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From The Heritage Journal, 27 July 2005 :
“Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement scheme that threatened loss of archaeology and further intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn. However, we are concerned that other options will leave the entire WHS site fragmented by expanded approach roads that will cut into the heritage landscape of the Stonehenge complex and the archaeology it contains.
ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has also welcomed the news. They say: “We believe that the review announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303 that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage site.”
Now, exactly 11 years later, it looks like the bloody bulldozers are back. The Government, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are effectively saying sod what ICOMOS said, we want new dual carriageways to be bulldozed deep and wide across at least a mile of the World Heritage Site.
If you’re outraged please sign the petition. (Incidentally, it’s to be hoped that if earth moving equipment is deployed at Stonehenge, none of it will belong to Mr Penny, the man convicted of allowing a Priddy Circle to be bulldozed. Why on earth would we think anything so crass would be allowed? Clue: it wouldn’t be the first time!)
The Government says a 1.8 mile tunnel is all they can afford at Stonehenge. Conservation bodies English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have said that would be OK and they’ll support it, even though a mile of massive approach roads will have to be driven through the UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. Logic suggests they CANNOT be right to do so but now there’s something happening to suggest that their stance is not only wrong but foolish. Britain is talking about building an 18 mile long road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield – that’s ten times longer than at Stonehenge!
Someone in the Government is telling porkies about what can be comfortably offered at Stonehenge. By the same token, supporting the short tunnel there on the basis that’s all that can be afforded is going along with – and aiding – a falsehood.
And here’s a funny thing: the latest rumour is that Brexit may mean major projects including Stonehenge are cancelled. If it happens it will put English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust in a ticklish spot. Will they express regret about it, which will be ludicrous or will they welcome it, which will indicate their existing stance is ludicrous? We’ll see. They may yet come to ruefully reflect that supporting the Government is riskier than supporting what’s right – since the former may change whereas the latter never will.
Dear English Heritage,
I hear you’re looking for a Conservation Maintenance Manager at £38,000.
I’ve been reading about your policies, particularly your support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge. I think my previous experience makes me an ideal candidate for this vacancy.
Here’s me at The Great Wall of China.
If I’m unsuccessful could you forward this letter to the other organisations which share your conservation standards? I’m interested in The National Trust’s current vacancy for a Project Conservator or even Historic England’s vacancy for an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
Kung Fu Ken
Forget what you’ve heard, it is said that King Arthur, (the real one!), was born, lived and died in Shropshire! There are King Arthur trails to real sites connected to stories surrounding him and one historian even believes he may have found Arthur’s actual grave in Shropshire and wants English Heritage to investigate it.
No chance, we suspect. Inter alia, Shropshire being the “Arthurian County” would clash with EH’s promotion of a zero-evidence but money-spinning Arthurian myth at Tintagel! Dr Tehmina Goskar highlights the Tintagel issue perfectly: “Why were monumental artistic interventions chosen as a method of interpretation? Would EH countenance similar interventions at Stonehenge or at other multiple-designated sites they manage? If not, why at Tintagel?” Why indeed! And here’s a funny thing: they’ve erected a statue of Arthur at Tintagel based on a myth that he was born there, but at Oswestry Hillfort, (which is also in their guardianship) they haven’t erected a statue of Guinevere – who WAS born there!
Not that we advocate cheap tourist-trapping at Oswestry Hillfort, but we can’t help wondering …. if they had a bigger financial interest in it would they have been keener to protect its setting from housing developments? Incidentally, if they did go for brandalising at Oswestry, here’s a thought for them: being public guardians doesn’t give anyone a license to impose tat on the public’s assets.
On that day Historic England is sponsoring a conference celebrating 30 years since Stonehenge was added to the World Heritage List. Very nice. Except that it will include an examination of “developments in conservation”. Why?
Well, Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust are all making presentations. All three have been pushing hard for a short tunnel with entrances and new road infrastructure inside the World Heritage Site even though it simply can’t happen unless the meaning of the wording of the World Heritage Convention can somehow be morphed to say that construction of massive entrance trenches inside the World Heritage Site is OK!
It’s to be hoped that a conference billed as a celebration of the WHS and the protection it has enjoyed won’t be used as a platform to suggest that profoundly damaging it is valid. It isn’t!
Dear Fellow Landowners,
Last Sunday a bloke offered me £500 to allow a detecting rally in my top field! I asked him what he thought they might find. “Nothing probably” he said, “we’re only interested in history – but if any treasure comes up you’ll get half”.
Talk like that should trigger alarm bells for any farmer. The truth is that 99.95% of the saleable artefacts they find aren’t treasure items so I was being offered only 0.025% of what they found and they were going to keep 99.975%. In MY bloody field! Think I’m making it up? Look at the Southern Detectorists Group pitch to landowners. It’s the same!
I sent my little “history lover” packing. It’s ironic that he came last Sunday, Hen Harrier Day when lots of selfless conservation-minded people (including my grandson Simon) were out demonstrating against their persecution. Bonkers Britain’s countryside is full of contrasting groups.
Grunters Hollow Farm
“Unlike the ‘International Style’ of modernism, today’s International Architecture considers much broader issues: pedagogic requirements, topographical conditions, climatic-sensitive design, the size and needs of real communities, multiculturalism, genuine respect for the cultural concerns of city and world inhabitants, the respect for the world’s limited resources, and an advanced thinking toward a real Green Design and ecological sustainability.”
Visited Avebury yesterday. Concocted a riddle:
Q: How do you stop 6 people climbing onto the stones in a ten minute period?
A: By putting up signs asking them not to – that are bigger than 1.25 square inches!
We know the National Trust aren’t big on listening (they’ve ignored us on this matter repeatedly, going back to 2010) but we thought we’d mention it anyway. Yesterday there were some really small children on top of one tall stone, which leads us to a second riddle:
Q: If a child fell down and broke a leg would NT’s sign stand up in court?
Following our efforts to persuade the BM to stop portraying metal detectorists as “citizen archaeologists” we’ve been òffered the title of Citizen Conservationists! (Paul Barford, “Victory for reason”). We accept! Not for ourselves but for the tens of thousands of people who visit, research and study archaeological and historic sites and keep to the mantra “take only memories, leave only footprints”.
A number of such people will be at our Megameet at Avebury Stone Circle this weekend. Not for personal gain and without any supportive infrastructure – no media savvy Whitewashing Department, no Culture Secretary saying they’re heroes and no team of Liaison Officers tagging along, emphasising the positive and spinning the negative! There’ll be nothing to spin at Avebury. Those people don’t visit archaeological sites to take bits of them home in a bag. Nor do millions of others. Maybe the BM should start promoting them?