Soon, tens of thousands of people will resume metal detecting “for charity”. Farmer Silas Brown was spot on yesterday: in most cases neither the farmer nor the charity nor the archaeology benefit as much as they should, and that’s putting it diplomatically, so the case for reform is overwhelming.

We think a simple notice on farm gates expressing what Silas suggested would do more for farmers, charities, and heritage protection than anything currently being done. Simple, sensible, equitable, and very, very effective.

The fact that metal detecting rally organisers will be vehemently opposed whereas the Archaeological Establishment, including PAS, will be fully supportive (albeit not in public) is all the endorsement the idea requires.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Dear Fellower Landowners,

Soon charity rallies will be starting again, so please remember: ALL finds are yours (or occasionally the country’s) so you alone should say who gets what and if anything can be taken away. So it follows that if you’re offered a finds agreement that says less than that, you’d be foolish to sign it. Incidentally, “ambiguity in a contract benefits the party that didn’t draft it” so if you are offered a pre-printed agreement that doesn’t contain that clause saying that, you should insist it is added. (The official Code, which recommends signing an agreement “to avoid subsequent disputes” ought to say that, but doesn’t!)

But that’s not all you should consider. What does “charity rally” actually mean? Keep in mind, if the stuff is kept by the finders the charity won’t benefit from it and if YOU are giving up your stuff for charitable purposes maybe THEY should give up your stuff for charity too? I saw a doozy in a detecting forum this week, someone talking about lockdown ending: “I think there will be a few pushing the charity boundaries like there were before where they take the money and tell the landowner to give their share to charity”!

Some people are just brigands. Can YOU tell the difference? Why not do the obvious: ask ALL prospective charity rally organisers for audited accounts from previous events, showing exactly where all the money – and all the finds – went? A real charity would supply those details by return.

Best wishes,

Silas Brown,

Grunters Hollow, Worfield, Salop


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

In April 2019 the National Audit Office said:

“In pure economic terms, because of the high cost of building a tunnel, the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, at £1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent, has a significantly lower benefit–cost ratio than is usual in road schemes. Given our experience of cost increases on projects of this kind, this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value.

But by now, after exactly two hard years which have included the little matters of Brexit and a world pandemic the value-for-money ratio must have worsened (why haven’t we been told?). But now comes a cost bombshell they can’t hide:

Plan to widen Stonehenge Tunnel for hard shoulder [Construction News]: “Highways England is costing out plans to widen the proposed A303 Stonehenge Tunnel to create a hard shoulder on the dual carriageway scheme. Consultants are being asked to investigate the impact of adding emergency refuges or an additional hard shoulder in order to increase tunnel safety … If Highways England decides to go-ahead with the 11th-hour safety changes it would impact existing budgets for the project.

“Impact existing budgets” is putting it mildly!


You couldn’t make it up! English Heritage is recruiting another Security Officer, which is fine, but how about this for maladroit wording … This role is all about the protection of a world heritage site.” That from a quango that is supporting a scheme that will cause massive damage to the world heritage site in defiance of UNESCO!

Apparently, “priority will be given to those with a Public Space Surveillance (CCTV) licence“. Very wise, but hardly adequate, when very soon it hopes to entirely prevent millions of people seeing the stones or their surroundings from the road!

No amount of expensive “Public Space Surveillance” by guards will make up for the massive loss of continuous free public surveillance through millions of passing eyes!


Ok, it’s an old joke, but at least it makes a change from the usual Stonehenge/Avebury/NT tropes at this time of year…

If you’re reading this, you’ll know that. PAS said it verbatim in 2001, but not so much subsequently. They and detectorists tell each other ad nauseam that reporting non-Treasure finds is a purely voluntary matter. It’s true, legally, but morally? Of course not, not reporting is historicide, but PAS has long calculated that saying so will cause offence and reduce reporting. Thus we have entreaties to be “responsible”, nothing more.

Not that some detectorists aren’t well aware that “voluntary” is a damaging joke. A very senior member of the Detecting Wales Forum has said: “The often recited old mantra of  “we save history” is laughable at best … for every detectorist who records ALL their finds over 300 years I’ll show you at least 10 that don’t so in fact we steal history by taking away parts of the full picture.

So here we are, 23 years into PAS’s existence and the simple proposition that “not reporting is immoral” scarcely passes its lips. Just yesterday on a detecting Facebook group with nearly 27,000 members someone said “One of my farmers has stated I record or report i am off” and didn’t have it explained that continuing in such cumstances would be damaging and immoral. If PAS won’t tell the truth massive heritage damage will continue ad nauseam. Sad, isn’t it?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

If you want to know the truth about something, consult a reliable source. The National Audit Office is the UK’s independent public spending watchdog. It holds government to account through high-quality audits. About the Stonehenge scheme it has said:

“In pure economic terms, because of the high cost of building a tunnel, the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, at £1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent, has a significantly lower benefit–cost ratio than is usual in road schemes. Given our experience of cost increases on projects of this kind, this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value.

That was in April 2019. After 2 years, Brexit and a world pandemic the ratio is bound to be worse yet “poor value for money” isn’t stressed by Highways England, English Heritage, the National Trust or Historic England. What you will see, on their respective websites, are images that appear to exaggerate how close the existing road is to the stones. For a reliable depiction of reality, like the one below, it’s best to go to a reliable source.

Often heard on the A303: “I always imagined it was much closer to the road. How come?” [Should’ve gone to the National Audit Office!]

The clue’s in the name: WORLD Heritage Site. The British Government, supported by various compliant bodies, is planning to do something UNESCO totally opposes, thereby taking sole control of the welfare of a WORLD asset. Aren’t we witnessing a mini-Brexit, played out on Salisbury plain, with likely disastrous consequences?

For one thing: Stonehenge’s World Heritage Site status will be removed! The Government and its allies haven’t made much of that reality yet. No wonder. Which member of the Government do YOU trust to be in sole control of heritage and not be influenced by the sort of commercial lobbying which the World Heritage Treaty was specifically designed to guard against? Without UNESCO that protection will be gone. In supporting the proposals English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have amply demonstrated they won’t be there for Stonehenge and the only other protection, people-power, may be made criminal if deemed “annoying”.

For a second thing: the actual view of Stonehenge will be removed from millions of travellers! Again, the Government and its allies make little of that, for an equally good reason: it’s tantamount to removing the World Heritage site from public consciousness unless they react to a road sign saying “leave here to view Stonehenge and have your money ready”. It’s a view that everyone loves, the essence of the site, the one the whole world knows, the view that has uplifted and excited millions and inspired and thrilled countless children, many of whom are now working for English Heritage. Even arch-Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, confessed in the Commons: “one of the joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge and I think that is a great benefit and it’s uplifting for people to see”

So of course Britain shouldn’t be in sole control of Stonehenge and of course that view mustn’t be hidden. There’s a sickening familiarity about what is happening. In 2009 UNESCO removed World Heritage Site status from the Dresden Elbe Valley due to the building of a four-lane bridge in the heart of the cultural landscape (to relieve congestion and no doubt to “improve the site”). Does that ring a bell? And what about the fact a referendum had been held about building that bridge without informing voters UNESCO designation was at stake?

Dresden Elbe Valley



April 2021

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