The Island’s heritage organisations have joined forces to appeal for the public’s help to protect Jersey’s ancient dolmen sites. It follows serious damage to La Hougue de Vinde at Noirmont, where a man was seen illegally using a metal detector and a trowel.
Jersey Heritage, the Société Jersiaise and National Trust Jersey, as well as Government of Jersey, Natural Environment – which owns the land on which La Hougue de Vinde is located – are collectively reminding the public about the historic importance of dolmens and encouraging anyone who sees suspicious activity on these historic sites to report it.
La Hougue de Vinde is thought to have been built nearly 5,000 years ago. Set among trees off Le Chemin de Noirmont, it is a circular setting of stones surrounded by a rubble wall. The Neolithic dolmen is legally protected as a Grade 1 Listed archaeological site and express permission is required for any activity on the site that might be detrimental to any part of the dolmen.
Sadly, La Hougue de Vinde has been badly damaged in the past through stone robbing and after a vigilant Islander reported this latest incident, Olga Finch, Jersey Heritage’s Curator of Archaeology, inspected the site. She confirmed that it had been seriously damaged, finding backfilled metal detecting holes in the centre of the chamber and targeted digging all over the dolmen, particularly in the earthen banks and at the base of the orthostats (upright stones).
Most of the Island’s dolmens are free to access by the public but, as such, are already vulnerable to damage even without illegal activity taking place. Last year, the Société Jersiaise was forced to cordon off parts of La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, St Martin, to protect the ancient site. Banks around the area were being eroded and parts of the dolmen disturbed.
In a joint statement, Jersey Heritage, the National Trust Jersey, Société Jersiaise and Natural Environment, said: “We are shocked and saddened that La Hougue de Vinde has been deliberately damaged, and for what appears to be personal gain. The majority of people are incredibly respectful of these ancient sites, but given this latest damage, we felt the need to highlight such illegal activity and to remind people of the importance of the dolmens. They are part of our collective heritage and should be protected for future generations. We would like to thank the lady who reported seeing the damage being done at La Hougue de Vinde for her vigilance, and to encourage anyone who sees any suspicious activity in the future to follow her lead and report it.”
This public appeal is supported by Ken Rive, President of the Jersey Metal Detecting Society, who said his club worked hard to ensure its members knew the regulations surrounding historic sites.
He said: “We condemn any illegal metal detecting activity, such as that discovered at La Hougue de Vinde. We believe in responsible metal detecting that abides by legal restrictions and ensures that any finds can be properly researched and recorded. We would ask anyone unsure of the permissions required to metal detect in Jersey to contact the club as soon as possible.”
Anyone who sees any suspicious activity at a protected site is asked to contact Jersey Heritage on 633300.