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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.

By Alan S.

I first visited Mulfra Vean courtyard house settlement in Penwith back in 2013, when CASPN were running a clear-up at the site. At that time the site was very overgrown and difficult to understand.

Since then, CASPN have continued their regular clear-ups, and these have recently been augmented by an additional volunteer team from the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) as part of their Ancient Penwith project, one of 13 projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional funding from Cornwall Council and other sources, running over a 5 year period.

My most recent visit to Mulfra Vean was prompted by my attendance in October last year at a one-day introductory course to archaeological surveying, held by PLP. The object of the day was to prepare volunteers to participate in producing surveys of sites in Penwith, starting with Mulfra Vean. Although ill-health at the time prevented me from committing to participate in the surveys themselves, I did volunteer to assist in the digitisation of any survey drawings. As I was aware that a significant effort had now been put into the survey, I visited the site to see what progress had been made.

I was met by Jeanette Ratcliffe, the current Ancient Penwith Project Officer, providing maternity cover for Laura Ratcliffe-Warren. Jeannette was kind enough to show me the current state of the survey plans drawn up by the volunteer team to date and gave me a short tour of the site.

The settlement is currently dissected by a footpath which ascends Mulfra Hill, and the current effort is focussed to the west of the path, where one courtyard house and the possible outline of another have been laid bare. This part of the settlement was excavated in 1954 by Rev. Crofts, who sadly passed away the following year without publishing his results. Luckily Charles Thomas obtained his notes, and the results were eventually published in the Cornwall Archaeology Society journal.

Survey by Mr. W. E. Griffiths, 1954 as published in Cornish Archaeology No. 2 1963.

The features to the east of the path have long been hidden beneath dense undergrowth, but the brushcutters have recently been put to good use here, and details of the site can now be seen. First is an enigmatic double bank earthwork, which may possibly be related to medieval mining activity. To the north is another courtyard house, and this will no doubt be investigated further once the western survey is completed.

The current plan is to commence digitisation of the survey drawings by the end of January, for inclusion in a planned web portal which will show the results of all 13 projects in due course. Keep an eye on the PLP website for updates on this and the other projects.

Last week, Highways England’s contractors drilled two boreholes directly into the most sensitive area of Blick Mead. These boreholes, installed for measuring water levels in relation to the A303 tunnel scheme, were excavated without anyone present from the Blick Mead team that over many years has painstakingly researched 100% of every bucket of material recovered from the site.

Not for the first time we are obliged to question the lack of awareness and sensitivity in the approach Highways England have adopted in their surveys on behalf of the A303 tunnel project. Does anyone honestly still believe Highways England’s claim this Stonehenge tunnel scheme is a “heritage project”? Come off it Highways England! Come off it Historic England! Come off it National Trust! Come off it English Heritage Trust! This is self-serving vandalism!

Pictured Andy Rhind-Tutt discovers the Highways England borehole that has been sunk in the path of the auroch hoof prints the Blick Mead project revealed in 2017.

Once again, 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.


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 were pleased to see the Megalithic Portal‘s book, The Old Stones has been nominated for this year’s Book of the Year, and have cast our vote in that category accordingly.

Voting closes on 11 February 2019, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 8 March at Current Archaeology Live! 2019. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, see the conference web page.


November 2019
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