You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2021.

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You couldn’t make it up! English Heritage is recruiting another Security Officer, which is fine, but how about this for maladroit wording … This role is all about the protection of a world heritage site.” That from a quango that is supporting a scheme that will cause massive damage to the world heritage site in defiance of UNESCO!

Apparently, “priority will be given to those with a Public Space Surveillance (CCTV) licence“. Very wise, but hardly adequate, when very soon it hopes to entirely prevent millions of people seeing the stones or their surroundings from the road!

No amount of expensive “Public Space Surveillance” by guards will make up for the massive loss of continuous free public surveillance through millions of passing eyes!

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Ok, it’s an old joke, but at least it makes a change from the usual Stonehenge/Avebury/NT tropes at this time of year…

If you’re reading this, you’ll know that. PAS said it verbatim in 2001, but not so much subsequently. They and detectorists tell each other ad nauseam that reporting non-Treasure finds is a purely voluntary matter. It’s true, legally, but morally? Of course not, not reporting is historicide, but PAS has long calculated that saying so will cause offence and reduce reporting. Thus we have entreaties to be “responsible”, nothing more.

Not that some detectorists aren’t well aware that “voluntary” is a damaging joke. A very senior member of the Detecting Wales Forum has said: “The often recited old mantra of  “we save history” is laughable at best … for every detectorist who records ALL their finds over 300 years I’ll show you at least 10 that don’t so in fact we steal history by taking away parts of the full picture.

So here we are, 23 years into PAS’s existence and the simple proposition that “not reporting is immoral” scarcely passes its lips. Just yesterday on a detecting Facebook group with nearly 27,000 members someone said “One of my farmers has stated I record or report i am off” and didn’t have it explained that continuing in such cumstances would be damaging and immoral. If PAS won’t tell the truth massive heritage damage will continue ad nauseam. Sad, isn’t it?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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If you want to know the truth about something, consult a reliable source. The National Audit Office is the UK’s independent public spending watchdog. It holds government to account through high-quality audits. About the Stonehenge scheme it has said:

“In pure economic terms, because of the high cost of building a tunnel, the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, at £1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent, has a significantly lower benefit–cost ratio than is usual in road schemes. Given our experience of cost increases on projects of this kind, this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value.

That was in April 2019. After 2 years, Brexit and a world pandemic the ratio is bound to be worse yet “poor value for money” isn’t stressed by Highways England, English Heritage, the National Trust or Historic England. What you will see, on their respective websites, are images that appear to exaggerate how close the existing road is to the stones. For a reliable depiction of reality, like the one below, it’s best to go to a reliable source.

Often heard on the A303: “I always imagined it was much closer to the road. How come?” [Should’ve gone to the National Audit Office!]

The clue’s in the name: WORLD Heritage Site. The British Government, supported by various compliant bodies, is planning to do something UNESCO totally opposes, thereby taking sole control of the welfare of a WORLD asset. Aren’t we witnessing a mini-Brexit, played out on Salisbury plain, with likely disastrous consequences?

For one thing: Stonehenge’s World Heritage Site status will be removed! The Government and its allies haven’t made much of that reality yet. No wonder. Which member of the Government do YOU trust to be in sole control of heritage and not be influenced by the sort of commercial lobbying which the World Heritage Treaty was specifically designed to guard against? Without UNESCO that protection will be gone. In supporting the proposals English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have amply demonstrated they won’t be there for Stonehenge and the only other protection, people-power, may be made criminal if deemed “annoying”.

For a second thing: the actual view of Stonehenge will be removed from millions of travellers! Again, the Government and its allies make little of that, for an equally good reason: it’s tantamount to removing the World Heritage site from public consciousness unless they react to a road sign saying “leave here to view Stonehenge and have your money ready”. It’s a view that everyone loves, the essence of the site, the one the whole world knows, the view that has uplifted and excited millions and inspired and thrilled countless children, many of whom are now working for English Heritage. Even arch-Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, confessed in the Commons: “one of the joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge and I think that is a great benefit and it’s uplifting for people to see”

So of course Britain shouldn’t be in sole control of Stonehenge and of course that view mustn’t be hidden. There’s a sickening familiarity about what is happening. In 2009 UNESCO removed World Heritage Site status from the Dresden Elbe Valley due to the building of a four-lane bridge in the heart of the cultural landscape (to relieve congestion and no doubt to “improve the site”). Does that ring a bell? And what about the fact a referendum had been held about building that bridge without informing voters UNESCO designation was at stake?

Dresden Elbe Valley

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(Clues: he was ahead of his time and he painted it from the sea.)

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. We have a winner!

Congratulations to Barry Teague!

“Tintagel from the Sea”, JMW Turner.

In dismissing an appeal from some people who entered Stonehenge without permission, a judge has been crystal clear that preservation of Stonehenge cannot be outweighed by a wish for unfettered access:

“The removal of restrictions on access to the stone circle because the appellants turned up and wanted access to the stone circle to protest and exercise religious freedoms would not strike a fair balance between the important rights of the individual appellants and the general interest of the community to see Stonehenge preserved for present and future generations..”

But what about the wish of millions of travellers not just to see Stonehenge preserved but simply to SEE Stonehenge? It appears the Government is prepared to eliminate THAT in favour of it’s own wish for a cheap road solution! Isn’t the principle of “fair balance” being subverted?

We’ve just sent this:

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Dear Portsmouth Council,
FAO Councillor Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development & Deputy Leader, Portsmouth City Council Cllr.Steve.Pitt@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

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We understand you are to allow metal detecting on your land subject to compulsory rules of responsible behaviour. That’s certainly better than the “voluntary” requirements contained in the official code which so many detectorists volunteer to ignore. However:

Maybe the Council shouldn’t “reserve” its right of ownership of artefacts found on its land but assert that ownership, no ifs or buts, as everything found really belongs to the citizens of Portsmouth and shouldn’t be given away. Plus, if local museums don’t want the finds perhaps therefore you should sell them to the detectorists on behalf of the ratepayers (at a price decided by the council alone).

Also, may we draw your attention to 1.) this wording from a neighbouring council: “Finds would normally remain the property of Surrey County Council”, and 2.) Item 064/09 of the Deerhurst Parish Council, Gloucestershire, 2019 in which a Mr. Ray Deefholts sought permission to detect on Parish Council land but freely acknowledged what he found wouldn’t belong to him and 3.) our 2017 letter to the National Association of Local Councils (and CBA, Rescue, LGAO and APPAG) about this issue.

We feel that if a metal detectorist is a worthy amateur archaeologist he would be seeking knowledge alone and would have no reason or wish to lay claim to anything.


Yours faithfully,
The Heritage Journal

https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Police recently detained three men with metal detectors in a Sussex wood at almost midnight. They were charged with breaching covid regulations but surprisingly, not of nighthawking. Presumably, that was because they said they had permission to metal detect there. But at midnight? In a wood? Which farmer gives permission expecting people will be creeping about his land at midnight?

It goes to show that exact wording is important. Neither the official code nor PAS’s advice documents contain phrases like “but not after 8.00pm”. They should, for anything found late at night can’t be brought to the owner and is therefore taken straight home, with obvious negative implications for the owner and the likelihood finds will be reported to PAS.

It would be easy for the PAS to stress to farmers the importance of setting a time limit on permissions. Had it happened in this case those midnight detectorists would also have faced charges of nighthawking since they couldn’t claim they were there with permission. Instead, what walked like a duck wasn’t charged with being a duck and everyone lost, except the ducks.

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Midnight amateur historians

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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