We continue to be greatly concerned about the current condition of the central Thornborough henge, especially since cattle are once again being grazed on the monument. Given it is a Scheduled site, the following letter has been sent to English Heritage's Regional Office in York:

25 October 2012


Dear Mr Neil Redfern,

I write to you on behalf of the Thornborough Heritage Trust, of which, as you know, I'm a Trustee. As you also know, the trust and I have been concerned for some time about the deteriorating physical condition of the earthen bank of the Scheduled central Thornborough henge. I first contacted you on 22 February 2011, highlighting how “the site is in a far worse state now than it was 10 years ago”, and asking “can anything be done before the damage gets worse?”. You replied that you were “well aware of the condition of the central henge and are actively trying to take steps to address the rabbit issue. This (sic) taking a little longer than I had hoped but we are working to get some works underway in the new financial year”. Given the subsequent lack of action, I also emailed you on 17 May 2012, and again on 31 May 2012, after your briefest of responses to the former. No further response was forthcoming and on 6 June I emailed again, making it clear that a FIA request, and a letter to London, would follow if I received no reply. You then promptly replied, saying, in relation to a programme of works, "I have the agreement to do this internally but have not made progress externally yet. I hope to do this in the next few weeks".

The trustees were therefore both shocked and surprised to hear that cattle are again being grazed on the central henge. Obviously, the damage that large cumbersome beasts can do to an earthwork already seriously damaged by rabbits and sheep could be catastrophic. Given the current situation, and the marked deterioration of the earthwork over the last two years, perhaps you would be so kind as to respond in writing and address the following queries from the Thornborough Heritage Trust:

1. When did you or other relevant parties from English Heritage last visit the central henge to inspect the damage? And have English Heritage been keeping a record of the site’s recent destruction which is exposing buried archaeology? Obviously, if this has not been done, then valuable archaeological evidence, relevant to the site’s construction and original appearance, could have been lost.

Have you now spoken or written to the landowner about the condition of the henge, and indeed, when did these conversation(s) take place? Moreover, and more specifically, did you offer any opinions or advice about the impact of animal grazing on the henge?

Could you confirm that monies are still available for a programme of protection at the central henge, let us know when these monies were first made available, and update us on what English Heritage have done to implement these works. We assume that there must be documentation relating to the internal agreement you refer to in one of your emails, and ideally, would like to see it so we can better appreciate what is being planned.

 Could you also confirm if the landowner has approved the programme of works and when these are likely to begin.

I deeply regret having to write to you like this, but the trust feels that given some of my earlier emails went unanswered, with the others receiving the briefest of responses, there is now no alternative. The seriousness and urgency of the current situation demands nothing less. Far too much time has been lost and too much damage has been done to this remarkable archaeology, whilst the current grazing of cattle suggests a potentially catastrophic winter for the henge. I would add that this is yet another public relations disaster in the area for English Heritage. In the spirit of openness and transparency, please note that this letter will be made public to the trust’s members, via our blog.

Perhaps I could finish, by repeating what I've said in previous emails to you - that the Thornborough Heritage Trust will do what it can to assist should we be asked or if opportunities arise. We do have a highly motivated membership. But I must emphasise that the trust is determined to put an end to the destruction of this regionally, nationally and internationally important Scheduled site.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Jan Harding
for and on behalf of the Thornborough Heritage Trust