Ad nauseam, for decades, hundreds of press reports have said: “the great majority of detectorists are responsible”. Well, this week the largest detecting forum has run a poll:

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So only 43.5% say they do. Imagine the knowledge loss that implies! But at least the false narrative has been nailed at last – by detectorists! Here are just a few of the people who should take note, and desist:


Michael Lewis, Head of PAS: “most metal detectorists are responsible
Steve Critchley, NCMD: “the vast majority of metal detectorists are responsible
Jill Chitty, CBA Head of Conservation: “The vast majority of metal detectorists are very responsible
Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime, Historic England: “The majority of the metal detecting community comply with the rules
Jane Harrison, Country Land and Business Association: “the majority of metal detectorists are compliant with their code
National Trust policy statement: “most metal detectorists report their finds
Norman Smith, Rally Organiser: “Most metal detectorists record their finds


Let’s hope they and the press will now stop misinforming farmers, taxpayers, stakeholders and legislators.

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A Detectorist (on Twitter): “Please show me a law that says everything should be recorded? I’m all for responsible detecting and recording but draw the line at being called thieves.”

A Non-Detectorist replied: “Well, that’s the point. “Not reporting” is a crime against society as it steals society’s knowledge. That’s why we have civilisation. So people behave well even when there’s no specific law requiring them to.

Of course! So why did the loquacious PAS officials on the thread then go quiet instead of agreeing? Could it be they were frit of offending detectorists?

The Founders of PAS had no such hesitancy about truth. Baroness Blackstone said the aim of PAS was “to change public attitudes to recording finds so that it becomes normal practice for finders to report them“. So “normal practice”. Not “some at least will be responsible, hurrah!”

After all this time (and expense) shouldn’t civilised behaviour be universally known to be the required norm in metal detecting? Why should detectorists still be able to say”“Please show me a law that says everything should be recorded” without PAS explaining it’s not to do with law, it’s to do with being a half-decent citizen?

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See here.

Heritage in peril

The late 1920s were a time of calamity for Britain’s heritage. Beautiful landscapes were being bulldozed for the construction of suburbs and roads – at this time there were no laws to restrict their development. Many historic buildings were being demolished or allowed to decay, and Stonehenge was endangered.

The nation rallied, and in the summer and autumn of 1927 there was a campaign to save the landscape surrounding the ancient stones. The monument itself was in good condition – since Cecil Chubb donated it to the nation in 1918, there had been a major programme by the Office of Works (a predecessor of English Heriitage) to restore and excavate the site. But although the stones themselves, and the triangle of land immediately around them, were now preserved, the same was not true for the surrounding chalk downland.

That “time of calamity” was in the late 1920s. Now, in the 2020s we are facing a new “calamity for Britain’s heritage” for the Stonehenge landscape is in danger of “being bulldozed for the construction of roads”. The 1920’s situation of “no laws to restrict their development still applies, although only because English Heritage et al have chosen to ignore Britain’s obligations to protect the place under the World Heritage Convention.

Finally, most ironically of all, they say “In the 1920s a campaign to save the landscape around Stonehenge captured the imagination of the public, enabling the land to be bought and donated to the National Trust.” Yes, that same National Trust that has now agreed that a mile of new dual carriageway can be driven across that same land!

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“Fergusons Gang” – a group of young women who battled to save some of England’s threatened buildings and landscapes in the 1920s – now celebrated by English Heritage without the least sense of embarrassment!

Last week President Macron addressed the UN saying: “We need to find a new method, reverse the terms of the contract, and ensure our voice is heard loud and clear when others pride themselves on signing up to alliances and their principles, organizations, and their principles, just to trample them in reality.”

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Who did he mean by “others”? Rogue states? Banana republics? Yes. But sadly, the US as well. And UK which has just said it’s willing to break international law, in a “specific and limited” way.

But that’s no surprise. We would breach our international treaty obligations with the short tunnel scheme. Ask UNESCO. So next time we admonish another state for breaching international law, we shouldn’t be surprised if we’re told it was only in a “specific and limited way” or that they were only

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                                        “Doing a Stonehenge”.


This is at Tara, not Stonehenge, as mysteriously Highways England hasn’t published an artist’s impression of the work at Stonehenge. Although, they have told the Government and the public there’ll be no damage to archaeology.

 

The Government’s lax COVID regulation for detecting rallies (hundreds of people allowed so long as “social interaction limited to groups of six or less which do not mingle”) has allowed large scale events to continue weekly. Just today 260 detectorists are in Wilsford, Wiltshire “next to and joining the Roman hoard field and fields we had the 12 silver densrius coins and hundreds of Roman bronze , hammered coins , Axe heads , Celtic units , Saxon & Roman brooches“.

At present rallies carry an obvious health risk for both participants and locals (see yesterday’s article). Plus, at all times, they cause massive heritage damage through non-reporting of finds, Their only “defence” is they reveal hidden history but non-reporting shows the opposite and a recent announcement by Let’s Go Digging, the company running today’s event, reveals the true motivation: “Anything you find under £3000 is yours without having to split with farmers“.

Rallies really have no place in a self-respecting society and their rarity elsewhere proves the point – 99% of the world’s metal detecting rallies take place here in Britain. The Government should find a way to make them legally impossible – and would do so if only PAS would advise them to. They still could, today, with a simple phone call.

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A very British scene

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Villagers in Ancaster, Lincs are worried a metal detecting rally brings a health risk. It’s legal under COVID regulations (“social interaction limited to groups of six or less which do not mingle”) but the locals know that’s unsafe. As the Parish Council chairman points out:

“They say they’re Covid safe” but “they’re saying they’ve got stalls and they’ve got a bar and they’re all stopping overnight. All of a sudden you’ve got 230 people from all parts of the country all heading into Ancaster. Presumably, they’ll be going to the local shops and things like that and all I’m worried about is, is it covid safe for us?”

Of course it’s not, either for participants or locals. Add to that the fact rallies damage everyone’s heritage and it’s inarguable that the holding of such events, especially just now, is plain wrong.

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Ancaster – what did it do to deserve a metal detecting rally nearby?

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Update 3 October: Paul Barford has just reported that “As the locals feared, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased in Lincolnshire in recent days since a group of metal detectorists proposed “charitably” holding their rally in South Kesteven and mingling with the villagers in local shops etc. It is now 21.1 per 100,000 up from 16.1 (BBC Covid cases on the rise across most parts of Lincolnshire 2nd October). While this is not necessarily due to the tekkies, that’s an awful lot of unnecessary tracking and tracing to be done.”

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Images of the A303 by short tunnel supporters always show it at a standstill. But that’s selective and dishonest as this National Trust video proves:

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That’s Stonehenge in the centre, on the skyline. Two things are worth noting:

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1. The diagonal green stripe to the side of it is the old A344 road, long closed and grassed over – you know, the one the tunnel lobby keeps publishing 7-year-old images of!

2. The road on the left, well away from the stones, is the A303 – you know, the one the tunnel lobby says is always at a standstill. Not on that day it wasn’t!

English Heritage’s conservation of the Iron Bridge has been admirable. Now it has contributed to a further programme in which the bridge and other parts of the Ironbridge World Heritage site are being lit up at night for a few weekends using a colour evocative of the glow from the blast furnaces that once lit up the Ironbridge Gorge during its industrial past.

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What a great project! But also, what a clear admission that the vital component of World Heritage sites is visibility. Without that the “outstanding universal value” of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site wouldn’t exist.

So why then is English Heritage supporting a scheme to hide Stonehenge from tens of millions of travellers forever? If you think it’s utterly wrong and a flagrant theft from the past, the present and the future, please sign the petition.

We make that SEVEN bodies that have now done it. What’s going on?

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They’ve written to their Members with a warning that a rival organisation

“states that they intend to become “a recognised membership body which is able to set and monitor standards of metal detecting”. We believe the AoD is a threat because there are individuals who manage and run it who have publicly stated that restrictions on our hobby are needed. So would you want the AoD to set and monitor standards of metal detecting?

Oh, the horror! Ethical standards! This reaction will surprise no-one for over the years they have 1.) opposed and threatened strike action whenever previous reforms were proposed 2.) instructed members to boycott OUR attempt to form an association of responsible detectorists and 3.) most telling of all, refused to sign the (very mild) official Responsibility Code!

What will it take and how much damage must happen before PAS and archaeologists admit the truth? If even its national association quacks like a duck it’s not right to tell parliament and the public it’s not a duck.

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