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Thankfully, it seems that the coronavirus crisis has delayed a final announcement on the tunnel being made. The following comments were submitted by a supporter of the Heritage Journal:

Stonehenge at Sunset, 1840, by William Turner of Oxford.

People sometimes say to me that the 20th-century archaeologist and writer Jacquetta Hawkes said that “every age has (gets) the Stonehenge it deserves”. I always say back to them something along the following lines:

If the tunnel gets approval then all future generations will get the Stonehenge landscape they don’t deserve as significant parts of it will be damaged. And once that damage has been done, then there’s no turning back from that for three things.

  1. Blick Mead.
  2. The western burial grounds. And all the unknown percentage of sieving in the western burial grounds that Highways England didn’t do “on cost grounds” (when archaeologists like MPP and Paul Garwood etc are asking for 100% sieve-rate in certain areas but Highways England won’t agree to anything like that).
  3. And also any previously unknown archaeology that is in the way of the tunnel as I don’t think the people (in charge) are trustworthy or competent (ref. the BM boreholes).

A petition against the planned tunnel at Stonehenge, containing over 50,000 signatures, was handed in at Downing Street last month. The (final?) decision now rests with the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps who has until the spring to announce his decision. However, it is thought that a decision could well be announced in time for the new budget next week, on March 11.

In the meantime, rumours have been rife that the decision has already been made, epitomised by premature journalism as seen recently in the Salisbury Journal and the Daily Mail. Depending upon who you believe, the tunnel has either been canceled on financial grounds or will go ahead regardless of cost.

And still, eloquent and spirited letters of objection continue to arrive on the desk of Grant Schapps. Letters like the one below, copied into us here at the Heritage Journal and reproduced by permission, which lays out many of the main objections to the tunnel.

Dear Mr Shapps,

I am writing to ask you to please cancel the A303 tunnel and road project near Stonehenge as the fate of one of our country’s most historically fascinating landscapes is in your hands. This Stonehenge landscape is so important that it has been officially designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (though this prestigious WHS status could be lost if you don’t cancel the tunnel).

The magnificent circle of stones called Stonehenge, doesn’t exclusively stand in isolation as it is just one integral part of the much wider Stonehenge landscape (this WHS is 26 square km). You can’t have Stonehenge without the wider Stonehenge landscape, and vice versa. This wider Stonehenge landscape contains many interesting and unusual historical features, which all predate Stonehenge and are significant in their own way. For example:

  • 10,000 year old post holes that once held tall wooden posts and which the experts still speculate about.
  • Mysterious pits such as the nearly 6,000 year old Coneybury Anomaly. This contained an unusual collection of ritual deposits dating from the hunter-gatherer period, right up to the start of settled farming communities.
  • Two large causeway enclosures, the oldest being around 5,700 years old. They are thought to be ritual sites but what happened at these places is the source of much speculation.
  • Approximately 15 long barrows, with an average age of around 5,500 years old. These were large burial chambers for communities of people, rather than the later different style of Bronze Age round barrows which were built for individuals and their immediate family.
  • Two cursuses around 5,500 years old, the longest being 3 km long. They baffle the experts and just one theory is that they were ‘processional ways’.
  • Periglacial stripes, which are a natural feature of long erosion lines. It is thought by many archaeologists that before Stonehenge was built, people noticed that these aligned with the midwinter sunset and the midsummer sunrise and felt it was a special place. So around 5,000 years ago, they started to build Stonehenge at the end of the line of periglacial stripes.

Stonehenge was then built over a timescale of more than 1,000 years and in various stages. During and after this time, many additional structures were built in the wider Stonehenge landscape. For example, the site we now call Durrington Walls was a village where the builders of the later stages of Stonehenge lived temporarily and had huge feasts at solstices. The enigmatic Woodhenge was built nearby. And scattered around the rest of the Stonehenge landscape are around 400 Bronze Age burial mounds, some of which contained exquisite gold items. Since 2011, various aerial and geophysical surveys etc have been undertaken. These have revealed a variety of previously unknown structures hidden under the surface and some even look like small henges. Suffice to say that the Stonehenge landscape is absolutely peppered with dozens of fascinating structures, many of which still need to be excavated to reveal their full complexity. In summary, Stonehenge is just one part of a much wider Stonehenge landscape and if you approve the tunnel then significant parts of it will be seriously and irrevocably damaged.

As just one example, all the construction to the east of the tunnel will seriously damage Blick Mead (BM). This predates Stonehenge and is extremely important for the following reasons:

  • It dates from 9,500 years ago, was in continuous use for 3,000 years, and has much evidence of ritual and other activity since then.
  • It has a unique 7,000 year old platform of flint cobbles under which were ritually preserved Auroch hoof prints. (This is the platform which Highways England’s incompetent people bored a large hole through!).
  • BM has the first dwelling in the Stonehenge landscape (this dwelling is 6,000 years old).
  • All of the above dates have been proven by carbon dating. Many other items have also been carbon dated and it is the sequence of various dates which is so vital to the understanding of BM.
  • A total of 70,000 pieces of worked flint have been found at BM.
  • Also found were 2,420 pieces of animal bone and 126kg of burnt flint which indicates that extravagant feasts were held.
  • As a result of all the above, it won Current Archaeology’s Research Project of the Year award in 2018

Sites as old and rich as BM are extremely rare and it would be an absolute tragedy if it were to be damaged by the tunnel project. The actual dig site is only about the site of a tennis court and yet it has already revealed so much. There is a lot of archaeological potential on the other side of the A303 and that too would be damaged. If BM isn’t damaged by the tunnel project, then further excavations will reveal so much more. It is by far the best site in Britain to help us understand the fascinating story of how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved into settled communities who built areas like the wider Stonehenge landscape and then the modern world.

If the tunnel project gets your approval then BM will be physically damaged by all the construction works as it is less than 20 meters from the current road. Specifically what is planned near to BM is an almost 30 foot tall four-lane dual carriageway flyover with deep reinforcing pillars, plus two extra lanes feeding in from a huge roundabout (so a total of six lanes which merge into four very near to BM). The long-term effect of all this massive concrete construction will be that BM will gradually dry out and this will destroy the carbon dating opportunities. These sequential carbon dates are absolutely crucial for understanding how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved and spread out to build the wider Stonehenge landscape, and then go on to become modern humans like you and me.

In summary to the two paragraphs above, if you approve the tunnel then BM will be seriously and irrevocably damaged and this would be a tragedy for British history……………….and humanity really.

As well as BM being damaged, the massive western tunnel portal will seriously damage the burial grounds in that area. These burial grounds all predate Stonehenge by hundreds of years. World famous archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson’s written submission to the tunnel Examining Authority says. “The proposed work will damage the WHS, especially beyond the western portal to the western boundary of the WHS where a substantial area would be rendered archaeologically ‘sterile’. This will destroy a major block of land within the WHS and degrade its Outstanding Universal Value and is contrary to the recommendations of UNESCO and other international and national parties. The road line would cut through the densest concentration in Britain of remains of Neolithic long barrows (burial mounds from c.3800-3300 BC) known in Britain. The long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is. Important remains relating to the period before Stonehenge, and potentially to its choice of location, would be destroyed by the proposed work. The proposal should be rejected.

Similarly, world famous Paul Garwood (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Birmingham University) written submission says “The current A303 scheme would have a major detrimental impact on the setting and sensory qualities of the barrow group, diminishing one of the most spectacular heritage assets within the WHS. The new carriageways to the south would break up the Stonehenge landscape in a more extreme manner than the current road, while the massive new road intersection with groundworks just 100m from the long barrow, and new roundabouts and slip roads 250m away, would be even more intrusive. Such construction work would be an act of heritage despoliation, both materially and visually, that archaeological ‘mitigation’ and landscaping cannot compensate for.

World famous archaeologist Julian Richards says on You Tube, the tunnel will come out “right into the heart of an unspoilt and incredibly significant area” and “completely obliterate the setting of the ‘Lake’ barrows” which will be a “complete disaster” so he objects “really strongly” and says “future generations will say, what have you done to this absolutely incredible landscape!

I make the point that there are three organisations who should be agreeing with what Julian Richards, Paul Garwood, Mike Parker Pearson and I have all said above. They are English Heritage, Historic England and National Trust. They normally behave ethically but in this case they most certainly are not! They are completely deceiving the public by claiming that the tunnel project is a “historical improvement”. This claim is a smokescreen to hide the reality, which is that they are only focused on their little empire of land which they own around Stonehenge itself. And they are trying their hardest to remove from their empire, all us ordinary decent people driving past enjoying the view of the stones for free. It’s almost the very definition of NIMBYism. And to rub salt into the wounds the public will suffer, we will foot the nearly £2 billion cost (which is very likely to be much more!). In summary, it’s a disgrace that those three organisations are willing to allow serious damage to BM and the western burial grounds to further their agenda of selfishness to the huge detriment of the public.

I also make the point that it is only really the very established and secure (career wise) archaeologists who are criticising the above three organisations. I say this as I have been told that less secure archaeologists are afraid of criticising those powerful organisations, as they are then likely to be blacklisted which will affect their careers. Despite this bullying, a consortium of 22 world class archaeologists have stood up to be counted and written a solid body of evidence detailing the case against the tunnel project.

I ask you to please judge for yourself the honesty and integrity of those three organisations by Googleing each one’s name, and then Blick Mead. You will find that they give only a tiny amount of information about it, despite it being a very significant historical site just 2 km from Stonehenge. I leave you to draw your own conclusions but mine is that those three organisations don’t want the general public to know how important BM is and then think that it shouldn’t be damaged by the tunnel project. I think they are being very dishonest by deceiving people in this way. It’s a very far cry from all the sanctimonious and insincere claims on their websites about how much they care for England’s Heritage.

In summary to all the above, please don’t fall for this cynical con trick being very cleverly peddled by those three organisations.

I know full well that there can be traffic delays at Stonehenge, but these are always mitigated as I use the time to slow down from the trivia of modern life and admire the magnificent circle of stones. As I drive past, I think about how people evolved from being hunter-gatherers at inspiring places like Blick Mead and on to the wonderful culture of people who built the wider Stonehenge landscape. I pay my respects to those good people, whose shoulders we are all standing on, and I very much hope that the awesome Stonehenge landscape they created will be respected for the rest of the foreseeable future.

There are many other reasons that other individuals will give you to ask you to please cancel this extremely damaging tunnel and road project. But I have just focused on the above as it is all very dear to my heart. I am not an archaeologist, and a few years ago I retired after working for 19 years on 999 emergency ambulances for London Ambulance Service. I think that very humbling experience has given me the judgement to know what is genuinely valuable in the world. I think that the wider Stonehenge landscape, plus the rare and absolutely priceless chance to understand how hunter-gatherers evolved into modern humanity, are excellent examples of those truly valuable things that we should all treasure……………..and protect!

I conclude by saying that I think history, and humanity will judge you harshly if you approve this damaging and dishonest scheme. Please, please, please cancel it.

Yours very sincerely,

Paul Gossage

 

 

 

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
Email: public.enquiries@hmtreasury.gsi.gov.uk
cc: transportsecretary@dft.gov.uk 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

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AT THIS CRUCIAL MOMENT IN OUR CAMPAIGN

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.

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.

Carn Brea, near Redruth in Cornwall is an important Neolithic Tor Enclosure site. Word has just reached us that the area at the north base of the tor is under threat of development (shades of Old Oswestry here?). The intended use of the land is for a major BMX park and racetrack, a much-needed facility for the local youths. The right idea, in the wrong place! Below is a message from a local campaign group trying to get the development re-sited.

A message from Friends of Carn Brea Meadow

As you may or may not know there is a planning application currently filed with Cornwall Council to develop part of the land at the base of Carn Brea. You can see the application here – https://goo.gl/9g3Hny

Take a look at the two photos below.

Photo 1 shows Carn Brea, according to Historic England a “Neolithic hilltop enclosure with a later settlement and defensive structures, a prehistoric field system, a medieval castle and deer park”. You will notice the green fields flanking the hill – well these vital flood areas (most of which are classed as a conservation area) are in danger – BIG DANGER.

Photo 2 shows the same view but highlights two areas. The area marked in Red is hoping to be developed in the planning application. A local professional who was invited by Cornwall Council to assess the planning application said in their findings “Approval of this application might set a precedent for further encroachment of the land around Carn Brea.” – such as that marked in Blue.

This has caused a big storm in the area; the proposed development is for a BMX racing facility. The Friends of Carn Brea Meadow (consisting of families, working local people and retirees) have nothing against Cornwall having such a facility but they cannot support an application to develop over 8 acres of beautiful land.

Did you know the proposed development would see the destruction of over 140 perfectly healthy trees – trees that were planted by the local community over 20 years ago as a part of a publicly backed community initiate?

But we’re not alone – over 2000 objectors have signed this online petition – https://bit.ly/2n15jBr saying they agree that this land should not be developed.

Wait, there’s more.

Did you know this current land is free to access (YES that’s right, you can go there with you families, just like many locals do, for FREE) and the area in Red has matured over the years to become a beautiful natural meadow – it even has orchids growing in it. Not supermarket potted orchids – real naturally growing ones. Go and take your children there and show them.

But we need your help to protect this area.

The racetrack wants to use BIG LIGHTS so it can operate for up to 12 hours a day all year round (weather dependent).

It wants to use a TANNOY SYSTEM so race commentary can be heard by the masses.

It wants PARKING FOR UPTO 200 CARS.

It wants to WIDEN PARTS OF THE GREAT FLAT LODE (a Heritage Mining Trail) SO CARS CAN DRIVE DOWN IT.

None of the Friends of Carn Brea Meadow are against Cornwall having a BMX racetrack locally but cannot support the development of land that –

– Falls within a conservation area.
– Is an area of Great Landscape Value
– Is a World Heritage Site.
– Is next to one of Cornwall’s largest UNESCO World Heritage assets.
– Is listed as partly in county wildlife site area.
– Is listed as an early medieval site.

All definitions and points above were taken from Cornwall Council’s online public mapping information. https://map.cornwall.gov.uk/ website/ccmap/…

So how can you help us save this land?

It’s simple, just follow these easy steps, but you’ll need to hurry –

  1. Share this post.
  2. Go to https://goo.gl/9g3Hny by the 9th of August and submit an objection – this is your only formal way to voice your objections in time to Cornwall Council.
  3. Sign the public objection petition – https://bit.ly/2n15jBr
  4. Sign the public petition for a detailed ecological study of the site to be conducted – https://bit.ly/2OHtKjH

Thank you, let’s try and save Carn Brea and the surrounding land from development as once it’s gone – there’s no getting it back.

All of the information used in this post was sourced from Cornwall Council, the submitted planning application documents, and Historic England.

Kernow bys vyken!

Alice Farnsworth is back, to answer another reader’s archaeological query. Don’t forget to send in your questions, and you may be lucky enough to get your own answer from Alice!

 

 

 


Q. As the old adage goes: ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints‘, but don’t footprints cause erosion to delicate sites? How can I minimise my interactions with our ancient sites, given that I feel visiting a site in person is the only way for me to truly experience it?

A. Ha! Yes, it’s true that footfall is a major cause of erosion at our ancient sites, especially at the more popular sites. For instance, the banks at Avebury have often been fenced off to allow the soil to recover from visitors.

There is no simple answer to this question. one way to minimise impact would be to only view sites from a distance (as enforced at Stonehenge), but I can see that this is unsatisfactory in many ways. Limiting your visits to sites that are much less popular with tourists would allow you to gain the interaction you seek. But remember that many of the lesser known sites are on private land where permission may be needed to visit them, or may be off the beaten track with the safety issues that that implies.

Ensuring that you only visit in periods of suitable weather will also reduce the impact of your visit, as fragile sub-surface archaeology can be unwittingly damaged when the ground is sodden. But beware if the weather has been too dry, as the ground underfoot may then crumble and erode, and again, archaeological evidence could be destroyed.

Of course, when visiting any ancient or historical site, you should always attempt to remove any rubbish left behind by others less considerate than yourself, and of course, ensure you do not leave any detritus of your own.

In short, enjoy your visit, and leave the site as you would hope to find it – in its natural state.


Rain is forecast that will significantly add to the standing water on Byway 12 at Stonehenge today – the stretch south of the A303 can be seen in the accompanying photographs taken during April.

It may dry off soon enough but everything the Wiltshire Council cabinet member for highways, transport, and waste, Bridget Wayman, stated about the Ridgeway at Avebury, when closing the route to motorised traffic for a further 21 days, also applies to Byway 12 south of the A303 at Stonehenge:

“The weather in recent weeks has left the surface of the byway severely rutted, and it is still holding water in numerous locations. There are globally important archaeological features on and immediately below the surface and they need to be protected from further damage.”

We might then recall that Highways England adopted Byway 12 in September 2016 as an access route for digging machinery in connection with the now abandoned western portal location for the Stonehenge tunnel, and in the coming weeks a repeat performance is expected, in the name of the Stonehenge tunnel scheme now totally discredited by ICOMOS UK.

Standing water on byway 12

Why then is Wiltshire Council rightly protecting the Ridgeway at Avebury, but failing to extend protection to Byway 12 in the Stonehenge half of the WHS (World Heritage Site)? Keep the diggers off Byway 12 please!

Like many places, the Ridgeway as it passes through Wiltshire has suffered from the intense periods of snow and ice in 2018 that has left precious archaeology vulnerable in the wet conditions. A section of this route near Avebury has though a knight in shining armour: Wiltshire Council has extended the annual prohibition of public motor vehicles which usually runs from 1 October to 30 April, for a further 21 days to protect the surface and archaeology from further damage. It has even been stated that if need be this prohibition of motorised vehicles could be extended further for another 21 days whilst remaining open for walkers, horses, and cyclists.

Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for highways, transport, and waste said:

“The weather in recent weeks has left the surface of the byway severely rutted, and it is still holding water in numerous locations.
“There are globally important archaeological features on and immediately below the surface and they need to be protected from further damage.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and would like to thank the public for their understanding and co-operation.”

Credit: Wilts CC

Well done Wiltshire Council, credit where due and all that.

Source: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/byway-closed-to-aid-ridgeway-recovery

Like many places Cockfield Fell, near Bishop Auckland, has suffered from the intense periods of snow and ice in 2018 that has left precious archaeology vulnerable in the wet conditions. This Scheduled Monument has though a knight in shining armour. Lee McFarlane, an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, has been quoted as saying that:

“Cockfield Fell contains archaeological remains from the prehistoric period through to the 19th century and is a very important scheduled monument, which is protected by law.

“We are very concerned about the damage by 4×4 vehicles to the archaeology on the site and will be working with the landowner and the police to restrict vehicle access to ensure Cockfield Fell can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Image credit: Sarah Caldecott

Well done Historic England, credit where due and all that.

The Northern Echo

 

The National Rural Crime Network recently launched a National Rural Crime Survey.

Do you think rural crime has gone up or down? Do you feel safer? What’s your view of the police in your community? Why not have your say and make your voice heard in the 2018 National Rural Crime Survey?

Please spare a few minutes to take part –

Sadly, the desecration occurring at Stonehenge is not, for some reason, defined as a rural crime, or indeed, an illegal act of any sort.

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