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Hundreds of voices set to ring out from iconic Shropshire hillfort at annual heritage hug
-Community prepares to send out big message about heritage and greenspace for Valentine’s week-
Oswestry will be displaying its affection for local heritage and greenspace in a landmark initiative as part of annual celebrations devoted to Old Oswestry hillfort.
The town is aiming to encircle the 3,000-year-old Iron Age monument with a 1 km long chain of people and string of hearts with messages of appreciation for the hillfort from all parts of the community.
The ‘Hearts Around the Hillfort’ project is set to provide an eye-catching focus to this year’s hillfort hug on February 12, organised by the HOOOH Community Group.
“Red hearts are going out to schools, groups and organisations, as well as shops and public outlets,” said HOOOH member, Kate Clarke. “We are hoping that as many individuals as possible, from young to old, will donate a heart-felt message about the hillfort for this super-long bunting.”
She added: “It means that anyone unable to attend the hug in person can still play a part, especially older residents who may be less able to get out. Many of us have fond memories of the hillfort which this project aims to capture.”
The group is also keen for hearts in support of local greenspace and heritage in general.
John Waine of HOOOH said: “As the ancient heart of the town, the hillfort is an outstanding attraction presiding over Oswestry’s northern gateway. But it also forms part of a precious network of green environment, recreation fields and historical fabric vital to preserving Oswestry’s character and quality of life for residents. The bunting is an opportunity to reflect the importance of all of these assets and the community’s concerns that they are respected in local decision-making.”
HOOOH estimates that around 650 people will be needed to form a complete human chain around the hillfort top. The group stresses that the event is being organised and stewarded with due care for the monument and people’s safety.
Now in its third year, the hug is part of a weekend of events taking place February 11 and 12 celebrating one of the country’s largest and best preserved hillforts. Old Oswestry has been acknowledged by eminent academics as the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ due to its importance to the archaeological understanding of Celtic Britain.
A full day’s seminar will be held in Oswestry Memorial Hall on February 11 examining wider aspects of the hillfort’s role, including its natural heritage and ecology. Family workshops with a wildlife theme and an evening of live performance are also planned at Hermon Chapel. Further events exploring the hillfort’s flora and fauna are set to follow through 2017 under an educational initiative called the ‘Hillfort Watch’.
Allied group, Artists Hugging the Hillfort (AHH!), is currently showing a retrospective of hillfort initiatives and artwork called ‘Heritage Matters’ at the Oswestry Heritage and Exhibition Centre. Running until the end of February, it traces HOOOH’s evolution from campaign to community group working in the broadest interests of the hillfort.
Shops, outlet, groups and organisations who would like to participate in the ‘Hearts around the Hillfort’ initiative by making or collecting hearts should contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 or via its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OldOswestryHillfort)
So you want to wreck your country’s premier World Heritage landscape with massive new dual carriageways in cuttings? How do you get the locals to enthuse?
Well, you do something you could have done for the past many years but mysteriously you didn’t do until now. You concoct and publish an embarrassingly inappropriate peak-time traffic relief route directing all the A303 traffic straight through a small local community and you announce it in an apparently innocent, chirpy fashion: “Stuck in traffic on the A303 Stonehenge? Our planned upgrades will ease congestion, making journeys faster and more reliable”….
Admittedly it’s 50% further and saves only 8 minutes but that’s not the point. It’s so disruptive it will ensure local support for the short tunnel is solid, and that IS the point, who could seriously deny it?
“Nah, it’s not that at all” – a paid Spokesman.
By all that’s right and rational the Stonehenge tunnel should have been conceived, proposed and designed by a ẁide panel of respected archaeologists. But no, it was all down to this bloke, looking for votes…..
He and his team wanted it cheap. Which means short. But that gave them a PR problem because “short” also means “horribly damaging to the WHS”. However, that wasn’t insurmountable. All they needed was a sufficient number of archaeologists in receipt of Government funding or patronage to say such damage is acceptable. Which, as is clear to all, they’ve obtained.
So just so you know, it’s a political tunnel. It was neither conceived, designed nor blessed by the likes of Aubrey Burl, Martin Carver, Carenza Lewis, Francis Pryor, Colin Renfrew, Tim Darvill, Josh Pollard, Vince Gaffney or Jim Leary. In Tom Holland’s words, Stonehenge has been “offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of electioneering“. It’s as simple and shameful as that.
The abiding message of the 30th Anniversary Conference is that the whole Stonehenge landscape is very special. So logically you’d think everyone would want to keep it from harm. But no. “Desecration by short tunnel” must still be considered acceptable for no-one said otherwise and Tom Holland’s 2 minute 27 second video saying otherwise couldn’t be shown as the programme was “too full”!
It all makes zero sense. But perhaps most puzzling of all is the attitude of the National Trust. By what mechanism has “Preserving special places for everyone, for ever” become “we support what the Government wants”? We think we may have found the answer buried in an article in The Independent back in 2003 :
“It is the largest conservation group in Europe and the third-biggest landowner in the country. But, a senior official admits on screen, it does not know exactly what it is meant to be doing. What disturbs about The National Trust is not its concern with fine buildings and natural landscape but its inconsistencies and distortions and its clod-hopping, bureaucratic megalomania in dealing with them. Tyntesfield must be frozen archaeologically, but Lennon can be imagined. Cliveden can be developed, but Orford Ness must remain a desert.”
And the Stonehenge WHS must be valiantly defended. Or not. Depending on which decade the question arises.
Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (17 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.
Baroness Jones just asked “whether Highways England plan to investigate using a tunnel which avoids visual and physical damage to the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site and its setting”. It was an easy question for the Government to deal with. Simply saying “yes, it’s one of several options” would answer the question but not bind them to it. But no. Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon said: “Highways England are considering a number of options for improving the section of the A303 close to Stonehenge, which include a variety of tunnel options. The results will be available for consideration at a public consultation to be held in 2017.”
The question called for just “yes” or “no” not “a variety” which means nothing. So we can safely infer a non-damaging option isn’t being considered. Had it been he would have been delighted to say so. We can also predict that only damaging options will be offered at the public consultation. Logic dictates it’s true. Which is more than can be said of Highways England’s reported statement after their recent Workshop that they “hope” the new A303 would avoid the WHS”!!
[To see the others put ‘Yowling’ in the search box.]
Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (16 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.
English Heritage has published 2 pictures titled THE SOLUTION suggesting how the Stonehenge Landscape could look “without the A303“….
But it’s a misrepresentation that pushes the term “blatant” to new levels. The landscape will NOT be “without the A303“ !! What is proposed is the building of a new A303, partly in a short tunnel but also in the form of brand new, massively damaging surface dual carriageways stretching about a mile, just about as long as the existing road shown above!
So suggesting the landscape would be without the A303 is yet another screeching moggy and it is the basis upon which Highways England say (in their current newletter) their plans will result in a “reduced impact on Stonehenge and the World Heritage Site“. No. Absolutely, categorically no.
[To see the others put ‘Yowling’ in the search box.]
Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (14 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.
A moggy of omission? It’s like this: you’d think, since the Government said the Trust’s volte-face on the tunnel was pivotal, the 2016 National Trust AGM would be full of the subject. But no, no-one mentioned the word Stonehenge and there were only two Members’ Resolutions (and they were about the Tenants Association and saving a café at Studland). Nothing about the biggest decision the Trust has ever made (and ever will) – the decision to support massive new damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
You’d also think, wouldn’t you, that out of 4.5 million members some would have tried to table a resolution about that. But no. Or did they? (The Board can refuse to accept a resolution if it has been covered before, if it’s defamatory or if at least three quarters of the Board think it’s not relevant). Whatever the reason, the omission is bizarre by any measure, is it not?
Maybe though, you think Stonehenge was covered within the 22 questions from the floor? No it wasn’t. Or the 24 questions submitted in the simultaneous webchat? No, it wasn’t. Still, the Chair, Tim Parker, did say “I hope you can see we’re not just trying to take on the nice easy questions”. No, actually, we can’t.
Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (13 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.
Placebo politics? In 2010 Conservative MP John Glen certainly pleased the voters, saying he would not rest until a Salisbury bypass was built. But this year he changed: “I have always said that I will not rest from seeking improvements to Salisbury’s roads infrastructure.” Not quite the same thing! Anyway, he has now applied placebo politics to Stonehenge (and added a dash of muddle!):
On 4th March 2014 he wrote: “there is one option that would address the demands of those who crave a fit for purpose dual carriageway and those who rightly seek to protect the precious archaeology of Stonehenge. A long deep bore tunnel would enable safe passage through without disturbing the hidden barrows and earthworks of the wider World Heritage site.” Sounds pleasing! A long tunnel and no disturbance to archaeology. But next day at a Westminster Hall debate he said “In the past there has repeatedly been one solution that has united all parties, a deep bore tunnel if it was at least 2.8 km long”.
For his information … all parties were NOT united, in fact nearly every archaeological and heritage body was strongly against it! In addition, his “long tunnel” turns out to be a short tunnel, and that of course would disturb the archaeology of the wider World Heritage site! Placebos (and yowling moggies) are bad enough but describing damaging quack remedies as reliable cures is worse.
[To see the others put ‘Yowling’ in the search box.]
Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (12 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda.
Historic England says the Stonehenge tunnel would be “the biggest single investment ever made by Government in this country’s heritage.” No. It was always a road investment. For avoidance of doubt: the Government’s published purpose was “to turn the A303 into a strategic corridor to the south-west” (and of course, to get votes!) It was subsequently painted as a heritage investment by the 3 bodies trying to put lipstick on a pig.
Neither “heritage” nor anything like it passed David Cameron’s lips when he visited the site for the announcement. In fact, he let the moggy out of the bag that day. Just after being briefed by the Highways Agency and the Trust he stated, unconvincingly: “It’s quite a long tunnel but I think that’s what makes it such a successful plan”. No David! They may have told you it’s quite a long tunnel but actually it’s a far too short tunnel for conservation purposes and that’s what makes it a disastrous plan and one of the biggest single destructive actions ever made by Government against this country’s heritage!
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Surprise, surprise! A planning application has just been submitted to North Yorkshire County Council by Tarmac applying to extend its Nosterfield Quarry. As part of it, it is proposing to ‘gift’ to an appropriate body in perpetuity control of the Central and Southern henges. Sounds kind. Until you recall that Tarmac has wrecked most of the landscape of the henges already. And that giving gifts has long been part of its strategy….
In July 2005 the Journal reported that “In an attempt to appease local opposition a strip of land between Thornborough Moor and Nosterfield has been offered to the village for recreational purposes” and the next month it was reported they’d offered to donate 60 acres of land around the Northern Henge to the nation. However, six months later we were reporting the other side of the story: “Quarrying in the vicinity of the Thornborough Henges has caused widespread concern for many years. About half of the original complex has been destroyed, a landfill site is being operated immediately adjacent to the central monuments and quarrying is still ongoing close by at Nosterfield, also within the monument complex”.
So Tarmac’s latest gesture isn’t something to celebrate greatly. Gifting control of the Central and Southern Henges is no big deal since they are scheduled and can’t be quarried – and indeed are probably a burden to be responsible for. So it’s probably best to think of Tarmac more as a crocodile, to be treated with caution not gratitude. Just over ten years ago we quoted our colleague, Thornborough campaigner George Chaplin. His words turned out to be prophetic: “Tarmac have not given up in their ambition to extend the existing quarry. They intend to appeal against the refusal and the danger remains very real for the whole of the remaining surroundings”.