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The army is building some new houses at Bulford, a couple of kilometers from Stonehenge and they’ve discovered a couple of 5,000 year old neolithic henges. The houses will still be built but a green space containing the henges will be left untouched.

By contrast, not far away and very soon, it is intended that bulldozers will dig out the entrance trenches to the “short tunnel” inside the World Heritage Site. There will be a host of archaeological sites in that area and you’ll have heard that the line chosen will minimise the impact on them. It’s important to understand though, that if two more henges (or ten, or anything else, no matter how precious) are found to be “inconveniently” placed, the line of the road won’t look like this….

fantasy

No, it will look far more like this, it’s a certainty. Any diversion will be marginal or impossible so “minimising the impact” means about as much as a politician’s promise.

actual

That in a nutshell is what the Stonehenge Alliance and others are upset about. So please sign their petition if you haven’t done already. The road lobby, you see, wearing the smiling professional face of EH, HE and NT, is likely to be far more ruthless than the army.

As if to prove the theory that graffiti begets graffiti, one of the stones in the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor has been carved into yet again. The damage was spotted on Wednesday by a local who has informed the Police.

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies - Credit: Emma Gordon

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon

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May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon

This is the third time in a couple of years this site has been targeted, yet again seemingly by an ignorant visitor to the site. Perhaps its time for the authorities to consider more proactive measures including cctv to stop such flagrant abuse.

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arthur rollrights

This story, from County Westmeath, is worth publicising far and wide:

Being mulched

“In 2005, a 3,000 year old Bronze Age wooden road was uncovered in Mayne Bog in Coole, Co Westmeath. Described by An Taisce as “a major, timber-built road of European significance”, this was an archaeological find of huge importance. According to John Waddell, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at NUI Galway, the Mayne road (or “Togher”) is, in terms of size, age, and antiquity “truly of European significance and on a par with those preserved in dedicated heritage centres like Wittemoor in Lower Saxony, Flag Fen in Peterborough (UK), and Corlea in County Longford”.

Mayne Bog is worked by Westland Horticulture, which extracts peat from the site. Despite carbon-dating the find to 1200 to 820 BC, the National Monuments Service – for some reason – did not issue a preservation order or record the road in the Register of Historic Monuments. Apart from two minor excavations, no serious archaeological work has been done on the discovery and – crucially – no legal impediment has been put in place to prevent the destruction of Mayne Togher. For the ten years since the find, Westland Horticulture has – entirely legally – continued to mulch something as old as Newgrange into compost for window boxes. At least 75% of the road is gone now. Dr Pat Wallace – former director of the National Museum of Ireland – has described this as “an international calamity”.

Not sure why your tomatoes won’t grow? Try Gro-Sure® Tomato Food from Westland Horticulture, which simply grows more.

{See also our previous article …. https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/unique-opportunity-to-grow-your-plants-in-a-genuine-bronze-age-trackway/]

Sad news to report again, this time that the Maen Penddu standing stone in the Conwy Valley, North Wales, has been severely vandalised. Recent photos show several carvings have been made on the stone. The cross was reported last year, but the rest seems to be more recent. The damage has been reported to CADW.

Damage to Maen Penddu

Photo by Matt Jones

Damage to Maen Penddu

Photo by Matt Jones

Mike Pitts has probably rendered a service to Stonehenge by demonstrating that gatherings there going back to 1901 were not “free access” protests.  Anything in support of modern calls for unregulated and unlimited access is best examined and demolished. In any case such calls are looking progressively unrealistic and English Heritage has now confirmed they won’t back down on charging for parking (which presently costs them £60K to lay on!) and banning alcohol at solstice gatherings. Indeed they aren’t in a position to do so as they’ve been directed to expand their income from £97.8m to more than £122m by 2023 and they have a statutory duty to eliminate damage and disrespect. Some in the Free Access lobby disagree: 

SH Protest

On the other hand, here are two compelling witness statements about Summer Solstice. First, from Dennis Price of Eternal Idol who has been studying, writing about, appreciating and speculating upon Stonehenge for many years. Here’s his account of taking his children to Summer Solstice:

These should have been idyllic celebrations and for the most part they were, but they were always marred at some point by the appalling behaviour of others. I am as enthusiastic a proponent of the delights and benefits of alcohol as anyone alive, but these ideals rapidly faded whenever I encountered the snarling, incapable, vomiting, belligerent, foul-mouthed drunkards, men and women who have made their deeply unpleasant presence known at every Summer Solstice I’ve attended.
Then there’s the matter of the clean-up of the monument on the morning after, when the English Heritage employees have regularly had to deal with the results of the ruins being defaced and actively vandalized by stoned, drunken morons who have lit fires on the stones, smeared them with oil and the like. Worse still, the custodians have had to remove vomit, excrement and every conceivable variety of human effluent from within the circle, a task that no one should have to perform at Stonehenge.

Second, there’s the view of Frank Somers of Amesbury Stonehenge Druids which puts the “Our Temple” claim, the bedrock of all resistance to regulation, into neat perspective:

“Most people gathering at Stonehenge for summer solstice are not pagan at all. The vast majority of those who peddle and consume recreational drugs and who get completely drunk there have come for a free ‘party’ thrown by English Heritage, are not pagan. Druids have struggled to maintain any meaningful spiritual presence, outnumbered as we are, and unsupported by the authorities. We would love it if all of those who came, could come with peaceful hearts and open minds. The majority do. Pagans, the ones who really love Mother Nature and revere the ancestors who built Stonehenge, despair greatly at the litter and the presence of hard core drugs. It’s no longer a case of a few hippies smoking cannabis. Today, ketamine, assorted pills, ecstasy, Z’s, etc. are all being used. With so many youngsters there it really is dangerous.”

English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust, joint supporters of a short tunnel at Stonehenge, may wish to look away now.  We are reproducing below an extract from a book published last week by UNESCO – “World Heritage Today in Europe” which has a bearing on the matter. (It was published with the generous support of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. Had it been financed in Britain it may well have said something different, so hurrah for the French!)


Case Study – Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites’

The property ‘Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites’ was inscribed on the List in 1986. Following this decision, a draft Statement of Significance was prepared, based on documentation considered by ICOMOS and the World Heritage Committee at the time of inscription. The Statement was developed by the property Steering Committees and other stakeholders, submitted to UNESCO by the government of the United Kingdom, and then agreed by the World Heritage Committee in 2008. In accordance with the requirements for Statements of Outstanding Universal Value outlined in the Operational Guidelines in 2005, a full Statement of Outstanding Universal Value was adopted by the Committee in 2013.

Attributes were first developed for Stonehenge when drafting its 2009 Management Plan. This involved a wide stakeholder group managed through the Stonehenge Advisory Forum and included a three-month public consultation period involving an exhibition, a questionnaire, a website and a polling of local residents. The attributes were reviewed during the development of the first Management Plan to cover the whole property, adopted in 2015, and it was recognised that they apply to the entire property. At each stage, great care was taken to ensure that the attributes were firmly based on the text of the agreed Statement.

The attributes are:
1. The global fame and iconic status of Stonehenge itself;
2. The physical remains of the Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments and associated sites;
3. The siting of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in the landscape;
4. The design of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in relation to the skies and astronomy;
5. The siting of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in relation to each other;
6. The disposition, physical remains and settings of the key Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary, ceremonial and other monuments and sites of the period, which together form a landscape without parallel;
7. The influence of the remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments and their landscape settings on architects, artists, historians, archaeologists and others.

The whole process helped to clarify the understanding of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value among key stakeholders. The attributes are now proving to be a useful tool in assessing potential impacts on Outstanding Universal Value, particularly in clarifying its spatial implications for development planners. They will constitute the basis of formal planning guidance for the property.


Making a case for a short tunnel will require showing that not just one but all seven of those attributes won’t be damaged whereas common sense would suggest they all will be.  Massive entrance trenches can’t be talked away. So far there has been silence on the issue, just talk about “the benefits”. Shortly the mattter will have to be addressed. Look out for fibs, foutards, re-interpretations and smokescreens.

panel

We’ve written many times in the past about situations where, whether by arrangement with the site custodians, or illegally via vandalism, ancient sites have been damaged (temporarily in most cases) in the name of ‘marketing’.

Over the past couple of weeks, a new furore has arisen in Tintagel Cornwall, over a new carving of the ‘face of Merlin’ into the cliff face below Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel Merlin1

Apparently, the sculpture is not much larger than life size and takes some effort to locate, being seen only from the base of the cliff. “So what?” you may ask? Well, English Heritage (EH) say this is

“part of ongoing re-interpretation and investment at the site. The new artwork is the first part of a project by English Heritage to re-imagine Tintagel’s history and legends across the island site. Further works will be revealed late this spring.”

The ‘further works’ planned include a large statue of Arthur, a Sword in the Stone sculpture and a scultured stone bench commemorating the legend of Tristan & Yseult. Leaving aside the artistic merit of the sculptures, the moves are being seen locally as ‘false history’, an attempt at further ‘Disneyfication’ of the village and castle site in a direct move to increase tourist footfall, maximising tourism income, and to hell with any authenticity as to historical fact.

Regardless of the local opposition, there is a much bigger issue to be resolved here. Cornish historian (and friend of the Heritage Journal) Craig Weatherhill commented:

“this is just one of 28 visual display proposals for the site, one being an 8.5ft statue of Arthur in late (not early!) medieval gear, to stand on the clifftop on The Island! The Cornwall Archaelogical Unit assess that 9 of these will have a neutral effect on archaeology and visual amenity, but that 19 have minor to moderate negative impacts. ANY negative impact on the archaeology and visual amenity of such an iconic, important and spectacular site should have been refused permission… Of the carving, the CAU says that it will have an irreversible physical impact on the natural environment. i.e. vandalism.”

With the withdrawal of government funding and the need for EH to become ‘self-sufficient’, should they be allowed to sacrifice or change the authenticity of a site in this way in the search for additional income? And if so, where does that leave our heritage, not only at Tintagel but at all the other sites up and down the country that EH are responsible for?

Further Info:

English Heritage: Merlin’s Face

Cornwall Archaeological Unit: Environmental Impact Assessment

English Heritage: Tintagel Castle

Daily Telegraph: EH accused of vandalism 18 Feb 2016

The Cornishman: Vandalism, or Art? 17 Feb 2016

Archaeodeath: Putting Merlin to Death? Tintagel, Art and the Death of Imagination 15 Feb 2016

Kernow Matters To Us: Campaign group web site

We’ve been asked “where is the video pushing for a short tunnel mentioned recently”. It’s here and it’s well worth a look. It’s  a very professional production but you may well feel it’s contents are the opposite. How about the claim “If designed well, the tunnel would bring huge benefits”?  Is it professional to say that but not to spell out the massive damage it would also cause? And is it professional to enthuse about any  tunnel at this stage when the route and exit points haven’t been decided upon? Doesn’t that signal the opposite of professionalism,  an agenda to support the Government’s declared intention whatever the heritage damage?

Maybe most telling of all is how remarkably similar this new video is to the previous one about removing the A344. The graphics, text and music are so similar the new one could easily be seen as a continuation of the earlier one. There’s a reason, we suspect. The removal of the A344 had few downsides and was almost universally welcomed. Now the construction of a short tunnel is being presented as part of the same beneficial process.

It is not. It is quite separate and involves massive damage. You may therefore suspect that the “part two” video employs a subliminal, psychological trick, something one might expect from a down market advertising agency, not from heritage champions. As “Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Friends” observed last Tuesday, it is unashamed propaganda foisted on a public evidently believed by HE to be gullible“. We can also add our own view that this claim by Historic Englend that they are working “to make sure plans for the tunnel protect and enhance the Stonehenge World Heritage Site” is actually a fib, for they know and we know a short tunnel cannot protect the World Heritage Site.  Doesn’t Britain owe itself and the world better than fibs?

A short tunnel WILL involve digging something like this inside the World Heritage Site. How come neither the Government nor the heritage triplets who support their intention have published an artists impression something like this?

A short tunnel WILL involve digging an approach trench similar to this inside the World Heritage Site. How come neither the Government nor the heritage triplets who support their intention have published an artists impression something like this? Why isn’t it depicted in their glossy video?

Alcohol is to be prohibited at Stonehenge solstice celebrations!

No-one can deny it contributes to the all-too-frequent damage and disrespect so this is an excellent, heritage-friendly move.

national celebrations - Copy (2)

We ask only one thing of EH:  please don’t negotiate or compromise by even a thimbleful. A duty to protect is a duty to protect and shouldn’t be subject to negotiation or requests to act otherwise by anyone.

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