Lucky they’re not in charge of the world’s flora and fauna, eh?

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