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Yes you heard right, if you live in Ireland, pop along to your local garden centre and if you are lucky they might stock a bag of compost made by Westland Horticulture. These helpful chaps have been systematically destroying a unique bronze age trackway to make compost for the last ten years! Don’t worry about getting into trouble with the authorities, the Irish National Monuments Service haven’t issued a preservation order, or recorded it in the Irish Register of Historic Monuments, despite being notified in 2005. Yes you heard right again, this offer has been running for ten years with full government knowledge and no-one’s stopped it yet!!
Of course you’d hope common decency would have stopped Westland Horticulture from destroying our shared cultural heritage in the name of a quick Euro, but apparently not…
Someone has scrawled “AA 2015” on one of the stones of Britain’s third largest stone circle, Orkney’s Ring of Brogdar.
A spokesman for Historic Scotland said “Fortunately incidents such as this are rare, and we continue to work with the local community to educate people on the significance of these prehistoric sites.” All very well, but it’s a fair bet it was a visitor not a local and the locals probably need no educating on the subject. In any case, Historic Scotland and it’s predecessor bodies have been “educating” the public since 1885 and it doesn’t seem to have got through to the likes of Andy Alexander or whatever the little toe-rag’s name is. So you have to wonder if more could be done beyond vague promises to educate people – certainly at the “Hollywood” sites where the sheer numbers of visitors increases the statistical likelihood of attacks. (The Nine Ladies stone circle has recently suffered similar vandalism).
“Punishment” is a form of education that shouldn’t be neglected. In Britain if you’re caught you can theoretically get up to 5 years in jail but of course no-one ever gets much more than a fine. Even bulldozing a circle at Priddy resulted in a non-custodial sentence. Abroad, though, if people are caught damaging particularly precious monuments the penalties can be much more severe. Last year a Russian who carved a letter K on the Colosseum in Rome (which is less than half the age of the Ring of Brogdar) was fined £15,800 and a couple of years ago a man was jailed for 18 months for urinating against the Alamo (a monument that’s one twentieth of the age of the Ring of Brogdar!)
We received some bad news yesterday of yet another attack on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. As you can see in the photos someone has carved a few bits of graffiti into the fallen stone at the circle. The police have been informed and we hope the offender is swiftly found. If anyone has any information on the identity of the culprit they should notify Derbyshire Police.
[Edit: It looks like the majority/all of this damage actually took place back in July, but may have been added to recently]
We have decided to offer this attractive trophy on a quarterly basis to individuals or organisations who have caused significant avoidable harm to heritage. Readers are welcome to provide future nominations but this month the choice almost makes itself: ….
Well done boys
Update 18 June
Please note, several people have pointed out that the name of the award could cause confusion with the long-established and admirable Ig Nobel Prizes for Science so in future our award will have a new name (to be announced – suggestions welcome!)
The development is to go ahead. You can take part in a Consultation – but only about the “modifications” suggested by the Inspector, not about the development itself. The document is at pains to make that extremely clear:
“Please note that the Inspector is only inviting comments on the suggested Main Modifications. Comments that do not relate to a suggested Main Modification will not be considered.”
To give you an idea how hard the door has been slammed and how ineffectual and almost insulting are the modifications, here are some of them……
Development should demonstrate appropriate regard to the significance and setting of the Old Oswestry Hill Fort……
Full archaeological assessment will be required to enhance the understanding and interpretation of the significance of the Hillfort and its wider setting …….
Ensuring long distance views to and from the Hillfort within its wider setting are conserved ……..
Development should be designed to allow views and glimpses of the Hillfort from within the site …….
The layout of development ……will be designed to minimise the landscape impact ……..
Try this test. Go to Stonehenge and deliberately tread on a Marsh Fritillary caterpillar. You’ll risk prosecution. Now jump around on the stones and the same thing applies as that’s against the law too. Yet you and hundreds of others can do it with impunity on 21 June. Why? Because there are so many people packed into the monument it’s impossible to exercise control. EH’s PR Department must cringe every year, especially on 22 June when they release a press release saying everything went well but the photographs show they weren’t in control.
But maybe a change is coming. We hear EH’s Historic Properties Director “has grasped the PR opportunity of picnics and kite flying and happy family gatherings” (which were OUR suggestions, see here!) and coincidentally some Free Access campaigners are also calling for a daytime picnic adjacent to the stones and they’ve been invited to a “private meeting” to discuss it!
Could this be the moment when the problem is solved? Yes, providing EH says instead of, not as well as. There’s no point in expanding the celebrations into the daytime unless there’s an end to the worldwide negative PR created by nocturnal overcrowding inside the stones and the damage and disrespect it brings.
So here’s our fantasy picture of ordinary people, all equal stakeholders having fun celebrating solstice near to but not within the stones (which is something no-one can show is less likely to be traditional than what happens now). They could start at dawn if they wished – the sunrise view from outside is much better and the place is now thought to have been designed to facilitate that – and if they were outside the stones there’d be no huge expense, no massive security, no litter, no graffiti, no damage, no stone-standing, no climbing on them, no “personal alcohol allowance”, no ejections, no endless moaning, no faeces, no crazy calls for unrestricted access, no arrests and no embarrassment and humiliation for EH and Britain! Isn’t that better?
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.”
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 email@example.com. 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“
We have been sent this message from someone who has attended several Stonehenge solstice events in a professional capacity. They have supplied their name but have asked that we don’t divulge it.
While we’re happy to agree with King Arthur and others that it is not true pagans or Druids that misbehave at Solstice, the account does suggest there is more than a small minority of other people, perhaps pagans-for-the-day or simply revellers, who do so. In addition it highlights the issue of “insults” to the monument i.e. behaviour that may not cause permanent damage but nevertheless shouldn’t be tolerated by the rest of us – and particularly by true pagans and Druids. Is not the unwavering insistence on a “cram-in” ensuring that the monument is grossly disrespected every year and shouldn’t pagans and Druids, of all people, be leading calls for reform, not supporting an indefensible status quo?
It seems that King Arthur Pendragon has “slammed” the Heritage Journal in the press (see here). Yet we’ve been very supportive of him over the years and have described him as “brave” here and “affable and amusing” here and “in his own way one of the sanest men in Britain” here.
But he has got it wrong in this case. He says “As for the Heritage Journal, calling for an end to managed open access, they’ve been doing that since they were formed in the first place.” Not so. What we’re against is damage and all we’ve ever wanted is an end to that by redesigning the event so it’s far less crowded and some proper protective control can be applied. Ten years of damage is witness to the fact we have a point and our pagan members all agree. If Arthur can stop the damage, fine, but if all he can do is tell the press “obviously we abhor the vandalism” then we’re entitled to propose measures that will end it.
There are a couple of additional points in support of our view. The latest research suggests the stones were designed to allow people to view the summer solstice sunset from outside the circle, not crowded inside it, so we’re surprised Arthur and others aren’t calling for the authentic re-enactment. It costs a couple of hundred thousand pounds to run the event in the current format and the attendees don’t pay a bean. So if most people stayed outside the circle they’d have a better view and a more authentic one and the rest of the population wouldn’t have to shell out ridiculous amounts of money to run the event. AND the damage would stop in a jiffy!
See also The View of a Senior Officer