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A US study has concluded that legalising hunting doesn’t reduce illegal hunting. Which begs an important question for Britain: has legalising metal detecting reduced nighthawking? That’s what was intended (and is still claimed by those who oppose regulation) but it’s hard to see how for nighthawks require three things to prosper and in Britain they have been given all three:

> Legal clubs into which they can merge and gain information
> Legal rallies at which they can launder stolen finds by find spot falsification
> An official body to which they can submit stolen goods to be legitimised!

Nighthawks abroad enjoy no such benefits (and that’s why some of them are known to bring items here to avail themselves of ours and even perhaps to receive treasure rewards). So although our liberal arrangements are based on the belief that they reduce criminality the reality may be less certain and less comfortable. Perhaps making it easy for criminals is helpful to criminals. What an obvious observation, yet who mentions it?


An experiment by University College London has just shown that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected. According to Prof Mike Parker-Pearson: “It was a bit of a shock to see how easy it was to pull the stone.”

It reminded us of experiments starting in 2005 organised by Gordon Pipes, a carpenter from Derbyshire and a member of Heritage Action. He formed a group of interested amateur antiquarians, including mainly our members, called ‘the Stonehengineers’ and staged a demonstration (appropriately, at the National Tramway Museum) of a method he believed may have been used. He called it “stone rowing” and his idea was that lifting the stones on levers and moving them along in a series of short steps would involve less friction and therefore require less effort than hauling them on rollers – so far fewer people could have been involved.

Subsequently, joined in by many well-known archaeologists Gordon demonstrated both stone rowing and traditional hauling methods at the Channel 5 Stonehenge Live event. The spectacular feature was that about thirty people were easily able to pull a 14 ton block (equivalent to 3 or 4 blue stones) uphill. As we wrote at the time …..

“It became clear that hauling could be made far more efficient than had previously been demonstrated, particularly by using far smaller rollers. In the end the consensus was that both methods might have been used – hauling for level, solid ground and rowing for when the ground was problematic or steeply sloping. It was certainly felt it would be difficult to imagine stones being manoeuvred around corners or over streams or lined up to precise positions without a degree of rowing being used.”

The Stonehengineers with "Foamhenge" in the background.

The Stonehengineers in 2005 with “Foamhenge” in the background.

The army is building some new houses at Bulford, a couple of kilometers from Stonehenge and they’ve discovered a couple of 5,000 year old neolithic henges. The houses will still be built but a green space containing the henges will be left untouched.

By contrast, not far away and very soon, it is intended that bulldozers will dig out the entrance trenches to the “short tunnel” inside the World Heritage Site. There will be a host of archaeological sites in that area and you’ll have heard that the line chosen will minimise the impact on them. It’s important to understand though, that if two more henges (or ten, or anything else, no matter how precious) are found to be “inconveniently” placed, the line of the road won’t look like this….


No, it will look far more like this, it’s a certainty. Any diversion will be marginal or impossible so “minimising the impact” means about as much as a politician’s promise.


That in a nutshell is what the Stonehenge Alliance and others are upset about. So please sign their petition if you haven’t done already. The road lobby, you see, wearing the smiling professional face of EH, HE and NT, is likely to be far more ruthless than the army.

The Erosion Counter has just passed 12,500,000, showing 500,000 artefacts have been dug up in just 21 months. We’ve always said 70% of them don’t get reported but the Portable Antiquities Scheme disagrees, saying only 66% aren’t reported. We’ll settle for that.

Here’s what it means: if each unrecorded find is an inch wide then our country is allowing 4.5 miles of artefacts to disappear unreported every year. Or if you prefer, in the 18 years since this spiffing system began, they’d stretch from the PAS office in Bloomsbury to English Heritage’s office in Swindon.

18 years1.

Makes you proud to be British! “This arrangement has proved to be successful and has grown and been nurtured by responsible detectorists within my organisation who have striven to make the Portable Antiquities Scheme the success it is today and the envy of the world. Long may this be the case.” [Evidence by the National Council for Metal Detecting to the DCMS, June 2012]




The Oswestry carve-up of the public’s heritage (courtesy of the developers, Shropshire Council and  English Heritage/Historic England) continues apace. The latest reminder of just why development shouldn’t be happening near the hill fort comes here, a list of no less than 14 reasons its setting should be sacrosanct. Each of them is compelling but we thought we should highlight one in particular. Dirty tricks are well known chez Shropshire but this one doesn’t even try to hide itself.

Oswestry carve up 3.

….. A “hub for artefact finds” with “over 100 findspots reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme” yet here’s a photograph of a man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director General of the Council for British Archaeology contemplating a sign that now ensures no further finds will be unearthed until permission has been well and truly secured. How is that different from telling the police you’d rather they didn’t dig up your patio? Answers to Historic England.


Oswestry carve up 2.

by Jimit

Further to my previous report 3 months ago I have just been back to West Kennet Long Barrow and my previous fears are beginning to be realised…..


The stupid ‘Portholes’ are completely mudded over and a torch is now essential. The top is still fenced off so the new steps cannot be used so people are now eroding a new path to the top. The grass on the concrete is showing signs of stunted growth and browning already. Goodness knows what it will be like at the end of the summer.

Rant over….for now…

English Heritage has reacted to our recently expressed concerns about it wanting to increase the maximum number of visitors it can transport at peak times. It has said it’s about efficiency not increasing attendance figures and its planning application statement said so – “The application is not intended to facilitate growth in visitor numbers.”

However, what it is intended to facilitate and what it will facilitate are not the same thing. We still feel that if you take 900 people an hour to the stones instead of 600 then that will mean 50% more people processing round the stones in the following hour – whether that’s what you intended or not.

Incidentally, it’s not just us who are concerned about this matter. See “UNESCO fears English Heritage will milk Stonehenge under pressure for cash”  and UNESCO’s specific warning: “Such pressure may result in lowering expenditure, such as specialized or expert personnel, maintenance, standards of archaeological curation, etc., and also in increasing revenues: by channelling in more visitors for shorter times….”

À prominent National Council for Metal Detecting official, JC Maloney, has just expressed both sides of the metal detecting  argument in a single sentence. Asked how often people find “hammered coins” he explained: Certain parts of the country they are relatively abundant, within these areas are “hotspots” trade sites, hoard sites, long gone villages, fair sites etc”. Yes, that’s the whole aim of detecting. Finding hotspots where the finds are most plentiful and only moving on when they dry up. But that’s also the whole problem, something Britain has painted its archaeologists into a silent corner about. A hotspot is the very place that shouldn’t be randomly denuded to the point of extinction. The exact place. Not the adjoining field. Not the one over the road. That precise one, beyond all argument. And these….


That’s information about Kington, Herefordshire, a village selected at random, as shown on a national database of “hotspots” designed for purchase by metal detectorists. It shows 274 mostly unprotected archaeological and historical sites within a 10 km radius. If you live near there and feel like trying your luck on a bronze age site this afternoon you have 86 to choose from. 




As if to prove the theory that graffiti begets graffiti, one of the stones in the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor has been carved into yet again. The damage was spotted on Wednesday by a local who has informed the Police.

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies - Credit: Emma Gordon

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon


May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon

This is the third time in a couple of years this site has been targeted, yet again seemingly by an ignorant visitor to the site. Perhaps its time for the authorities to consider more proactive measures including cctv to stop such flagrant abuse.

Some people opposed the imposition of parking charges at Summer solstice and say the whole cost of staging the event should be borne by English Heritage. They call EH “greedy” for thinking otherwise and accuse them of treating Stonehenge like a “cash cow”. Up to now we’ve been broadly on EH’s side on this – they are short of money (which has implications for the welfare of hundreds of heritage sites, not just Stonehenge) and the cost of financing the annual solstice party is a great burden – so why shouldn’t the attendees contribute? (A few dozen Druids maybe not, but thousands of party-goers, yes.)

However, the question arises: is there a limit to the amount of money that EH should extract from Stonehenge without becoming vulnerable to the accusation they are using the monument disrespectfully as a cash cow? It is prompted by this, their current planning application for improved parking: If approved, it is hoped that these changes, plus an improved drop off/pick layout at the Stones, will create a more flexible service, providing up to 900 visitor journeys in each direction every hour at peak times – compared to the current maximum of 600.

That implies that at peak times there will be 900 people processing round the stones every hour, an increase of 50%. Will that be just too many? Will the Stonehenge visitor experience be eroded to an unacceptable extent? If 900 is considered seemly, what if parking could be extended further, would 1,900 be OK? As guardians, shouldn’t EH announce what they think is a reasonable limit lest the jibes about Stonehenge being like Disneyland come true by incremental steps?

Is 50% more than this OK?

Not exactly “splendid isolation”!  Planned for next year: 50% more than this. And thereafter….. ?  Shouldn’t a definite top limit be announced?


May 2016
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