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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Bogs, Dams and Revenants
In the early 1940s they drowned the village of Derwent in Derbyshire to make the Ladybower reservoir, to slake the thirsts of Sheffield and Nottingham. Shortly afterwards, the new reservoir was used by the "Dam Buster" squadron, as practice for destroying the Möhne, Edersee and Sorpe Dams.

This year the dry weather revealed part of the village again, and it drew tourists, some of whom amused themselves by drawing graffiti or taking stones from walls. This has caused quite a lot of angst. For example:

There's a fair amount of graffiti and defacement on the ruins. It's a huge part of our history and now "Cheryl" and "Steve" have scratched their names in the rock. We need to look after it, we have a responsibility like you would at any historical site. (Steve Rowe, Edale Mountain Rescue Team)

Whilst we understand that people are fascinated by the appearance of these usually hidden ruins, the structures remain an iconic archaeological feature of the Peak District National Park. As we wouldn't expect people to vandalise any of the National Park's many heritage buildings or other archaeological features, the remains of the homes and other submerged buildings are no exception. We urge people to leave these features intact to open a valuable window onto history, not just today, but for future generations to enjoy. (Anna Badcock, Park Authority Cultural Heritage Manager.)

Well yes, I kind of agree, and yet it wasn't "Cheryl and Steve" who destroyed the village in the first place, nor bounced bombs on top of it shortly after. If Derwent is such a valuable part of our heritage, why is it at the bottom of a lake?

The answer is of course that it's only valuable because it was destroyed - or rather, its destruction led paradoxically to its partial preservation. We must be grateful to the large-scale municipal vandals of 1940, even as we condemn the small-scale private vandals of 2018.

Similarly, if I marched into the British Museum and took an axe to the Lindow Man I'd be arrested - but it is only thanks to the actions of the people who did the same thing 2,000 years ago that we have his body at all. We owe those people a debt, it seems, for killing him and leaving him to our mercies, tender or otherwise.

Seems to me that Cheryl and Steve have just added another layer of heritage. Their names serve as a record of the great dry spell of 2018. Future historians will be grateful.


Everyone likes seeing Byron's graffito on the Temple of Poseidon. And maybe Steve Rowe's secretly the very Steve he's castigating!

Graffiti is always appealing, I think, in its unofficial quality.

Well, we both live in countries that were conquered by invaders at some point or another in history, and now we cherish relics of the previous peoples who were displaced.

In fact, that's true of most countries.

Indeed so.