And with one leap they were poorer financially, culturally, socially and intellectually….. One of the very first consequences was a savage reduction in heritage protection.

The National Trust is running a “boast piece” on Twitter about how it looks after dormice on its land: “Every year, before hibernation, our licensed handlers check on the dormouse population at the places we care for” ….. “Sleepy dormouse are being cared for by our rangers”

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Good. But it does beg the question:
If dormice were a lot bigger (but still ginger) would the Trust allow people with horses and dormouse hounds to career across their environment, against the wishes of 89% of the public, swearing blind they were just following a trail so no dormouse would ever be hurt?

We think the Trust has run out of excuses and knows it – as illustrated by its latest Tweet to a questioner: “Hi, we’ve replied to a huge number of questions on our trail hunting position over the last year, and our organisation has made a number of changes to our licences, to ensure we allow a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our aims. Given our limited resource as a charity, we aren’t able to respond further to clarify a position outlined in full on our website.

But the website gives no further justification, how could it? It seems to us that an organisation that doesn’t do right by one native British mammal shouldn’t seek to get public praise and support for the way it looks after another.

We recently received a letter from one of our readers, who wished to remain anonymous. Although only conjecture, the letter makes some interesting points regarding the proposed Spanish amendments to the World Heritage Committee’s drafts to the UK re the A303 scheme at Stonehenge. We reproduce the letter here in full:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

Why Spain’s stance on the A303 scheme near Stonehenge?

I wish to support our country. Often I scratch my head at money seemingly taking some precedent in decisions, but one wonders whether it is more important to protect wonderful sights and have imagination fuelled beyond the calculations. Some say yes, some say no, and many do not seem to care, their imaginations increasingly filled by with ever the reality of being able to put a plate on the table and spend more time with their loved ones.

For the last 100 years the car has become a necessity for many, and a driver, excuse the pun, for economic development and continued growth, it keeps people in purpose and freedom. Granted, there are probably too many of them, but this is what we do, we find things and make them into something else that enables a cycle, just like how people once built Stonehenge and made it from boulders from a landscape far away. But there is only one Stonehenge, unlike the cars; and whatever you may think of it, be it a big calendar, a grand gathering place for people to share or enlighten or a sacred place, it’s just there and it’s made it this far.

And so, to question of the Spanish intervention at the WHC42; backed by Burkina Faso, Hungary, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. It was interesting to see that the Spanish amendments (see below) to the World Heritage Committee were in order to undermine protection advised in the initial drafts presented by the WHC mission to the UK.

One wonders whether it has anything to do with potential tenders to Ferrovial / Cintra who are lined up as possible contractors (the others being Hochtief or Skanska/Strabag) and the proposed £1.6 billion finance scheme, or a timetable? I infer no wrongdoing or bias here, or indeed any lack of integrity, noting that the qualified diplomacy on display at the WHC was very impressive. However we must be careful with wanton speculation as there could be a plethora of other reasons; some have said Gibraltar, others may note that the WHC Spanish delegate is the wife to the ex-Secretary of Spain for Industry and Tourism, who knows, the PP in Spain are noted for dodgy deals?

But perhaps if the site wasn’t protected and debated about as it has been, the less scrupulous amongst our own might have bulldozed it already and stuck a big Mickey Mouse ride and a McDonalds on the site for a fist full of dollars; no EH jokes required.

Of course, we are not in the halls of power to make the decisions about cashing in and developing the land or highway, or for me, even comprehend other significances that may be a bit stranger. But if it is the case that it may be done deal, then the best possible solution needs to be found, as was originally proposed by the mission who came to assess the site of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), so that other people can wander past, or get some vibes, or whatever in generations to come.

Sometimes I think it is just that simple, imagination is a treasure. Is it greater to us folk, than not sitting in a traffic jam for a bit longer, and is it worth more than a public/private contract deal that could literally cut corners?

We have failed in the past through not knowing how to best understand or protect our places of interest, and we learn and guide from this. The OUV should be looked after, all agree, looked after for future generations; but only to the very best of our engineering and planning ability, and with the utmost credence given to the concerns of the community whose work it is to protect and learn and teach from our heritage, alongside the developers. The Spanish amendment reduces this real value for this scheme required for some of the community and was unnecessary. And just maybe, if they were around today, the engineers of Stonehenge might well agree.

Kind regards,

(redacted)

London

The Treasure Registrar has quoted Dr Lewis of the PAS as wondering if treasure rewards should be reduced to a token amount“. But we recall he opined after his 2011 fact finding trip to Denmark that the low rewards there “would not be attractive” to English detectorists. So why the change? He must know most detectorists still expect full value and many threaten recording strikes if not.

Could he have been advised that the Government’s post Brexit planning may mean the end of PAS and therefore of Treasure rewards? The one would surely involve the other for if archaeologists had been deemed unaffordable then giving rewards to artefact hunters would too, especially when outreach had been abandoned? Might the loss of outreach also prompt the Government to further disincentivise the activity by also banning the sale of non-treasure items with a hefty penalty for non-compliance?

Maybe he’s  been asked to see how detectorists would feel about it all? If so we can tell him: it would “not be attractive” to them. To say the least! “Only in it for the history, honest” is a great line to tell farmers but we are pretty sure not getting any money will result in a mass loss of interest in the activity. So it’s all pretty ironic: 90% of detectorists in a 2016 forum poll said they were voting Brexit! Looks like they’ll get their wish.

 

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Hmmm… so would you or anyone feel it right that a developer that wanted to build in your neighbourhood was allowed to sit in final judgment of the planning department’s recommendations?

That, in short, is what is happening with the now £1.7 billion Stonehenge tunnel.

The Transport Secretary instructed Highways England to adopt a tunnel within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, and following the planning process will make the final decision whether or not it goes ahead unless successfully challenged in the High Court.

We were impressed enough with this recent photo posted by the Standing With Stones founders within the Standing With Stones Community Facebook group to request permission to reproduce it here.

It provides a comparison between an antiquarian drawing by William Stukeley from some 270 years ago, and the site as it stands today: the Whispering Knights in Oxfordshire.

© Standing with Stones. Reproduced by permission.

Looking at this photo, it occurred to us that many of our readers visit such sites on a regular basis. Also, antiquarian sketches of many ancient sites are readily available from internet searches. So why not put the two together?

If you’re planning a site visit, why not take the time to spend a few minutes in preparation to see if an antiquarian sketch exists? If it does, print it out and take it along then take a snap of both the sketch and the monument from the same or a similar position, and send it into us. We’ll be more than happy to publish any that we receive.

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Frankly, that’s bizarre. Metal detecting has been a useful part of archaeological projects for years but it requires minimal training: follow a grid, swing it low and slow, stick a flag in where it beeps and tell the archaeologist. Who can’t do that? Certainly a detector tied to the tail of a dog would suffice.

An offensive image? Not as offensive as kidding the public otherwise. The “skill” detectorists claim is in recognising whether a beep is a worthwhile target for them but in archaeology all targets are worthwhile. So getting Oxford involved in “training” is a worry, especially as it is being promoted by The Association of Detectorists, who are trying to give metal detecting an archaeological spin.

It is to be hoped that in future no detecting club will turn up at a farm gate, sans an archaeologist and armed with an Oxford Certificate, claiming they’re there to carry out an archaeological project. They won’t be, they’ll be there to artefact hunt, which is recreational exploitation for personal benefit, not the same thing at all. PAS should warn farmers and Oxford should read a few of our articles.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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On this day 8 years ago the closure of English Heritage’s Outreach Department was announced, leaving as we commented, “a situation in which there’s no national outreaching to 56 million ordinary members of the English public but there’ll still be about 45 PAS archaeologists outreaching mainly to 8,000 English metal detectorists”.

Of course, there’s still some great unpaid outreach by archaeologists but no paid posts other than PAS. Is that sensible when every farmer is outreached to by metal detectorists keen to get access to their fields and loads of detectorists hold show-and-tell sessions in schools, “teaching” children about their version of how to behave?

We wish farmers were well enough informed to say “no, if anyone comes here we’d rather it was amateur archaeologists with archaeological standards and goals”. Plus we wish schoolchildren were sufficiently well informed to say Hey Mr, last week we did some archaeology using archaeological methods to maximise knowledge and minimise damage and treated the finds as everyone’s. Yet you lay claim to yours and want applause for showing them to us. Stuff saying they’re your finds. If you do it for everyone, leave them all here!”

That’s the problem with no proper state outreach. If 24,000 detectorists and 45 PAS archaeologists are telling people metal detecting is fine when “responsible” the actual effect is the inexorable mining of the buried archaeological resource mainly by the irresponsible. Anyone willing to deny it? Thought not!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary, wants us to quit UNESCO. A Number 10 spokesman says no, it won’t happen. But we’ll see. What’s clear is that it has been considered – and if it does happen then the one country that thinks metal detecting should be financially supported and that building a mile of new road over the most precious prehistoric landscape in Europe is an enhancement, will have delivered a third massive blow to its own reputation.

The political symbolism would be dire: a further retreat from the international community after Brexit and an alignment with President Trump (for benefits unspecified and perhaps undelivered). Or a convenient excuse for Britain to now resign from its treaty promises not to damage the Stonehenge landscape. If the latter it would mean stopping protective payments of £11.1 million a year to make ourselves free to spend a damaging £1.7 billion! Who knows? What IS clear is that lots is going on in private (anyone know why Spain has proposed UNESCO’s opposition to the Stonehenge tunnel be watered down? Gibraltar beware!).

But we think the most likely explanation is this: it’s a planned warning shot across the bows of UNESCO, a message saying quit opposing our Stonehenge vandalism and shaming us to the World – or we’ll resign. Like the Spanish support there’s a whiff of cheap desperation about that and it’s to be hoped UNESCO will know that and stand firm. Of course, the worst could still happen, and if it did everyone would be entitled to ask English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust: is this the grubby disaster you intended to support when you first resolved to defend the indefensible?

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Hurrah!  Making Britain great again!

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PS –

The questionable World Heritage UK (NOT UNESCO) has promptly stepped up to the plate to reiterare the Government’s denial. But we’re less convinced of their impartiality by this bit:

World Heritage UK understands that scrutiny of bodies such as UNESCO is a legitimate political duty, but we also have the utmost confidence that the economic, environmental and social benefit delivered by the UK’s 31 World Heritage Sites can be proven to withstand any such scrutiny.

What rot. On whose suggestion was that added? As we were saying, there’s all sorts of behind-the-scenes grubby desperate business going on regarding the tunnel, all of it with a cheap whiff of desperation.

Remember our article “What is it about Carbuncles and Castles” about the jarring modernity os some bridges imposed on ancient places?

Well here’s the Golden Bridge, Viet Nam …….

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