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We note with some surprise that English Heritage have launched a £50,000 appeal for remedial work to four cannon, two 18th-Century nine-pounder guns at Etal Castle Northumberland, and World War Two anti-aircraft guns at Dover Castle in Kent and Pendennis Castle, near Falmouth.

This appeal comes on top of their existing £20million budget. English Heritage (EH) has a duty to care for the nation’s collection of historic places and artefacts, and says it needs the funding to keep up with the rate of deterioration of not only the four mentioned cannon, but also many others at risk from weather erosion.

But it occurs to us here at the Journal that, given that duty of care and the need for funds for restoration work, that EH would be better off reviewing (and cancelling) their plans for work that no-one really wants and that does not fit the duty of care criteria.

The planned ‘bridge’ at Tintagel Castle is a case in point – it certainly cannot be considered to come under the duty of care heading for the site, being something that is out of keeping with the origins of the site. Indeed the bridge (planned costs of £4million) can only be seen as an unwelcome intrusion, designed purely to increase visitor numbers with no concern for the heritage of the site in question.

…and that £4million could pay for an awful lot of cannon to be restored and protected for future generations, with no need for a special appeal.

In May last year an Archaeological Forum briefing predicted that given how deeply the EU laws are embedded in domestic law, any changeis likely to take many years, with many laws remaining in place for years or decades”.

Since then however the mood music has been changing progressively and it’s now clear that Brexit will mean less spending on environmental and archaeological protection. The EU habitats directive is to be repealed and there’s scant hope it will be replaced with anything as effective. Already that nice Mr Gove has urged that we Slash EU regulations on wildlife protection and drug safety trials after Brexit“.

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is very concerned. They say an effective enforcement system will be needed to fill the vacuum left by the European Commission but they lack confidence in Government intentions about that even though they had “heard evidence that 80 per cent of the public support at least the same level, if not higher levels of environmental protection post-Brexit.”

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Following our efforts to persuade the BM to stop portraying metal detectorists as “citizen archaeologists” we’ve been òffered the title of Citizen Conservationists! (Paul Barford, “Victory for reason”). We accept! Not for ourselves but for the tens of thousands of people who visit, research and study archaeological and historic sites and keep to the mantra “take only memories, leave only footprints”.

A number of such people will be at our Megameet at Avebury Stone Circle this weekend. Not for personal gain and without any supportive infrastructure – no media savvy Whitewashing Department, no Culture Secretary saying they’re heroes and no team of Liaison Officers tagging along, emphasising the positive and spinning the negative! There’ll be nothing to spin at Avebury. Those people don’t visit archaeological sites to take bits of them home in a bag. Nor do millions of others. Maybe the BM should start promoting them?

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No spin necessary.

No spin zone.

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Volunteers team up with English Heritage on hillfort maintenance

Local love for a Shropshire heritage site is being put to good use through a progressive new volunteering initiative. 

Earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, residents of Oswestry on the Shropshire/Wales border congregated on Old Oswestry hillfort in a symbolic hug of protection. Now they are turning their affection into hands-on support with the monument’s maintenance under the supervision of its national guardians, English Heritage.

Members of the HOOOH Community Group, which is promoting local engagement in Old Oswestry’s future, are recruiting volunteers to help English Heritage with landscape management and monitoring. Tasks will range from scrub clearance and pond maintenance, to taking fixed-point photos and supporting environmental initiatives to aid the hillfort’s preservation and upkeep.

(L to R): HOOOH Community Group volunteers Neil Phillips, Rob Baur and Katie Jones install a ‘No Bikes’ sign as their first task working with English Heritage.

(L to R): HOOOH Community Group volunteers Neil Phillips, Rob Baur and Katie Jones install a ‘No Bikes’ sign as their first task working with English Heritage.

English Heritage is also keen to work with other local organisations including colleges with expertise and interest in undertaking potential biodiversity and animal management initiatives on the fort.

The scheme is one of just a few in England involving local volunteers in landscape maintenance combined with environmental and wildlife initiatives at an English Heritage site. It is hoped that the success of the partnering at Old Oswestry will pave the way to more volunteering of this type, especially at unstaffed and more remote properties.

English Heritage is the charitable trust which cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites across the country – it became separate from Historic England, the government service championing and offering advice on heritage, in 2015. As part of its mission as a charity, English Heritage is committed to including the wider community in its work and expanding opportunities for volunteers. Currently, around 2,000 people are involved with volunteering at some 50 of its 400 sites.

Volunteer involvement

HOOOH Community Group member, Neil Phillips, and heritage adviser, Tim Malim, recently met with English Heritage representatives to discuss the scope of volunteer involvement.

English Heritage has an established management plan in place for the hillfort, though recent wet summers have impacted on control of undergrowth, particularly around the ‘ponds’ or pits on the western side. New gates installed in 2015 have improved access for the landscape contractor. An additional log bench is due to be installed this year by the ‘floating’ path at the western entrance.

During a tour of the hillfort, plans were discussed for clearing overgrown areas, especially bracken, with minimal disturbance to wildlife. This would include an annual cutback of willow and woody growth in the winter, and control of bracken in the summer.

A newt and ecology survey was undertaken earlier this year to help assess what additional tasks can be tackled, and when, alongside regular grounds maintenance during the next 12 months. English Heritage will be updating its landscape maintenance plan to offer a range of opportunities for volunteers, including a programme of pond clearance this autumn.

Volunteers, with Maggie Rowlands and Tim Malim in the foreground, get to grips with locations for taking monitoring photography on the hillfort.

Volunteers, with Maggie Rowlands and Tim Malim in the foreground, get to grips with locations for taking monitoring photography on the hillfort.

Tim Malim said: “Managing the earthworks is a complex mission, with the need to balance several conflicting interests. Uncontrolled vegetation is a threat to the monument, and one of the best methods for managing this is through grazing the ramparts. But access to water and steep slopes make this difficult without unsightly fencing being introduced.

“Another balance has to be achieved between wildlife and the historic monument. There is a need to control the rabbit population and cut down scrub undergrowth and bracken, while maintaining habitats for newts and linnets at critical times in the year.”

English Heritage West is responsible for over 135 scheduled and listed sites across a substantial area stretching from the Scilly Isles to Cheshire.  The Charity is keen to involve local groups and volunteers as “outreach caretakers” to undertake maintenance tasks and site monitoring.

As a first task, HOOOH volunteers have installed ‘No Bikes’ signs to deter bikers from scrambling over the 3000-year-old scheduled earthwork and causing severe erosion scars. Help is also being sought with a fixed-point photography project to document the impact of on-going maintenance work.

Push-bikes are prohibited as a new safeguard against damage to the 3000-year-old monument which is known as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.

Push-bikes are prohibited as a new safeguard against damage to the 3000-year-old monument which is known as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.

Before leaving, the English Heritage team visited the Artists Hugging the Hillfort exhibition at the Willow Gallery in Oswestry. With over 60 art pieces, including work by local school children, they were impressed by the local pride and strength of feeling shown for Old Oswestry.

Volunteer Neil Phillips said: “As one of many local people that have been inspired by Old Oswestry since childhood, this is a constructive and rewarding way to be more closely involved in its conservation. The HOOOH Community Group is proud to contribute through the volunteers’ initiative, following the example of the town’s archaeology and history groups, as well as the hillfort landscape improvement project, which have long championed the hillfort.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer should contact Mr Phillips in the first instance on 07751 160576.

 

Climb the mighty ramparts for views over at

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Looks just like Old Oswestry Hillfort. Yet treated with far more respect by English Heritage!

Old Sarum has two advantages over Old Oswestry. It has the sense to be in Wiltshire, where EH wouldn’t dare to do what they’ve done in Shropshire. And it hasn’t been a Rotten Borough since the nineteenth century whereas Shrewsbury patently still is.

#gawdknowshowtheycanlivewiththeirconsciencesthisxmas

cpre

In a word, yes (along with “Rescue”). Yesterday Shropshire Council voted unanimously to damage Oswestry Hillfort’s setting, (inexplicably ignoring this overwhelmingly powerful last minute appeal). The Inspector had attached “great weight” to English Heritage’s failure to stand up for the Hillfort, so effectively if it ends up done for it will be English Heritage that did for it. What a thought!

Meanwhile, this year Historic England has actively lobbied for the bulldozing of massive new dual carriageways over the World Heritage landscape at Stonehenge. Last time, when EH called for that 10 years ago, The National Trust fought against it tooth and nail.  This time, the Trust is supporting it (a u-turn it is still to convincingly justify, even to its own employees). The Government said the Trust’s support had been “decisive” , so effectively  if it ends up done it will be The National Trust that did it. Another amazing thought!

By contrast The Campaign to Protect Rural England tends to be logical and consistent in it’s attitude towards heritage protection (for proof see their recent masterful demolition of the Government’s Green Belt “myths”). They urged Shropshire Council to “think again” on the Hillfort. They opposed the Stonehenge short tunnel the first time AND the second time. Unlike English Heritage (“We pursue the highest standards in all our work”) and Historic England (“Championing England’s Heritage”) they always say what they really think, not what pleases the Government, and unlike The National Trust they never have a day off from their core beliefs.

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PS, if you wish to express your opposition and incredulity regarding The National Trust’s (“Forever, for Everyone”) and English Heritage’s (“our role is guardians of Stonehenge”) joint ambition to cause massive damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape you can sign the Stonehenge Alliance’s petition here.

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PPS, Councillor Malcolm Price, portfolio holder for regulatory services, housing and commissioning, said: “No-one in this council wants to do anything that is detrimental to the hillfort, that’s why we removed two of the sites from the plan.”  If it was true that “no-one in the council wanted to do anything detrimental to the hillfort” they would have followed the advice of the national experts and removed the third one. But they didn’t, so it’s not true, is it Councillor Price? Please withdraw your false claim, it reflects as badly on you as some of the previous Leader’s statements did on him and people in the wider world will think absolutely nothing has changed in Shropshire.

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PPPS, As “Chirkmabel” has pointed out in our Comments : “Shrops Council would have happily kept the first 2 sites for development if it hadn’t been for all OUR efforts to campaign against them.” It’s true. They fought like tigers to keep the 2 sites, Councillor Price can’t deny that, so his  words turn out to be blatant whitewashing of the reality. There’s something absolutely rotten in the state of Shropshireland as Private Eye has now picked up on.  But just about everyone has realised that for some time. Now that Shropshire Council has risen above the metropolitan horizon could the time have come for an independent examination of its behaviour? Investigative reporters, judicial or legal bodies – feel free!

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(BTW, many years ago my father was on the old “Shropshire County Council”.  He was immaculately honest all his life and he felt a very strong sense of duty to the public, as did his colleagues I believe.  He would be appalled to see what has been going on at the new “Shropshire Council”. He would have told the press exactly what he knew and what he felt about the cowboyism, not kept totally quiet or actively denied it, as is mostly happening there now. )

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By Thelma June Jackson, Heritage Journal

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WKLB

After much delay, West Kennet Long Barrow has been closed for conservation work. The entrance is fenced off while a small team of what looked like three people work on the drainage and 1950s concrete skylight. I was over there on Monday and spoke to someone who said he was an archaeology-engineer. The work appears to being carried out with care and precision, has been jointly commissioned by NT and EH.

At the same time a very strong plastic webbing ‘road’ has been laid on the grass pathway leading up to the barrow and a portacabin is up there behind the fencing.

WKLB path

The Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN) is extremely active all year round, monitoring and looking out for many of the prehistoric sites on the West Penwith peninsular. Once a month they organise a clearup session, staffed entirely by volunteers, to cut back growth on designated sites and ensure they are not entirely lost to nature.

October’s scheduled clearup coincided with my visit to the area, so I decided to once again go along and lend a hand. The designated site this month was the courtyard settlement at Bosullow Trehyllys, in the shadow of Chun Castle. The site lies on private land, so this was a chance to see a site that is not usually accessible to the public. I have been here once before, at a previous clearup session a couple of years ago, and it’s a wonderful site.

When I arrived, the clearup was well under way with half a dozen people dotted around the site, clearing bracken and brambles away from the stones to more easily discern the layout of the buildings. As usual, Luna, organiser Dave Munday’s dog was keeping a guarding eye out. Although she’s a softie at heart, she has a ferocious bark and growl when any strangers approach, and I got the full treatment!

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After saying hello, I took some time to look around the site, orient myself and take a few photos. It’s quite a difficult site to photograph, especially when so overgrown. There’s no real viewpoint to get an overall picture of the layout of the settlement – I’ll have to invest in a drone one day…

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Bosullow Trehyllys comprises of four identifiable courtyard house structures, with additional circular structures which may predate the courtyard structures. I was told that the settlement was much larger, but historical field clearance destroyed at least half of the original settlement. A large mound of stones in the adjoining field may attest to this.

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Having had a look around, I was then put to work with a pair of shears, helping to cut back a section of one of the houses. I didn’t go too mad, being a novice and not wanting to cause any unintended damage. All too soon it was time to pack up for the day, and the piles of cuttings were evidence of the work that had been put in during the day. A nice tradition was the goblet of mead passed between the participants at the end of the day, with a small libation for the site itself too.

If you find yourself in the area, check out the CASPN web site or Facebook page to see if a clearup is scheduled – there’s one every month in Penwith, with additional clearups on The Lizard run by a separate team. It’s worthwhile work, helping to preserve some of our largely forgotten heritage for future generations.

Can you guess who said this?


“I still find Stonehenge rather dull. When it comes to prehistory, I am more for picturesque Avebury or Brittany’s stupendous Carnac. Wiltshire’s henge is small and fragmentary, and I wish someone would replace the fallen lintels and fill in the gaps.

Another “Stonehenge sensation” this month revealed that the the henge had been a complete circle. Given its astronomical precision, why not put it back as intended by its builders? We do not leave sundials out of line or clocks without escapements. We know where the sarsens and bluestones came from. We rebuild churches and cathedrals. A reconstructed Stonehenge might make sense, and not just to archaeologists.

But there we go. Like Obama and the rest, I have communed too long and am probably going mad.”


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Someone in long flowing robes, high on a hill, hands outstretched to the moon? No, it was the NT’s outgoing chairman, here just weeks before announcing he – and you – were going to support the short tunnel! But that was then and this is now and he has left and you haven’t.

If you feel that supporting a short tunnel conflicts with the Trust’s mission and spirit you’ll be pleased to know it has just invited its members to say how it can stay true to its core purpose (could it be asking you to urge it to change its mind?) You can tell them at enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk. If you like, you could mention that when they boasted on World Heritage Day that “we’re proud to protect eight World Heritage Sites” you think they should have said seven!)

You could also follow Dan Snow’s advice: “Great that the National Trust has given members a vote on the Stonehenge tunnel. Please help to Save Stonehenge

Dan Snow

If you’re looking for something to do on this coming Bank Holiday weekend, the National Trust invites you to help ‘Chalk the Uffington White Horse‘ May 3–4.

Once a year the famous Bronze-Age horse, that watches over the Vale of White Horse in Uffington, needs re-chalking. To take part, booking is essential, and can be done by calling 01793 762209.  30- minute time slots will be allocated to volunteers from 10am onwards. Car parking at the site is free for permit holders, NT members with valid stickers and disabled badge carriers. Otherwise, charges for up to two hours are £2.00, all day £4.00.

Painting of the White Horse, bu Heritage Action member, Jane Tomlinson. See http://www.janetomlinson.com for more of her work.

Painting of the White Horse, by Heritage Action member, Jane Tomlinson. See http://www.janetomlinson.com for more of her work.

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