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The Treasury is having doubts about whether the Stonehenge tunnel scheme is value for money. But in truth the calculations are meaningless anyway for no-one can convert cultural gain (or loss) into measurable money terms. Hence, when the National Audit Office says the project will deliver “£1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent” and The Treasury doubts it,  both are dealing in fuzzy information, not to say complete codswallop. As the National Audit Office has said, (rather more politely than that) the figures were arrived at

“because Highways England included a monetary value for “cultural heritage” in the costings. Highways England worked out this value by asking the public how much it would pay to have the road removed from the site. [!!!] While Highways England used approved methodologies to do this, calculating benefits in this way is inherently uncertain.”

“Inherently uncertain”! How very British! What they mean is “it’s nonsense, but it’s all Highways England could think of to fill the void in the calculation and get the result they wanted”. It’s like a bike designed by Hiram B. Nickerson, no trick not used to ensure it looks low-impact!

Hiram B. Nickerson’s Aerial Bicycle, 1896

Yet that’s not all: Highways England claim to have arrived at a cultural benefit figure but where’s their estimate of cultural loss? It’s not there. No-one knows how much archaeology will be lost until it’s lost so they’ve simply not mentioned it, along with the loss of the free view of the stones. Honesty England they ain’t!

By the way, in case Highways England et al tell you that asking the public how much they’d be willing to pay to remove the road is a valid technique in cost-benefit analysis let them use that method to calculate the cultural value of The Pyramids, Hamlet or a sunset.

Here’s a video praising a detectorist who donated a treasure find, gratis. But why? This was a decent man, doing what he should and knowing the find was never his and the rewards were never meant to benefit him, only to incentivise those who would steal the public’s heritage without one! So praising him actually insults him, for it implies he might be the sort of person he patently isn’t.

So in future, let’s drop the”praise”, just like we don’t praise people leaving Tescos not carrying stolen goods. Praising normality while rewarding those with less scruples is an ugly look (and doesn’t work: 90% of detectorists take the money and often ask for more!)

Hopefully, the Treasure Act reforms will change things by making it far clearer to detectorists that rewards are not an entitlement, and that taking them is the opposite of being an amateur archaeologist, still less a hero.

Image result for supermarket customer
Tesco customer lauded for not stealing.


Slowly slowly

So far so good! Plus, the Trust has plans to create new green corridors for people and nature, provide 25,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, run a campaign “to connect people with nature” and be “carbon net-zero by 2030”.

Better still, their Director-General has just said: “On 29 February, we will mark the leap year by asking the nation to make a leap for nature, pledging a simple act that will make a difference to nature on their doorstep.”

So let’s all help The Trust make a simple leap: if you become a Member and use your vote at the next AGM the Trust could be cruelty net-zero this year!

See also this Comment:

Steve Miller
Definitely worth joining the Trust or not leaving until after the AGM this year. Only Trust members get to vote on the issue. Also worth remembering not to leave the decision to the Chairman who will use your vote to support the continuation of hunting.

The current story of a bluestone being stolen and used as a garden feature put us in mind of the bad old days when half or more of the houses of Avebury were constructed from sarsen stolen from the Avebury monument, as well as the bad new days, when English Heritage et al are conspiring to effectively steal ALL the Stonehenge stones from the traveling public! So stone-stealing isn’t new, and an eBay search for Preseli Bluestone gets you over a hundred hits – and has done for many years.

This prompts a variety of thoughts: Do bits of bluestone have healing qualities or is it a racket? Do any of them come from the original Preseli quarry or are they simply from the broad vicinity? Or are many of them simply offcuts, of which there are many, picked up from molehills near Stonehenge?

Whatever the truth, it may be centuries before the total of bluestone pieces sold on eBay adds up to a fiftieth of a whole bluestone or a billionth of a bluestone quarry so as conservation scandals go this is not too bad. More concerning (to us) is that this weekend alone our friends the metal detectorists will fail to report something like ten thousand recordable artefacts!

Detectorists are discussing how to get permission to detect on Council land (including the fatuous “So can you organise a rally and sayn it is a archaeological dig?“) Some Councils allow it, many do not. In 2017 we wrote to the National Association of Local Councils (and CBA, Rescue, LGAO and APPAG) about this and are still awaiting a reply.


We should be grateful if you would forward this message to each of your 10,000 members. They will all have received many requests over the years for “metal detecting permission”. We hope your Members will accept that although a variety of non-damaging recreational uses of public land ought to be permitted, anything found within publicly owned land belongs to the public authority and it is not at liberty to allow private individuals to claim it as their own. That principle also applies, for instance, to harvesting flowers and the removal of fish, birds and mammals. In the case of archaeological artefacts the principle is of particular importance since objects may not only have monetary value but also historical value.

We commend them to The Deefholts-Billingshurst method. See Item 064/09 of the Deerhurst Parish Council, Gloucestershire, in 2009 []
“Mr Ray Deefholts wished to speak about agenda item 9 on metal detecting. Mr Deefholts stated that he is a member of the Federation of Independent Detectorists and is seeking permission from the Council for himself and two friends to use metal detectors on Parish Council land. Smaller items found will remain in the possession of the land owner i.e. the Parish Council, but Horsham Museum may be interested in these finds. Other finds may fall under the Treasure Act….” (In other words, nothing found during metal detecting would be claimed by Mr Deefholts or his two companions).


We think that is fair – to the public and we suspect that very few detectorists will wish to pursue their “interest purely in history” on the basis of such fairness to the public.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



Hounds ‘rip seven-month-old kitten to pieces’


The mind boggles about how the National Trust would spin it if the above “accident” happened at one of the many hunts they allow.

Yet whatever they claim, similar things have happened before and are just a bite away at every single one of their approved events. Please keep that in mind when the matter comes up for a vote later this year.

Last year at this time we pointed out the ironic fact The National Trust was supporting Trail Hunting while cashing in on numerous expensive fox gifts

This year they have reduced it to only one …

Coincidence? Or evidence they’ve finally accepted their stance on Trail Hunting is embarrassing and damaging to their reputation? Does this bode well for their next AGM?

Another “accident” about to happen, “forever, for everyone”


  1. Strengthen the Hunting Act
  2. Penalise those who allow Hunting and Commercial Shooting
  3. Increase the pitiful custodial sentences for animal cruelty
  4. Hope that at last, at this year’s National Trust AGM, there will be an unmanipulated vote, this time rejecting support for the cruel hypocrisy known as Trail Hunting.

Dear Friends,

My cousin Silas told me (via Paul Barford): “Sam Hardy’s work suggests there are 1,447 detectorists in Scotland. Yet according to the last report, less than 200 items or groups of items were reported as the law requires.”

But as we all know, Britain has been occupied for millennia and it’s just not possible to walk the fields for long periods, with or without a detector, without finding reportable stuff. Yet PAS has sponsored a group of archaeologists to say Sam’s findings are invalid.

Still, one reality they haven’t denied is that at least 6 out of 7 Scottish detectorists don’t declare their finds. So, Scottish Friends, if anyone knocks your door saying they’ll add to society’s knowledge or look after your interest, keep in mind there’s an 86% chance they won’t.


Happy Hogmanay!

Jock Brown


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



by Nigel Swift

In a recent chat with some prominent archaeologists, I was surprised to hear:
There is absolutely no foolproof method for extracting every single scrap of a disturbed hoard from the ploughsoil. Like any archaeological project, pragmatic decisions have to be made about whether the majority and/or a representative sample have been recovered.

But don’t exceptional assets warrant exceptional measures? Modern detectors now go far deeper so the logic is inescapable: they need to go back. It wouldn’t even be expensive: 50 archaeology students with 50 GPX 5000 machines loaned by Minelab would be a response worthy of this hoard – at last!


The “illusory truth effect” dictates that when people hear a false statement multiple times they perceive it as true. Hence people are prepared to be repeatedly reassured that the original searches using Ebex 420H machines reaching down 30cm were adequate. The nighthawk who subsequently dug this hole knew better and may well have used a GPX 5000  machine which can go down to 85cm.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


January 2020
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