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The Portable Antiquities Scheme seems miffed that some of us are not impressed by their 1.5 million milestone. So be it, we aren’t going to pretend that ten times more recordable finds are probably being deliberately hidden from them than aren’t. PAS spokespeople are curates, praising an egg that is good in only a very small part.

We’d be FAR more sympathetic towards them if they gave discredit where it’s due, and said so to farmers (which is their duty as a conservation body). They could start by condemning these tricky words which are conveyed by detectorists to virtually every landowner:

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  • The “Code of Conduct” mentioned is a weak-as-dishwater NCMD-authored one, not the official one, but you’d have to read the above words several times to realise that. Read it yourself, again, to see we’re right. Would a busy farmer notice?
  • The words “reference to” do not mean “adhere to” or anything like it. Indeed, how could they, the NCMD doesn’t even support the official code, they’ve refused to sign it!

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So the words are clearly designed to mislead. Let PAS tell farmers the document is worthless, not leave them misinformed. Then, maybe, they can start taking credit for sincerely trying to do the right thing for landowners, taxpayers, and the resource rather than being passive accomplices in widespread farmer-fooling.

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Why? Because by then Grant Shapps must announce his decision. What will it be? Will a country that now owes more than the value of its own economy invest an open-ended sum on a route that was designed to catch votes by the last Prime Minister but one and which has now lost much of its traffic and raison d’etre and has scandalised professionals and laypeople worldwide?

Or will it decide there are more pressing needs, such as … just about everything? Who knows? What we do know is that if it’s “postponed” (as cancellations are always presented) they’ll (a.) bury the announcement under other news and (b.) blame anything except themselves and their yes-bodies.

Or maybe they will blame their yes-bodies, just like they heaped criticism on care homes. Might they turn round and say English Heritage et al misled them about both the heritage damage and the insurmountable technical problems posed by soft chalk and the water table – despite knowing about both for years?

 

The Trust says trail hunting “replicates a traditional hunt without a fox being chased, injured or killed”. But everyone knows there are many “mistakes”. Soon, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill could make those mistakes more significant:

The Trust simply can’t prevent cruelty at trail hunts as they involve foxes, hounds, and portly gents on horses, none of whom can be relied upon. So soon, when cruelty next happens at a Trust trail hunt they may be held to be negligent and in breach of the law for having failed to provide adequate safeguards.

Michael Gove has just said: “There is no place in this country for animal cruelty”. Are times changing enough to force the Trust to finally abandon its “accidental cruelty” policy?

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We have loads of visitors here (4,000 in the past four days and lots more on social media) yet we’ve received zero answers to yesterday’s simple question by Farmer Brown: “If metal detecting good practice is such a good thing, how come it’s still only voluntary and hasn’t been made compulsory?”. Guilt from detectorists and embarrassment from archaeologists perhaps? What they should be openly admitting is that detectorists resist reform and threaten lawbreaking or recording strikes if their “freedom” to ignore good practice is curtailed. Here are some things they’ve threatened PAS with on their forums:

Don’t criticise us or we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t tell us what to do or we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t undertake surveys of nighthawking else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t let PAS dominate us else we’ll stop reporting” (and later: “Don’t reduce PAS’s funding else we’ll stop reporting”), “Don’t impose a Code of Responsible Detecting else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t discuss licensing us else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t ban inappropriate rallies else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t impose restrictions under stewardship schemes else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t tighten up EBay else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t ever, ever, ever short change us on the Treasure rewards else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t abate our Treasure rewards for not calling an archie out else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t talk of using some of our Treasure rewards to finance proper excavations of our findspots else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t write to farmers without us dictating what is to be said else we’ll stop reporting” …. and now… “Don’t extend the items covered by the Treasure Act beyond exactly what we say else we’ll stop reporting.”

Sad, isn’t it when a tiny group is standing in the way of something that would benefit the whole of the public? We recall that five years ago, almost to the day, we wrote: “The public is entitled to be bitter – not merely because the bulk of a hobby has cocked an 18 [now, 23] year snook at the rest of us but because The Archaeological Establishment is still not publicly admitting the fact.”

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Yesterday we opined that Wiltshire’s landscape shouldn’t be open for “taking”. Today we thought we’d highlight Wayne from Wallasey’s first visit to Wilts. The year is 2005, the place the Marlborough Downs, North of Avebury. You can see the White Horse on the left and on the right, those are detectorists’ cars.

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The spot is overlooked by The Ridgeway, the White Horse, 2 Iron Age forts, and countless bronze age barrows but Wayne wasn’t there for that he was there for stuff. 480 people lined up and rushed forward (“like the start of the Grand National,” said the press), to grab what they could of our history to take home.

Sadly they may be back if lockdown is loosened further (a 700-person “Near Marlborough” rally is already planned). PAS has abandoned its Guidance for Rallies as it was universally flouted so isn’t it time they told the Minister what they must surely think privately: rallies are damaging, toe-curling, displays of cultural philistinism which bring international shame to both PAS and the country and if they don’t come back for years it will be far too soon!

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By broadcasting the Solstice live, perhaps English Heritage sought to give 3.5 million people throughout the world the impression they are trustworthy guardians of the World Heritage site and not a body that is supporting massive new damage to it at the behest of the British Government.
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However, the fact their broadcast was manipulated to avoid showing this man by the Heel Stone says it all:

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In order to illustrate the solstitial alignment, you would expect them to show the view from the centre of Stonehenge out towards the Heel Stone. Instead, they featured views only from the other side of Stonehenge………a classic case of EH just giving a viewpoint that suits their own agenda.

To the astonishment of archaeologists” the largest prehistoric structure ever found in Britain has just been discovered in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. “A series of vast shafts – each more than five metres deep and up to 20 metres across – were found to have been aligned to form a circle 1.2 miles in diameter.

It’s a lucky site as it’s not in the path of Highways England’s bulldozers, so will survive and be studied far into the future. But what about Unluckyhenge, as we dubbed any sites yet to be discovered on the route of the new access roads? They will have to be recorded very hurriedly and therefore not fully before being destroyed totally, surviving only as incomplete digital records.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson summarised the grim lesson this latest new discovery has delivered: The problem is that this is a scheme that was hatched back in the 1980s when they really had no idea about the potential of what might be there.” Professor Gaffney of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project says “future generations are unlikely to forgive us if we damage this unique landscape”. But the Unluckyhenges won’t just be damaged. They’ll be obliterated.

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“Unluckyhenge”. If it falls anywhere within Highways England’s “total destruction corridor” it will be briefly available for study, and then never. Highways England say their investigation of the whole destruction corridor has been to “Historic England-required standards”. But they haven’t said there’s nothing there – they can’t, there will be lots.

 

 

 

Yesterday’s call for landowners to sign nothing and get their own independent advice on both the significance and value of finds has caused quite a stir and we had the most visitors for years. (Readers will know why).

Farmer Brown has long said the same thing. Back in March 2013: he said:
Don’t do it. Sign nothing, especially if it contains the word “share”. By all that’s logical, legal, practical, safe and just it should be YOU alone who decides what (if anything) you give away, and then only when you’ve seen everything the detectorist has found, not before.

and again in May 2014 he said:
I’ll give a bag of mangel-wurzels to any detectorist, archaeologist, lawyer, philosopher or priest that can show why ALL artefact hunters shouldn’t be doing it too. Anything else, like getting the farmer to sign away 50% of his property while still undiscovered (which most detectorists and the whole Archaeological Establishment encourage landowners to do) is plain wrong.

When will PAS and the Archaeological Establishment protect the interest of landowners?

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Dear Fellow Landowners,

Maybe, as lockdown eases, you’ll be getting more requests to allow detecting. If so, you might be told by a detectorist or an archaeologist that a “finds agreement” is needed. It’s not. Everything in the field is yours (or the nation’s) so if anything is removed without your permission it’s simply theft!

Archaeologists (including PAS) know that, yet they still recommend a finds agreement even though NO archaeologist would dream of contracting to share the unseen contents of their granny’s loft with a loft clearer.

No, if you must allow detecting. this simple notice on your gate will not only fully suffice but may give you additional protection from being swindled.

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Regards,
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Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop
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