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Remember the Polish detecting rally? Last week Britain was taken for an even bigger ride, this time by XP, the French detector manufacturers. They held a 1,000 person “European Gold Rally” in the lush, archaeologically rich Cotswold landscape near Burford.
Detectorists from many countries were invited and XP took the liberty of providing a link on their posters to the Historic England database showing “History in a 5 km radius of our search area”. Also helpful was the attendance of several FLOs and 3 coin dealers. Those so inclined could dig up, get valued and sell finds in minutes, even things brought from elsewhere (and who’ll dare pretend that facility isn’t known about and appreciated Europe-wide?)
So a uniquely British spectacle. Hundreds of foreign detectorists (300 French, 30 German, many more from Italy, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Holland, USA, Belgium and Australia) detecting in the Cotswolds instead of at home. Why? Because they know that Britain is uniquely careless about protecting its buried heritage, that’s why!
A French promotional video for the event. The Cotswold scenery is beguiling, the music is lyrical and the commentary begins “Ah, L’Angleterre….” Quite right. So why not just visit, like normal respectful people?
Let’s be clear. The Trust is supporting a short tunnel, and that entails building massive new roads inside the World Heritage Site. So when it says “a tunnel would improve the setting” it’s asserting that the setting is only a subset of the WHS and the rest of the protected area is less precious and more expendable.
It’s a crazy, unsupported claim, another yowling moggy, but this time with horrible echoes – for an elastic setting, a setting of convenience, unilaterally declared to facilitate destruction, was Tarmac PLC’s strategy for claiming a moral right to annihilate the pre-historic landscape surrounding Thornborough Henges. But Tarmac PLC is a mean-minded, ruthless profit machine so can be forgiven, or at least understood whereas The National Trust is a conservation charity which is supposed to protect special places “for ever, for everyone” so can’t be.
One wonders whether members and employees of the National Trust are content for it to be talking like a gravel extraction company?
It didn’t take long did it?!
The Times has said (presumably having been briefed) that “In May the tunnel won the backing of Unesco“.
No. The advisory mission for UNESCO expressed misgivings that a short tunnel of 2.9km would be technically possible without irreversible damage to the World Heritage Site’s Outstanding Universal Value: “we are concerned that associated portals and dual carriageways could have a highly adverse impact on other parts of the World Heritage landscape that cannot be set aside, however great the benefits of a tunnel.“
By what possible interpretation is that “backing the tunnel”?
Watch out for the seventh!
Middle Ridgeway by Eric Jones and Patrick Dillon accompanied by twenty superb paintings by Anna Dillon, published by Wessex Books, September 8, 2016: £16.95
A sense of heightened anticipation can accompany the opening of any book for the first time, but all the more so when Anna Dillon’s magnificent cover illustration projects the reader into the very past and present rhythms of the Middle Ridgeway. This book has then a great deal of promise to live up to. Suitably primed the reader will discover the content within is not unlike a magnificent pie: the subject is fondly handled, revered and obscure characters encountered, and a much loved natural world imported to one’s fireside. As they journey over an ‘ecological island’ from Avebury to White Horse Hill and onward to the Goring Gap, the authors carefully guide their readers back and forth across the vast expanse of time and cultural experiences, the unsurpassed illustrations of this chalk landscape by Anna Dillon regularly injecting a joyous spirit and a want to be there. Buy this book and you will never part with it no matter how many times you move or have a clear out, you will cherish it far too much to let it go.
An exhibition of Anna Dillon’s paintings accompany the launch of this book, they are on view at the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough, until 30 September.
You can order the book direct here.
Last month we questioned why Historic England had invited lots of prominent archaeologists to discuss “developments in conservation” (see here). To associate them with the idea conservation has changed and driving new roads over the World Heritage Site is now valid? Perhaps, for the word was then dropped and they’ll now be talking instead about “research and the potential for further discoveries” (see here).
But it’s not just archaeologists being manoeuvered. ICOMOS has been wrongly characterised as pro-short tunnel (see here) and the public are being as well (see here). Historic England’s guidelines have been unilaterally changed to say destruction is OK if there are “important planning justifications” (see here). More recently English Heritage seems intent on misleading the public by offering free balloon flights (see here) “to get a sense of how the removal of the A303 from the landscape would transform the World Heritage Site” but not mentioning it would involve cutting massive new roads over another part of the site (the elephant in the landscape as Stonehenge Alliance calls it). We suspect doing that offends every conservation instinct of EH personnel but it’s up to them to deny it.
You may well feel 5 yowling moggies are now out of the bag, each one designed to further the Government’s wishes. Will there be more? Probably, since the plain truth is that massive new roads inside the WHS cannot be justified without further disreputable tactics by Britain’s main conservation bodies. Future historians may view this as a shameful era.
Not in archaeology but appropriately in Critical Thinking and Ethical Reasoning!
One wonders how many archaeologists would pass? All of them we suspect, providing their answers were kept confidential! Anyway, since we designed the Counter we thought we’d answer the question.
Q: How useful is the Erosion Counter as evidence of the Activities of metal detectorists?
A: It’s the very best guide there is. It must be, as it’s based on and confirmed by every one of the studies that have been carried out – by archaeologists, resource guardians and detectorists themselves. It has never been challenged by academics, quite the reverse, and the only opposition to it has been blanket denial (and abuse, and threats) by those with a vested interest in it being wrong. Its core conclusion, that 70% of detectorists don’t report all their recordable finds has recently been confirmed by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
So in summary, the application of critical thinking and ethical reasoning leads us to conclude that the Counter is extremely useful as evidence of the activities of at least 70% of metal detectorists.
by Dr Sandy Gerrard
Today the glossy guide books that you can purchase at the “honey-pot” heritage attractions contain loads of perfect photographs accompanied by a few paragraphs explaining what there is to see and what it might mean. Such publications don’t tout controversy and are very much a product of establishment thinking. This was not always the case and in the “olden” days back in the 1950’s the authors of the so called “Official Guides” produced by the Department of the Environment sometimes used them as a vehicle to vent their spleen.
A wonderful example of this can be found in the “Ancient Monuments in Orkney” Official Guide published in 1952. The description of the Stones of Stenness stone circle on page 21 is remarkable and speaks for itself. “It consists of four erect monoliths together with a spurious dolmen-like structure which dates only from 1906 and is the result of an unfortunate ‘restoration’ of fallen stones by the then Office of Works, misled by certain archaeological ‘experts’ of that time.”
Fairly hard hitting stuff and not the sort of thing you are likely to read in today’s sanitised publications for the general public. Just goes to show that government experts don’t always get it right.
Last Tuesday officials seized earthmovers hired by a temple committee as it was destroying the Karez heritage site in Naubad, India. Following a tip-off, a team led by Tahsildar Jagannath Reddy and those from the Departments of Forest and Mining, inspected the work of cutting trees and levelling hillocks on a portion of the Manjra plateau. They seized the equipment and (most satisfyingly), filed cases against workers and persons who had ordered the work!
If only Tahsildar Jagannath Reddy was an Ancient Monument Inspector in Britain! We could tip him off that 3 conservation organisations are currently plotting to let loose a battalion of bulldozers across a mile of the World Heritage Site.
You might find it hard to believe that such organisations are in favour of such a thing. But it’s true. Meanwhile one of them, English Heritage, is going for the lower-than-populist approach, no doubt to distract from the Stonehenge scandal ….