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A somewhat simple puzzle for these dark times. Most of you internet-savvy types should solve this in just a few minutes.

Below are eight sets of three random words. What is the common denominator between the sets?

 
language nursery likening
restrict nanny underline
frail across kings
ruffling ladders riverbed
cult cobras fluffed
early distilled inner
mystified potions farmed
searching shredding printer

Thankfully, it seems that the coronavirus crisis has delayed a final announcement on the tunnel being made. The following comments were submitted by a supporter of the Heritage Journal:

Stonehenge at Sunset, 1840, by William Turner of Oxford.

People sometimes say to me that the 20th-century archaeologist and writer Jacquetta Hawkes said that “every age has (gets) the Stonehenge it deserves”. I always say back to them something along the following lines:

If the tunnel gets approval then all future generations will get the Stonehenge landscape they don’t deserve as significant parts of it will be damaged. And once that damage has been done, then there’s no turning back from that for three things.

  1. Blick Mead.
  2. The western burial grounds. And all the unknown percentage of sieving in the western burial grounds that Highways England didn’t do “on cost grounds” (when archaeologists like MPP and Paul Garwood etc are asking for 100% sieve-rate in certain areas but Highways England won’t agree to anything like that).
  3. And also any previously unknown archaeology that is in the way of the tunnel as I don’t think the people (in charge) are trustworthy or competent (ref. the BM boreholes).

As mentioned recently, the latest deadline for objections to the most recent planning application at Old Oswestry Hillfort expires in two days time (April 2nd).

As of last night, less than 30 objections have been registered, but it’s hoped this will increase with last-minute submissions in the two days remaining.

If you’ve not yet submitted your own objection, the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOH) group have put together a handy guide with suggestions for inclusion in your submission.

As one protester has stated:

Hillforts were built to stand guard and benevolently look out over their surrounding territory and protect it from intruders. They were also designed to be looked up to from that territory with reverence and respect. So it would be a great tragedy if you were to allow this very intrusive planning application as it is much too close and would seriously damage the historical and aesthetic setting of the hillfort.

As we suggested earlier this week, the government have now (half-heartedly, it must be said!) implemented a much stronger lockdown regime, asking people to remain in their homes as much as possible apart from essential trips for food, medicines etc – key workers excepted and for which we are all grateful.

As this situation is likely to last, in our opinion, for months rather than days, here are a few more suggestions for heritage based activities to enjoy at home:

  • Get crafty – build a model of your favourite site. Take a look at Brick to the Past for some Lego-based inspiration. Or draw or paint an ancient site, maybe taking inspiration from one or other of your favourite artists (for instance, see Jane Tomlinson, Sarah Vivien or Anna Dillon) and let us see the results, either via our Contact Us page, or in our Facebook Group!
  • For those locked down with younger children, Mr Donn’s web site, although American is a useful resource, with presentations, lesson plans for home schooling etc. covering all aspects of archaeology and ancient history, among others. Wessex Archaeology and the Museum of London also have a very good selection of teacher’s resource packs, more suited to a British audience (other providers of educational material are available)
  • Another for the younger members: an archaeology colouring book, “this colouring book illustrates how archaeologists are working today applying new approaches. It was published by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University.”  Or do a Google Image search for linear images to colour – e.g. “Stonehenge Colouring” returns some interesting results. Try your site or subject of choice and see what comes up.
  • As well as looking after the younger members of the household, why not try to find the time to take an online course yourself? The live broadcast talk on the Must Farm excavations on Monday drew a crowd of nearly 500 people live on Facebook, and the recording of the talk has already had almost 10,000 views! The following organisations all provide online archaeology courses and talks, and are worth checking out:

Others are also available. Let us know your favourites.

What have we missed? How are you coping with the lockdown? Please let us know your suggestions in the comments below.

Given the almost hourly Coronavirus updates on the news, the self-isolation, social-distancing, and other measures being taken (Cornwall is closed, dont’cha know?), it is apparent that much stronger action is almost inevitable to reduce the spread of the infection, and the most likely step we can foresee happening is a much stronger social lockdown. This would involve the cessation of all face-to-face social interaction and restrictions on travel to essential journeys only. Such measures are already in place in countries such as Spain and Italy.

When and if these restrictions are imposed, what is the heritage-lover to do? While trips out to sites may be restricted soon, here are five internet-based suggestions to help get your heritage fix over the coming days.

  1. This is a special one, is being held later today, and should not be missed. The team at Must Farm Archaeology have announced an online talk (including a possible Q&A session) to be held via their Facebook page on Monday 23rd March at 4pm GMT. Learn all about the excavation and finds at this most amazing site.
  2. Listen to a podcast, or watch a video. Our current favourites are from the Prehistory Guys, Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin. An educational way to spend a few hours of self-isolation! Or lose yourself in the rabbit-hole of YouTube, searching for your favourite subject, but where the quality is more variable.
  3. For the younger members of the household, the Young Archaeologist’s Club, run by the Council for British Archaeology, has a range of suggestions for indoor activities. There are also resource packs available on the web, for KS1 and KS2 history – see the BBC for some good examples.
  4. Why not visit a virtual museum? We mentioned last week that the British Museum, along with many others, is closed to visitors, but many museums are extending their web sites to allow virtual viewings of many of their exhibits. My own local museum, the Museum of Cornish Life, in Helston even has a 3D walkthrough where every gallery of the museum can be experienced as if you were there! Why not check out what your own local museum has to offer on their web site?
  5. Allow us to be a little self-indulgent here: Why not take time out to research/write an article for the Heritage Journal? Tell us a little-known fact about a site local to you, or which you have visited frequently. Dig out your diary, and regale us with details about one of your trips to a heritage site or if you’ve been on a dig in the past couple of years, tell us about what you found. Write an opinion piece on a controversial subject: the Stonehenge Tunnel, Oswestry Housing Development, the Rollright Bypass, or a planning application or rule change near you that we haven’t heard about yet. The list of topics is almost endless! We look forward to seeing what you come up with, but please try to keep it within the pre-Roman period in Britain if possible.

However you decide to spend your time while locked down, please let us know how you manage to get your own heritage fix.

As the Coronavirus COVID-19 ‘crisis’ apparently deepens, and mass paranoia sets in, the heritage sector is as badly hit as any other. The situation is changing day by day and almost hour by hour but at the time of writing the following measures have been announced so far:

  • English Heritage has closed all their staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March until 1st May, although this will doubtless be reviewed and probably extended at some future point. Unstaffed and free to enter sites are not affected, as they are deemed to be sufficiently spacious to allow ‘social distancing’, and many such sites are often off the beaten track and uncrowded.
  • The National Trust will, where possible, open many of its gardens and parks for free, but close its houses, cafes and shops.
  • The British Museum has taken the decision to close temporarily but will make many of its collections and exhibitions available online where possible.
  • CADW are following the lead of the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales in closing all sites with staffed visitor centres to the public until further notice.
  • Historic Scotland has also taken the decision to close public access to their staffed properties and offices until further notice.

In addition, many regional and local museums and other attractions are closing or seriously restricting their access, on government advice, as are many record and archive centres. In short, if you are planning a visit to such facilities, check first!

Many local archaeology societies following government advice have had to cancel lectures, walks and talks, and local fieldwork and clearups – essentially shutting down operations to an absolute minimum.

Although the current government advice is for self-isolation and social distancing, there is a possibility that this may change in the near future – Spain has introduced a severe lock-down and people there have been arrested/fined for unnecessary travel. Until such measures come into effect in the UK however, it is still feasible to visit many of our ancient monuments, for the purposes of exercise and fresh air, as long as the guidelines for risk reduction are followed.

 

 

As mentioned last Friday, the developers at Oswestry recently withdrew two plans to build upon the site.

But as anticipated, a further plan has been introduced in its place, as the latest newsletter from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) campaign explains:

April 2nd is the deadline to object to yet another revised development bid in Old Oswestry’s near landscape.

This 3rd one (for 91 houses) is still as big and as damaging to the significance of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its setting as all previous ones. Be warned that the 18 or so days left to object are likely to be the very final countdown to have your say – this latest application comes with an actual deadline date for determination (July 1st).

The new planning application and object can be seen here.

Planning reference: 20/01033/EIA, Land To The North Of Whittington Road, Oswestry, Shropshire. Proposed residential development of 91 No. dwellings with associated access, public open space, electricity sub-station, drainage and landscaping.

Please be aware:

  • Fields shared with/next to the proposed land (OSW004) have been protected from housing development in the local plan review to 2036 due to their heritage importance as part of the hillfort’s setting. OSW004 would also meet these criteria if it had not been controversially allocated back in 2015 – it stands out like a sore thumb as an unnecessary and wrong place for housing.
  • Additional land has been identified for housing east of the bypass at Park Hall, keeping town growth away from the hillfort.
  • Oswestry has received funding to help unlock yet more land for over 1,150 new houses in the next 10 years.
  • Oswestry’s delivery target for housing is 90/year, including a proportion of affordable houses. Almost 100 affordable homes alone have been built in 2017/2018. There is no need to encroach into the hillfort’s landscape.

With only two weeks left for objections to be lodged, our supporters are urged to object via the http://www.shropshire.gov/planning website, as soon as possible. Further details of how best to formulate an objection will be released soon.


There have been various articles on internet web sites and social media over the last few days, explaining that the developers at Oswestry Hill Fort have effectively ‘walked away’ from the project and cancelled their plans for the development. However, looking deeper at the news, the threat remains. A point that has been clearly explained in the latest press release from the HOOOH ‘Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort’ campaign:

Campaigners braced for revised plans for hillfort estate after developer shelves latest scheme

Campaigners say they are ready to fight on as Galliers Homes withdraws plans for a 100-house estate in the near landscape of Old Oswestry hillfort ahead of submitting a new scheme.

Notice of withdrawal of two applications to develop the site in two phases appeared on Monday (March 9) on the Shropshire Council planning portal, but with no documents or correspondence to clarify the reasons. After campaign group, HOOOH, contacted the council for an explanation, planners have now revealed that a revised, single application to develop the site is in the pipeline.

A spokesperson for HOOOH said: “It is clear to us that the sustained opposition and compelling arguments from stakeholders, heritage organisations and members of the public are taking their toll on this highly controversial planning bid.

“Any revised application will have to go before the full planning committee where the serving council members must reflect the will of their electorate, which is to refuse the application.

“Our campaign has always been about the allocation of housing in line with the community’s wishes and the protection of nationally important heritage, principles that go to the heart of local planning and public consultation.

“Residents and stakeholders have consistently shown that they value the preservation of the hillfort’s setting and unspoilt landscape north of the town.  Oswestry Civic Society has gone as far as identifying alternative land for housing east of the town in its Oswestry 2050 vision which Shropshire planners have partially taken on board.”

Despite fierce opposition, land south-east of the hillfort (known as OSW004) was allocated for housing in Shropshire’s SAMDev local plan in 2015. However, subsequent targets for housing delivery in Oswestry have been revised down in Shropshire’s current plan review to 2036, while a surplus of sites for town growth have come forward including at Park Hall east of the bypass. In addition, fields surrounding the hillfort and adjoining OSW004 have been assessed and ruled out for housing allocation until at least 2037 following discussions between HOOOH and Shropshire Council.

“The OSW004 allocation now conflicts even more with Shropshire’s latest landscape assessments and development exclusions around the hillfort, as well as consensus on the direction of town growth,” said HOOOH.

“We urge stakeholders and supporters to maintain their objections against any further urbanisation of this iconic hillfort and Iron Age landscape.”

Stone circles are found all over the British Isles, singly (e.g. Avebury, Castlerigg, Swinside, The Rollrights) or in small groups (e.g. The Hurlers, Stanton Drew, the Tregeseal Circles or the circles at Lamorna). Often, one or more circles in a group may no longer be extant, but documentary evidence or other clues provide information as to the existence of the group.

When circles are grouped in this way, the individual circles are usually quite close to each other. However, there is one group of circles, in Devon, which are not necessarily intervisible but definitely can be considered as ‘grouped’. This group has been dubbed the ‘Sacred Crescent’ and sits to the northeast of the high ground of Dartmoor.

Seven circles are marked in red on the map above – Grey Wethers is a double circle, but in 2015, an eighth circle marked in blue was identified southwest of Sittaford Tor which extends the arc. Aubrey Burl reported the circles as ‘standing at intervals of a fairly consistent 2 kilometres’. As can be seen above, the level of consistency can be debated but the nature of the arc is undeniable.

Of course, the question to be asked is whether the placement of these circles is deliberate or random. The arc pattern contains 8 circles, of some 15 in the Dartmoor area – not counting cairn circles etc. This high proportion suggests ‘intelligent design’, but as many of the circles are not intervisible it’s difficult to imagine how the pattern could have been produced.

If any of our readers are intimately familiar with the area, it would be interesting to know if there are any candidate ‘clues’ as to other possible circles in the arc, either between the existing circles or extending either end of the pattern. Such clues could recumbent stones, appropriate clear level areas or even documentary evidence – a pattern of monuments, of which no trace exists, was once recorded close to the nearby Spinster’s Rock dolmen.

A petition against the planned tunnel at Stonehenge, containing over 50,000 signatures, was handed in at Downing Street last month. The (final?) decision now rests with the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps who has until the spring to announce his decision. However, it is thought that a decision could well be announced in time for the new budget next week, on March 11.

In the meantime, rumours have been rife that the decision has already been made, epitomised by premature journalism as seen recently in the Salisbury Journal and the Daily Mail. Depending upon who you believe, the tunnel has either been canceled on financial grounds or will go ahead regardless of cost.

And still, eloquent and spirited letters of objection continue to arrive on the desk of Grant Schapps. Letters like the one below, copied into us here at the Heritage Journal and reproduced by permission, which lays out many of the main objections to the tunnel.

Dear Mr Shapps,

I am writing to ask you to please cancel the A303 tunnel and road project near Stonehenge as the fate of one of our country’s most historically fascinating landscapes is in your hands. This Stonehenge landscape is so important that it has been officially designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (though this prestigious WHS status could be lost if you don’t cancel the tunnel).

The magnificent circle of stones called Stonehenge, doesn’t exclusively stand in isolation as it is just one integral part of the much wider Stonehenge landscape (this WHS is 26 square km). You can’t have Stonehenge without the wider Stonehenge landscape, and vice versa. This wider Stonehenge landscape contains many interesting and unusual historical features, which all predate Stonehenge and are significant in their own way. For example:

  • 10,000 year old post holes that once held tall wooden posts and which the experts still speculate about.
  • Mysterious pits such as the nearly 6,000 year old Coneybury Anomaly. This contained an unusual collection of ritual deposits dating from the hunter-gatherer period, right up to the start of settled farming communities.
  • Two large causeway enclosures, the oldest being around 5,700 years old. They are thought to be ritual sites but what happened at these places is the source of much speculation.
  • Approximately 15 long barrows, with an average age of around 5,500 years old. These were large burial chambers for communities of people, rather than the later different style of Bronze Age round barrows which were built for individuals and their immediate family.
  • Two cursuses around 5,500 years old, the longest being 3 km long. They baffle the experts and just one theory is that they were ‘processional ways’.
  • Periglacial stripes, which are a natural feature of long erosion lines. It is thought by many archaeologists that before Stonehenge was built, people noticed that these aligned with the midwinter sunset and the midsummer sunrise and felt it was a special place. So around 5,000 years ago, they started to build Stonehenge at the end of the line of periglacial stripes.

Stonehenge was then built over a timescale of more than 1,000 years and in various stages. During and after this time, many additional structures were built in the wider Stonehenge landscape. For example, the site we now call Durrington Walls was a village where the builders of the later stages of Stonehenge lived temporarily and had huge feasts at solstices. The enigmatic Woodhenge was built nearby. And scattered around the rest of the Stonehenge landscape are around 400 Bronze Age burial mounds, some of which contained exquisite gold items. Since 2011, various aerial and geophysical surveys etc have been undertaken. These have revealed a variety of previously unknown structures hidden under the surface and some even look like small henges. Suffice to say that the Stonehenge landscape is absolutely peppered with dozens of fascinating structures, many of which still need to be excavated to reveal their full complexity. In summary, Stonehenge is just one part of a much wider Stonehenge landscape and if you approve the tunnel then significant parts of it will be seriously and irrevocably damaged.

As just one example, all the construction to the east of the tunnel will seriously damage Blick Mead (BM). This predates Stonehenge and is extremely important for the following reasons:

  • It dates from 9,500 years ago, was in continuous use for 3,000 years, and has much evidence of ritual and other activity since then.
  • It has a unique 7,000 year old platform of flint cobbles under which were ritually preserved Auroch hoof prints. (This is the platform which Highways England’s incompetent people bored a large hole through!).
  • BM has the first dwelling in the Stonehenge landscape (this dwelling is 6,000 years old).
  • All of the above dates have been proven by carbon dating. Many other items have also been carbon dated and it is the sequence of various dates which is so vital to the understanding of BM.
  • A total of 70,000 pieces of worked flint have been found at BM.
  • Also found were 2,420 pieces of animal bone and 126kg of burnt flint which indicates that extravagant feasts were held.
  • As a result of all the above, it won Current Archaeology’s Research Project of the Year award in 2018

Sites as old and rich as BM are extremely rare and it would be an absolute tragedy if it were to be damaged by the tunnel project. The actual dig site is only about the site of a tennis court and yet it has already revealed so much. There is a lot of archaeological potential on the other side of the A303 and that too would be damaged. If BM isn’t damaged by the tunnel project, then further excavations will reveal so much more. It is by far the best site in Britain to help us understand the fascinating story of how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved into settled communities who built areas like the wider Stonehenge landscape and then the modern world.

If the tunnel project gets your approval then BM will be physically damaged by all the construction works as it is less than 20 meters from the current road. Specifically what is planned near to BM is an almost 30 foot tall four-lane dual carriageway flyover with deep reinforcing pillars, plus two extra lanes feeding in from a huge roundabout (so a total of six lanes which merge into four very near to BM). The long-term effect of all this massive concrete construction will be that BM will gradually dry out and this will destroy the carbon dating opportunities. These sequential carbon dates are absolutely crucial for understanding how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved and spread out to build the wider Stonehenge landscape, and then go on to become modern humans like you and me.

In summary to the two paragraphs above, if you approve the tunnel then BM will be seriously and irrevocably damaged and this would be a tragedy for British history……………….and humanity really.

As well as BM being damaged, the massive western tunnel portal will seriously damage the burial grounds in that area. These burial grounds all predate Stonehenge by hundreds of years. World famous archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson’s written submission to the tunnel Examining Authority says. “The proposed work will damage the WHS, especially beyond the western portal to the western boundary of the WHS where a substantial area would be rendered archaeologically ‘sterile’. This will destroy a major block of land within the WHS and degrade its Outstanding Universal Value and is contrary to the recommendations of UNESCO and other international and national parties. The road line would cut through the densest concentration in Britain of remains of Neolithic long barrows (burial mounds from c.3800-3300 BC) known in Britain. The long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is. Important remains relating to the period before Stonehenge, and potentially to its choice of location, would be destroyed by the proposed work. The proposal should be rejected.

Similarly, world famous Paul Garwood (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Birmingham University) written submission says “The current A303 scheme would have a major detrimental impact on the setting and sensory qualities of the barrow group, diminishing one of the most spectacular heritage assets within the WHS. The new carriageways to the south would break up the Stonehenge landscape in a more extreme manner than the current road, while the massive new road intersection with groundworks just 100m from the long barrow, and new roundabouts and slip roads 250m away, would be even more intrusive. Such construction work would be an act of heritage despoliation, both materially and visually, that archaeological ‘mitigation’ and landscaping cannot compensate for.

World famous archaeologist Julian Richards says on You Tube, the tunnel will come out “right into the heart of an unspoilt and incredibly significant area” and “completely obliterate the setting of the ‘Lake’ barrows” which will be a “complete disaster” so he objects “really strongly” and says “future generations will say, what have you done to this absolutely incredible landscape!

I make the point that there are three organisations who should be agreeing with what Julian Richards, Paul Garwood, Mike Parker Pearson and I have all said above. They are English Heritage, Historic England and National Trust. They normally behave ethically but in this case they most certainly are not! They are completely deceiving the public by claiming that the tunnel project is a “historical improvement”. This claim is a smokescreen to hide the reality, which is that they are only focused on their little empire of land which they own around Stonehenge itself. And they are trying their hardest to remove from their empire, all us ordinary decent people driving past enjoying the view of the stones for free. It’s almost the very definition of NIMBYism. And to rub salt into the wounds the public will suffer, we will foot the nearly £2 billion cost (which is very likely to be much more!). In summary, it’s a disgrace that those three organisations are willing to allow serious damage to BM and the western burial grounds to further their agenda of selfishness to the huge detriment of the public.

I also make the point that it is only really the very established and secure (career wise) archaeologists who are criticising the above three organisations. I say this as I have been told that less secure archaeologists are afraid of criticising those powerful organisations, as they are then likely to be blacklisted which will affect their careers. Despite this bullying, a consortium of 22 world class archaeologists have stood up to be counted and written a solid body of evidence detailing the case against the tunnel project.

I ask you to please judge for yourself the honesty and integrity of those three organisations by Googleing each one’s name, and then Blick Mead. You will find that they give only a tiny amount of information about it, despite it being a very significant historical site just 2 km from Stonehenge. I leave you to draw your own conclusions but mine is that those three organisations don’t want the general public to know how important BM is and then think that it shouldn’t be damaged by the tunnel project. I think they are being very dishonest by deceiving people in this way. It’s a very far cry from all the sanctimonious and insincere claims on their websites about how much they care for England’s Heritage.

In summary to all the above, please don’t fall for this cynical con trick being very cleverly peddled by those three organisations.

I know full well that there can be traffic delays at Stonehenge, but these are always mitigated as I use the time to slow down from the trivia of modern life and admire the magnificent circle of stones. As I drive past, I think about how people evolved from being hunter-gatherers at inspiring places like Blick Mead and on to the wonderful culture of people who built the wider Stonehenge landscape. I pay my respects to those good people, whose shoulders we are all standing on, and I very much hope that the awesome Stonehenge landscape they created will be respected for the rest of the foreseeable future.

There are many other reasons that other individuals will give you to ask you to please cancel this extremely damaging tunnel and road project. But I have just focused on the above as it is all very dear to my heart. I am not an archaeologist, and a few years ago I retired after working for 19 years on 999 emergency ambulances for London Ambulance Service. I think that very humbling experience has given me the judgement to know what is genuinely valuable in the world. I think that the wider Stonehenge landscape, plus the rare and absolutely priceless chance to understand how hunter-gatherers evolved into modern humanity, are excellent examples of those truly valuable things that we should all treasure……………..and protect!

I conclude by saying that I think history, and humanity will judge you harshly if you approve this damaging and dishonest scheme. Please, please, please cancel it.

Yours very sincerely,

Paul Gossage

 

 

 

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