“The visible archaeological landscape at and around the western portal and the effect on the landscape of deposition of spoil to the west of Winterbourne Stoke”
Note submitted by Dr David Field PhD FSA, 10 June 2019 published by the Planning Inspectorate following an Issue Specific Hearing held on 7 June by the Examining Authority.
Images inserted by Stonehenge Alliance
Dr David Field is a retired Landscape Archaeologist, formerly employed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and subsequently English Heritage who has spent almost 30 years working in Wiltshire. In particular, he has worked extensively in both halves of the World Heritage Site, Avebury and Stonehenge, as well as in the military area and the Vale of Pewsey that separates them. Dr Field is one of the authors of various published archaeological reports on those areas.
”Landscape archaeology uses all possible non-intrusive methods to ascertain past land-use – aerial photography, geophysics, but mainly our eyes, to record, survey and analyse undulations on the ground surface, earthworks, that tell us of past changes. The principle is that even where an earthwork is ploughed over the bulk of the soil is merely spread over a wider area and, although lower in height, perhaps just 10 or 20cms, the feature is still recognisable and recordable. Many will not notice the subtleties, but they provide important evidence of past land use. Rarely will features be entirely obliterated.
”I am concerned that the proposed placing of spoil on Parsonage Down will interfere with this recognition and these important subtleties will be obscured. A glance at publicly available lidar indicates that the area does indeed incorporate archaeological features, including Bronze Age fields and enclosures, some small enough to comprise settlement units. In my view these need to be fully investigated.
”In addition, the area is adjacent to the earthworks of a Roman village and its paddocks and fields will almost certainly extend into the area. Once spoil is placed on the land surface it will be impossible to use these methods. Instead, the huge chalk quarry at Westbury could take all the spoil without having any effect of the landscape.”
”My second point concerns the archaeological landscape around the western portal.
The important point about the ancient landscape here is the longevity of the visible earthworks, the long durée. Here activity took place before, during and after, the construction and use of Stonehenge and while there may have been intermittent lulls in activity the focus was enduring.
”The landscape features are a little like a 1000-year-old parish church that over time has aisles, a tower and a porch added all according to the economic and spiritual prosperity of the parishioners, but nevertheless is always at the heart of the community. We can see this in the long barrows of the 4th millennium BC which in turn attracted different types of round barrow, an ancient field system and subsequently a linear ditch that put some of the fields out of use. The community here persisted.
”Currently the area is occupied by plantations and cultivated ground, but this may not always be so and in 50 years’ time ownership and land-use may be very different. Just as Stonehenge needs to be appreciated from different angles and distances, the barrow cemeteries do as well.
“It would greatly benefit the WHS if visitors could walk between the Lake Down and Winterbourne Stoke barrow groups and experience the prehistoric fields between them, circumnavigate the cemeteries and return. In order to do this a much longer green bridge or extended roof covering is required, one the length of the barrow cemetery.
“Unfortunately, as proposed, the Winterbourne Stoke cemetery remains all but isolated from the important components of the archaeological landscape.”