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The Journal has been around quite a while and one of the advantages of that is that we can look at our archives and find things which EH, NT et al, those who are trying to say (and DO say) that UNESCO/ICOMOS think a short tunnel would be spiffing, would rather everyone would forget.
Here’s a beauty from exactly 11 years ago, in July 2005:
"Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement scheme that threatened the loss of archaeology and further intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn. ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has also welcomed the news. They say: "We believe that the review announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303 that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage Site".
Some say EH should have tackled solstice overcrowding long ago. Still, this year they finally did, imposing both a parking charge and an alcohol ban. It seems to have produced less overcrowding and less misbehaviour. Might they conclude that decisive management works better than endless negotiations?
Our friend spent the last year on the Open Access to Stonehenge Facebook Group, calling for a fresh start and a letter to EH saying: “We recognise that the welfare and dignity of the monument is paramount. We would like to enter into discussions to optimise access on the above bases.” Sadly (with a few exceptions) this was greeted with hostility (and accusations he was an EH or police spy!) and he was summarily ejected. It’s to be hoped that in future EH will only discuss Stonehenge access with people who accept that the interests of Stonehenge always, always outrank their own!
So, EH, HE, NT and CBA are all willing to support new damage to Stonehenge and to imply UNESCO and ICOMOS support a short tunnel when they’ve said no such thing.
However, the biscuit is most certainly taken by the latest edition of British Archaeology which states that ICOMOS essentially approves the short tunnel “subject to details of portals and cuttings”. As we stressed previously, the truth is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel so that absolutely, categorically can’t be taken as evidence that it essentially approves of the proposed length of the tunnel, quite the reverse. In addition, saying that it sees the position of those ends as mere “details” is equally misleading. They are crucial and ICOMOS has most definitely not signaled it thinks otherwise.
We have three questions-cum-accusations for EH, HE, NT, CBA and British Archaeology. 1.) If the short tunnel is such a benefit for Stonehenge how come you weren’t all calling for it until the Government decided it wanted it? 2.) And what was it that convinced you? Have you all, like CBA, “revisited earlier documents”? 3.) If so, that’s fine, but can you please tell the public precisely what you found in them to cause you to change your opinions? Where, in any of the earlier documents or indeed in the current ones published by ICOMOS or UNESCO have you found justification for your support for imposing the following scene on Britain’s and Europe’s leading prehistoric World Heritage Site? Precisely, chapter and verse please.
In Part 1 we highlighted how EH, HE and NT were supporting a short tunnel (and implying ICOMOS were too). Until very recently CBA hadn’t joined them. Indeed, in July 2005 they had signaled they never would, saying they were “resolutely opposed to the proposals for a short tunnel, which removes the A303 from the immediate vicinity of the stones but only at the cost of major damage to the rest of the World Heritage Site.” Now however they’ve “revisited earlier documents” and concluded about the long tunnel that “despite its widely-acknowledged benefits, there may be elements of a reasoned case against it”. Amazing what you can find in documents if you re-visit them!
In fact, their re-visiting has revealed to them reasons to go even further. They now say “burial of the A303 in a tunnel would itself cause some damage, but that solution could eliminate current sources of degradation elsewhere in the WHS”. That’s pivotal, for it endorses the central contention of EH et al that there’s such a thing as “beneficial damage” at Stonehenge and hence plays into the hands of the short tunnel lobby with a clarity it could only have dreamed about.
Also like EH et al they cite UNESCO in support of their revised stance: “UNESCO policy now advises that WHS management should ‘embrace initiatives that deliver mutual benefits to the property and its surroundings that may not seem essential to the protection of the OUV, but may prove important in the long run because they tie the property into its context in a positive and enduring way, thus favouring its long-term survival”. However, that UNESCO document (Managing Cultural World Heritage) is vastly more complex and nuanced than that and deserves better than cherry-picking. For instance, it also says “The link between heritage and sustainable development is interpreted in different ways, depending on the specific perspectives of the various players, and a certain degree of ambiguity exists”
To put it gently, UNESCO has NOT said it supports a short tunnel at Stonehenge and it is wrong to say it has. Nor should it be said, as CBA has, that any damage should be “minimal”. That sounds virtuous, but in truth it’s a surrender to the central agenda of the short tunnel lobby. Surely damage should simply be opposed, as the Stonehehenge Alliance has, not offered for negotiation? What has the Government’s wish to build a short tunnel got to do with CBA’s previous resolute opposition to such a thing?
22 years ago (at an International Conference mounted by English Heritage and the National Trust) Sir Angus Stirling, Director General of the National Trust, spoke for both organisations, saying: “We have concluded that ….
Yet now their successors say a short tunnel will do. It makes no sense, for those “essential requirements” haven’t changed and never can. So we have to conclude that what has changed is the willingness of the two organisations to support breaching those requirements. Worse, there are efforts to paint ICOMOS as supporting a short tunnel too. However, the post-visit report from ICOMOS contained several crucial phrases which really can’t be spun as supportive of damage to Stonehenge’s “Outstanding Universal Value” ……
So the unspun reality is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel and that must mean it also has major concerns about the length of the tunnel. That’s plain trigonometry and flies in the face of the public messages coming from EH, HE and NT.
Jim Rayner of website www.stonehengepilgrim.org.uk and the author of ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge’ shares his thoughts on how, where and when the solstice should be celebrated at Stonehenge.
Stonehenge – Opening up monument field and restoring the sun gap
English Heritage (EH) and the National Trust (NT) have promised to open up monument field and reconnect Stonehenge with The Avenue by finally removing the old A344 northern stock boundary fence. Yet, no further details about exactly when this is going to happen have been released. EH may well argue that this is because the newly seeded grass areas (along the line of the old road and old visitor centre car park) need further time to establish. EH may also state that the fences need to remain whilst any changes to the shuttle bus turning circle are being constructed (the planning decision is due in mid-July 2016). For further details about this and the ‘permissible route’ for walkers and cyclists along the line of the old A344 please see www.sarsen.org . and in particular http://www.sarsen.org/2016/05/summer-2016-planned-improvement-to.html. If this proves too difficult, then new line of access could be established around the edge of the current fences to the east and along the line of the long abandoned track way running across the avenue.
The creation of a larger monument field is integral to developing the summer and winter solstices celebrations as more ‘authentic gatherings’. During the summer solstice celebrations people are especially bunched-up against the old A344 fence and the centre of the circle is overcrowded. The best view of Stonehenge is from the avenue and this location is paramount to witnessing the midwinter sunset and possibly the midsummer shadow cast by the Heel Stone right into the heart of the monument. It would also help if EH and the NT started negotiations with Ministry of Defence about removing a small section of mainly coniferous trees on the horizon in order to recreate a ‘sun gap’ for the summer solstice sunrise. This and the removal of the old A344 fence would provide the extra space needed and a visual focal point for managed open access to develop in a more positive direction for all concerned.
English Heritage is saying that people have been celebrating summer solstice at Stonehenge for “thousands of years“. But where’s their evidence? Winter solstice, yes, they have shown loads of evidence for that, but not summer. So it’s strange they are making unsubstantiated claims about the cultural importance of the summer considering they are keen to reduce numbers in the summer. Anyway, here’s the authentic solstice view that none of the attendees will see this summer, it’s by our member Jimit and it showes the winter solstice sunset, viewed from outside the stones on the original ceremonial approach ….
How convenient by the ancients, making the big moment sunset instead of sunrise. No-one has to stand around waiting all night and, because it’s mostly not dark, it involves a lot less security and infrastructure. The Australians can confirm that’s the case. Here’s their winter solstice sunset celebration at “The Henge”, Bywong. No expense, no security, no infrastructure, no stone climbing, no litter, no damage, no moaning!
As the Canberra times reported: “Out at Bywong they steered clear of any of the pagan rituals seen at some genuinely ancient sites around the world, and instead enjoyed a barbecue, hot chocolate, mulled wine and a fun family atmosphere”. Imagine that! Hot chocolate, mulled wine and a fun family atmosphere!
So who stole OUR solstice?
It’s been six years since English Heritage had to close its Outreach Department. But does that mean the English Heritage Trust no longer has an obligation to outreach to people? We don’t think so, and we don’t just mean being polite to people with strange ideas but actually informing ordinary people about important issues.
There’s one way in which outreaching is not only owed but would also help EH itself. Shortly there’ll be the annual Stonehenge summer solstice shindig, with the usual damage and disrespect no doubt. EH has made no secret of the fact it wants to sort the problem out by the one means that will work – reducing the number of attendees to sensible levels. That’s where the outreach comes in…..
Why not make clear what EH knows the science now suggests: people who go there will be standing in the wrong place on the wrong day at the wrong time and looking in the wrong direction!
An experiment by University College London has just shown that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected. According to Prof Mike Parker-Pearson: “It was a bit of a shock to see how easy it was to pull the stone.”
It reminded us of experiments starting in 2005 organised by Gordon Pipes, a carpenter from Derbyshire and a member of Heritage Action. He formed a group of interested amateur antiquarians, including mainly our members, called ‘the Stonehengineers’ and staged a demonstration (appropriately, at the National Tramway Museum) of a method he believed may have been used. He called it “stone rowing” and his idea was that lifting the stones on levers and moving them along in a series of short steps would involve less friction and therefore require less effort than hauling them on rollers – so far fewer people could have been involved.
Subsequently, joined in by many well-known archaeologists Gordon demonstrated both stone rowing and traditional hauling methods at the Channel 5 Stonehenge Live event. The spectacular feature was that about thirty people were easily able to pull a 14 ton block (equivalent to 3 or 4 blue stones) uphill. As we wrote at the time …..
“It became clear that hauling could be made far more efficient than had previously been demonstrated, particularly by using far smaller rollers. In the end the consensus was that both methods might have been used – hauling for level, solid ground and rowing for when the ground was problematic or steeply sloping. It was certainly felt it would be difficult to imagine stones being manoeuvred around corners or over streams or lined up to precise positions without a degree of rowing being used.”
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….
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.
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.