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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.


The Oswestry carve-up of the public’s heritage (courtesy of the developers, Shropshire Council and  English Heritage/Historic England) continues apace. The latest reminder of just why development shouldn’t be happening near the hill fort comes here, a list of no less than 14 reasons its setting should be sacrosanct. Each of them is compelling but we thought we should highlight one in particular. Dirty tricks are well known chez Shropshire but this one doesn’t even try to hide itself.

Oswestry carve up 3.

….. A “hub for artefact finds” with “over 100 findspots reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme” yet here’s a photograph of a man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director General of the Council for British Archaeology contemplating a sign that now ensures no further finds will be unearthed until permission has been well and truly secured. How is that different from telling the police you’d rather they didn’t dig up your patio? Answers to Historic England.


Oswestry carve up 2.

Surely not? Well yes, it seems so. For after years of defending Stonehenge (“Don’t sell Stonehenge short”) the Trust has stabbed the World Heritage Site in the back by coming out in support of a short tunnel. The Government has admitted the u-turn has been pivotal so if the tunnel goes ahead the Trust’s finger prints will be on it forever, and they know it.

It’s the knowing which connects them to Shropshire Council. The latter have worked tirelessly to allow the land around Oswestry hillfort to be built on while knowing they shouldn’t. How do we know they know? Well, just last week their barrister Sarah Clover told a public enquiry (in Oswestry, ironically) that building 68 houses over in Ellesmere would constitute harm to the open countryside”. So both organisations know they’re on the wrong side of right.


The National Trust's oak leaves together with one of the loggerheads from Shropshire Council's coat of arms. [Loggerhead: original meaning “a blockhead”, as in Shakespeare: “"Ah you whoreson logger-head, you were borne to doe me shame."]

The Trust’s oak leaves with one of Shropshire Council’s “loggerheads” peeping through. [Loggerhead: original meaning “a blockhead”, as in Shakespeare: “Ah you whoreson logger-head, you were borne to doe me shame.“]


You can oppose the National Trust’s assault on heritage here  and Shropshire Council’s here.


BTW, here’s what Private Eye thinks of the Dismal Undemocratic Repugnate of Shropshireland:

private eye

Nicely put. Maybe they’ll do a job on the Trust too. Not only is it supporting heritage damage at Stonehenge it has also just let a previously expelled rule-breaking hunt back on it’s land on Exmoor. Tally ho! The Dismal Undemocratic Repugnate of Trustland – preserving the land in it’s care for ever, for everyone. Even cruel sods.

Foothold (fo͝ot′hōld′) noun: A firm or secure position that provides a base for further advancement.

What has that to do with Oswestry? Well, here’s the land all the fuss is about, as seen from the top of the hillfort. Pretty bad, yes?



But in fact it’s only a foothold. Here it is, shown in blue.



You can be absolutely certain that if OSWOO4 squeezes through then in a very short time the developers will push hard to develop the other areas, shown in red. Why can we all be so certain? Because they’ve already tried immensely hard to do so and  at no point have they said they won’t do so again. The HOOOH website has just published compelling evidence that the developers’ agents have already started that process.

Mendacious moneymen, conniving councils and gutless guardians all use precedents as crutches to support what is otherwise unsupportable.  OSWOO4 is most certainly a precedent in waiting. A foothold. If there’s anyone left in Oswestry or anywhere else who thinks building on OSWOO4 is no big deal let them look at the above image.

For one night only, Hillfort Live! is reinventing the tribute act for the 21st century, by taking it all the way back to the 3rd century – BC.

At Oswestry’s Hermon Arts Centre on February 13, the Iron Age will become the new rock and roll for an evening of entertainment celebrating Old Oswestry.

Hillfort Live_poster_REV_4Feb

Expect the unconventional as musicians and performers doff their artistic hats to Oswestry’s iconic hillfort, recently dubbed the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.

The eclectic programme of music and performance, with a tinge of comedy, is part of the Old Oswestry Hillfort Hug Weekend organised by campaign group, HOOOH, and running February 13 to 14.

The line-up includes The Improetry Collective, a collaboration of musicians with Neil McKeown performing classic poetry with a hillfort twist.

There will also be improvised drama making reference to the hillfort from Pimp$ouls, aka Terry and Dru Cripps. Newly formed Oswestry Jazz Orchestra will be performing modern jazz and improvisations.

Old Oswestry textures will also feature in original tracks written by Guy Turner, and the Iron Age meets electronica and drum and bass in compositions performed by producer, Envelope.

In ‘An Audience with Old Oswestry’, musician and T-shirt philosopher, Neil Phillips, will take an alternative look at the hillfort’s current woes over planned housing in its back garden.

This prehistoric night out to remember starts at 7.30pm and admission is free.

More details at or ring 01691 670003.

Two images of hundreds of protestors at a hillfort. Can you spot the crucial difference?

Feb Puzzle

Well, the top one is the surroundings of Cissbury Rings, West Sussex and the lower one is Oswestry, Shropshire. But the difference is more than that. At the top one the Council promptly listened to the democratic voice and abandoned its sell-off plans. At the bottom one Shropshire Council not only ignored the democratic voice but also the combined voices of a host of national and international experts.

For reasons it still hasn’t explained it insists that a County with less than half a million people and 860,000 acres to choose from MUST build houses on one particular tiny spot where it will do maximum damage.

Back in November we highlighted another instance of heritage being safer in West Sussex than Shropshire) which prompted Oswestry Hillfort campaigner Dr George Nash to write: “I have just asked the Chairman of West Sussex Council if Old Oswestry Hillfort and its surrounding landscape can be incorporated into West Sussex. We want this ancient site to be administered by a useful, honest and progressive cultural heritage team”.  The above two pictures illustrate why that would be a damn good thing.

The love just grows and grows for Old Oswestry hillfort.

Shropshire councillors may have voted to throw open its ancient landscape to development, but defiant residents will be scaling its ramparts on Valentine’s Day in a hug of protection for the Iron Age icon.

Hug weekend 2016_logo

Following the success of last year’s inaugural hug, campaign group HOOOH is staging a weekend of events embracing the archaeology and landscape of one of Britain’s most celebrated hillforts.

Running February 13 and 14, the Old Oswestry Hug Weekend will include a heritage seminar, craft workshops, art exhibitions, music event, as well as a mass hug of the hillfort itself.

Expanding on its well-received seminar in 2014, HOOOH will be hosting a full day symposium in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on Saturday 13 February.  Invited speakers will explore Old Oswestry’s multi-faceted archaeology and heritage landscape as well as modern-day planning threats to it.

The hillfort hug will take place from 1pm on Sunday 14 February, culminating in a procession along the ramparts with lights and drums. It attracted over 450 people last year and was supported by a national social media campaign, #hugyourheritage, created by the Council of British Archaeology.

HOOOH is also delighted to announce that the hug event is being supported by a number of local artists with an exciting series of exhibitions under the banner ‘Artists Hugging Old Oswestry Hillfort’ (AHH!).

AHH logo white background

Members of art groups, Inside Out Art and Borderland Visual Arts, are busy creating artwork, including paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, inspired by the 3,000-year-old monument and its landscape. Many will be on display in time for the hug weekend.

From February 1 to April 4, Oswestry’s Heritage & Visitor Centre will be showing an exhibition of AHH! work entitled ‘Views of, and on, Old Oswestry Hillfort’.

Sketch by artist Holly Hayward depicting Lady Guinevere hugging the hillfort and clutching Oswald’s tree.

Sketch by artist Holly Hayward depicting Lady Guinevere hugging the hillfort and clutching Oswald’s tree.

Oswestry arts venue, Hermon, will also be showcasing a number of AHH! installations during February and will be hosting drum and light-making workshops on February 6 and 13. It is also staging ‘Hillfort Live’, an evening of ‘hillfort-centric’ music and performance on February 13 from 7.30pm.

A third exhibition will run at Oswestry’s Willow Gallery from April 23 to May 21, incorporating photos and film of this year’s hug.

Campaigner Dr George Nash said: “This is yet again another extremely visual display by the people of Shropshire and the Borderlands showing their support for this iconic monument. Let’s hope Shropshire Council with its new leader can see and hear what the people are saying, which is simply ‘No’ to development.”

Llanarmon-based artist Diana Baur, spokesperson for AHH!, said: “Local artists are making works that reference the hillfort, visually expressing its importance for future generations and the fight to protect its setting. Plans are being laid for the exhibition to then travel further afield linking to other areas where our national heritage is threatened.”

HOOOH is campaigning against the reassignment of the hillfort’s eastern hinterland – and heart of Oswestry’s heritage gateway – for an estate of 117 houses. Despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the highest echelons of British archaeology to reject the development, it was recently approved by Shropshire Council on the SAMDev local plan.

*Anyone interested in stewarding at the hillfort hug can contact HOOOH on 01691 652918

Sue Brooke updates us on the latest threat to Caerau hillfort in Cardiff. This story was originally published on her own website

Well, here I am again. Mrs Angry from Caerau has raised her ugly head once more. Over the last nine years or so I have bored everyone close to me to distraction about that triangular shaped field in Caerau. It’s important. I used to spend hours wandering around up there trying to figure out what all the lumps and bumps were about. I researched it and learned loads about what it all meant. I kept the whole thing as quiet as possible from the public domain so that the area would remain protected due to it being preserved mostly in public record at that time. Eventually I started to share some of this locally, working with the children and young people of the local schools. This was primarily to keep the crumbling remains of St. Mary’s Church as safe as possible.

Then along came Cardiff University. To be honest they were a little behind me in this research but, eventually and not without some fear I talked with them about it. They had lots of money that they were willing to invest in this area and they were able to engage with the public in far greater ways than me. Eventually this triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ was to be given a little bit of status as an Iron Age (at least) hill fort.

If you know about this then you will know that hot on their heels came Time Team. They came, they made a mess and a telly programme then they left. All stuff designed to give this little old lady in Caerau a little bit of the wobbles. I had massive reservations about all of this. I was accused of ‘selling out’ by allowing myself to become involved in this. Overall my fears were allayed and, although the area has been mucked about with by young ladies and young men digging holes, it has actually been really beneficial to the local communities of Ely and Caerau. Cardiff University formed the CAER Heritage Project and they worked their socks off in order to engage residents in the whole of their work. What Time Team did, on your 55 inch flat screen telly, was to tell the whole of Ely and Caerau what an amazingly valuable historical monument they lived alongside. Thank you for that.

The church of St Mary, long a victim of vandalism was now being looked after. There are people involved in this who have pursued Cardiff Council and persuaded them to help keep the remains of this historic building together. They have given up their time to tidy up the area, to log the graves and to generally give this church the respect it has so sadly been missing out on.

Overall the community has benefitted. The view from the hill fort is amazing when you look out towards Cardiff. The CAER Heritage Project believe this to be an area that would have been important to Cardiff itself. Of course, my endless research means I disagree with this – not entirely but my belief is and always has been that the hill fort would have been more better placed as part of what is now the Vale of Glamorgan and valued as such.

A few years ago changes began to happen. A solar park was to be built quite close to the site. It would be fine, we were reassured. This won’t be visible from the hill fort and will not detract from the beautifully serene surrounds one bit, they said. Unfortunately the building of this solar park caused some major issues for those living on the approach road. Let’s set this in to some kind of context. As you walk toward the track that leads from Caerau all the way to Michaelston le Pit you will need to walk underneath the A4232 Ely Link Road. Sadly, way back at the end of the 1970’s this road was built by cutting around the hill fort site. It’s no longer possible to walk up-and-over as we used to as kids, but hey, way back then we didn’t really know any better, did we?

This bit of Caerau is such an excellent resource for the local people. It’s usual to see dog walkers, horse riders, the footballing kids of the future and joggers all wandering along to make use of the area. Families wander through as well as groups of children and young people off to have fun on their own. I was one of these children once, having lived all my life nearby.

Cwrt yr Ala Road on a typical afternoon.

Cwrt yr Ala Road on a typical afternoon.

This lovely tree lined, although slightly narrow road, takes you from Caerau down toward the link road. The hill fort area is surrounded by beautifully managed woods, protected as a special area and inhabited by the most amazing birds and wildlife. Even slow worms like it in there. The homes along Heritage Drive, just off Cwrt yr Ala Road were built on the site of the old Caerau Isolation Hospital.

Sadly this was built within the banks and ditches of the Caerau hill fort. But hey, we didn’t know any better then, did we?

As I just mentioned a solar park was planned. Renewable energy they said. Yes, a few solar panels in the field and most certainly not visible from the hill fort. They actually forgot to mention that the construction of this amazing solar park would mean driving lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner along Cwrt yr Ala Road. That lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road in the image above. Most residents took this on the chin. It was good for the environment wasn’t it, to get away from the smoking chimneys of the coal-fired power stations.

Everyone wants renewable sources of energy, don’t they? I’ve since learned from a friend that should you have solar panels on farmland then it’s wise that you keep animals out of the field as you can’t really sell them on later or even, it is my understanding, use the field for agricultural purposes for some years after the panels have been removed. I could be wrong on this or hey, maybe I just don’t know any better.

I was up at the hill fort only recently. It’s still so lovely up there but obviously, since the trees are now without their leaves, it is possible to see the Ely Link Road. And, surprise surprise, you can see the solar farm.

Now, and this is the bit that is really making me rather very angry, I have learned – via social media – that we are now going to have – guess what ? OK, that’s unfair, how could you know – I didn’t – a LANDFILL SITE. Yes, that’s correct. Now, this is not your black bag rubbish type tip, this is an ‘inert waste’ tip. What exactly does ‘inert waste’ mean? So, for the next 5 to 6 years up to 20 lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner will be driving along Cwrt yr Ala Road each day. That’s up to 40 journeys along this lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road.

I’m really pleased to be able to say that the local Labour Councillor for the area is doing his level best to stop this happening. Indeed the Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central and spokesperson on Enterprise, Transport, Europe and Business has assured me that she will ‘look into it’ but in the meantime the Vale of Glamorgan Council has, in their recent report on this completely outrageous planning application – available online and therefore well within the public domain – given me the opportunity to give you some quotes. In fairness I suggest you check this out for yourselves but, in the meantime here are a couple of my favourites:

The site is located in open countryside and within the Cwrt yr Ala Basin Special Landscape Area as defined within the Unitary Development Plan. The site also lies within the boundaries of the derelict mineral site, the former Ely Brickworks. In addition it is noted that the Caerau Wood hill fort, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is located to the north of the site within the neighbouring Cardiff Council Local authority area.


In terms of impact upon Vale residents this would be very limited as there is no residential development, within the Vale, close to the proposed site. With regard to impact upon Cardiff residents, and any significant effect on the environment by virtue of the nature, size and location of the development this is a decision for the Local Planning Authority (LPA)

So, there you are then. To me that translates as – yes, we know it’s an important area and we acknowledge this but let’s quickly move on. The second quote means that there are of course housing developments nearby but, come on, they are in Cardiff, not the Vale of Glamorgan so that doesn’t matter to us. In fact, just so you know and I may of course be pointing out the obvious here, there are many property websites used by estate agents and prospective buyers who will pick up on things like transport links, schools and, obviously, landfill sites. I’m not sure but I worry that the residents of the very beautiful vale village of Michaelston le Pit may find out that this may also affect them – just by being in quite close proximity to this tip site. In fact I spoke with an established and respected estate agent only this morning who advised me that although this may not actually bring down the price of a property nearby immediately it will certainly not improve it. The advice was to consult further with a surveyor. That’s not really what I wanted to hear and I am sure that nearby residents won’t be happy to hear the financial implications upon their hard earned mortgaged properties should they decide to sell.

I would suggest that there will be major concerns from Cardiff Council and their residents once this very well kept secret becomes public knowledge. I really hope so. The enjoyment of all to access the area from Cwrt yr Ala Road towards Michaelston le Pit will be impacted on, most certainly. The right of the Cwrt yr Ala residents to enjoy their homes will most certainly be negatively affected, I know this as I lived through the delight of the solar park development. The access to the hill fort and the 12th century church for community groups will be restricted and, perhaps the work to preserve the tower of the old church could be seriously undermined by these vehicles shaking the living daylights out of it. That would be such a shame for all those who clearly care so much about it. What about Caerau (Ely) AFC – their ethos of ‘ Working With the Ely Community, For the Ely Community ‘ could be seriously affected by safety issues. I’m sure it won’t be safe to be toddling along there trying to dodge these vehicles for the next, what was it – 5 to 6 years?

So what can be done? I’m not too sure really. Perhaps we can suggest that the Vale of Glamorgan Council may want to consider other options for this ‘inert waste’ landfill site. Perhaps, let’s just think a minute – the residents of Dinas Powys would be happy for it to be placed just a bit further over.

That other hill fort area known as Cwm George has plenty of room. I bet not many people use this – just a couple of walkers, now and then – and the Woodland Trust won’t mind, surely? Or, perhaps, what about that stretch of beach adjacent to Sully Island? Hardly anyone goes there. The residents of Sully wouldn’t even notice. Yes, I agree that these are areas of special interest and so very important to the residents but isn’t Caerau of equal value?

There is just one little final quote that I will share with you. I visited Cosmeston Lakes Country Park today and went in to the little shop to buy a book on the history of this area. On the wall, right in front of me was this final quote from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. It read – and I quote ‘A sad chapter in Cosmeston’s history saw the quarry used for several years as a landfill site for household waste’. The little book I purchased for £4 completed this with ‘Permission to tip household rubbish on the west side of Mile End Road was granted to Penarth Urban District Council in 1964 (with some waster tipping already underway several years before that).’

So, please tell me – does this mean that the Vale of Glamorgan Council recognise that they really DO know better?

for avoidance of doubt.

88% of people oppose harming the hillfort. No surprise there then! But paradoxically the poll may bring comfort to those who do want to harm it for it implies that the purpose of building houses there is to tackle the housing shortage. It isn’t. It’s a lie. It’s about some people wanting to be made very rich and a lot of others wanting  to help them, for reasons unknown. It’s a fact, there are  loads of other sites in and around Oswestry and 40,000 acres of open land within ten miles, all of which would be less damaging to develop. (Oh, and the national and local housing shortage is of starter homes. The ones planned for Oswestry Hillfort’s setting will be mainly expensive executive units!).

So a better poll question would be: “Is the behaviour of Shropshire Council a disgrace? YES/NO.” The fact their old Leader departed under a cloud which they blatantly tried to minimise was merely one of many previous actions lending them a wild west image and the new Leader lost no time in disgracing them further – twice. He told the world “No-one in this council wants to do anything that is detrimental to the hillfort” just before the whole Council voted to do exactly that! He also excused them with the words “The inspector has concluded that the Shropshire Site Allocations and Management of Development Plan is sound, legally compliant”, which implies it’s OK because, like metal detectorists bleat when they target unprotected archaeology, “it’s legal, innit?” If they get their way that’s how they’ll go down in history – people saying it’s legal in order to divert from the fact it is also absolutely, avoidably, definitely, categorically, politically, morally wrong!

Incidentally here’s something else the Shropshire Star could ask its readers to consider. A couple of years ago the Chairman of the National Trust wrote: “Town-and-country planning has been one of the great achievements of 20th-century Britain. It has guarded some80 per cent of the land area as rural in one of the most densely populated yet generously housed countries in Europe.” ….. however: the presumption in favour of sustainable development, defined merely as profitable, is the most philistine concept in planning history”. What does that say about Shropshire Council, which has applied that presumption more insistently and obnoxiously than any other Council in Britain?

But let’s not forget the role of Historic England. They’ve been indispensable to Operation Screw the Fort for Cash. Why does that seem so shocking? Probably because they’re a national organisation, clear of local politics (though not of cowardice in the face of the enemies of heritage some say!) To be fair to them, they defended themselves last November: “We recognise that this is a sensitive location and we still have concerns about design and numbers of houses”. Hmmm, super, still have concerns about the design and numbers of houses do you? But why don’t you tell the ladies and gentlemen of the Public what the Inspector said: “Notwithstanding the level of opposition to the inclusion of site OSW004, Historic England has not maintained an objection, a consideration that I afford considerable weight. So your failure to object seems to have directly helped stuff the hillfort, and the only person on Earth who knows if that’s true says yes it is, which leaves any denial or defence by you looking simply undignified.

Worse, by saying you have misgivings about size and layout you have handed the damagers a golden ticket. They can simply agree to change the specifications, secure in the knowledge they then will get your approval! So it’s no good you trying to calm the anger by suggesting it’s not a “done deal” yet. You  probably had it in your power to ensure there was no deal, and didn’t, and now you’re left with only the chance to nitpick about the number of bedrooms.

So Shropshire has been ill-served, not just by the odious behaviour of its Council but also by England’s Historic Environment “champion”. There’s an excellent satirical piece in “The Pipeline” this week which isn’t a million miles from reality: Meanwhile a spokesperson for the senior management of Historic England explained that, while the organisation had some reservations about demonic machines from the deepest circle of hell defining Government planning policy, it stood by the conclusion of its Historic Environment Impact Assessment that any damage to the historic environment done by Satan and all his Fiends was limited and was outweighed by the benefits.”


On the eve of a planning meeting in Shrewbury, Satan and all his fiends gather on top of Oswestry Hillfort, confident that the even-handed nature of their very own Historic Environment Impact Assessment together with a bit of prepared chat about “housing shortage” and “damage outweighed by benefits” will get them permission to build lots of three and four bedroomed executive houses in the setting. "Why here" asked a naive young junior reporter. "Simple!" replied the Lord of Darkness, "we heard, even in the depths of Hell, that Shropshire Council are a naive or worse pushover and Historic England will sit on their hands!"

On the eve of a planning meeting in Shrewbury, Satan and all his fiends gather on top of Oswestry Hillfort, confident that the even-handed nature of their very own Historic Environment Impact Assessment together with a bit of prepared chat about “housing shortage” and “damage outweighed by benefits” will get them permission to build lots of three and four bedroomed executive houses in the setting. “Why here” asked a naive young junior reporter. “Simple!” replied the Lord of Darkness, “we heard, even in the depths of Hell, that Shropshire Council are a naive or worse pushover and Historic England will sit on their hands!”

Tomorrow Shropshire Council will finally decide whether to damage the setting of Oswestry Hillfort. Many people will attend and the tireless “Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort” has just issued them with a stirring call to arms  There’s little we can usefully add except to wish well to all those who wish the hillfort well.



But maybe we could say one thing to the councillors, if any of them read the Journal. (They do!). It’s this: HOOOH has said that the circumstances surrounding their Council Leader and his recent departure mean that if the councillors approve the hillfort estate the Council will be forever tainted with doubts over the integrity of its decisions. Nowhere are the reputations of all concerned more clearly shown to be in jeapardy than in the words which the Council Leader voiced in the press on behalf of the Council last June:



Yes, you read it right ladies and gentlemen of the Council! He said you knew the public opposition was huge so you decided to approve the development so that the public could better express its opposition! Well Councillors, that was outrageous, wasn’t it? But now the public and its nationally prominent experts have taken up your invitation to express their opposition and they have done so in full – and in doing so have demolished every one of your pro-development arguments to a forensic level of detail. So perhaps now it’s time for you to accept what everyone else can see and to begin to recover your reputations.  We sincerely hope you will opt to enjoy your first guiltless Christmas for years!


December 2019
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