It seems that despite the discovery of what has been described as a 4,000 year-old Bronze Age site which is unique in Europe, the local council are going ahead with their plans to build a road through Rotherwas Ribbon, which they say will give better access to a nearby industrial estate. *correction: people have been objecting to the construction project since January, deeming it to be unnecessary, whilst the discoveries were made once work on the project had begun, (thanks to Rob for pointing out my earlier error). It’s a mystery why the local Council appears intent on bulldozing its plans through any objections, and seems to lack any sense of pride in the heritage of the area it claims to represent…

The Council are seeking to fund the road – which has already started construction – partly through funding from major housing development which has not yet been agreed. The Unitary Development Plan inspector stated that this housing, at Bullinghope, was ‘an unjustified incursion’ into the countryside and out of Hereford’s natural southern boundary. It was taken out of the plan but the Council ignored this and put it back in. This decision was foisted on councillors, combined as it was with other decisions at a chaotic meeting in January which was interrupted by the public when they were not allowed to speak.

Although only a portion of the snake structure will be covered, even those parts either side of it will be ‘preserved beneath earth screening bunds‘, which effectively means that there will be no further access to archaeologists, and neither will be there any opportunity for the public to visit the site and view it for what it is, and within the wider context of other finds that have come to light in the vicinity.

For a fuller and more detailed account of the current situation, please visit the Rotherwas Ribbon site, dedicated to saving the site from further damage, and where there are also details of the history of the road development, as well as petitions which people may feel inclined to support.

This story is in many ways similar to that of the Hill of Tara site, in the Republic of Ireland, where there are plans to drive a four-lane motorway through the area of another site that also only came to light when construction excavations revealed the presence of a previously unknown, and potentially extremely important location, dating from the Bronze Age. Here’s an excerpt from a recent essay by Colm Toibin in the New York Times (free reg. probably required)

I drove there on a Sunday afternoon under a low and threatening Irish sky. It is not a set of ruined castles and broken stones. Its grandeur lies in its commanding position and from hints and clues, like large mounds, some circles and earthworks, that help us imagine what this must have looked like when it was a set of great ceremonial buildings and sites. And its grandeur lies underneath the ground, where for centuries to come archaeologists will find not only treasure but also significant evidence about early Ireland.

The proposed road will not cut through the actual hill, but it will run close, slicing through a landscape that was once integrated with Tara. The route of the road includes many important archaeological sites that will have to be excavated thoroughly before they are destroyed by the road builders.

In a way it’s ironic that whilst sites such as these are often discovered in the course of road construction projects, it is those very projects which ultimately threaten the integrity of what has been unearthed, and it would appear there is a an urgent need for someone in either local or centralised government to take a look at discoveries such as these, and afford them a degree of protection that would at least ensure they survive long enough to be properly excavated and recorded, and in the longer term preserved for the rest of us, as the public can justifiably claim that this is heritage passed on to us from our ancestors, and as such the public should have the right to ensure that access to this heritage is maintained now and into the future, irrespective of temporary road projects that themselves appear to be flawed. (TJ)

Tara Watch

A Road Runs Through Tara

image from here

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