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Has the mystery of how Preseli rock got stonehenge finally been solved?

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  • ‘Lost’ Boulder Proves the Bluestones Were Transported from Wales by Glacier Ice – and NOT by Humans, Study Claims

A NEW study of the ‘lost’ Newall Boulder suggests it was transported by ice, potentially overturning the theory that humans moved the stones for Stonehenge.

How Neolithic humans might have transported so many huge boulders from Wales to Stonehenge is one of archaeology’s most enduring mysteries. However, a new study of a ‘lost’ boulder taken from the Stonehenge site over 90 years ago suggests that humans might not have moved the stones at all.

Dr Brian John, a retired geology lecturer from Durham University who lives in Pembrokeshire, argues that this bluestone boulder bears marks which suggest it was moved by glacial ice. This would undermine the common theory that the bluestone was quarried in the Preseli Hills of southwest Wales and manually transported to the Salisbury Plain.

Natural transport: Could movement of ice pushed the stones to Mendip?

Dr John said: “I think it’s hugely significant because it supports the assumption I’ve had for some years that these are not humanly-transported.”

In addition to the tall Sarsen stones that make up Stonehenge’s distinctive appearance, the site is also home to around 80 smaller bluestones. It is generally agreed that these stones originate from the Preseli Hills of south-west Wales, but how they got to Stonehenge is often debated.

Dr John’s argument centres on an analysis of a bluestone boulder about the size of a human skull, known as the Newall boulder. This boulder was first excavated in 1924 by the geologists Colonel Hawley and Robert Newall. Hawley originally thought the rock was just a piece of rubbish and wanted to throw it away rather than analyse it. However, Newall saved the stone from the rubbish heap and placed it in a cardboard box in his attic alongside a number of other finds from the site.

New theory: Dr John (Pic: Martin Cavaney)

The boulder remained there until Newall passed it over to the Salisbury Museum shortly before he died in 1976. There was a brief burst of interest in the boulder around 1977, but then it was placed back into storage and effectively forgotten for another 46 years.

However, in 2022, Dr John found a reference to the boulder and asked the Museum Director, Adrian Green, if it was still in storage. On discovering that it was, he was given permission to examine it and undertake a careful examination of its surface features.

Through a detailed analysis of the boulder’s surface, Dr John identified a series of marks that suggest glacial, rather than human transport. “Glacially transported boulders tend to have facets,” Dr John explains. “That means they’ve got a number of different faces at angles to one another which actually indicated where a boulder has been abraded or, basically, sanded down.”

Is current theory wrong?: Volunteers pull bluestone from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge (Image: Martin Cavaney)

As boulders move with a glacier, they get flipped over from side to side, creating several different flat faces with rounded edges, just like the Newall boulder. In addition, the boulder bears a series of scratches and small fractures, called striations and chatter marks, which are often caused by glacial transport.

And although the Newall Boulder isn’t exactly the same type of rock as the other bluestones, Dr John says this is exactly what his theory would predict. He says: “It’s often claimed in popular articles that the bluestones are all made of spotted dolerite which is this type of igneous rock we get on the Preseli Hills but they’re actually about 30 different rock types. That enormous range of rock types is absolutely typical of the way that ice travels across the terrain and picks up boulders from here there and everywhere.”

Dr John suggests that this provides convincing evidence that the Newall boulder and all of the smaller bluestone boulders at Stonehenge were moved by glacier. His claims land him squarely at the centre of one of Stonehenge’s most contentious debates. The idea that the stones were transported to Salisbury Plain began with the geologist Herbert Henry Thomas in 1923. Although Thomas was quite spectacularly wrong about almost everything, the human transport theory is still extremely popular.

A team of researchers led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of UCL have been some of the most active proponents of this theory, arguing that the stones were moved over land. Recently, Professor Pearson and his team even claimed to have discovered evidence which identifies the quarry of the Stonehenge bluestone, dating this to 3000 BC.

Previously, two curraghs were readied to see if Bluestones could be floated to Stonehenge (Image Martin Cavaney)

However, Dr John now says his discovery should “open up the debate” for a consideration of other theories. He says: “Herbert Thomas thought that because glacial transport was impossible they must have been carried by human beings. That’s now part of our national myth because people have not seriously questioned it before; it’s just been accepted as the truth.”

Instead of the orderly and rather deliberate building project we sometimes imagine Stonehenge to be, Dr John says: “I think it’s always been a bit of a shambles.” He argues that the Neolithic builders simply used the stones they had in their immediate vicinity, rearranging and moving the smaller bluestones as needed. And, when they eventually had to travel too far to gather more stones, the project was simply abandoned in the state we now find it. “It was a Neolithic cost-benefit analysis that eventually the costs of getting the stones were greater than the benefits that were coming from it,” he says.

However, the ultimate test for his theory would be cosmogenic dating – a test to determine how long rocks have been exposed to the surface by measuring their exposure to cosmic rays. If Dr John is right, the deeply weathered surface of the rocks should have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of thousands of years. Alternatively, if the stones were quarried they should only have been exposed to cosmic radiation for around 3,000 to 5,000 years.

While the debate over the origin of the stones is still very much alive, Dr John believes the evidence of weathering will remain strong. He concludes: “I’m very confident that if one or other university can get its act together and actually get this done these stones will be seen to have been subject to cosmogenic bombardment from the atmosphere for possibly hundreds of thousands of years. That would knock the quarrying idea on its head once and for all.”

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Sumatran tiger cub named Zaza is first ever born in a Welsh zoo

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MANOR WILDLIFE PARK said this week that it is thrilled to announce the birth of a Sumatran tiger cub, named Zaza, marking a momentous occasion as the first tiger cub to be born in a zoo in Wales. Born on the May 25, Zaza is a symbol of hope and a critical addition to the global effort to conserve this critically endangered species.

The birth of Zaza represents a significant milestone not only for Manor Wildlife Park but also for wildlife conservation in Wales. The Sumatran tiger, one of the world’s most endangered tiger subspecies, faces severe threats from habitat loss and poaching. Zaza’s arrival brings renewed focus to the importance of protecting these majestic creatures and their natural habitats.

Rick Newton, the Animal Manager, expressed his excitement and pride, saying, “We are overjoyed to welcome Zaza to our family. This birth is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our team, who have worked tirelessly to create an environment where these magnificent animals can thrive. Zaza’s arrival is a beacon of hope for the conservation of Sumatran tigers, and we are committed to ensuring she grows up healthy and strong.”

The birth was monitored closely by the park’s veterinary and animal care teams to ensure both mother and cub received the best possible care. Zaza has been thriving under the watchful eye of her mother, Terima, and the two have been bonding beautifully since the birth.

Visitors to Manor Wildlife Park will now have the opportunity to see Zaza as she begins to venture out of her den and explore her surroundings. The cub will be viewable to the public during regular park hours, allowing visitors to witness this historic moment and learn more about the park’s ongoing conservation efforts to protect Sumatran tigers.

The park’s conservation programme is dedicated to supporting global efforts to preserve endangered species through breeding initiatives, habitat conservation, and public education. Zaza’s birth is a hopeful reminder of the impact that dedicated conservation work can have on preserving our planet’s wildlife.

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Tenby Town Council demands urgent action from Welsh Water

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TENBY TOWN COUNCIL says its members were horrified at the pollution caused by failures of the sewage infrastructure which recently caused pollution warnings to be issued to the public.

They have called for Dwr Cymru to take urgent action to replace the rising main (pipe) that keeps failing.

The Mayor, Cllr. Dai Morgan , has written to the Chief Executive of Dwr Cymru outlining concerns and asking for action to be taken. A copy of the letter together with a statement from the Mayor is in the comments.

Tenby Town Council said on social media: “We are not new to this issue, We are not just reacting to events. 18 months ago we formed a Safe Seas Working Group led by Cllr Whitehurst. This group has brought together Dwr Cymru, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and PCC to examine all aspects of sewage management in and around Tenby. Detailed analysis has shown when there has been spillages or releases and looked into the reasons why. It is in this group that, following

“Tenby Town Council raised the issue, that it was acknowledged that this pipe needed to be replaced.

“Cllr Whitehurst has formed a formidable working relationship with all parties and we hope this relationship will help to bring the timescale forward to replace the rising main.

“We will continue to press all agencies to fulfil their responsibilities and will soon be meeting with all parties. In the meantime we are saying loud and clear that this pipe needs replacing quickly.

“Our wonderful clean seas, our blue flag beaches and our precious environment are too important to those who live here, those that visit and to the economy of not only Pembrokeshire but the whole of Wales.”

Tenby’s Mayor Cllr Morgan released a statement on Friday (Jul 12). Cllr Morgan said: “The recent fracture of the rising main to Tenby Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) has once again brought to light the critical nature of infrastructure maintenance and the dire consequences of its failure. This incident, marking the second such occurrence in as many years, has not only resulted in environmental pollution but has also cast a shadow over the safety of local recreational waters, with advisories against swimming in the sea—a blow to the community’s spirit and its tourism-driven economy.

“Tenby Town Council’s meeting with representatives from Dŵr Cymru, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and Pembrokeshire County Council earlier this year had concluded with assurances that the rising main was on the radar as a high-risk site. The commitment to include it in the programme of works, was a step in the right direction. However, the recent pollution incident underscores the need for a more immediate response.

“The council’s call for Dŵr Cymru to expedite the replacement of the rising main is a testament to the urgency of the situation. The potential for future bursts poses a significant threat not only to the environment but also to the economic vitality of Tenby, a jewel in Wales’ tourism crown. The council’s proactive stance and its appeal for decisive action reflect a broader understanding that environmental issues require prompt and effective management.

“The relationship fostered over the years, mainly because of the hard work of Cllr Duncan Whitehurst, between the council and Dŵr Cymru has been pivotal in ongoing efforts to safeguard and enhance water quality. This partnership is now being leaned upon to navigate this issue efficiently. The council’s request is clear: immediate commencement of the replacement works, with a definitive completion date, is imperative.

“Tenby’s case serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of our ecosystems, economies, and communities. It highlights the importance of maintaining robust infrastructure, the need for vigilance in environmental monitoring, and the power of collaborative relationships resolution. As the situation unfolds, the actions taken today will resonate far into the future, shaping the legacy of Tenby’s environmental stewardship and its commitment to the well-being of its residents and visitors alike.”

Pictured above with North beach newly awarded blue flag are, Cllr Duncan Whitehurst, Mayor Cllr Dai Morgan and,.Town and County Cllr Sam Skryme Blackhall.

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Neyland Carnival 2024: A resounding success

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THIS year’s carnival dazzled spectators and participants alike today, marking one of the most memorable events in recent years. Thousands flocked to the streets to witness an extraordinary procession of floats and walkers, showcasing the community’s creativity and unity.

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Simon Hancock was present to award the prizes, expressing his admiration for the event. “What a privilege to present the prizes at Neyland Carnival 2024,” Hancock said. “The ingenuity and creativity on show in the floats and walkers were truly extraordinary. Thousands saw the procession which must have been the biggest seen in Pembrokeshire these days. My congratulations to the hardworking committee which made everything possible. Well done! A wonderful day all round.”

The celebration extended to local venues, including The Legionnaire Neyland, a popular pub that joined in the festivities with enthusiasm. In a heartfelt message on social media, the pub’s team shared their gratitude and joy: “What an awesome carnival! I’d like to thank the staff and customers, and extend huge congratulations to Rebecca Charlton for making the Best Pub win happen. A huge thank you to Roy and Jane for providing awesome food at a reasonable rate. Thank you to Pembrokeshire Metal Recycling for the use of their lorry and Mike Otterbein for driving the route for us once again. Also, congratulations to the committee for their success—they nailed it. I hope the local businesses who sponsored the carnival benefited as much as we did today, as the after-party is going strong. Thanks to Upton Farm for donating 100 bottles of water to keep everyone hydrated at no charge. The Neyland community stands strong!”

The event highlighted the community spirit, with local businesses playing a crucial role in supporting the carnival. Their contributions, from providing essential resources to sponsoring various aspects of the event, ensured its success and demonstrated the strong bond within Neyland.

As the sun set on this vibrant day, the after-party continued, cementing Neyland Carnival 2024 as a cherished memory for all who participated and attended. The celebration underscored the strength and unity of the Neyland community, promising even greater events in the future.

Thank you everyone who sent their photos in from the event!

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