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A guest article by Heritage Action member Jamie Stone.

Several years ago with fatherhood looming on the horizon, I had the great fortune to have to move to the Peak District to be near family. It’s not that I was lacking in prehistory in Somerset where I lived, living fifteen minutes walk from a hillfort and ten mins from the second largest stone circle in the country as I did, but the Peaks is something else. The eastern moors have mostly escaped modern farming leaving a landscape of bronze age fields, with associated barrows, cairns and stone circles, whilst the white peak’s more intensively farmed and mined landscape, still has several long barrows and many round barrows, not to mention a henge or two.

Hatch-a-way cairn, 4 miles South East of buxton.

Hatch-a-way cairn, 4 miles South East of Buxton.

After a couple of years getting properly acquainted with the Peaks by myself, I started to look about online for similar minded local types to go for walks with and to bounce ideas and potential sites off and found very little unfortunately so I decided to start a group on Facebook; Peak District Prehistory. With a stated aim of a “Group to discuss prehistory in the Peaks; Sites we’ve been to, can’t find and/or organise meet ups.”, a bit of shameless promotion on a few prehistory website forums and 2 years on, we are a motley crew of just over 100 members. We natter a bit, share weird carved rocks and unusual sites we’ve encountered, delight each other with great pictures of prehistory in the Peaks and generally promote and protect the scarce and precious resource we share with the wider community.

Two weeks ago saw the latest in a series of organised bimbles or leisurely walks, sorted out via the medium of Facebook using the group. This time around was Gardom’s Edge, or more precisely the shelf between Gardom’s Edge and Birchen Edge, an area used from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and beyond, with evidence of Bronze age fields, standing stones, rock art, hut circles, an enigmatic row of pits and an equally enigmatic bronze age/neolithic horse shoe shaped enclosure. The walk took in most of that and more, with us chewing the fat over a 3 mile walk which took about 5 hours to complete including a lunchtime picnic next to a replica of the most impressive piece of rock art in the peaks.

Rock art on Gardom's Edge.

Rock art on Gardom’s Edge. Credit: Dean Thom

If you have an interest in Peak District prehistory and would like to talk about it with like-minded types, please feel free to join our Facebook group. We have plans for many more bimbles over the next few years which we would love to see you on.

We received some bad news yesterday of yet another attack on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. As you can see in the photos someone has carved a few bits of graffiti into the fallen stone at the circle. The police have been informed and we hope the offender is swiftly found. If anyone has any information on the identity of the culprit they should notify Derbyshire Police.

[Edit: It looks like the majority/all of this damage actually took place back in July, but may have been added to recently]

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

Credit: Emma Gordon

Will it be “new PAS, new mission”? We may know soon for three  particularly awful detecting rallies are about to be re-run. Will the new PAS management act in the interests of heritage protection this time or remain as uncritical facilitators?

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First, there’s to be another rally at Weyhill, possibly once again on the site of the famous Weyhill Fair, the venue for nearly 750 years of gatherings. “Sites really don’t come better than this!” said one detectorist and we all know what he meant by that. Last time no-one from PAS criticised or even turned up (FLO on honeymoon, no-one else available) and it still went ahead, in contravention of responsible behaviour and the official Guidance for Organisers of Metal Detecting Rallies.

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Second, those nice middle Englander villagers at  Worlingworth seem to have been persuaded to run a rally again. This time they’re even more deeply implicated:  “cheques  [at £18 a head!] “should be made payable to Worlingworth Local History Group”! Could this be the  only Local History Group that has ever run a commercial metal detecting grabfest? Do they understand the downside and that saying it’s “for charity” doesn’t make it any better? Will PAS have a quiet word this time?  Incidentally, Suffolk County Council contributes to the cost of the group’s website and it has strong views about Metal Detecting rallies as fund raising events  (as does PAS). Will someone say something? Or not?

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Seriously, how many of these have the foggiest notion of the implications of them running a commercial grabfest?

Seriously, how many of these people do you think go metal detecting or really appreciate the negative impact of the event that’s being run in their names  (whether branded as “for charity” or not)? Will the new PAS “outreach” to them?

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Third, while we’re on the subject of good causes, here’s one that isn’t. Next weekend at Tisbury, Wilts, the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are running another of their metal detecting days.  It’s a good fit, unkind people might say – the unspeakable hosting the unthinking, a truly bizarre happening, a veritable expoiterfest, utterly unique to Britain. PAS are going – but wouldn’t it be refreshing if the new PAS management said: “Actually, no. We want absolutely nothing to do with the event”!?

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Best not get involved, PAS?

The Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles strutting off to have some spiffing fun. Best not get involved, even indirectly, eh New PAS? (PAS is looking for donations via a JustGiving page. Some might think attending a metal detecting event run by Beaglers won’t help with that!)

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From a distance, British Camp is just one of many peaks comprising the Malvern Hills and tends to go unnoticed amongst the others.

malverns

Closer up it becomes clear that it’s a monument to be reckoned with, a series of two thousand year old ramparts surmounted by a Norman motte and commanding extraordinary views to Wales in one direction and the Cotswolds in the other, described by 17th Century diarist John Evelyn as “one of the godliest vistas in England”.

British Camp1

According to folklore it was the place where the ancient British chieftan Caractacus made his last stand against the Romans – although historians think it more likely to have been a few miles away on Caradoc in Shropshire. Still, it was probably built by him and was an auspicious location and home to thousands of people for a number of centuries.

A ringwork and bailey castle was built within the camp, possibly by the last Anglo Saxon monarch, the future King Harold II a few years before he met his end at Hastings. 200 years later the Earl of Gloucester (prompted by a boundary dispute with the Bishop of Hereford) built the Shire Ditch to the North and South of British Camp (possible on the line of a prehistoric trackway).

In modern times composer Elgar became closely associated with the Malverns and was inspired by the folklore to compose his cantata Caractacus. The status of Malvern as a spa town and literary centre and particularly Elgar’s friendships have meant that a host of famous figures have visited the hills and British Camp, including JRR Tolkein (who may have based the White Mountains of Gondor on the hills) and CS Lewis (who is said to have been inspired by a Malvern lampost he saw while walking back from the pub with Tolkein to write about the lampost in Narnia!) So if you want to experience “one of the godliest vistas in England” and follow in the footsteps of many famous people you’d better get up there!

Richard Hebditch the National Trust’s External Affairs Director has just said:

“We’re disappointed that the Committee [the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee] already seems to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Whereas at Stonehenge?

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NT red face

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Yeah, right.

They keep telling the public porkies. We keep highlighting the facts. That’s how it works in Bonkers Britain. Here are the latest 4 examples:

First, in the wake of Roger Bland’s retirement from PAS, FLO Julie Cassidy tweeted “Roger created a Scheme the envy of countries across the world”. But of the 195 other countries in the world not one has ever come within light years of setting up a PAS of its own. The world isn’t envious, it’s unconvinced.

Second, FLO Anni Byard tweeted on the same occasion: “Sad to see Roger go. He leaves a legacy of 1.1m + artefacts that public wouldn’t have known about otherwise”. But that same voluntary system has allowed 4.3m artefacts not to be reported. Not ever explaining that to the public is to the advantage of only two groups: irresponsible detectorists and PAS themselves.

Third, detectorist-blogger John Winter claimed novice detectorists not asking for permission to detect is down to “education”.  It’s not. The rest of the population have zero trouble knowing they shouldn’t go to a farm (or indeed a neighbour’s garden) and help themselves to  spuds, flowers, peas, pheasants eggs and anything else they come across. It’s stealing. Only detectorists claim it’s an honest mistake.  Diddums.  Look how false and irrational it is …..

“I'm a novice rambler/ birdwatcher/ angler/ fossil hunter and I hadn't the foggiest idea I needed permission to go on someone else's land or that taking stuff I find is stealing”.

“I’m a novice rambler/ birdwatcher/ angler/ greengrocer and haven’t been “educated” so naturally I thought I had every right to go anywhere I wanted and steal anything I found.”

Fourth, detectorist “hihosilver” reckons the authorities know if find spots are false:  “If reported and not found legally then they’d find out pretty fast as they require landowner details and a grid reference of the findspot…”  It’s not true. PAS’s database is wide open to falsification for laundering by findspot description is both child’s play and undetectable – and the incentives to do it are massive. If a findspot is changed from Jarrow to Harrow a farmer in Harrow won’t get a penny for his property.  Even worse, a Treasure reward may be paid for something “found” at a rally in Harrow that was nighthawked the previous day in Jarrow! What does this tell you about the integrity of the PAS database and the rights of landowners?

And yet, Dear Reader, you have to come here to hear about the reality behind all the myths because in Bonkers Britain neither detectorists nor PAS nor the police nor the CBA nor EH nor Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture project nor the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage say a single word about them to farmers or the taxpaying, stakeholding public.  Incidentally, every word of this article is true and you won’t hear any of them say otherwise. Thus are myths maintained.

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Sunday.

Each day this week the Heritage Journal has been asking English Heritage for transparency in relation to their management of Stonehenge. Today we send the following memo to English Heritage’s new Chief Executive, Kate Mavor :

Customer facing staff at Stonehenge have a difficult job made harder by the frustrations of the public. Despite this English Heritage always had some excellent operational staff at Stonehenge. It is then telling to compare staff directories of five years ago and today to reveal a sea change of key staff connected with Stonehenge. One does not expect such a change to take place without impact. Hence from what you have been quoted as saying Kate about the “impact of change and development on heritage”, it is to be hoped you can make time to take a hands-on detailed interest in what has been happening at Stonehenge!

It is very clear that the public and media have deep misgivings about a number of issues. They are entitled to expect better in the management of the nation’s most famous state owned monument, and we feel that a change of course would be widely welcomed along with the restoration of some dignity to the site, would it not?

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If you have a question you would like English Heritage to answer about their management of Stonehenge or any other site, you can still send it in to the Journal, if publishable we will see what we can do!
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For other questions put Stonehenge Questions in our search bar.

three monkeys3.

Each day this week the Heritage Journal  is asking English Heritage for transparency in relation to their management of Stonehenge. Today we put questions thrown up by a manifest lack of public empathy.

The footfall and queues were vastly underestimated, didn’t EH recognise the site’s potential and popularity? Was the effective management of coach parties influenced by Top Gear? Was the location of disabled parking spaces assigned by anyone that has attempted to propel a wheelchair or use sticks on a wet incline? What is the effect of the extraordinary wind tunnel foyer on lost workdays? Was the interior exhibition space designated by those preoccupied with shopping and food? Were toilet facilities within reach of the stones planned by a bladderless committee?

There are three monkeys that put this act on before of course!

If you have a question you would like English Heritage to answer about their management of Stonehenge, send it in to the Journal, if publishable we will see what we can do!

For other questions put Stonehenge Questions in our search bar.

Each day this week the Heritage Journal is asking English Heritage for transparency in relation to their management of Stonehenge. Today, we ask English Heritage why self-promotion and commercial enterprise is put ahead of the monuments in their care?
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When the monument known as Airman’s Cross was being extracted from Airman’s Corner in June 2012, prior to its move nearby to a pedestrian route between the Stonehenge Visitor Centre and visitor car park, its companion plaque was also excavated. It stated: Airman’s Cross Re-dedicated 5 July 1996 to the memory of Captain Eustace Broke Loraine Grenadier Guards and Staff Sergeant Richard Hubert Victor Wilson Royal Engineers. The first members of the Royal Flying Corp to lose their lives whilst flying on duty. Plaque laid by the Friends of the Museum of Army Flying Middle Wallop’. Last sighted, this plaque was languishing in the corner of a contractor’s site building. Instead a new plaque has been installed in front of the Airmans Cross (circled red in accompanying image). Etched into a finish reminiscent of a tacky kitchen worktop from a budget DIY store, the opening lines state:
AIRMAN’S CROSS
REDEDICATED 1 MAY 2014
TO MARK ITS ACQUISITION
BY ENGLISH HERITAGE…
To cap this, an electrical hook-up installed beyond the edge of the car park enables another EH ‘acquisition’, an ice cream van in outlandish EH livery, to be parked close by throughout the summer.
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Stonehenge Cross.

(In answer to several enquiries, yes these are genuine photographs!)

(In answer to several enquiries, yes these are genuine photographs!)

The public can be forgiven for thinking this solemn monument was cherished in memory of the airmen who lost their lives on 5 July 1912, the Friends of the Museum of Army Flying have similarly no doubt trusted the monument and their plaque would be treated with continuing dignity. We can’t imagine what anyone including Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Countess of Wessex, in whose presence the Airman’s Cross was rededicated, will think of EH’s actions? We today can only put ourselves in the place of the comrades that, in raising the memorial cross to these brave airmen, would scarcely believe that future generations could mete out such shameful treatment. When will a dignified dedication and setting be restored EH?

If you have a question you would like English Heritage to answer about their management of Stonehenge, send it in to the Journal, if publishable we will see what we can do!

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For other questions put Stonehenge Questions in our search bar.

Stonehenge trip

Each day this week the Heritage Journal is asking English Heritage for transparency in relation to their management of Stonehenge. Today we ask English Heritage about safety at the site.

We understand that an ‘anti-slip’ surface is proposed for the pedestrian route between the Stonehenge Coach Park and the Visitor Centre, but we have also heard with alarm that visitors have suffered accidents and injuries including fractures at the site. It is then  appropriate to ask EH: what else are you  doing to combat health and safety issues that have arisen at the site? It is concerning, to say the least, that we even have to ask and we feel there is a degree of irony in the fact that human remains are conspicuously displayed at the site, against the wishes of many of the public, whereas contemporary accident and injury data remain conspicuous only by their absence. When can the public expect this anomaly to be rectified?

If you have a question you would like English Heritage to answer about their management of Stonehenge, send it in to the Journal, if publishable we will see what we can do!

For other questions put Stonehenge Questions in our search bar.

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