California Wildfire Threatens Trees
Wednesday July 24, 2002 11:40 AM
PINE FLAT, Calif. (AP)
A ferocious wildfire fed by underbrush and weeks of dry weather roared toward a treasured grove of ancient sequoias, setting up potentially devastating scenario if flames reach the trees.
The 48,200-acre blaze moved through the valleys of the Giant Sequoia National Monument and came within a few miles of the Freeman Creek Grove and Trail of 100 Giants.
``If fire does get in the Trail of 100 Giants, we won't be putting firefighters in there to try to stop it. It will be a climax of 300- or 400-foot flames,'' said Jim Paxon, spokesman for a national team of elite firefighters called in to manage the blaze.
The trail includes 125 giant sequoias over 10 feet in diameter, and more than 143 sequoias under 10 feet in diameter. The trees are between 500 and 1,500 years old.
More than 1,000 people have fled and at least 10 structures have burned. Among those evacuated were several hundred Boy Scouts, campers and residents of two hamlets, Johnsondale and Ponderosa.
The fire comes in the middle of one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory. A grueling drought has created hot spots across the West, with devastating fires popping up in California, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon.
The California fire was only 20 percent contained Tuesday. And because the monument's deep canyons and mountain ridges make for erratic winds, it was hard to predict where the fire would go.
The U.S. Forest Service said it wanted to interview a middle-aged woman who apparently walked into an area store and said she had started the blaze after abandoning her campfire.
Anti-logging activists and forestry officials have clashed over how best to take care of the sequoias. Environmentalists have blocked efforts to thin underbrush in the forest, saying it is a front for logging.
But forest officials warn that simply letting the forest grow without check makes the trees easy prey for the very kind of fire currently raging.
The forest service has done some controlled burns and machine thinning of brush and smaller trees in the forest, but has been hampered by lawsuits and lack of a management plan.
``The last couple years that the monument has been in place, it's been kind of 'hands off,''' in terms of fire preparation, said Kent Duysen, general manager a sawmill in Terra Bella.
The fire began Sunday in Johnsondale, a hamlet about 130 miles north of Los Angeles, and quickly blew out of control. Helicopters zoomed through a dirty haze Tuesday, dipping giant buckets into Lake Isabella to douse flames.
Saving the biggest trees was a top priority, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes said. He called the sequoias ``priceless'' and said resources were not being spared to protect them.
``These trees can withstand a lot of fire, but if there's a lot of fuel buildup on the forest floor and temperature and humidity and winds are not favorable, we could have a problem,'' he said.
Sequoias can live more than 3,200 years, their massive trunks capable of withstanding countless fires. But fires can kill them when other trees spread flames to their limbs high above the ground.
The fire has crackled through a region that has seen little or no rain since spring. Firefighters worried lightning from thunderstorms forecast later in the week might boost the flames.
About half of the fire burned in the 327,769-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument, which is located within the 1.2 million-acre Sequoia National Forest. The monument preserves about half of the existing groves of giant sequoias as well as American Indian archaeological sites.
Juveniles playing with matches are believed to have caused a second California fire, which has burned 1,800 acres of wildland and about 25 structures in neighboring Kern County near Lake Isabella. It was about 70 percent contained Tuesday.
Elsewhere across the West, a fire that threatened 65 homes in southern Oregon grew to 97,392 acres and nearly 300 National Guard troops were sent to help.
In Colorado, higher humidity and light rain helped firefighters battling a 4,400-acre blaze near Rocky Mountain National Park. About 225 homes in several subdivisions near Lyons, Colo., were evacuated.
In Washington, a 25,300-acre fire was 30 percent contained. More than 1,100 people, some from as far away as Mississippi and New Mexico, have been assigned to the fire.
TAY TREASURE HUNT FINDINGS ‘EXCITING’
By Bruce Robbins
Dundee could be catapulted on to the front pages of the world’s Press if confirmation is received on Wednesday of "tremendously exciting readings" arising from the search in the Tay estuary for General Monck’s £2.5 billion treasure fleet.
Underwater exploration company, Subsea Explorer Ltd., say they are confident they have found several "promising sites" on the seabed-but have stopped short of claiming to have found treasure-laden wrecks.
The company’s chief executive Gary Allsopp said some of the world’s most sophisticated electronic search equipment has been brought to bear on an unspecified area in the Tay and he was confident that genuine "targets" had been found.
Dundee University experts have for the last nine days been sifting through a mass of information gathered by Subsea Explorer and their results are expected to be ready by Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Allsopp said, "We are very pleased with the readings but we won’t know for certain until they have all been analysed.
"It appears we may have nine targets to go at and they are in the area we have been focusing on as the most likely resting place of General Monck’s fleet.
"The amount of technology that has been working on this project is incredible and the information that has come back has been fed into a computer. It seems to have been a worthwhile exercise but we will know a lot more on Wednesday."
A Subsea Explorer vessel will be returning to the Tay tomorrow in anticipation of some positive news. On board will be a team of marine archaeologists and divers.
Estimates of the value of the booty on board the 60 ships that sank in the estuary in 1651 ranges from as little at £60,000 to £2.5 billion at today’s prices. The ships, some carrying as much as 70 tonnes of cargo, left Dundee after Monck’s sacking of the city.
The ships are believed to have been carrying gold and silver coins, ornamental plates and religious artifacts plundered from churches and monasteries across Scotland and bound for Monck’s military commander, Oliver Cromwell.
Although the treasure belongs to the crown estates, Subsea Explorer’s finder’s share could add up to tens or even hundreds of millions.
However, Mr Allsopp said the archaeological value of the operation could prove priceless and he hopes that any treasure found would remain in Dundee where it could become a major tourist attraction.
ANCIENT TIN INGOTS DONATED TO MUSEUM
Press Notice No:187/02
24 July 02
Over forty Bronze Age tin ingots from Devon, recovered from the Erme Estuary, are to be donated to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter by the South West Maritime Archaeological Group. These rare ingots were reported as wreck to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's Receiver of Wreck. Since the ingots were discovered in 1991, by the South West Maritime Archeological Group, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports has designated the site under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as being of national historical interest.
John Allan, curator of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum said:
"We regard this group of ingots as a very significant discovery and are delighted that they are now at Exeter Museum, where a selection of them is displayed."
The ingots are of different shapes and sizes, ranging from approx. 10cm to 20cm in diameter. The ingots may have been in the Erme estuary as a result of a vessel capsizing while trading along the coast between Cornwall and Devon and may offer an example of the type of trade and cultural exchange taking place at this time.
The hand-over will take place at 2:30 pm on Thursday 25 July at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's Receiver of Wreck plus representatives from the South West Maritime Archaeological Group will be attending.
Sophia Exelby, Receiver of Wreck said:
"We are very pleased that these ingots will be displayed in a museum so close to the find site. The ingots were a very exciting find for the diving group and their placement in the museum is an excellent outcome for everyone."
Notes to editors:
- The Receiver of Wreck is responsible for that part of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 that relates to wreck and salvage. The Receiver of Wreck is appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport and is located within the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
- The Merchant Shipping Act, Section 236 says that:
(1) If any person finds or takes possession of any wreck in United Kingdom waters or finds or takes possession of any wreck outside United Kingdom waters and brings it within those waters he shall -
(a) if he is the owner of it, give notice to the Receiver stating that he has found or taken possession of it and describing the marks by which it may be recognised;
(b) if he is not the owner of it, give notice to the Receiver that he has found or taken possession of it and, as directed by the Receiver, either hold it to the Receiver's order or deliver it to the Receiver.
(2) if any person fails without reasonable excuse, to comply with subsection (1) above he shall be liable, on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale and if he is not the owner of the wreck he shall also -
(a) forfeit any claim to salvage; and
(b) be liable to pay twice the value of the wreck -
(i) if it is claimed, to the owner of it; or
(ii) if it is unclaimed, to the person entitled to the wreck.
English Heritage news release
25 July 2002
UNINHABITED "GHOST VILLAGE" FOUND AT YORKSHIRE IRON AGE SITE
English Heritage Dig Reveals Mystery of Country's Biggest Marshland Fort
An English Heritage funded excavation at Sutton Common near Askern in South
Yorkshire is bringing to light remains of a mysterious and unique Iron Age
site-almost a "ghost village" of seemingly scarcely inhabited buildings set
within the biggest marshland fort in England.
One of the most intriguing finds is the remains of a wooden well with a
brushwood floor nearly two metres below the surface-first glimpsed three
years ago but now completely uncovered for the first time.
Originally protected by impassable marshes, the fort (which covers the area
of two football fields) comprises two enormous and enigmatic enclosures, one
with a grand entrance, linked by what appears to be a ceremonial walkway.
The site has defied explanation since it was discovered over a century ago.
Now archaeologists taking part in the Sutton Common Project, designed to
regenerate the landscape in this former coalfields area, have uncovered yet
more mysteries in their attempt to solve the puzzle of why the enclosures,
which date from about 600 to 400 BC, were built.
Director of excavations Robert Van de Noort of Exeter University said:
"Within the ramparts we have uncovered the remains of several round houses,
boundaries and a well and also of a wide avenue through the site. But we
have found no evidence, such as bone or pottery or of the repair of any of
the structures, to show that anyone actually lived here. It is as if this
were a kind of ghost village, scarcely ever inhabited, and may mean that
Sutton Common was primarily a symbolic or ceremonial place, rather than a
political or economic centre."
Even the well, where it would be usual to find items dropped or thrown in,
offers no proof that it was ever used. It appears to be filled with clean
David Miles, Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage said: "The Sutton
Common fort is set to make a significant contribution to our understanding
of the Iron Age regionally and nationally. English Heritage is happy to
contribute to the Project's work and will fund further excavations next year
with the aim of resolving the enigma of this mysterious and atmospheric
Earlier excavations (some also funded by English Heritage) revealed stone
revetted ramparts, a palisade and waterlogged remains in the ditches,
including what looks like a wheel and a ladder. The entrance to the larger
enclosure would have been highly elaborate and lends credence to the idea
that the post-lined avenue over a causeway linking the two was more than
Co-director of excavations Henry Chapman of the University of Hull said:
"The building techniques and architecture of the ramparts closely resemble
those of early Iron Age hillforts elsewhere in England. However, instead of
building the fort on a hill, the impassable wetlands were used to create an
impregnable site, the biggest marshland fort in England."
Since 1997 an ambitious conservation programme (The Sutton Common Project)
has been under way aimed at restoring the grandeur of the marshland setting
and delivering a range of environmental benefits to the region. This
includes a re-wetting scheme for the surrounding land.
Ian Carstairs, trustee of landowners CCT, said: "The Sutton Common project
represents an unparalleled example of co-operation of government agencies,
including English Heritage, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and
DEFRA, together with local organisations and people. It is a wonderful
example of what can be achieved when we all work together."
The excavations will be open to the public on Sunday 28th July, between 11
am and 4 pm. Further information on the progress of the work can be found on
the excavation's website: www.ex.ac.uk/suttoncommon.
Images, including a reconstruction drawing, are available free to the Press
on www.papicselect.com Go to Arts/English Heritage/Sutton Common
The excavations are undertaken by the Department of Archaeology, University
of Exeter and the Wetland Archaeology and Environments Research Centre,
University of Hull, and are funded by English Heritage.
The site is situated just off the A19 (Doncaster to Selby road) c. half mile
south of Askern. To visit the site (centred on national grid reference SE
From the north: go through Askern along the A19 and take the third track on
the left (just before crossing the bridge/bend in the A19)
From the south: pass Owsten Park pub on the A19 and turn right immediately
after crossing the bridge/bend in the A19)
The English Iron Age is dated from c. 600 BC to the arrival of the Romans.
The site of Sutton Common is described as of early Iron Age date, between
600 and 400 BC.
The excavations form part of the 'Sutton Common Project', which includes
land acquisitions, wildlife and landscape enhancement, archaeological and
palaeoenvironmental evaluations, research and conservation and engineering
works to raise ground-water levels. It is spearheaded by the owners of the
land, the Carstairs Countryside Trust (CCT), in partnership with English
Heritage, English Nature, Countryside Agency, the Universities of Exeter and
Hull and Grantham Brundell and Farran. The Project has also benefited
greatly from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The Project forms one of the
Countryside Agency's trial schemes in the Humberhead Levels 'Value in
Wetness' Land Management Initiative, which is seeking new, economically
viable and environmentally sustainable approaches to water and land
management in the Humberhead Levels. Participation with the Askern Ward
Community Partnership over future public access and enjoyment of the site
seeks to contribute to the environmental and economic regeneration of this
'Coalfields' area in South Yorkshire.
CORNISH LANGUAGE TO RECEIVE FULL STATUS
09:00 - 22 July 2002
Ministers are poised to give official recognition to the Cornish language in a move which campaigners hope will boost the level of interest in the county's unique cultural heritage.MINISTERS are poised to give official recognition to the Cornish language in a move which campaigners hope will boost the level of interest in the county's unique cultural heritage.
The WMN has learned that Regions Minister Nick Raynsford is close to accepting the case for formally recognising Cornish under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
The move, which is expected to be announced to MPs this week, will mark the end of a seven-year campaign by language enthusiasts in Cornwall who believe that this recognition will give Cornish a new lease of life.
At present, around 3,500 people have knowledge of the Cornish language, 500 use it and about 100 are fluent speakers.
Mr Raynsford's decision comes two years after an independent study by Professor Ken MacKinnon, commissioned by Government Office South West, recommended that Cornish should be given official status.
There has been concern within Government circles that recognising Cornish might be "divisive" and give an unwanted boost to a small Cornish nationalist movement.
But leading linguists like former Cornwall Grand Bard Jori Ansell, of Hayle, have argued that there is no good case for refusing recognition to Cornish when it has been granted to languages like Ulster Scots, which many linguists regard as a dialect rather than a language in its own right.
Mr Raynsford is expected to announce that Cornish will be recognised under Chapter Two of the European Charter, which commits the Government to "recognise and respect" the language.
He is believed to have rejected calls for it to be designated under Chapter Three, which would also require the Government to put resources into the promotion of the language.
Andrew George, the Lib-Dem MP for St Ives, said that formal recognition for Cornish would give the language the "credibility it deserves and needs to take it to the next stage".
He added: "I have been promised an answer by the end of this month after what has been a long campaign.
"I am confident that the Government can come to no other conclusion than to agree to specify Cornish under the charter.
"This will be excellent news to both language enthusiasts, who are without question growing in number in Cornwall, and also to Cornwall as a whole, as this will unquestionably help Cornwall's case to establish itself as a strong economic region and to develop a strong Cornish brand where the distinctiveness of Cornwall is a vital element.
"This is also all part of Cornwall's contribution to the celebration of diversity in the UK."
Candy Atherton, Labour MP for Falmouth and Camborne, also welcomed the prospect of Cornish being formally recognised, but cautioned against drawing wider conclusions from it.
She said: "There have been meetings going on for some time on this issue.
"Many of us want to support Cornish culture and identity and this seems a positive move, which I support.
"But I would not support further moves that would make Cornish a National Curriculum requirement within Cornwall.
"There is a difference between encouraging and enabling the language and going to the next stage of enforcing it, which is what some campaigners want. This is a recognition that this Government recognises the importance of Cornish identity and distinctiveness."
Prof Mackinnon's research established that Cornish was spoken during the 19th century, did not die out with Dolly Pentreath, and that the revival began 100 years ago.
The language now survives mainly thanks to the dedication of bards of the Cornish Gorsedd, like Mr Ansell, and the efforts of the Cornish Language Board.
Campaigners believe there has been a revival of interest in the language in recent years and that there is scope for it to go further.
Earlier this year, for example, the first full-length feature film - Hwerow Hweg, or Bitter Sweet - was released in the Cornish language.
Enthusiasts also believe that by heightening awareness and interest in Cornwall's unique cultural heritage the move could also produce valuable spin-offs for the county's tourism industry. Some also hope that recognition will strengthen the case for giving Cornwall its own dedicated Regional Assembly, although Westminster sources insist that this remains no closer.
Mr Ansell, the Cornish Gorsedd's representative on the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages, said: "I am absolutely delighted at what is happening.
"The campaign began in earnest about seven years ago. The last couple of years, when Prof MacKinnon's survey lay on John Prescott's desk, have been very frustrating and annoying for us.
"We are very appreciative of Andrew George's efforts. He has kept prodding Ministers on this."
Cornwall Grand Bard John Bolitho, of Bude, said: "My feelings are of absolute joy and relief.
"Most Cornish people appreciate that their language is very widely based and the foundation of their culture and identity."
Archaeologists uncover preserved ancient site
From The Wandsworth Guardian
By Paul Askew
The remains of a medieval mansion of a 15th century archbishop have been discovered at a former candle factory in Battersea.
Archaeologists working at the site in York Road have uncovered the remains of York House the one-time home of Lawrence Booth, Archbishop of York which was built in the 1470s and 1480s.
Highlights of the dig include the finding of a suite of cellared rooms, tiled floors, stairways and doorways, which have all survived in situ, despite the house being rebuilt several times in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Several industrial buildings were added when Prices Candle Factory was founded in 1830.
A team of up to 20 archaeologists, from Pre-Construct Archaeology, started excavations in May and are set to finish work this week, with English Heritage taking an advisory role in the process.
The site has been extensively logged and photographed and the results are to be made available to the public in Battersea Library.
Artefacts from the dig will be put on display at the Museum of London's archive in Hackney.
Catherine Cavanagh from English Heritage told the Guardian it was an exciting find.
She said: "In some places we found two to three metres of medieval walling which is unusual, and relatively well preserved.
"There have been so many changes since it was originally built and that's what is so fascinating to us when taking it apart. It's rare that the house is in fairly good condition."
Wandsworth Council's planning applications chairman, Councillor Ravi Govindia, said a condition was attached to the planning permission requiring the site's developers to fund an archaeological investigation.
He said: "This is likely to be one of the most extensive finds in London this year."
Developers Alfred McAlpine Homes plan to build a housing development on the site.
09:44 Wednesday 24th July 2002
POW Camp a Scheduled Monument
English Heritage news release 18 July 2002
The first ever Prisoner of War Camp to be made a Scheduled Monument, Harperley POW camp in Weardale, County Durham, was announced today by Arts Minister, Tessa Blackstone, following its recommendation by English Heritage.
A key range of buildings of World War II home front history, Harperley was erected in 1943 on requisitioned farmland. The site retains 85% of its buildings intact and contains unique internal fittings, including a theatre and fine wall paintings.
Some 1500 POW camps were built in Britain and around 100, like Harperley, were purpose built. Inevitably the remains of the vast majority have disappeared. Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said, "The survival of Harperley is remarkable and extremely unusual. Piecing together the history and original layout of the camp has involved careful detective work but it should be possible eventually to recover the full ground plan and the nature and function of individual buildings. Harperley has an important wartime story to tell and as an educational resource has enormous potential." Baroness Blackstone, Arts Minister, said: "Harperley provides a fascinating time capsule from a period in our history that has been largely forgotten. This is a perfect example of the way in which real people's experiences can transform otherwise ordinary buildings into a living part of our heritage. The owners are to be congratulated on their commitment to the camp, and I know that English Heritage will work closely with them to present it to the public in an imaginative and sensitive way."
Fifty structures survive at Harperley in varying states of preservation and many internal fittings have been lost. But despite its occasional use as agricultural storage and chicken sheds in the past, the site is still largely intact, principally because it remained in single ownership until 1999. What remains has largely been mothballed since the War. A 1946 site plan of Harperley was recently rescued from Germany and that, plus personal recollections and evidence from other documents and comparable sites will help present future generations with a fuller picture of the experience that thousands of POWs, held in camps like Harperley, went through. The camp was originally built for Italian POWs but soon housed 900 German prisoners identified as 'low risk'. Encouraged by the Camp Commander, they set about providing themselves with some rough and ready 'home comforts'. Among the remaining buildings are two notable survivals of this move. First is a theatre created in one of the standard huts. It is complete with a stage, orchestra pit, prompt box and even tiered flooring for audience seating. Indications are that the walls were decorated with dyed hessian sacking and there are remains of cuttings from German magazines stuck to the walls backstage. In a canteen building set aside for rest and recreation, an unusual series of wall paintings of typical German scenes - such as a man in lederhosen and woodland landscapes - survives. The windows even have 'pretend' hardboard curtains painted in cheerful check patterns. The camp also produced is own newspaper 'Der Quell' (The Source), ran a drama group and an eleven-piece orchestra. Educational classes, football and gardening were encouraged and the prisoners could eke out their meagre earnings by making wooden toys, chess sets and leather items such as slippers for sale. Nevertheless, life for prisoners in camps like Harperley was harsh. The prisoners would be taken out to work locally on agricultural, forestry, dam, road and other construction projects. A total of some 400,000 Germans and 100,000 Italians were held as British POWs. Dependent on their skills they could earn up to 6 shillings (30p) a week - at a time when British agricultural workers earned 75 shillings (£1.50p). Harperley POW Camp is a unique survival, recalling the POW experience in Britain. English Heritage buoyed up by the strength of local knowledge and interest in the site, will be working with the owners to unlock its potential to bring this important episode of 20th century history to life for the greater understanding of future generations.
• 'Scheduling' is the process through which nationally important sites and monuments are given legal protection by being placed on a list, or 'schedule'. Their preservation is given priority over other land uses.
• A schedule has been kept since 1882.
• English Heritage takes the lead in identifying sites to be scheduled by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
• Only deliberately created structures, features and remains can be scheduled.
• Scheduled monuments are not always ancient. There are over 200 classes, ranging from prehistoric standing stones to wartime pillboxes.
• For further details on scheduling click here For more information visit www.harperleypowshop.co.uk