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“So what happens at solstice?”
“People come at the wrong time of year to look in the wrong direction at the marvellous sight of the sun appearing between two stones one of which isn’t there and some get drunk and some get high and hundreds drop litter (and others pick it up to conceal the evidence of mass disrespect) and hundreds stand on prostrate stones, which is illegal, but the authorities do nothing at the time and say nothing afterwards nor about the fact they know the gathering would be more authentic, spectacular, enjoyable, cheaper and respectful if it took place outside the circle.  Meanwhile, the millions of stakeholders who don’t go remain perplexed why guardians don’t guard and why exhibitionists are given such license to act in a way that is entirely unconnected with the past! It’s ironic, isn’t it. They’ll roll over and give the solstice attendees what they want but do everything they can to oppose the wishes of the good people of Oswestry!”
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Update 2 July 2015
On Facebook National Trust Stonehenge Landscape has just said:
“After the chaos of Solstice, now we have the tranquility of a wide open landscape, high skies and space to breathe, why not take some time out to enjoy the beautiful Stonehenge landscape?”
What do they mean by the “chaos” of solstice? NT is standing shoulder to shoulder with EH over supporting a damaging “short tunnel”. Perhaps shoulder to shoulder doesn’t apply in all cases!

A recent press release from the University of Reading:

Our knowledge of the people who worshipped at Stonehenge and worked on its construction is set to be transformed through a new project led by the University of Reading.

This summer, in collaboration with Historic England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Wiltshire Museum, archaeologists are embarking on an exciting three-year excavation in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.

Situated between the iconic prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is a barely explored archaeological region of huge international importance. The project will investigate Marden Henge. Built around 2400 BC ‘Marden’ is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain’s most important but least understood prehistoric monuments.

Marden Henge photographed on 06-DEC-2006. © Historic England

Marden Henge photographed on 06-DEC-2006. © Historic England

Excavation within the Henge will focus on the surface of a Neolithic building revealed during earlier excavations. The people who used this building will have seen Stonehenge in full swing, perhaps even helped to haul the huge stones upright.

Dr Jim Leary, from the University of Reading’s Department of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeology Field School, said: “This excavation is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge and its surrounds. The Vale of Pewsey is a relatively untouched archaeological treasure-chest under the shadow of one of the wonders of the world.

“Why Stonehenge was built remains a mystery. How the giant stones were transported almost defy belief. It must have been an astonishing, perhaps frightening, sight. Using the latest survey, excavation and scientific techniques, the project will reveal priceless insight into the lives of those who witnessed its construction.

“Marden Henge is located on a line which connects Stonehenge and Avebury. This poses some fascinating questions. Were the three monuments competing against each other? Or were they used by the same communities but for different occasions and ceremonies? We hope to find out.”

The Vale of Pewsey is not only rich in Neolithic archaeology. It is home to a variety of other fascinating historical monuments from various periods in history, including Roman settlements, a deserted medieval village and post-medieval water meadows. A suite of other investigations along the River Avon will explore the vital role of the Vale’s environment throughout history.

Dr Leary continued: “One of the many wonderful opportunities this excavation presents is to reveal the secret of the Vale itself. Communities throughout time settled and thrived there – a key aim of the dig is to further our understanding of how the use of the landscape evolved – from prehistory to history.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, added: “Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment.”

The Vale of Pewsey excavation also marks the start of the new University of Reading Archaeology Field School. Previously run at the world-famous Roman town site of Silchester, the Field School will see archaeology students and enthusiasts from Reading and across the globe join the excavation.

The six week dig runs from 15th June to 25th July. Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 5pm. Groups must book in advance.

There will also be a chance for the public to visit the site at two exciting Open Days on Saturday 4th July and Saturday 18th July. To visit the excavation follow Sat Nav SN10 3RH.

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.

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So here’s our fantasy picture of what solstice could and should look like,  since it and Stonehenge belong to everyone in equal measure. Ordinary people having fun celebrating solstice near to but not within the stones – 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 middle-of the-nighting, no crazy calls for unrestricted access, no arrests and no embarrassment and humiliation for EH and Britain! Isn’t that better? Who or what is preventing it happening?.

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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?

As a boy I was furious when the bit of Enville Common where we played cricket every Sunday was suddenly fenced off and planted with small trees. Here they are now ….

enville trees

Fortunately for young cricketers the Enville Estate practices sustainable forestry and shortly a lot of them are to be felled and the land will revert to how it was in 1955, for a while at least. I plan to take my grandson there to play cricket.

What has this to do with the price of beans? Well, it crossed my mind it’s a good example of harmless change. A circle has turned and no harm has been done. Whereas, the change that’s proposed at Stonehenge is on a line not a circle. If EH and NT and Mr Cameron and the road lobby get their way a new massive scar across one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the world will still be there long after all of them aren’t – and indeed long after there’s no more petrol.

message

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You can write to the Trust very easily here . (Just say to Dame Helen Ghosh that as a stakeholder you support the simple but compelling principle of no new damage to Stonehenge and you think she should too.)

You can also write to UNESCO very easily here. (Tell them that the things that they’re liable to hear from EH and NT, they ain’t necessarily so, and a lot of people in Britain don’t support what they are trying to do to the World Heritage Site).

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.”


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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 enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk. 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

Dan Snow

You’d think Stonehenge had troubles enough, what with proper protection being ditched in favour of proper vote catching and the National Trust inexplicably going along with it. So what it doesn’t need is loads of American detectorists piling in to support the short tunnel. (Nor, truth to tell, does the Trust, bearing in mind the ramshackle case they are trying to maintain and the fact they don’t allow metal detectorists onto any of their land!)  Yet supporting the short tunnel is exactly what a British detectorist is urging American colleagues to do:

May I through the comments section ask that support be given to the UK’s National Trust who favour the ‘short tunnel’ option to protect Stonehenge from traffic. We need to counter the propaganda nonsense spouted by Heritage Harry, aka, Nigel Swift of Heritage Action who is desperate to see the ‘short tunnel’ option binned. Write to:- enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk . I already have. Please support the ‘short tunnel’ option.”

"Awesome"

The new Stonehenge World Heritage landscape. “Awesome”

If, on the other hand, you aren’t an American detectorist and you oppose new damage at Stonehenge, please sign the petition. Plus, if you’re an NT Member please write to them saying: I see you are submitting the short tunnel to a Members’ vote. I vote NO.”

Just when you thought it was ignoring democracy,  the National Trust has launched a review of itself and has invited its 4 million members to comment on how it can deliver its core purpose…..

The working party is focusing particularly on the role of the Council – the body of 52 people which appoints the Board of Trustees, holds it to account and generally ensures the National Trust stays true to its core purpose. All our members will be invited to share their views on the review – do take the opportunity to have your say.

So if you’re a Trust member you have a great chance to make a difference. Why not write to them – enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk saying you wish them to drop their support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge because supporting massive new damage within the World Heritage Site is completely at odds with their core purpose of preserving special places …

for everyone

 Update….

Dan Snow has put it more succinctly….

Retweeted 42 times

Following the recent wide publicity we would like to make our position clear regarding solstice celebrations at Stonehenge:


 

We have no objections whatsoever to solstice celebrations at Stonehenge subject to the simple proviso that they don’t involve damage or disrespect to the monument by which we mean significant litter, urine, vomit, faeces or deliberate marks on the stones – or any climbing up or standing on them (both of which are not open for debate as they are illegal under the government regulations by which English Heritage is bound).

We feel those obvious parameters should have been imposed many years ago on a zero tolerance basis and we look forward to the speedy publication of measures to achieve them. We trust the reforms will be announced not debated and that they will be judged by results this summer and will be revised thereafter as necessary. To this end we call for the prompt publication of a full damage and disrespect status report for each year from 2000 to 2014 and for each year thereafter.

We suspect that most people will agree and we are heartened by this from the Free Stonehenge Facebook Group: “Just to reassure The Heritage Journal that there are in fact many Druids and Pagans in complete agreement with the Journal’s position and are steadfastly campaigning for something to be done ….” It is surely now time for English Heritage to listen to the majority of people for whom respect for the site is the priority.


Thanks to heritage law expert Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald for directing us to this document  suggesting we were right, the National Trust might be able to make its Stonehenge land “forever sacrosanct”. The National Trust Act 1907 says its holdings “can be declared inalienable which means they cannot be sold, mortgaged or even compulsorily purchased by the government (without a debate in Parliament).” Of course, whether it can is one thing but whether it wishes to is another. But we can all hope. Better a second, honourable u-turn than keeping to a decision that will surely echo down history to its discredit.

It’s true that the Trust and EH have just entered into “a Memorandum of Agreement concerning the management of the landscape in and around the Stones including the A344 and the former Visitor Centre site” but it’s in the nature of a memorandum of agreement that it can be cancelled. The Trust is not yet locked into support for a short tunnel. It could still join The Stonehenge Alliance and call for “no new damage at Stonehenge, forever, for everyone”.

BTW, did you know The Trust is advertising for a Business Development Manager for the Wiltshire Landscape portfolio of sites with a role to “drive the commercial and visitor offer”? That ‘offer’ would be vastly more lucrative if that pesky A303 is removed and the two halves of the Stonehenge WHS are conveniently linked together. If the Trust’s recent u-turn had regard to that it would be a scandal so let’s hope it wasn’t.

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Can we have our National Trust back please? If you’re opposed to what’s happening, please sign this petition (for those living in Britain) or this petition   (for people in the rest of the world including NT employees on holiday).


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