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Highways England’s A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme is at a critical stage. A decision on whether to approve it is due by 2 April, but funding for the scheme could be announced in the Budget on 11 March. We would like to swamp the Chancellor of the Exchequer with letters from around the country and abroad to show the strength of feeling against it.

Please write in your own words to:

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
cc: and your local MP (find your UK MP here)

Subject: A303 Stonehenge

Dear Chancellor,

I would like to strongly urge you not to approve funding for the high risk and highly damaging A303 Stonehenge scheme:

  • It is poor value for money and high risk. Highways England estimates only 21 pence of benefit for each £1 invested, if the highly dodgy heritage survey is discounted. Cost overruns are likely due to tunnelling through poor quality chalk and unpredictable groundwater conditions.
  • UNESCO opposes the scheme which would irreparably damage The World Heritage Site and which the UK Government has pledged to protect for future generations.
  • The scheme would increase carbon emissions at a time when the Government needs to show international leadership on climate change ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.
  • Please add any other concerns or expand on the above.

Yours sincerely,
Your full name
Your home address

If you have time please also email the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
For more ideas on what to write see the recent letter to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps from the Stonehenge Alliance


The Stonehenge Alliance is a group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and opposes development that would cause it significant harm.

Back in November last year, we reported on a madcap scheme from Oxford Council for a new traffic scheme in the area of the Rollright Stones (see ‘Stonehenge idiocy at The Rollrights!‘). Even we thought, “surely not!”

However, it seems that the scheme outlined in November, to divert heavy traffic directly past the Rollright Stones (between the circle and the King Stone) is being given more legitimacy by the local council. The peace of the Rollright Stones is now under serious threat from proposals to turn the quiet road that runs beside it into a major route for Heavy Goods Vehicles to bypass Chipping Norton.


A petition has now been raised, and all who enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the stones are strongly being urged to sign it as soon as possible. The petition states:

Whilst we understand the context of addressing the HGV traffic and air quality issues in Chipping Norton, the Rollright Road is a narrow C road entirely unfit for HGV traffic, or for upgrading to a full trunk road. The option has been examined on various occasions over the last twelve years, and even without fully considering the heritage, cultural and landscape implications, it has been dismissed – most recently in 2016 concluding “this option should not be pursued for further investigation.”

It goes on:

We are very concerned that without proactive management a significant increase in HGVs would arise using Rollright Road as a rat-run between the A44 and A344. The road passes within only 7m of the Kings Men stone circle and 30m from the King Stone. Part of the heritage and cultural value of the Stones is that in addition to c.20,000 visitors annually they are increasingly visited by school parties of 30-60 (sometimes up to 90) 7- and 8-year olds who have to cross the road. At 5m wide the road only just fits two passing HGVs, and the nearby blind crossroads at Tollhouse Cottage is notoriously dangerous. Rather than encouraging more HGV traffic passing through the Stones – whether directly or inadvertently – it should be actively discouraged.
We are concerned for the safety of people visiting the Stones, for local residents affected by inappropriate and reckless road use, as well as for the preservation of the Stones as a major cultural asset. The Rollright Trust has dedicated and very experienced trustees who have developed a very highly respected approach to managing the Stones and safeguarding them for generations to come, not just as a relic from ancient times. We hope our local Councils share this sense of responsibility and will act positively with strategic foresight to protect residents and the environment.

So please, if you visit and enjoy the stones, and/or are concerned by the erosion of the freedom to enjoy our heritage in peace and safety, sign the petition, and encourage all your family and friends to do the same.

If you want to know more about the monuments at the Rollright Stones, visit their website at and again, please, sign the petition to protect them NOW!

Putting all thoughts of the General election to one side for a moment (regardless of your politics), it’s time to decide who gets your vote in this year’s Current Archaeology Awards which celebrate both the projects and publications that have made the pages of Current Archaeology magazine over the 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.


These awards are voted for entirely by the public – there are no panels of judges – so we encourage you to get involved and choose the project, publications, and people you would like to win.

As always, there are four categories to vote in, and winners are decided purely on the number of public votes received. Click the following links to see the nominees in each category:

We have checked all the nominees and have cast our votes. Now it’s your turn! Once you have made your choices, click here to cast your votes!

Voting closes on 10 February 2020, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 28 February at Current Archaeology Live! 2020. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, click here.

I recently attended a very interesting one-day workshop held by the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) here in Cornwall. The subject of the workshop was ‘Rights of Way, Surveying and the Law’.

The course was designed to help volunteers become proficient in surveying access routes, reporting any problems found and teaching about the law regarding different types of access. The day was led by Linda Holloway, a Senior Officer in Cornwall Council’s Countryside Access Team, well versed in all aspects of the subject.

We discussed the three main categories of public routes, which are:

  • Public footpaths – designed for walkers only. Dogs are allowed, but no special provision is made for them (at stiles, etc).
  • Bridleways – For horses, walkers, and cyclists.
  • Byeways – Which allow vehicles in addition to the above (sometimes restricted, e.g. for landowner access only).

Unrestricted access to the above is determined by the Definitive Map, which was set in 1952 (with some subsequent additions). If a path is marked on this map, then the public has the right to access, by law. Of course, in many cases, landowners find it inconvenient to have public pathways across their land, and will often try to discourage their use. This may be by use of off-putting signs (beware of the bull, trespassers will be prosecuted, etc.) or some form of obstruction such as locked or blocked gates, overgrown paths, intimidating livestock in fields, etc.

We heard of several horror stories where landowners had been prosecuted, including some awful cases where people had been severely injured in accidents.

All incidents of lack of access, or damage to paths on the Definitive Map should be immediately reported to the local council, who will follow-up and take appropriate action to restore access.

So how does all of this affect those of us who like to visit ancient sites? Well, it’s a sad fact that many pathways are not included on the definitive map. In 2012, the government announced plans to simplify the recording of definitive paths. Under these plans, all unrecorded footpaths and bridleways created before 1949 will no longer be recorded after 1 January 2026. This means that pathways that have been available for use to access the countryside that are not on the definitive map are in severe danger of being lost/closed for future use.

So what can be done to protect these unregistered pathways for future generations to use? There are several initiatives underway to get pathways added to the Definitive Map before the deadline expires.

  • The Ramblers organisation has produced a downloadable guide to help identify and register ‘lost’ pathways.
  • The British Horse Society provides online maps for most of the country, showing definitive and lost pathways, and providing links to older maps to assist with evidencing historical usage of paths.
  • Restoring the Record illustrates the sorts of evidence that are valuable in recording paths of historic origin. This is important because unrecorded routes will cease to exist on Path Extinguishment Day (1 January 2026).
  • Rights of Way Maps provides a search facility for maps showing existing (registered) rights of way. Useful for identifying existing registered paths.

In order to be added to the Definitive List, evidence of the use of a pathway must be provided. This may be a witness statement indicating regular usage, documentary evidence on old maps or tithe apportionments, or other historical evidence.

If you care at all about rights of way, and particularly if you regularly use a currently unregistered path to access ancient monuments in our countryside, please consider getting involved in registering our paths via one of the projects listed above before they are irretrievably lost!


By Dr. Sandy Gerrard.

Following the discovery of the Bancbryn stone row in 2012 the Welsh archaeological establishment set about characterising it and after much deliberation concluded that it was not a prehistoric stone row for six main reasons:

  1. Rows are less than 200m long (Consultant reporting to Dyfed Archaeological Trust 14th February 2012).
  2. The overall alignment of the Mynydd y Betws alignment is sinuous in a form which is not typical for prehistoric ceremonial/ritual stone alignments which are….. predominantly straight’ (Cotswold Archaeology Report).
  3. The variable size and shape of the stones (Cotswold Archaeology Report).
  4. The stone density varies along the row, from stones every metre or so through to 10-15m gaps. (Cadw 24/01/2012).
  5. “Inconsistencies in the physical appearance of the stone alignment when compared with currently accepted Welsh prehistoric examples (Cadw response 15/08/13).
  6. The stones were not in sockets (Cotswold Archaeology Report).

Bancbryn stone row

Following the completion of a long term project looking at all the extant stone rows in Great Britain, it is now possible to access all the single rows using the same Welsh style criteria used at Bancbryn to find out how their unorthodox approach to interpretation affects our understanding of British stone rows.

A total of 174 accepted single rows most of which are scheduled as ancient monuments were put through the Welsh style interpretative mill and unsurprisingly only 32 were found to meet their strict criteria. The remaining 142 failed to clear at least one hurdle and many were rejected for several reasons. It is worth having a quick look at some of the fallers. Read the rest of this entry »

The widespread availability of metal detectors in the 1970’s was the beginning of a lot of problems for portable antiquities, as we have covered here on a regular basis for the past 10 years or more.

However, the problems arising from the collection of portable antiquities are not new, as an article from Old Cornwall[1] magazine from over 80 years ago relates.

Despite specifically referring to flint finds, some sections of this are worth highlighting as still relevant today to fieldworkers and metal detectorists alike:

  1. “The loss to Cornwall has been incalculable”
  2. “…a detailed record of the exact place…” … “It is not enough to give the name of the farm, or even of the particular field, it must be sufficiently accurate to enable the exact spot to be fixed.”
  3. “It is not desirable that the finder should indulge in any ‘digging’ for flints. His work may prove to be more damaging than helpful.”
  4. “…objects should not be discarded too freely”
  5. “It cannot be too strongly emphasised that flints are of no intrinsic value; what is of value is the record of where flints have been found.”


1: Old Cornwall Magazine Winter 1938 Vol III #4, p166 ‘On Flints’


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

As we’ve said many times, and as the attendees at our megameets prove time and time again, we are (largely) a collection of ‘Ordinary people, caring for Extraordinary places‘. Very nice people, it has to be said, but in the main we’re not showered with professional archaeology qualifications. Luckily, we have access to several ‘tame’ archaeologists, who provide advice and help to steady the tiller when needed, and mostly so far we have avoided espousing what has become known as ‘Bad Archaeology

Over the years, we’ve had many submissions which we’ve had to turn down from often well-meaning but dare we say it, deluded, people espousing their own favourite pet theories as to why certain monuments are where they are, or proposing some outlandish original use, often based upon very little true science (other than half an hour scouring Wikipedia!) Where we have proposed daring new theories – and Dr. Sandy Gerrard’s preliminary work on stone rows is a good example here – they have been backed up by the scientific method, utilising the full range of available academic information. Information all too often denied to the amateur researcher due to academic firewalls, cost etc.

And yet these theories often see the light of day, and even get published as pseudo academic papers or books, without any proper scientific scrutiny. Even worse, they might illustrate their great discovery with quotes and images without context, referencing and copyright approval. It is therefore no wonder that academics and professionals have little enthusiasm for wading through offering after offering by such authors, convinced they have solved some unimaginable riddle connected with Stonehenge, Avebury or some other well-known and well researched site. The author may even ramp up attention by involving the media or the blogosphere in some self-serving paranoia, which will reign forever in the cyber world of amateur truth versus professional conspiracy. Thus the academic obliged by convention, cannot respond without facing a potentially long drawn out distraction of no value or interest other than to the originator.

With this in mind, we have drawn up the following basic guidelines for those who wish to give publicity to their pet theories in such ways, and without following the proper review process:

1. Be yourself, you are not [insert famous archaeologist’s name here] unless it states so on your birth certificate.

2. For whom or what are you writing? Yourself (likely)/ something the world needs to know (unlikely)?

3. Where did you get your information? Credit ideas, state origin, reference [insert famous archaeologist’s name here]’s books and papers in full.

4. No matter how fascinating you think you are, you aren’t, tell us your idea, give references, keep it short then shut up.

5. Take up another hobby, in our opinion writing amateur (pseudo-)archaeology is for self-obsessives and jerks!

Whilst preparing this article, I came upon a quote in Old Cornwall magazine, from 1934. Leiut.-Colonel F C Hirst, writing about ‘Elements of Cornish Archaeology’. He states:

…there is often a tendency to assume that probable incidents suggested by such (antiquarian) studies are facts on which we can rely. Archaeology only deals with that which can be proved to have occurred in the past, and anything that is based upon speculation is foreign to that science.

He goes on to conclude:

…facts and legends have become so mingled in Cornwall, that many quote the latter as archaeological facts. Such people do a great disservice to Cornish Archaeology. Only one kind of antiquary exists, and he is the orthodox type.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Having been approached by local veterans Robert Hardie and Ian Lawes that had formed a band, ‘Duck n Cuvver’, one might think English Heritage would have a sympathetic ear to a request to shoot a music video within the stone circle at Stonehenge.

Having performed at the National Armed Forces Day the band released the track ‘Henge of Stone’ and hoped to complete a video within the monument. The request has been approved, but only if the band cough up £4,500!

We understand you can’t let anyone and everyone have Stonehenge to play with English Heritage, but this is a huge sum for these guys to find. Let them film English Heritage – and don’t be so mean to veterans.

We’ve had a message from one of Farmer Brown’s friends…

Fellow Landowners,

I was disturbed to read last week of a metal detectorist from near here that found in his mum’s garage a gold ring that he had found many years ago and not handed in to the landowner. Now he is selling it and is expecting to get ten thousand quid for it. Reading about it reminded me of the stories my late father told about some of the people who came onto the farm in the ‘seventies.

He told of a young metal detectorist that lived with his mum and came back to our farm and the Higgins’ land in the next village week after week although he never seemed to find anything (he told Dad his hobby gave him an excuse to get out of the house). Now, I don’t know what this fellow’s name was, I’ve only just learnt of this sale. It’s too late to ask Dad, he passed on two months ago, leaving me the farm and the bills. What I know is that Dad, who was always very frugal, would not in a million years have let anyone just walk off with any valuable gold objects taken from our land. I hope that the man in the newspaper can prove that the ring in question came into his possession honestly, and not from my family’s property.

Fellow landowners, for goodness sake, if you really must let people like this onto your property, make sure they know that nothing, nothing, leaves it without you checking it and signing off on it, on your terms, not theirs. But before you do, check that you know what precisely you are signing away.

Oliver Opfer
Silverknoll Farm


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

By Alan S.

The final video for now from our tour of Cornish antiquities visits the Carn Euny courtyard house settlement.

Continually occupied for over 800 years, the final phase of the settlement consisted of three large courtyard houses, several smaller oval buildings and a fogou. The fogou was discovered in 1857, and excavated in the 1860s by William Copeland Borlase.

Further information:

Carn Euny – Cornwall Heritage Trust
Carn Euny – Historic Cornwall
Carn Euny – Wikipedia

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we enjoyed making them. Previous articles in the series can be found here. If there are other Cornish ancient sites you’d like to see featured, please leave a comment.


February 2020
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