Just a quick update regarding the latest developments from Hereford, which has been visited by English Heritage, or are currently assessing whether the site should be conserved and protected, as is apparent from this response from Chief Executive Moira Thomson, to an email I sent as part of a petition to English Heritage…
Thank you for your email correspondence about the recent discoveries at Rotherwas. English Heritage has, indeed, been informed about the discovery and have been liaising closely with local authority colleagues. Arrangements were made to visit the site on the 9 July 2007 and consideration will be given to the best way of ensuring preservation in situ of the remains. Our Heritage Protection Department is also considering whether the site meets the criteria for designation under the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.
This is plainly a step in the right direction, and it’s good that EH visited the site so quickly; indeed, it would appear that speed is very much of the essence in this instance, as the recent rainy weather has been having adverse effects on those parts of the site that have thus far been exposed by excavations.
Council chiefs have said the English Heritage inspectors are “completely satisfied” with how they have been handling the situation so far. However, local campaigners have said recent downpours have led to part of the trail being washed away and say the feature needs more permanent protection before it is too late.
Campaigner Rob Hattersley said the site could be turned into a heritage site, attracting tourists to the area. Mr Hattersley, who runs the campaign’s website, said: “Even something like a model of what it would have looked like and an explanation of what it was would be fascinating. We’ve been contacted by historical experts in Salisbury with the experience of having Stonehenge who say that Herefordshire Council needs to listen to the great tourism potential this could bring.”
It’s always difficult to judge how much actual money would be generated by tourists visiting the site; I’m not sure how much sites like Stonehenge or Avebury add to the coffers of the local economies in which they reside, but I’m not sure that generating income should really be a consideration, when the fact these ancient monuments exist at all should be enough to ensure their survival into the future – even if it cost money to keep them in good repair and open to the public, (who should not be charged for visiting sites of this importance), necessary funds should be allocated. However we live in a world where cash is king, and the cancellation of the road project will undoubtedly have adverse financial effects on some of the interested parties and investors, as referred to by Councillor Brian Wilcox, who said…
…the road was essential for Herefordshire’s economic growth. He added that he had been contacted by businesses threatening to pull out of the area unless the plans went ahead..He said: “It is an essential provision. We need it to guarantee extra economic development in this area, and we have the backing of major bodies like Advantage West Midlands who can see how vital it is.”
Had this scheme been as vital as is being claimed, it’s unlikely the Government would have refused to fund the £12.5 million/$25 million project in the first place – undoubtedly some businesses would have benefited from the scheme, but it’s hard to believe that the entire economy of Hereford would be threatened by the lack of a road that it has lived without so far – business people often make their living by solving thorny problems and finding alternatives, but ancient monuments depend on the care and attention of humans to tend them through their long lives, and once lost, can never be replaced. One final quote from the news article…
The council is producing a CD-Rom of the site to show the feature from all angles so it can be kept on record and to show future generations in case the road-building work goes ahead. It is also offering escorted trips around the site next week. BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester have said the topic has prompted the biggest ever response to a local story.
The idea of an escorted trip round the site next week sounds like an excellent opportunity for the public to show their support by turning up in sufficient numbers, and would probably help to convince all those concerned with the decision-making process regarding Rotherwas Ribbon/Dinedor Serpent, that there is indeed a huge and enduring interest in this and similar sites from our distant past.
In this instance, with the rain pouring into the site on an alarmingly regular and heavy basis, there is evidently no time to be lost in shoring up the site at the earliest opportunity – maybe this is one occasion when the bad weather here actually expedites a decision to rescue a valuable and irreplaceable part of our heritage; we shall see. (TJ)
update 21/07/07 – BBC News ‘Ribbon Campaigners Stage Sit-In‘
image by John Constable c. 1824