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Following our recent article quoting Simon Jenkins, we received an interesting email from a representative of “These Fields Have Names”, a campaign group in Cornwall protesting the destruction of the countryside while building a nearly 8-mile-long new route for the A30 near Truro. They make some excellent points about ‘appreciation’ of a site not being sufficient to save it from ‘progress’:

How do you think your publication, and your archaeologists, can help prevent any more destruction to our landscape in time before complete ecological collapse? The premise that we must fully “appreciate and preserve” our landscape, as you say, is all very well, but does not give me hope when “appreciation” has not prevented needless destruction of archeology and landscape and society and ecology in the past. The sentiment that we must “act“ to preserve things by liking what we have got, not by standing in resistance to the status quo that exists, is flawed.

It has never in history been the case that acting with appreciation of what exists causes change to happen. I am talking about massive societal change here, but maybe preserving monuments and archaeology also cannot be achieved without these defiant acts. For example some physical acts of civil resistance caused men to decide to change the status quo to include allowing women and unlanded gentry the vote. Nothing else worked.

Because of this fact, any archaeologist who wants to change the status quo, I think must “act” in civil resistance on the very sites that have already been destroyed and inside the now structural “status quo” infrastuctural sites themselves which have replaced them. Rather than stand in appreciation looking at a landscape before it is bulldozed, eg around Stonehenge, how about standing in those destroyed places? The “infrastructure” sites which right now have replaced fertile soil, trees, organic fields and rich archeology and are continuing to do so, include the A30 site in Cornwall. Our A30 is that sort of place. This is what will befall Stonehenge, this change from archeology to infrastructure, otherwise.

Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care
Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care

As is demonstrated by the images above of just one small part of the A30 works, when talking about roadworks and new roads, it’s not just the footprint of the road itself that causes damage but all the associated infrastructure and heavy machinery needed to support the actual construction of the road – which can and often does cover a much wider area. A salutary warning for supporters of the Stonehenge tunnel perhaps?

Whilst we here at the Heritage Journal cannot condone any direct action which may be construed as illegal in nature, there are many actions which can be taken legally to protest or delay development and we would encourage all lovers of heritage, be that archaeological (professional archaeologists take note!) or natural, to consider what actions can be taken to stop the desecration of our heritage in all its forms.

And a final comment on the current A30 roadworks:

Part of this road did not exist before 1991. So the 2022 one will be a bypass around a bypass around a very small village. Crazy times when first a 60 mph road is built, using and destroying landscape and fertile fields and archeology, then in 2022 a 70mph road is built around that 60 mph around a 30 mph road when public transport would have been sufficient in all cases. These fields have names.

All images courtesy and copyright of Cornwall Climate Care.

From Simon Jenkins, ex-Chairman of The National Trust:

“Stonehenge is not like France’s Lascaux Caves, so fragile they have had to be closed in favour of a facsimile. What you see is what you get, robust stones requiring little upkeep.

Indeed their thrill is as much the view from afar as from close to, and is enjoyed by millions who drive past on their way to the West Country. It is the thrill of a glimpse, a passing reminder of the longevity of human habitation in this land. I love this view, as I do the distant sight of Lindisfarne or Arundel or Dover.

Motorists are as entitled as paying visitors to delight in the English landscape.

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At least, no more than hundreds of other non-intrusive outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, lepidoptery, botany, ornithology, astronomy, yoga etc etc. Like so much of metal detecting it’s damage excused by citing a universal falsehood: it’s essential for my welfare and it’s harmless. No and no. It’s high time the Establishment pointed it out.

Here’s some academic proof that you can benefit from the great outdoors and learn about and contribute to archaeology WITHOUT carrying a metal detector or spade or risking heritage damage …

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The Portable Antiquities Scheme, mental health and lithics – a fieldwalker’s experience

  • R. Couper Published 2 January 2016 Lithics, The Journal of the Lithic Studies Society

“Rod Couper, a keen student of lithics and a social worker specialising in mental health, describes how, with the support of museum and heritage professionals, he introduced some of his clients to archaeology and fieldwalking in South East Wales as a form of therapy. Members of his fieldwalking team experienced an increased sense of personal empowerment and appreciation of the past, as well as helping to contribute to the understanding of past human activity in South Wales by discovering new lithic scatter sites.

Rod Couper (centre) fieldwalking with friends at Chepstow, South Wales. 


For donkey’s years, every account of criminal nighthawking has been accompanied by a formulaic assurance from the police and PAS that the great majority of detectorists are law-abiding (which they are) and responsible (which PAS’s figures of items reported show a majority of them aren’t).

Hence, every nighthawking report in the press has acted as an assurance to farmers that metal detecting is a Good Thing for heritage and encourages them to say yes to it.

But is that changing? Here are two recent reports about nighthawking and there’s not a word about “most detecting is harmless”. How can that not be a constructive development? If PAS has been responsible for it, bravo!

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We are told that a National Highways comment indicates that it has recalculated the economic benefits of the Stonehenge road project and found that it has INCREASED when judged, inter alia, across the wider A303 region, thus confounding the National Audit Office’s finding that it was poor value for money!.

Really? There’s a profound fallacy in that assertion. The value of an individual road improvement project at Stonehenge (say ten minutes saved on average) can’t be increased by adding others further down the road (whether 3 now or 8 in the far future is irrelevant), the value of ten minutes saved remains constant. That being so, the National Audit Office’s verdict that the cost is too high for the benefit can’t be changed.

What drives such a false, mathematically transparent and patently desperate assertion? It’s the fact that the heritage benefits of “removing the road from the WHS” have been hugely overstated. In fact, the road won’t be removed from the WHS; the participants in the heritage valuation survey were not told the truth about the scheme; and now, given that UNESCO, the Examiners, and the Transport Secretary all say the scheme would significantly adversely affect the WHS, the net “benefit” of the scheme in heritage terms is trashed. If the heritage valuation survey were rerun now and participants told these facts, it could come out with a negative result, substantially reducing the scheme’s economic benefit overall.

Against that reality, rubbishing the National Audit Office’s assessment becomes crucially important to the scheme’s supporters. It can’t be done by false propositions.

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See Stonehenge Alliance’s analysis of this matter here.

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It’s a fair bet that many of the archaeologists currently employed by English Heritage (et al) were first inspired to become archaeologists by seeing Stonehenge from the back seat of a car on their way to a family holiday in Devon.

But soon no other children will be inspired in that way as the current archaeologists (some of them) are supporting a plan to hide that thrilling “holiday view”. Instead, they’ll miss it – see below. Is it fair that future youngsters won’t be inspired in the way that many of their seniors were? Will many of them become accountants instead?

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Please, don’t call it Digging for Treasure, call it Digging for Knowledge. If the TV company won’t agree to that then you’ll know you shouldn’t be involved.

But what about this. A T-shirt saying Just Keep Digging !!! What worse message could there be? Both PAS and CBA were involved in the programme and both say If you find something important JUST STOP DIGGING!

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Even the National Council for Metal Detecting gets it: “If you discover an in situ find such as a hoard or burial… you need to stop digging!

By Nigel Swift

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One of the metal detecting hobby leaders, jcmaloney , has just said:.

“I`ve just seen a “trailer”…………………. utter “gameshowesque” drivel.
Dan Walker shouting “Show us youuurrrr coooinnnn” – cue “woop, woop” from assembled detectorists.”

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I’m saying nowt. It’s Britain’s version of amateur archaeology innit, and “the show has been built with the guidance of @findsorguk“.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10518877/Scientists-believe-Neolithic-Britons-carried-stones-280-miles-build-Wiltshire-enclosures.html

They would mostly seem to be self-evident but a recent spate of damaging behaviour suggests a reminder would be helpful. Here are five things to avoid:

1. Don’t leave litter
2. Don’t dig holes or light fires
3. Don’t climb on the stones.
4. Don’t paint or write or carve on the stones,

5. Don’t build a massive 4-lane motorway in the surroundings or hide the stones from tens of millions of people forever.

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