Several britarch list members expressed an interest in hearing the outcome
of the RESCUE open meeting held last Saturday (26/02/00) at the Museum of
London. I am therefore posting this unofficial resume from a "bystander" at
the meeting for those who were unable to attend:
RESCUE MEETING: ARCHAEOLOGY OUT OF TOWN - CAN IT BE RESCUED?
Four speakers discussed the major threats to rural archaeology and the
options by which mitigation strategies might proceed:
1. DR HELEN GEAKE of NORFOLK MUSEUMS SERVICE spoke on "FINDING OUT ABOUT
CULTIVATION DAMAGE: THE HIDDEN THREAT TO RURAL ARCHAEOLOGY".
The extent of damage caused by plough action and sub soiling is being
monitored in Norfolk through reporting of finds uncovered by metal
detectorists. This has shown considerable damage to sites and continuing
destruction of finds once they are in the ploughsoil. For example, there
are currently 30 Anglo-Saxon cemetaries in Norfolk alone that are being
gradually eroded away by the plough. Together with evidence from the
Monuments At Risk Survey and a more recent report by Oxford Archaeological
Unit the evidence from Norfolk indicates the damage across the country as a
whole since World War II may have been considerable. Gradual attrition
continues in many areas and archaeologists need more resources to alert
them them to potentially devasting episodes such as sub soiling or the
replacement of existing crops with root crops which require deeper
ploughing. Options for mitgation were discussed (although by no means all
of them were approved) these included:
i) bringing archaeology into agricultural incentive schemes;
ii) developing a hierarchy of protected areas;
iii) Bringing agriculture into the exisiting provisions for protecting
archaeology threatened by development;
iv) Raising money through Heritage Lottery Fund / English Heritage funding;
v) A development tax;
vi) Raising public conciousness about the problem.
2. TIM YARNELL, Archaeologist for THE FORESTRY COMMISSION spoke on
ARCHAEOLOGY, WOODS AND FORESTS: RESCUE OR SECURE?
The relationship between archaeologists and the forestry industry has
improved since the 80's. Conserving and improving the cultural heritage are
amongst the stated objectives of the Forestry Commission. Despite many
strengths, areas of weakness do exist, which include:
i) Funding the investigation and preservation of archaeology threated by
development. Although central government funding is available in Scotland,
archaeology is not protected from forestry under the Town and Country
Planning Acts / PPG16 (and Scottish equivalents).
ii) PPG16 may have drawn archaeologists closer to planning services and
away from "those who live and work on the land". This may have led to a
lack of awareness of archaeology amongst land managers and inhibited
dialogue between archaeologists and forestry managers.
iii) recent innovations in forestry, such as short rotation coppicing and
conversely the push for more mature non-managed woodlands may pose new
threats to sites currently under trees.
DR CHRIS CUMBERPATCH posed a question sent to him by email from JOHN WOOD
(Archaeologist for the HIGHLAND REGION) concerning the need to extend the
protection of planning guidance to archaeology threatened by forestry.
TIM YARNELL responded by highlighting the difficulties he believed
surrounded implementing PPG16 at present, let alone if curators had to
handle applications for forestry developments as well.
Another attendee at the meeting pointed out that these difficulties did not
mean that the principle of protecting archaeology within the planning
framework was wrong, just that more provision needed to be made to ensure
DR NICKI WHITEHOUSE was unable to be there, and her paper on PEATLAND
ARCHAEOLOGY AND PALAEOECOLOGY: AN ARCHIVE WORTH RESCUING was read by KENNY
AITCHISON. Peatlands are of huge importance for reconstructing past
environments and are currently threatened by drainage, peat extraction and
quarrying. The results of a recent report by the Working Group on Peat
Extraction (1999) were discussed. Current protection frameworks are often
inappropriate for protecting this resource because of the tendency to focus
on sites rather than landscapes, and because of the division of
responsibility for peatlands between agencies whose prime concern is
"environmental" and those that focus on the "cultural" heritage. A more
holistic approach to these landscapes which "knows no thematic limits" was
DR IAN DORMOR, HONORARY VISITING FELLOW of the UNIVERSITY OF YORK gave a
paper entitled ARCHAEOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE - MANAGEMENT BY INCENTIVES.
As 80% of the land surface of the UK is under agriculture, farmers are the
unwitting guardians of 93% of the archaeological heritage. In the light of
this the value of considering archaeology as a factor in current
agricultural incentive schemes was illuminated. There is huge potential in
this area as 1.6 billion pounds are becoming available for agri-incentive
schemes under new government plans. £295 million pounds is projected for
the Countryside Stewardship Scheme under which sites can be put under
pasture (for example). If they remain under pasture for 6 years, then
(provided the same sites are scheduled) they will be legally protected
under the 1979 class consents legislation in perpetuity, because ploughing
will then require consent from the secretary of state. Dr Dormor's advice
for other archaeologists was - do some targetting, work out what you want
to protect and then go get it!
In his Closing Address HARVEY SHELDON, PRESIDENT OF RESCUE drew our
attention to RESCUE's imminent meeting with THE CULTURE SECRETARY, CHRIS
SMITH, Any member who had something they would like to raise with Chris
Smith should pass it on to him.
You can join/renew your membership with RESCUE by phoning 01992 553377
or writing to:
15a Bull Plain, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 1DX