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JANUARY 2003 - 09/01/2003

Back in 2000, the crop circle community found itself directly involved in the business surrounding the hole which appeared in the top of ancient Silbury Hill, for a number of controversial reasons. Three years later, is this vital heritage site and sacred place, alongside its cousins, being willfully neglected and abused, asks MICHAEL GLICKMAN..?


The French philosopher Oliver Razac said that enclosing is a political act which "marks out the boundaries of private property, assists in the effective management of land, and makes social distinctions concrete."

One of the true sins of our time has been the fencing off of Stonehenge, a sin soon to be developed into a monstrosity by the construction of further massive engineering works to the site, including a huge road tunnel.

They tell us they want to protect the stones. Presumably they were at risk from the caresses of tourists and hippies.

The tunnel will be so substantial that no glimpse of the stones will be allowed on the journey along the A303. A "visitor centre" will be set up near Countess Services over a mile away and mini-trains or cars will transport punters to the stones. A World-of-Stonehenge theme park!

At least the fence will be stripped away.

íThe Coveí at Avebury has been fenced off for years, though I am informed access can be easily effected anyway. But why is a fence there? Do they fear that, after 5000 years, a hapless visitor might be crushed as a stone topples?

Perhaps it is no more than paranoia, but I hear regular rumours of plans to restrict access to more (or all) of the Avebury stones. It would not be easy, as the village is so comprehensively sited in the middle, but there can be no certainties! Remember that, only months ago, permission was granted to construct a microwave aerial so close to Avebury (a World Heritage site!) that it will loom over the site.

The infamous 2000 collapse of the Drax shaft at Silbury Hill was notable (a) for the inordinate haste and efficiency with which English Heritage fenced off the hilltop (again, for the civilly disobedient the hilltop is still accessible in any case), and (b) the shameless length of time it took them to survey, assess and temporarily repair the damage.

The Hill - another World Heritage monument - is now packed with a polystyrene compound. Am I alone in finding this as obscene as packing the female breast with silicone?

I live five minutes away from the Hill. I pass it often. It was one of the noblest silhouettes I know.

It is still topped by this horrible wire-mesh fence, which stares reproachfully down at us like a Crown of Thorns each time we pass. Are we ashamed?

I called English Heritage to ask why it is still there, and when we might expect the Hill to be restored. I asked them how long they estimated a cheap metal fence would be tolerated on the roof, say, of St Paulís Cathedral. I pointed out that there is a fence around the base of the Hill, as there has been for some years. I asked why they needed two fences, especially when the upper one was so prominent and so ugly.

They could not say what it was there for and nor could they tell me when it would be removed. They did trot out that reliable old red herring "risk to the public", but as the shaft had now, finally, been filled, they were unable to define just what that risk could conceivably be.

The only satisfaction I gained (which I am happy to share with you) is that they appeared to be moderately embarrassed.

What is it with us earthlings? Why do we show so little respect for the marvellous?

Perhaps the visceral affection so many of us feel for ancient sites and stones is related to our absorption in the crop circles. We understand, perhaps more clearly than most, that the inexplicable, the mysterious, the currently unfathomable, still deserves our respect. As the custodians of our inherited monuments and the witnesses of our current phenomena, we carry heavy obligations.



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