By Nigel Swift

In my opinion there’s a horrible disconnect between the genuine love and respect for the past exhibited by so many decent members of the public and the endless high-profile grabbery of 27,000 metal detectorists. Recent discussion of ARCHI UK, a phone based facility allowing detectorists to pinpoint 190,000 archaerological sites of interest (for a purpose we all know perfectly well), reminded me of my 2015 visit to Kempsey, Worcestershire, where I wrote about and photographed this:
“It was erected by the locals following the discovery of 42 ancient graves during the construction of the flood defences and it contains the inscription: “Marking the reburial of our Saxon and Mediaeval ancestors 800-1300 BC …

“Not all of Kempsey’s past is cherished though. Some of it is being exploited. Like every village by now probably, Kempsey has been visited by metal detectorists under the unique Bonkers British legal umbrella which says they needn’t tell anyone about 99.98% of the historical finds they come across. One wonders just how much cultural knowledge of its past that has cost Kempsey bearing in mind that ARCHI UK, the database aimed at metal detectorists, lists 271 archaeological and historical sites within 10 km of the centre of the village!”

So, archaeologists of Britain, how about less claiming that Wayne is doing a fine job and a bit more mention of Kempsey?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Written Statement: Road Review – Llanbedr Access Road

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change

The climate emergency makes it imperative that we avoid investment that increases carbon emissions, especially in the next 15 years when most cars on the road will still be petrol and diesel vehicles. 

The Llanbedr Access Road scheme has been taken forward by Gwynedd Council with funding from Welsh Government. As the scheme is at an advanced stage of preparation the panel chair was asked to ‘fast-track’ its review of the Llanbedr scheme.

I have received and reviewed the chair’s report.

The review focussed on two questions:

  1. Has sufficient consideration been given to non-transport solutions and solutions other than those increasing private car capacity on the road network?
  2. Has sufficient consideration been given to whether the road proposal will lead to increased CO2 emissions on the road network, or cause significant impediment to achievement of our decarbonisation targets?

This review of the Llanbedr scheme also took into account Wales’ Well-being Goals; the new Wales Transport Strategy Llwybr Newydd; Future Wales; Planning Policy Wales; the forthcoming Net Zero Wales low carbon delivery plan; and the current review of the WelTAG transport appraisal process.

The Panel Chair visited Llanbedr to see the location of the road scheme, and met Gwynedd Council, Aerospace Wales, and Welsh Government officials with responsibility for regional development, industrial transformation and transport infrastructure in North Wales. A written representation was received from Cymdeithas Eryri / the Snowdonia Society.

The chair’s report concludes that the proposed scheme does not align well with new Welsh Government transport and climate policy, and advises that it is not taken forward. The report can be accessed at:

However, I am committed to providing funding for the development and implementation of an alternative package of measures to address the negative impact of traffic in Llanbedr and in other villages on the A496, whilst also encouraging modal shift and reducing CO2 emissions. The package can also consider access requirements to the airfield to support associated developments. I have asked my officials to work with Gwynedd Council to commission Transport for Wales to develop an alternative package for consideration, in line with the chair’s recommendations.  Any Welsh Government funding for this package will be via the Local Transport Fund and subject to the usual application process.

The huge vote to ban trail hunting is only “advisory“!

Everyone, but everyone, knows the Trust has been desperately trying for years to find a way to let its hunting friends carry on so in a few weeks look out for a plan to “increase scrutiny” on hunts.

We think we can help them with that:

A plan that involves anything less would suggest resistance by the hunting lobby. But what business of theirs would it be?

Trust members have voted overwhelmingly for trail hunting to be banned from Trust land. The majority was so large there’s no room for procedural tricks to reverse it, like in 2017.

But not so fast: “The vote is “advisory“! “The Board of Trustees will now reflect on the outcomes and we will be back in touch with members through our usual communication channels in the weeks that follow this meeting.”

A body that has fought tooth, nail and fib to keep this “sport” for two decades may well try to do so again. How? Well, as we said last week, look out for the announcement of “new” and “stricter” rules for trail hunting which will enable it to continue.

In the meantime, thanks to all who voted to end it. (We couldn’t help reflecting that given the chance they would also now vote to remove the Trust’s support for the Stonehenge tunnel. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t been given the chance!)

What happened in 2017:

“While the motion [to ban it] was endorsed by 28,629 member votes, with 27,525 against, it was ultimately defeated after the counting of 3,460 proxy votes, which were authorised to be used at the discretion of other members and the trust’s board of trustees.”

You must have heard them ad nauseam: “I’m not in it for the money”. So in 2011 we thought we’d test them with this:

“From today we are asking all detectorists to pledge, via the Comments section of this article, that if they find Treasure in future they will renounce at least 50% of their reward in order to make it easier for it to be acquired by Britain’s financially stretched museums.”

Not a single one offered to do so. Let’s see if any of today’s 27,000 will!



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

“Good morning – I hope you slept like a phloem sap-stuffed aphid”. [ (C) Henry Rothwell ]

As the Autumn days get shorter and greyer and with the clocks about to go back, we thought it would be good to cheer everyone up with this uplifting image “Rollrights Spring”, by one of our founder members, Jane Tomlinson.


We’re particularly proud that this week one of Jane’s celebrated illustrated maps (showing bird migration routes) was featured in the BBC’s Autumnwatch!.

Every generation has recognised that Stonehenge is nothing without the context of its vast landscape. Wordsworth wrote

Pile of Stone-henge! So proud to hint yet keep
Thy secrets, thou lov’st to stand and hear
The plain resounding to the whirlwind’s sweep
Inmate of lonesome Nature’s endless year.

Yes, the A303 intrudes. But from it people can still get some sense of the importance of the monument’s magnificent isolation, as captured in 1850 by Hesketh Davis Bell:

Perhaps we can never get back to that view. But what nonsense it is to tell people we can return to it by simply hiding it forever?

On 1st November 2001 something significant happened in the history of British heritage protection policy. Culture Secretary Baroness Blackstone announced that despite the requirements of the Valletta Convention Britain would not be introducing tighter controls on amateur archaeology groups. Although surprising, the decision not to comply with the Convention hasn’t been a big problem – major damage and rogue excavations by local amateur archaeology groups aren’t exactly rife, few amateur archaeologists are the sort to act in that way.

Still, that’s not to say the reason behind the decision wasn’t awful – and all too visible. A new organisation called the Portable Antiquities Scheme had just been set up based on the idea that metal detectorists would voluntarily report what they found and act in a less damaging fashion. Clearly it would have been an unspeakable juxtaposition if the government had insisted that highly respectable and meritorious amateur archaeologists must be licensed while leaving ten thousand artefact hunters feral and free to do exactly what they wanted. Hence Valletta was ignored and amateur archaeologists weren’t regulated, ensuring no-one could say there was any inconsistency with the free-for-all that had been allowed to remain out in the fields. Anyone with £99 to buy a Tesco’s detector and the social skills to tell a farmer he’s working for PAS is free to remove history from every single non-scheduled archaeological site in the country without limit and without a single word.

And Britain’s metal detectorists have certainly made the most of Britain’s aberrant position. In the 20 years that followed they have helped themselves to many millions of artefacts most of which they didn’t report and which have been totally lost to science. The government got it horribly wrong and this simple observation shows it’s true: there’s currently a Heritage Crime initiative being run on the basis that heritage crime is “any crime that harms the value of England’s heritage assets to this and future generations”. In any other country the taking of those artefacts without reporting them and the consequent “harm to the value of the nation’s heritage assets” would be included in the definition of “heritage crime” without a second thought. Here, it’s “heritage heroism”.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


November 2021

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