Most blog based activities will shift to Excavate2013 for the next couple of weeks or so, but I felt I couldn’t let this week go by without some mention of the catastrophe in north Wales. Few in the heritage sector in Wales will have failed to hear about the awful news regarding Offa’s Dyke. This hugely significant archaeological feature, remarkable for its preservation rate as much as anything else, was the subject of irreparable damage during the week. All sorts of rumours have been flying around regarding the circumstances of the destruction. But be this deliberate vandalism, or unbelievable ignorance, either way, this should be regarding as a heritage disaster for Wales.
We are frequently quick to point the finger at nations around the world where such incidents occur. Pyramid destruction in Peru and the desecration of Aboriginal sites in Australia have been among the more significant stories to be shared around the world of late, now Wales can join the community of host nations to see prized examples of national heritage become critically undermined. Yet, for all the attention given to the story on the day through social media outlets, it is perhaps more ominous how the story has subsequently been covered. The Western Mail, national newspaper of Wales that it claims to be, relegated the Offa’s Dyke debacle to page 23 on Saturday, the very last page of ‘proper news’. Having had such success with successive Wales History Months, it might have been expected that the newspaper would have given the story some greater sense of prominence. Yet Paxman’s beard and the weak grasp had by UKIP for the Welsh language, were among some of more tawdry offerings to be consider more newsworthy than the perhaps cynical damage inflicted upon what is theoretically one of the most important tourist attractions in the country.
Put simply, the coverage has not been good enough. For a nation that makes strong claims for the significance of its heritage resources, much more noise must be made about this. The damage to the segment of Offa’s Dyke is shameful and should be an embarrassment to us all, for we are collectively responsible for this heritage, including raising awareness of it. We can only hope that such an act never happens again, but unless a national outcry is heard, this will happen again, and again.