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We continue our look at the ‘Neolithic M1‘, which stretches from Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk across country to Lyme Regis in Dorset.
..winding with the chalk hills through Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire, it runs south-westwards from East Anglia and along the Chilterns to the Downs and Wessex; but the name is mysterious. For centuries it was supposed to be connected with the East Anglian kingdom of the Iceni: Guest confidently translated it as the warpath of the Iceni, and connected it with the names of places along its course, such as Icklingham, Ickleton, and Ickleford.
Excerpt From: Thomas, Edward, 1878-1917. “The Icknield Way.”
Today, the Icknield Way is part of the Greater Ridgeway long-distance path, but the actual extent of the original Icknield Way is open to debate. The acknowledged trail stretches from Knettishall Heath to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, but stretches of the trail south of here are also marked on the O.S. map variously as the Chiltern Way, Ridgeway and Icknield Way. Indeed, there is an Icknield Farm just NW of Goring where the path appears to terminate.
Starting our journey from Knettishall Heath, on the heath itself a kilometre or so to the east is Hut Hill, upon which stands a well-preserved bowl barrow, which stands to a height of about 0.5m and covers a roughly circular area with a maximum diameter of 32m. Further east is a similar barrow in Brickkiln Covert, whilst just a couple of kilmetres to the West, and north of the Little Ouse river stand the Seven Hills tumuli at Rushford. These are oddly named as only 6 barrows remain in this cemetery area.
The trail heads west from here, before dropping south through the ‘King’s Forest’ to West Stow, where a reproduction Anglo Saxon village (and museum) is sited. We visited here in 2014. Another Seven Hills barrow cemetery is located a couple of kilometres west at Rymer though this one has not fared as well as the one at Rushford, with only faint traces of four barrows remaining.
From West Stow the trail crosses the River Lark and heads southwest, toward Newmarket, and skirting the town to the south. The modern long distance path deviates from a natural line here to follow the modern roads (and bypass the town) but in prehistoric times I have no doubt that a straighter track would have been the preferred route. Throughout this section, there are various early medieval earthworks; Black Ditch, Devil’s Dyke etc, all crossing the trail at approximately right-angles. It’s been suggested that these were territorial markers, demarking portions of the old route. There are very few prehistoric burial sites on this stretch of the trail, though there are several moated houses, many dating back to medieval times.
Continuing southwest, we cross the River Granta at Linton, and a short distance east are the enigmatic Bartlow Hills – an early Roman barrow cemetery quite unlike any other I’ve seen, in that the barrows seem disproportionately tall compared to their circumference. The highest of the hills is 15 metres tall, but these days the site is shrouded by trees and it is easy to miss them.
From Bartlow, the modern trail heads west toward Royston, departing somewhat from what would have been the original route, and crossing the River Cam at Great Chesterford, just south of Ickleton village and the Roman Road which is now the modern A11 road. We’ll halt at Royston for a while, and pick up the trail in the next installment.
By Alan S and Sandy Gerrard
“All archaeology is destructive” is a cry often heard from the lesser-spotted metal detectorist trying to defend their hobby. Even Mortimer Wheeler admitted that ‘excavation is merely methodical destruction’.
But how true is this?
Whilst it’s true that some field archaeology can be destructive, it’s surely more accurate to say that all archaeology is instructive. In terms of excavation techniques, it’s certainly true to say that carefully scraping away soil to reveal the hidden mysteries contained below is more rewarding than blindly shovelling earth to grab at hoped for treasures!
So to qualify that, in this short series let’s take a brief look at some of the different types of archaeology practised today and outline what each type involves.
Desk Based Archaeology
The phrase ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’, used by Sir Isaac Newton (but with a much earlier origin), is used to describe the practise of research by referring to, and building upon the work of others. A large part of desk-based archaeology is based upon this principle, and should involve meticulous reference to previous research, excavation reports etc. Much of this can be done using a myriad of resources including: the Archaeological Data Service, Heritage Environment Records, libraries, old maps, National and County Record Offices, museums, satellite and aerial imagery, LIDAR or 3D imaging, and extrapolating information therefrom to identify potential new areas of investigation, or to strengthen or extend existing theories. No new excavation or collection of field data is involved, but future excavation plans may result from any findings.
Desk based analysis is often carried out to identify the potential for archaeological remains on the site of a planned development and may be used to inform planning decisions and highlight the need for mitigation. Where planning is granted and the archaeology will be destroyed or severely damaged the planning authorities should insist that a programme of archaeological work be carried out by the developer as a condition of permission being granted. In the most extreme instances where a whole site is earmarked for destruction the resultant excavation records will inevitably be the only tangible remains and this scenario is often euphemistically described as ‘preservation by record’. Desk-based archaeology is often the first stage of many archaeology projects, and of itself is not destructive – although as pointed out to me recently, reputations may rise or fall as a result of new interpretations of old data.
The next form of archaeological investigation involves getting out and looking at the site or landscape. This is important and offers an opportunity to establish the accuracy or otherwise of the desk based work and enable a fuller understanding of the resource. Many different techniques are available and the most suitable will depend on the character of the surviving archaeology. Where obvious earthworks survive survey work makes an excellent starting point. The production of a plan showing what is there and how all the different elements fit together allows the archaeologist to better understand what they are looking at.
Where they are few or no earthworks other techniques are needed to explore the past and amongst the better known are Geophysical surveys – the ‘Geofizz’ so beloved of Time Team aficionados. Sometimes a combination of earthwork survey and Geofizz can produce extraordinary results without causing any damage to the archaeology.
A third form of fieldwork which does inevitably erode the archaeological resource and can only be carried out within recently ploughed or cultivated fields is field walking which involves a planned traverse of the site on foot, looking for any artefacts (small finds) that may have been ploughed up to the surface. The Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up to record and interpret small finds, such as those uncovered by metal detectorists, activities such as informal field walking, and other chance finds. But in most cases field walking will be part of a larger project, and any finds will normally be documented as part of that project. Whilst field-walking itself is not necessarily destructive, it can lead to loss of information and ‘context’, if not properly planned and recorded.
There are many types of Geophysical survey, and indeed, metal detectors are but one tool in the geophysicist’s armoury. Most Geofizz tools work in a similar way, by sending electromagnetic signals into the ground and measuring the responses to build up a picture of any features which may be hidden below. Electro-magnetic resistivity and ground penetrating radar are the most common forms, with sonar being used for underwater archaeology sites. Whilst not destructive in and of itself, Geofizz aids in the project planning process, and is often a precursor to targeted excavation – the topic of the next part of this short series.
Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.
Such has been the reaction that a decision has been made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which we are working to make public in March 2016.
This new web site will eventually include a full gazetteer of known stone rows covering the length and breadth of Britain, organised on a regional basis – Dartmoor is the first gazetteer area to be completed but other areas will be populated in the coming weeks and months.
There will also be a full analysis of rows by type, length and number of stones available at launch. As time goes on, further information will rapidly be added, including links to other resources, and it is hoped that this site will grow into a major resource and focus for stone row-based study in its own right.
A further announcement (and working link) will be made available closer to launch date, but we wanted to give an early ‘heads-up’ to all those who are interested in this area of study, so watch this space!
The love just grows and grows for Old Oswestry hillfort.
Shropshire councillors may have voted to throw open its ancient landscape to development, but defiant residents will be scaling its ramparts on Valentine’s Day in a hug of protection for the Iron Age icon.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural hug, campaign group HOOOH is staging a weekend of events embracing the archaeology and landscape of one of Britain’s most celebrated hillforts.
Running February 13 and 14, the Old Oswestry Hug Weekend will include a heritage seminar, craft workshops, art exhibitions, music event, as well as a mass hug of the hillfort itself.
Expanding on its well-received seminar in 2014, HOOOH will be hosting a full day symposium in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on Saturday 13 February. Invited speakers will explore Old Oswestry’s multi-faceted archaeology and heritage landscape as well as modern-day planning threats to it.
The hillfort hug will take place from 1pm on Sunday 14 February, culminating in a procession along the ramparts with lights and drums. It attracted over 450 people last year and was supported by a national social media campaign, #hugyourheritage, created by the Council of British Archaeology.
HOOOH is also delighted to announce that the hug event is being supported by a number of local artists with an exciting series of exhibitions under the banner ‘Artists Hugging Old Oswestry Hillfort’ (AHH!).
Members of art groups, Inside Out Art and Borderland Visual Arts, are busy creating artwork, including paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, inspired by the 3,000-year-old monument and its landscape. Many will be on display in time for the hug weekend.
From February 1 to April 4, Oswestry’s Heritage & Visitor Centre will be showing an exhibition of AHH! work entitled ‘Views of, and on, Old Oswestry Hillfort’.
Oswestry arts venue, Hermon, will also be showcasing a number of AHH! installations during February and will be hosting drum and light-making workshops on February 6 and 13. It is also staging ‘Hillfort Live’, an evening of ‘hillfort-centric’ music and performance on February 13 from 7.30pm.
A third exhibition will run at Oswestry’s Willow Gallery from April 23 to May 21, incorporating photos and film of this year’s hug.
Campaigner Dr George Nash said: “This is yet again another extremely visual display by the people of Shropshire and the Borderlands showing their support for this iconic monument. Let’s hope Shropshire Council with its new leader can see and hear what the people are saying, which is simply ‘No’ to development.”
Llanarmon-based artist Diana Baur, spokesperson for AHH!, said: “Local artists are making works that reference the hillfort, visually expressing its importance for future generations and the fight to protect its setting. Plans are being laid for the exhibition to then travel further afield linking to other areas where our national heritage is threatened.”
HOOOH is campaigning against the reassignment of the hillfort’s eastern hinterland – and heart of Oswestry’s heritage gateway – for an estate of 117 houses. Despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the highest echelons of British archaeology to reject the development, it was recently approved by Shropshire Council on the SAMDev local plan.
We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the double row at Trowlesworthy on Dartmoor is examined.
The double stone alignment at Trowlesworthy includes two roughly parallel lines of stones aligned north east to south west leading for 127.5m from a kerbed cairn (SX 57644 63985) on the lower slopes of Great Trowlesworthy Tor. The alignment is far from straight and several minor shifts in its orientation give it the sinuous character found at many rows. The row is built mainly from medium sized orthostats (average 0.37m high) although at least one more substantial stone (now recumbent) lies a short distance above the Old Bottlehill Mine Leat which cuts the row in two. There is no blocking stone at the south western end and it may therefore have originally been longer. A detailed plan of the row together with details and discussion is available the “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume 3” by Jeremy Butler. A second row is situated to the north of this one and will be considered fully at a later date. At this stage it is perhaps worth noting that the second row includes a single line of stones and despite its close proximity has no views to the sea, a situation paralleled by the second row at Hart Tor. Analysis of sea views from the Trowlesworthy rows is to some extent hampered by the nearby china clay works at Lee Moor which have undoubtedly altered the local topography, but despite this the character of the sea views is still obvious and have not been significantly altered.
The Trowlesworthy double stone alignment in common with many Dartmoor stone rows is built across the sea view/no sea view interface. This means that views to the sea are visible from parts of the row but not from others. In this instance the sea is visible from the upper part of the row and not from the lower length. The largest stone (now recumbent) together with a significant shift in alignment denotes the point at which the sea view appears and disappears depending on the direction of travel. The presence of the largest orthostat and alignment shift suggests that this was a significant point along the journey denoted by the row and its precise correlation with the sea/no sea view interface is consistent with the familiar pattern being found at many stone rows. The observation first made at Bancbryn of a close and measurable visual link with the sea is one that is repeated time and time again. The construction of rows across the sea/no sea view interface is too common to be a coincidence and strongly supports the hypotheses that the siting of many rows was influenced by a need to acknowledge this phenomenon. A programme of statistical analysis is underway to establish and quantify the precise character of this relationship and demonstrate the degree of correlation between the Dartmoor rows and the types of sea view that exist. An initial pilot has suggested that the distribution of Dartmoor rows correlates with particular views towards the sea but also that other types of view and reveal are of significance. Cumulatively the evidence that is being gathered illustrates that the rows were erected in particular locations to enable particular types of view and reveals to be “experienced” by those walking along them and it would therefore be surprising if these experiences were not reflected in the activities being carried out.
Views from the alignment
Three images derived from Google Earth are presented below to illustrate the character of the reveal. As you walk up the hill towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor a view to the sea appears at the point where the largest stone once stood.
Map showing the arc of visibility from the upper (north eastern) end of the alignment. The view to the sea is most impressive in the middle of the day during the winter months.
Source: Butler, J., 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume Three, 169-71 and 205.
Previous articles in this series:
- Dartmoor stone alignments: a feast of visual landscape tricks and treats
- A pair of stone alignments with much to tell us
- A Tale of Two Rows
- Hingston Hill
- Hart Tor
- Hook Lake
- Brent Fore Hill
- Burford Down
- Ringmoor Down
- Drizzlecombe 1
- Drizzlecombe 2
- Drizzlecombe 3
- Leedon Tor
- Sharpitor West
- Sharpitor North West
- Yar Tor
With just five weeks to go, it’s time to book your ticket, if you haven’t already done so, for the best conference in town! Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CA Live’ conference returns to Senate House in London at the end of February, and we’ll be there live Tweeting the event once again.
Although the full lineup has yet to be finalised, the session schedule already looks very enticing:
Friday 26th February
- 9:30-11:00 In Search of the Prehistoric, introduced by Julian Richards, speakers to be confirmed.
- 11:30 – 13:00 Rescuing the Past:
- Neil Holbrook – The Cirencester Roman Tombstone
- Ben Ford – Excavating Westgate
- Dan Atkinson – Chatham Dockyard
- Ronan Toolis – Trusty’s Hill
- 14:30-16:00 Around the Ancient World:
- Barry Cunliffe – Birthing Eurasia
- Ray Laurence – Roman Roads: movement migration and mobility
- Andrew Robinson – The Indus civilisation: lost and found?
- 4:30-5:50 Keynote: Professor Mike Fulford
…followed by the Reception, Awards Ceremony (have you voted yet?) and entertainment.
Saturday 27th February
- 9:30-11:00 Osteology of Trauma:
- Ray Baldry – Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons
- Louise Low – the Ridgeway Hill Vikings
- Martin Smith – Violence in the Neolithic
- 11:30:1300 Warfare in Roman Britain:
- Mike Bishop – Roman Military Warfare
- John Reid – A Seige at Burnswark?
- Philip Crummy – Boudicca and the Fenwick Treasure
- 14:30-16:00 Experiments in Archaeology:
- Ryan Watts – Butser Ancient Farm
- Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock – The Staffordshire Hoard
- Zena Kamash – Food for Thought
- 16:30-17:00 David Breeze – 40 Years on the Frontier
Ticket details are available from the CA Live web site. I hope to see you there, please stop and say hello if you spot me!
Sue Brooke updates us on the latest threat to Caerau hillfort in Cardiff. This story was originally published on her own website.
Well, here I am again. Mrs Angry from Caerau has raised her ugly head once more. Over the last nine years or so I have bored everyone close to me to distraction about that triangular shaped field in Caerau. It’s important. I used to spend hours wandering around up there trying to figure out what all the lumps and bumps were about. I researched it and learned loads about what it all meant. I kept the whole thing as quiet as possible from the public domain so that the area would remain protected due to it being preserved mostly in public record at that time. Eventually I started to share some of this locally, working with the children and young people of the local schools. This was primarily to keep the crumbling remains of St. Mary’s Church as safe as possible.
Then along came Cardiff University. To be honest they were a little behind me in this research but, eventually and not without some fear I talked with them about it. They had lots of money that they were willing to invest in this area and they were able to engage with the public in far greater ways than me. Eventually this triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ was to be given a little bit of status as an Iron Age (at least) hill fort.
If you know about this then you will know that hot on their heels came Time Team. They came, they made a mess and a telly programme then they left. All stuff designed to give this little old lady in Caerau a little bit of the wobbles. I had massive reservations about all of this. I was accused of ‘selling out’ by allowing myself to become involved in this. Overall my fears were allayed and, although the area has been mucked about with by young ladies and young men digging holes, it has actually been really beneficial to the local communities of Ely and Caerau. Cardiff University formed the CAER Heritage Project and they worked their socks off in order to engage residents in the whole of their work. What Time Team did, on your 55 inch flat screen telly, was to tell the whole of Ely and Caerau what an amazingly valuable historical monument they lived alongside. Thank you for that.
The church of St Mary, long a victim of vandalism was now being looked after. There are people involved in this who have pursued Cardiff Council and persuaded them to help keep the remains of this historic building together. They have given up their time to tidy up the area, to log the graves and to generally give this church the respect it has so sadly been missing out on.
Overall the community has benefitted. The view from the hill fort is amazing when you look out towards Cardiff. The CAER Heritage Project believe this to be an area that would have been important to Cardiff itself. Of course, my endless research means I disagree with this – not entirely but my belief is and always has been that the hill fort would have been more better placed as part of what is now the Vale of Glamorgan and valued as such.
A few years ago changes began to happen. A solar park was to be built quite close to the site. It would be fine, we were reassured. This won’t be visible from the hill fort and will not detract from the beautifully serene surrounds one bit, they said. Unfortunately the building of this solar park caused some major issues for those living on the approach road. Let’s set this in to some kind of context. As you walk toward the track that leads from Caerau all the way to Michaelston le Pit you will need to walk underneath the A4232 Ely Link Road. Sadly, way back at the end of the 1970’s this road was built by cutting around the hill fort site. It’s no longer possible to walk up-and-over as we used to as kids, but hey, way back then we didn’t really know any better, did we?
This bit of Caerau is such an excellent resource for the local people. It’s usual to see dog walkers, horse riders, the footballing kids of the future and joggers all wandering along to make use of the area. Families wander through as well as groups of children and young people off to have fun on their own. I was one of these children once, having lived all my life nearby.
This lovely tree lined, although slightly narrow road, takes you from Caerau down toward the link road. The hill fort area is surrounded by beautifully managed woods, protected as a special area and inhabited by the most amazing birds and wildlife. Even slow worms like it in there. The homes along Heritage Drive, just off Cwrt yr Ala Road were built on the site of the old Caerau Isolation Hospital.
Sadly this was built within the banks and ditches of the Caerau hill fort. But hey, we didn’t know any better then, did we?
As I just mentioned a solar park was planned. Renewable energy they said. Yes, a few solar panels in the field and most certainly not visible from the hill fort. They actually forgot to mention that the construction of this amazing solar park would mean driving lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner along Cwrt yr Ala Road. That lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road in the image above. Most residents took this on the chin. It was good for the environment wasn’t it, to get away from the smoking chimneys of the coal-fired power stations.
Everyone wants renewable sources of energy, don’t they? I’ve since learned from a friend that should you have solar panels on farmland then it’s wise that you keep animals out of the field as you can’t really sell them on later or even, it is my understanding, use the field for agricultural purposes for some years after the panels have been removed. I could be wrong on this or hey, maybe I just don’t know any better.
I was up at the hill fort only recently. It’s still so lovely up there but obviously, since the trees are now without their leaves, it is possible to see the Ely Link Road. And, surprise surprise, you can see the solar farm.
Now, and this is the bit that is really making me rather very angry, I have learned – via social media – that we are now going to have – guess what ? OK, that’s unfair, how could you know – I didn’t – a LANDFILL SITE. Yes, that’s correct. Now, this is not your black bag rubbish type tip, this is an ‘inert waste’ tip. What exactly does ‘inert waste’ mean? So, for the next 5 to 6 years up to 20 lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner will be driving along Cwrt yr Ala Road each day. That’s up to 40 journeys along this lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road.
I’m really pleased to be able to say that the local Labour Councillor for the area is doing his level best to stop this happening. Indeed the Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central and spokesperson on Enterprise, Transport, Europe and Business has assured me that she will ‘look into it’ but in the meantime the Vale of Glamorgan Council has, in their recent report on this completely outrageous planning application – available online and therefore well within the public domain – given me the opportunity to give you some quotes. In fairness I suggest you check this out for yourselves but, in the meantime here are a couple of my favourites:
The site is located in open countryside and within the Cwrt yr Ala Basin Special Landscape Area as defined within the Unitary Development Plan. The site also lies within the boundaries of the derelict mineral site, the former Ely Brickworks. In addition it is noted that the Caerau Wood hill fort, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is located to the north of the site within the neighbouring Cardiff Council Local authority area.
In terms of impact upon Vale residents this would be very limited as there is no residential development, within the Vale, close to the proposed site. With regard to impact upon Cardiff residents, and any significant effect on the environment by virtue of the nature, size and location of the development this is a decision for the Local Planning Authority (LPA)
So, there you are then. To me that translates as – yes, we know it’s an important area and we acknowledge this but let’s quickly move on. The second quote means that there are of course housing developments nearby but, come on, they are in Cardiff, not the Vale of Glamorgan so that doesn’t matter to us. In fact, just so you know and I may of course be pointing out the obvious here, there are many property websites used by estate agents and prospective buyers who will pick up on things like transport links, schools and, obviously, landfill sites. I’m not sure but I worry that the residents of the very beautiful vale village of Michaelston le Pit may find out that this may also affect them – just by being in quite close proximity to this tip site. In fact I spoke with an established and respected estate agent only this morning who advised me that although this may not actually bring down the price of a property nearby immediately it will certainly not improve it. The advice was to consult further with a surveyor. That’s not really what I wanted to hear and I am sure that nearby residents won’t be happy to hear the financial implications upon their hard earned mortgaged properties should they decide to sell.
I would suggest that there will be major concerns from Cardiff Council and their residents once this very well kept secret becomes public knowledge. I really hope so. The enjoyment of all to access the area from Cwrt yr Ala Road towards Michaelston le Pit will be impacted on, most certainly. The right of the Cwrt yr Ala residents to enjoy their homes will most certainly be negatively affected, I know this as I lived through the delight of the solar park development. The access to the hill fort and the 12th century church for community groups will be restricted and, perhaps the work to preserve the tower of the old church could be seriously undermined by these vehicles shaking the living daylights out of it. That would be such a shame for all those who clearly care so much about it. What about Caerau (Ely) AFC – their ethos of ‘ Working With the Ely Community, For the Ely Community ‘ could be seriously affected by safety issues. I’m sure it won’t be safe to be toddling along there trying to dodge these vehicles for the next, what was it – 5 to 6 years?
So what can be done? I’m not too sure really. Perhaps we can suggest that the Vale of Glamorgan Council may want to consider other options for this ‘inert waste’ landfill site. Perhaps, let’s just think a minute – the residents of Dinas Powys would be happy for it to be placed just a bit further over.
That other hill fort area known as Cwm George has plenty of room. I bet not many people use this – just a couple of walkers, now and then – and the Woodland Trust won’t mind, surely? Or, perhaps, what about that stretch of beach adjacent to Sully Island? Hardly anyone goes there. The residents of Sully wouldn’t even notice. Yes, I agree that these are areas of special interest and so very important to the residents but isn’t Caerau of equal value?
There is just one little final quote that I will share with you. I visited Cosmeston Lakes Country Park today and went in to the little shop to buy a book on the history of this area. On the wall, right in front of me was this final quote from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. It read – and I quote ‘A sad chapter in Cosmeston’s history saw the quarry used for several years as a landfill site for household waste’. The little book I purchased for £4 completed this with ‘Permission to tip household rubbish on the west side of Mile End Road was granted to Penarth Urban District Council in 1964 (with some waster tipping already underway several years before that).’
So, please tell me – does this mean that the Vale of Glamorgan Council recognise that they really DO know better?
Three years after it was written the report on the work carried out at the Bancbryn stone alignment has been released. You can see it for yourself here and a response to it here. Despite promises that only 10m of the alignment would be destroyed and that it would be treated as if it was prehistoric, this does not appear to have happened. Around 35m of the stone alignment was finally destroyed and of this only 5m was excavated, the rest being lost with no record being made at all as a result of a mix up regarding its course. As if this was not bad enough the report’s conclusions are consistently contradicted by a catalogue of mistakes, exaggeration and the use of blatantly biased carefully selected information. Much has been made of the fact that the excavated stones were not associated with sockets, however in at least one photograph a large stone appears to sit within a cut and another one is on top of an unexcavated hollow.
The reasons for doubting the prehistoric interpretation are remarkable. Apparently the Bancbryn stone alignment can’t be prehistoric because the stones are of variable size, small, embedded into the subsoil and the alignment itself is sinuous in form. So there we have it after years of waiting we have finally been told that it can’t be prehistoric because …. well err…. it shares precisely the same characteristics as most of the scheduled stone alignments in the United Kingdom. This would be laughable if it was not so serious.
Given the recent balmy (if somewhat damp) conditions the opportunities for visiting our favourite sites in the snow have been somewhat limited. A covering of snow can sometimes enhance a visit and allow different aspects of a site to be appreciated. The amount of snow and the character of the site can result in spectacular scenes and can result in a memorable day out. Remember though don’t take any risks and be doubly careful as conditions underfoot can be treacherous and always check the weather forecast as it is very unwise to get stuck outdoors .
By Alan S.
As the calendar clicks over another year, and we’ve looked back at some of the stories of the past 12 months, it’s now time to look forward and to express some of our hopes, dreams and wishes for the year ahead.
After what has passed, it can be quite difficult to be positive when looking ahead, but our primary hopes are that:
- Shropshire County Council have a change of heart, and decide to finally listen to the wishes of the majority of those whom they were elected to represent, rather than the minority of developers and landowners who stand to gain from potential housing development within the shadow of Old Oswestry hillfort.
- The government and associated interested parties also listen to reason, and decide to keep the Stonehenge World Heritage Site somewhere that is deserving of the epithet, rather than turn a frightening proportion of the area into what could turn out to be a very large extended building site for more years than we’d care to imagine. And all for a transport system that relies on a fossil fuel that we are constantly being told is itself a dwindling resource.
I’d like to think those two hopes, backed by the right campaign groups and pressure in the right place, could both be met in the coming months.
As for dreams, wouldn’t it be marvellous if:
- The Portable Antiquities Scheme were to become properly funded. With the right resources, the scheme could finally grow teeth and claws, provide proper educational outreach, and halt the depletion of a finite resource.
- The DCMS actually realised the extent of that depletion (we’ve mentioned it here enough times!) and decided to fall in line with the majority of other countries around the world and ban outright the unlicensed use of metal detectors.
And finally for wishes for the future. Well, (apart from the big lottery win that would finally allow me to retire and spend my time on leisurely pursuits) we obviously wish:
- All the best for the museums up and down the country who are struggling against the ‘austerity’ measures and cuts (that never seem to affect the well-off sections of society, funny that!) that are biting so deep.
- An improvement in prospects for:
- those affected once again by flooding (the Yorvik Centre has just been on the news as I write this) and
- all the HEROs (‘Heritage Environment Records Officers’) whose employment prospects seem to be dwindling by the day.
- all those archaeologists, graduate or otherwise, who find it so difficult to find employment at anything other than minimum wage.
We wish you all well!