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HOOOH have recently released the following statement (HOOOH is Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort, the campaign to safeguard the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort from development.):

Campaigners have escalated public concerns over the controversial bid to build housing in the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort by calling in the planning application for committee determination.

Campaign group HOOOH has submitted paperwork asking for the widely opposed scheme for 83 houses to be decided by Shropshire Council’s North Planning Committee and not delegated to planning officers.

North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan has backed the move, having already submitted objections to the planning application. She contacted HOOOH to confirm that she has written to Shropshire Council urging them to ensure that the proposals go before committee in the interests of ‘justice, accountability and fair play’.

In an update, Mrs Morgan told campaigners that Shropshire’s development manager, Philip Mullineux, had replied to say that no decision had yet been made on who would determine the application. HOOOH says it received the same response in February and at the beginning of April.

Planning applications can be called in for a variety of reasons under Shropshire’s scheme of delegation.

HOOOH has asked Oswestry Town Council to initiate a call-in as a local council stakeholder that has objected to the proposals. Campaigners have also written to Shropshire councillors, Chris Schofield and John Price, requesting their assistance with a call-in as the relevant council members for Oswestry.

In their correspondence HOOOH wrote: “As you will be aware, there has been 10 years of significant and sustained local opposition to development on OSW004 expressed through the local planning process and several development planning applications. There has also been opposition at national level from British heritage bodies due to the heritage significance of Old Oswestry.

“Those against include: 

  • Oswestry Town Council
  • North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan
  • Oswestry Civic Society
  • Cambrian Heritage Railways
  • Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology Group
  • 12,000+ objectors through local and online petition
  • The Prehistoric Society
  • British Archaeological Trust (RESCUE)
  • Council for British Archaeology
  • Historic Buildings & Places (Ancient Monuments Society)
  • Hillfort expert, Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe
  • 12 leading academics of British archaeology

“Given the significant public interest in this planning bid, we believe it would be unfair and undemocratic for the decision to be delegated to planning officers. This would deny the opportunity for a highly engaged public to make their final representations and for elected councillors to scrutinise and balance the evidence, including the many objections based on material considerations, concerning a highly controversial bid.”

Cameron Homes is behind the latest application to build a substantial housing estate across currently unspoilt fields forming part of the hillfort’s heritage setting and providing vital separation of the Iron Age monument from Oswestry town.

English Heritage, the national guardian of the hillfort, has described Old Oswestry as ‘one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation’.

HOOOH maintains that the proposals fail on numerous material points, including SAMDev local planning policy for Oswestry (S14a) and the supporting Statement of Common Ground signed by Historic England and Shropshire Council.

Key objections to the application include:

  • Exceeds a northern limit for development
  • No access over the Cambrian heritage railway line
  • No associated works to Whittington Road and Gobowen Road junction
  • Lack of appropriate regard for Old Oswestry’s heritage significance
  • Does not meet NPPF national planning policy regarding heritage impacts

Concurring with objections made by Oswestry Town Council, HOOOH also says that the development would be poorly located in relation to the town centre and essential facilities and would add to traffic chaos in an already congested part of the town.

A HOOOH spokesperson said: “Cameron Homes’ scheme does not appear to comply with the policy or heritage agreement in SAMDev governing development on the OSW004 site. It is only right that the application goes before committee so that our elected members can ensure that the policy and heritage protection they approved are upheld.”


Following our recent article quoting Simon Jenkins, we received an interesting email from a representative of “These Fields Have Names”, a campaign group in Cornwall protesting the destruction of the countryside while building a nearly 8-mile-long new route for the A30 near Truro. They make some excellent points about ‘appreciation’ of a site not being sufficient to save it from ‘progress’:

How do you think your publication, and your archaeologists, can help prevent any more destruction to our landscape in time before complete ecological collapse? The premise that we must fully “appreciate and preserve” our landscape, as you say, is all very well, but does not give me hope when “appreciation” has not prevented needless destruction of archeology and landscape and society and ecology in the past. The sentiment that we must “act“ to preserve things by liking what we have got, not by standing in resistance to the status quo that exists, is flawed.

It has never in history been the case that acting with appreciation of what exists causes change to happen. I am talking about massive societal change here, but maybe preserving monuments and archaeology also cannot be achieved without these defiant acts. For example some physical acts of civil resistance caused men to decide to change the status quo to include allowing women and unlanded gentry the vote. Nothing else worked.

Because of this fact, any archaeologist who wants to change the status quo, I think must “act” in civil resistance on the very sites that have already been destroyed and inside the now structural “status quo” infrastuctural sites themselves which have replaced them. Rather than stand in appreciation looking at a landscape before it is bulldozed, eg around Stonehenge, how about standing in those destroyed places? The “infrastructure” sites which right now have replaced fertile soil, trees, organic fields and rich archeology and are continuing to do so, include the A30 site in Cornwall. Our A30 is that sort of place. This is what will befall Stonehenge, this change from archeology to infrastructure, otherwise.

Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care
Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care

As is demonstrated by the images above of just one small part of the A30 works, when talking about roadworks and new roads, it’s not just the footprint of the road itself that causes damage but all the associated infrastructure and heavy machinery needed to support the actual construction of the road – which can and often does cover a much wider area. A salutary warning for supporters of the Stonehenge tunnel perhaps?

Whilst we here at the Heritage Journal cannot condone any direct action which may be construed as illegal in nature, there are many actions which can be taken legally to protest or delay development and we would encourage all lovers of heritage, be that archaeological (professional archaeologists take note!) or natural, to consider what actions can be taken to stop the desecration of our heritage in all its forms.

And a final comment on the current A30 roadworks:

Part of this road did not exist before 1991. So the 2022 one will be a bypass around a bypass around a very small village. Crazy times when first a 60 mph road is built, using and destroying landscape and fertile fields and archeology, then in 2022 a 70mph road is built around that 60 mph around a 30 mph road when public transport would have been sufficient in all cases. These fields have names.

All images courtesy and copyright of Cornwall Climate Care.

Living in Cornwall, the sheer amount of prehistoric remains all around never fails to amaze me! Take, for example, the small hamlet of Dowran in the parish of St. Just in Penwith.

Dowran, such as it is, can be seen from the northeastern flightpath into Lands End Airport, and was first recorded in 1245 when it was spelt ‘Doueron’. It lies in the shadow of Bartinney Hill, atop which lies an enclosure containing eight round cairns known as Bartinney Castle.

Image © Google Earth.

The name Dowran is Cornish and is derived from the Cornish language ‘dowr-an’ meaning ‘watering place’.

Many of the fields around the hamlet and farm have their very own unique names, many of them in Cornish, Burrow Field, Hammon Moor, Henas, Croft Leskeys, Radannack, Park Skeber, The Spearn, Stalmac, Strakeshaw amongst others.

The hamlet is surrounded by ancient sites including traces of an Iron Age enclosure, an early Medieval enclosure, and evidence of a Bronze Age barrow and there have been a number of finds of Mesolithic flint tools.

On the image below, from the Cornwall Council Mapping website, the red dots indicate the Prehistoric entries on the Heritage Environment Record. As you can see, for what is relatively empty farmland, there was a lot of activity here in the past!

Image © Cornwall Council

Many fields in Cornwall are named particularly in Penwith and the late P.A.S. Pool wrote a small book on the subject called appropriately, ‘Field names of West Penwith’, published by Agan Tavas and available from their website.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

Brown Willy is Cornwall’s highest hill, with a summit reaching 1,378 feet above sea level. Located among the rocky outcrops and desolate reaches of Bodmin Moor, with cairns that date back to the early Bronze Age, Brown Willy has been considered a sacred place for thousands of years.

But the true name for Brown Willy was recorded in 1280 as ‘Bronwenely’ derived from the Cornish language ‘bron wennyly’ meaning ‘swallows hill’, a much better name and far different from the Anglicised name we see now.

The summit cairn, which has never been excavated, is thought by some to be the resting-place of an ancient Cornish king.

Brown Willy’s cairn aligns with the neighbouring Rough Tor and the nearby Stannon stone circle, suggesting that their construction had some kind of astrological purpose.

The Aetherius Society even believe that Brown Willy is a holy mountain and make an annual pilgrimage here on the 23rd November.

Heavy rainfall occasionally gathers over Bodmin Moor after travelling downwind for a long distance, resulting in flash floods such as the one which occurred in Boscastle in 2004. The phenomenon is known in meteorological circles as the ‘Brown Willy Effect’.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren

Varfell is a hamlet situated in Ludgvan Parish west Cornwall. It was recorded as ‘Varwell’ in 1568 after the 16th-century Varwell family. The hamlet was the ancestral home of the famous Cornish chemist, Sir Humphry Davy 1778 to 1829, inventor of the miners’ safety lamp.

Varfell Farm is the world’s largest producer of daffodil bulbs and until recently was home to the National Dahlia Collection, where it enjoyed a long and successful growing period of over 20 years under the management of Mike Mann with the help of Dahlia breeder Mark Twyning.

Varfell and its daffodil farm

The nearby Giant’s Grave linear earthwork may be an early medieval linear earthwork and is comparable with both the Bolster Bank in St Agnes parish and the Giants Hedge, which runs from Lerryn to Looe.

This earthwork has borne the name for many years as the Tithe Award refers to it as an `ancient road called Giant’s Grave’.

It consists of a bank up to 10 feet high, but is sadly much mutilated by agricultural activity. At one time there was a ditch on the south side. It has been proposed that this may the best surviving section of an earthwork that ran from coast to coast, effectively isolating the Penwith peninsula.

Excerpt from 1888 OS Map Cornwall LXVIII.SE

A large circular mound just over 50 feet in diameter is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs in a field east of Varfell. The date and function of this feature is unknown. It may be an agricultural feature, post-medieval in date.

Toponymy by the late Craig Weatherhill.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

The race to record the historic archaeology of Seaford Head, East Sussex in the face of ongoing coastal erosion

The Iron Age hillfort at Seaford Head has stood watch over the English Channel from its clifftop location for two-and-a-half millennia.

Sadly, it is now doomed to collapse into the sea with parts of the site already lost and climate change accelerating its downfall.

Archaeologists are now in a race against time to unlock its secrets.

A team from University College London have spent recent weeks surveying the ancient monument with drones and producing 3D models of it in the hope of not only learning more about Seaford Head but producing a template for the hundreds of other historic monuments along the British coastline set to disappear beneath the waves.

Seaford Head courtesy of UCL

Seaford Head fort, which also contains a Bronze Age burial site and dates to around 600 to 400 BC, perches atop the Seven Sisters headland of the same name between Brighton and Eastbourne.

Despite being known to archaeologists for centuries, it has only had investigative work done on it twice, in the late 19th century by Augustus Pitt Rivers and again in the 1980s. These surveys have done little more than date the fort and barrow.

This latest survey is not designed to reveal those mysteries, so much as identify them and decide what further archaeological work should be done and can be justified with constrained resources.

A key plank of the survey work is drone photogrammetry, which involves taking multiple aerial photographs of the site, merging them using advanced software and georectifying them so that they are to scale and measurable. This allows archaeologists to create a 3D model of the site and identify sites of potential interest.

The drones are also used to survey the cliff face itself which, due to previous collapses, already provides a cross-section of the fort. Whatever the results, time and tide are working against his team. On average, the coast at Seaford is retreating by 20 inches a year.

That figure, however, masks a pattern of cliff falls followed by months or even years of stasis. The UCL team cannot predict when the chalk might next give way but it could take with it another large section of the fort. 

In March 2021, a large section of the Seaford Head cliff face collapsed following heavy rain, leaving behind an enormous mound of debris reaching into the seawater. Elsewhere on the clifftop, large cracks have appeared, portending further losses.

The site has now been placed on the Heritage at Risk register.

Climate change is likely to accelerate this process. Increasingly rough weather conditions and rising sea levels are all expected to eat away at Britain’s coastline and the ancient monuments dotted around it. 

Because of the precarious nature of coastal heritage, the study undertaken by Archaeology South-East at Seaford Head is designed to produce results quickly and cost-effectively.

The pilot project is also intended to spark a discussion among a general public perhaps unaware of how much of its heritage is about to plunge off a cliff face.

With sea defences potentially costing millions of pounds, as well as sometimes being disfiguring, few at-risk sites realistically can be saved from disappearing.

The project will produce a podcast series, bringing in institutions such as the National Trust, as well as films discussing the protection of heritage.


University College London Seaford Head website news:

Phys Org website and Seaford Head article:

Standing proud on a hillside in Dorset, the Cerne Abbas Giant has long been a cause of much speculation. Is he a prehistoric figure? Is he Iron Age in date – Hercules has been suggested as the model for the figure. Or is he more recent? An ancient fertility symbol, or a pastiche political cartoon from much later?  

The investigation of the hill figure’s history is being undertaken by the National Trust in celebration of their having overseen the site for the last 100 years. 

Soil samples taken from the deepest levels of the chalk giant’s elbows and feet  before the pandemic lockdown in March 2020 have been found to contain microscopic land snails shells that did not appear in England until the 13–14 Centuries. And analysis of recent LIDAR scans of the figure strongly suggest that the giant’s famous ‘appendage’ is very much a later addition.

The samples taken last year were subjected to OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) analysis to determine the date(s) of the giant, and the figures are now available – but the National Trust are teasing us as the results will not be released until midnight tonight.

Given our focus upon the prehistoric, I suspect that our interest in the Giant at Cerne Abbas will be reduced after the announcement. My personal guess is that it will be dated as late medieval at best, if not later! We shall soon see…

News has come to us about the latest project from Golden Tree Productions, a community interest company that develops and delivers constructive cultural projects that uncover and celebrate Cornwall’s distinctiveness and diversity. They are the team behind the recent Man Engine project, which was displayed to a total of 146 thousand people in a 10-day tour around Cornwall in 2016.

Their latest project, ‘Kerdroya: Cornish Hedge Community Heritage Project’ is currently in planning, and the idea is that local master hedgers will work with community groups and schools between April and November 2019, passing on knowledge and skills to create a diverse team of ‘Hedge Stewards’. A number of hedges will be restored and rebuilt in the local styles and will comprise a Cornwall-wide trail culminating at Colliford Lake on Bodmin Moor in November 2020. This final site will take the form of a classical labyrinth (similar to those found in the Rocky Valley near Tintagel).

Rocky Valley Labyrinths

Built of traditional Cornish hedging with a 56m diameter, Kerdroya, the Cornish Landscape Labyrinth will be a major new piece of public art to last for generations to come, where visitors will have a fully immersive experience as they walk a single, meandering path through stretches of artisan stonework celebrating the aesthetics of distinct hedging styles from the previously restored Cornwall Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) sections. At its heart, a 10m circular space will open out to breath-taking views across the moorland and lake.

Artist’s impression of the Colliford Labyrinth

It is intended that the Kerdroya Cornish Landscape Labyrinth will open in November with construction work starting in April. Although some funding is being provided by investment from Cornwall AONB, Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Cornwall Council, both corporate and individual sponsorship opportunities are available. A new website for individual sponsorship pledges will open next week, March 2nd.


By Alan S.

The final video for now from our tour of Cornish antiquities visits the Carn Euny courtyard house settlement.

Continually occupied for over 800 years, the final phase of the settlement consisted of three large courtyard houses, several smaller oval buildings and a fogou. The fogou was discovered in 1857, and excavated in the 1860s by William Copeland Borlase.

Further information:

Carn Euny – Cornwall Heritage Trust
Carn Euny – Historic Cornwall
Carn Euny – Wikipedia

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we enjoyed making them. Previous articles in the series can be found here. If there are other Cornish ancient sites you’d like to see featured, please leave a comment.

Perfect timing, NOT!  Just as America pulls out of the Paris Accord comes news of proposals to develop more coal mining – and opencast to boot – in Northumberland. Unsurprisingly there’s a lot of opposition from environmental groups. Of particular interest is the name of the developers – The Banks Group.

Remember how they had another open cast mine and came up with a cheap way of avoiding having to fill in the hole and leaving the landscape as they found it? They left the slag that had come out of it in situ and moulded it into a human form, sort of, (slag heaps with an enigmatic grimace, some say) and then transferred the ongoing upkeep cost to the community.


About it, the Arts correspondent of the Guardian gushed:There’s a slumberous dreamlike delicacy to this work of art that dares to proclaim the wonder of the human body, that fertile marvel”. A successful wheeze then!
So could they now be planning a similar stunt? They say Many of Northumberland’s best-loved environmental assets only exist due to previous surface-mining activity in the area and the comprehensive Discover Druridge and Restoration First initiatives we developed as part of the Highthorn planning application will enable us to make significant local infrastructure enhancements that will provide major long-term benefits to wildlife, visitors, local people and businesses.”
So might that mean Northumberlandia, dubbed the Slag of the North or Slag Alice, the world’s largest human figure, will soon have a companion? Reports that there’ll be an even larger figure, equally anatomically unrealistic, of a naked man are nonsense. But it is thought that he will be named Cock o’ the North.


June 2023

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