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Sir Antony Gormley has said he fears that planned improvements to the A1 south of Gateshead will have a “heartbreaking” impact on views of his sculpture the Angel of the North and that it would need to remain “100% visible” to retain its significance. In response, Highways England says it will try to “mitigate” the loss.

By contrast, the Stonehenge tunnel won’t merely have a heartbreaking impact on the view of the stones experienced by tens of millions of travellers, it will entirely eliminate it!

Plus, they insult the public by offering the silliest mitigation possible: “But it’s not the whole story. By removing the old A303, walkers, cyclists, and horse riders will be able to see Stonehenge whenever they like using a new dedicated public right of way being created along the route of the current road.” Yet walkers, cyclists, and horse riders already can see Stonehenge whenever they like so it’s ridiculous to offer that as compensation for the loss of the free view for tens of millions of travellers!

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This bit of nonsense, putting a mask on the Long Man of Wilmington, “as a joke” …

… has prompted lots of “official” condemnation.  It’s “an affront to those who maintain this heritage asset for the enjoyment of all” [The Police] and “We’re incredibly saddened that someone has deliberately damaged the Long Man of Wilmington” [Simon Dowe, chief executive of Sussex Archaeological Society}.

On the other hand, crass and unfunny though it is, it happens to be reversible whereas 20,000 detectorists not reporting their finds is also crass and unfunny but also massively damaging, and in every case entirely irreversible. So where’s the cacophony of official condemnation of THAT?

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by Nigel Swift

The UK is to revise the definition of treasure “to protect its rare artifacts“! That sounds like great news. But is it? People who keep and hide nationally important objects that belong in museums unless they are paid are to be offered even more ransoms? Wouldn’t “rewards” in such circumstances be better described as “Yobs geld” and the proposal to increase them as Yobs geld Extra?

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So the term “treasure reward” misleads. But there’s more: “Authorities hope that an expanded definition of treasures will prevent many amateur finds from being illegally sold into private collections.” Who told them to write that?

The reality is that nighthawks and those who wish to defraud farmers can now take an even larger range of criminally sourced important artefacts to metal detecting rallies and there legally “find” them, thereby laundering them by findspot description and claiming even more rewards from the taxpayer. See? Yobsgeld Extra will increase nighthawking.

And so our British talent for damaging our own interest continues. Anyone care? Anyone told DCMS or APPAG?

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It’s not just English Heritage that talks the public engagement talk while shutting down the public’s ability to engage (by hiding the “Turner View” of Stonehenge). It’s also that other tunnel-supporting public engagement pretender, the National Trust.

Here’s the very last image captured by the Avebury webcam on 5 May 2004. The camera had been mounted on the outside of the Old Chapel overlooking the centre of the circle in 2002 by Kennet council but was repeatedly vandalised. After a gap we were informed that it would be reinstated in the summer of 2005 and would provide new images every 10 seconds as well as a facility for live streaming if required. We suggested that if it was angled a little higher and 24/7 coverage was provided then moonrises could be observed.

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It never came back. But now The National Trust owns that chapel so there’s every opportunity to set it up again, inside the building, where it couldn’t be vandalised. Thousands of people all over the world would enjoy it and isn’t that the very least the organisation which owns the Avebury World Heritage site and which constantly boasts it is there “for everyone forever” should provide? Or is hiding Stonehenge AND Avebury from the wider public the Trust’s preference?

Despite the pandemic and the parlous state of national finances, expensive reforms to the Treasure Act are imminent and the public is being misinformed about them.

Here are four true headlines and one truth:

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(First published in the Journal 10 years ago)

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“I stood with my feet upon the Stone Age and saw myself four thousand years away and all my distresses as very little incidents in that perspective.”

From The Secret Places of the Heart by HG Wells, 1923.

At Stonehenge, yes. There the Trust seems mad keen to earn the opprobrium of posterity. But on Trail Hunting, no-one yet knows. Following the recent revelations, it has suspended trail hunting at last but only provisionally. It has long been said the Trust has been infiltrated by the hunting lobby and ITV News has just made further allegations.

Two opportunities for change (the 2020 AGM and the election of new Board Members) were lost due to Covid and although a 2021 AGM is planned it looks probable that, just like happened in 2017, the Chairman, will cast the thousands of proxy votes entrusted to him in favour of continued trail hunting. Watch this space.

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“Doesn’t happen”?

18/01/2021 in Metal detecting (Edit)

People in Devon and Cornwall are being told the Stonehenge tunnel will boost the South West economy. It’s a lie, the 40th Yowling Moggy (the sound made when the truth is being tortured. Here are the other 39.)

It’s easily demonstrated. According to the Highways England Technical Appraisal Report, when travelling past Stonehenge “On an average month, it is estimated that users experience average delays of nearly 9 minutes”. So that means the average time to drive from Highways England’s Head Office in Guildford to St Ives, currently 4 hours 36 minutes, will be reduced to 4 hours 27 minutes. That’s the same as shrinking the distance by 2.9%.

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So, if ANYONE (EH, HE, NT, Wilts Council, and many other bodies in the South West) tells you that will boost the South West economy tell them they are repeating a lie and that to wreck a World Heritage Landscape in defiance of UNESCO on the basis of a lie is unconscionable.

In 2005 we  published the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter (HAAEC), providing a real-time running total of the likely number of artefacts found by detectorists. Evidence from various surveys (including detectorists; ones) show that on average each active detectorist finds at least 30.5 recordable artefacts per year and we assumed at the time there were 8,000 active detectorists, hence the rate of “tick”.

The resultant total now stands at close to 6.3 million recordable artefacts dug up since PAS was formed (compared with 1.5 million recordable artefacts recorded in the PAS database.) However, there are now perhaps 27,000 active detectorists and accordingly in 2018 Paul Barford published a revised counter reflecting this growth.

The implications are very sobering and Paul has now prepared the graphic below showing how things will be in ten years assuming the same number of detectorists each finding the same number of artefacts per year.

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