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image-of-the-year                                                                          [Image by Alastair Reid]


It’s a heiroglyph which says ordinary people love heritage but national guardians are too weak.

Now (by sheer chance you understand) English Heritage is celebrating archive footage (courtesy of Heritage England) titled “A hundred years of change” showing how bad things were in the landscape years ago and ending with the words “As debate over the tunnel continues, the landscape will continue to  change”…..

The subtext, surely, is “look, there used to be an airfield on the landscape (and that’s what sparked the debate about the setting of the stones and the landscape that surrounds them says an EH spokeswoman on the film) so us promoting vast new damage to the landscape is no big deal and justified and entirely consistent with Stonehenge’s changing story. We had an airfield. Now we’ll have a mile of dual carriageways. So what’s new or not to like?

Blatant and entirely false, or what?

Dear Fellow Landowners,

Take a look at this!

  • “I bumped into the land owner a few months ago and he asked me what I did with my finds , did I sell them he asked . He offered to buy a small collection from his land , my reply was that he is very welcome to have a collection. Over the months I have been thinking what I could put in a display and have been putting a few finds to one side for him.”
  • “First class effort , landowner should be pleased as punch.”
  • “A very nice and considerate gesture”

What can one say? The finds are his not theirs. Imagine if all the money spent on PAS to support such people was spent on promoting amateur archaeology or environmental improvement or just donated to a cat’s home!


Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,

A detectorist has asked on a forum whether there are rules for sharing finds with farmers and been told “There isn’t no hard and fast rules“.

However, in the rational, well-behaved world inhabited by ramblers, amateur archaeologists and everyone else, there IS a hard and fast rule.The finds should be handed to the farmer as they are his. How hard is that to understand? The farmer can then get independent advice on their significance and value and then, only then, he can decide if he wants to reward the finder. 

Any other arrangement is a blatantly unfair contract for it puts the detectorist at an unfair advantage in which he alone knows the value of the finds. Only an oik or a crook would do that yet that “no hard and fast rules” situation is supported by both the National Council for Metal Detecting and the Portable Antiquities Scheme by omitting to explain and to specify a fair contract. (The NCMD do it because detectorists want it that way and PAS do it for the same reason. But PAS are supposed to be respectable! What’s happening?)


“Don’t worry Farmer Giles I’ll take the cards home and let you know if you’ve won”







We’ve all been bombarded with the benefits of removing the existing A303 (quieter stones and an average of 8 minutes off the travel time). Historic England, English Heritage, the National Trust and the Highways Agency have made sure of that. But have they fully explained the harm it will do? Of course not, and that’s a story in itself, the moral of which is that a pig with lipstick is still a pig whatever the Government’s agents are telling the public.


So for the avoidance of all doubt, here’s what we will lose. Everyone should keep it in mind every time anyone says the tunnel is fine:

Loss of national reputation. We’ve signed an international promise not to do what we’re proposing to do and we’re currently concocting a form of words to deny it (we have to be, for without that we can’t do it, yet the whole world will know we’re lying).

The damage. We’re not going to just dig a hole. Or a hundred holes. We’re going to dig out countless millions of cubic feet of land to drive dual carriageways, some of them in cuttings, for a mile across 27 of archaeologically rich landscape recognised to be of outstanding universal value to mankind.

The view.   Which civilised country would deprive tens of millions of travellers a year of this ancient, iconic, world-famous sight? Depriving them of it even for a long tunnel would be tragic. Doing so for a short one would be unforgivable.

Britain's oldest man-made view? How many young archaeologists and historians has it inspired?

Britain’s oldest and most arresting man-made view? How many young archaeologists and historians off on their holidays has it inspired? (Quite a few who now work for Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust, you can be sure!)


So, which of those three are you prepared to lose? Historic England, English Heritage, the National Trust and the Highways Agency want you to lose all three!


They’re doing it for the great great grandchildren of the Shropshire councillors and they need all the help they can get. Everyone knows they won’t get any from Shropshire Council which is hell bent on allowing private developers to build a housing estate in the setting but they’re entitled to feel let down that English Heritage (whose great great grandchildren they’re also fighting for!) didn’t step up to the plate, given it’s claim that it is “inspired by a determination to put England’s heritage ahead of private interest“.

The same applies at Stonehenge where (you might feel) English Heritage ought to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the protestors, for the sake of its great great grandchildren, not supporting massive new damage to the landscape and painting it as bequeathing conservation to the future.

Researchers at Newcastle University have highlighted how illegal levels of metallic waste spread on fields damages heritage by obscuring geophysical surveys. To this end the university has  issued an  app for the public to report it when it is seen so that a geographical database can be built up. So if you are walking along the road or a public footpath and you see something like this please use the app to report it.


You’d think that detectorists (who’ve been running a furious campaign against green waste on the grounds it reduces their ability to hunt artefacts) would be mad keen to use it, but no, they’re all terrified if they report it the farmers will sling them off their land: Here are some disgraceful but genuine quotes:

“I am just hoping the detecting community will see sense before they embark on a mission of “DOBBING UP” our most valuable supporters”
“the App is an outrage to common decency”
“Pressing the button on the app, is equivalent to pressing the self destruct button on your detector!”
“Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app, or details appear in Farmers Weekly”
“The danger is that farmers find out it exists”

Needless to say, those alleged friends of heritage, the National Council for Metal Detecting have advised members not to use the App unless the farmer has given permission. Compare and contrast a similar App launched by the Ramblers Association. But then, ramblers are a different breed. They’re not on the land to take stuff for themselves.  As for “Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app” we hope they do. If you know any farmers we suggest you tell them!




by Nigel Swift

Can I borrow £100 granny?”  “No indeed you can’t” “Two shillings then?” “Certainly, here you are”.

That’s how my brother raised finance in the fifties and I’ve noticed the technique – ask for the world to soften people up till they’re grateful to agree to what you really intend – has been used by public bodies ever since. Especially when it comes to roads. In the eighties they told me the Hagley bypass would go straight through my house unless I expressed a preference for an alternative route – one which they always had in mind.

Their successors, Highways England, have adopted the same scare ’em tactics at Stonehenge, trying to manipulate local opinion by cynically recommending a rat run through the villages. Now they’ve apologised saying it was merely to highlight traffic in the area but they’ve removed the tweet “to avoid confusion”. Hmmm. I was amused by the comment of one member of the public leaving one of the consultation events: “I found it hard to talk to robots who are pre-programmed to talk bollox”.

Now Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust have used the same tactic by saying that after all the tunnel they’ve supported is too damaging and they favour amendments. How noble and caring! What’s left is still 99% outrageous but they’d like credit for suggesting a 1% improvement. Well I for one find that awful. These are three bodies which are mandated and paid to look after the World Heritage landscape not to support massive new damage to it or to do so by inflicting cheap granny-cons on the public. I hope the public and UNESCO don’t fall for it.


February 2017
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