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The Ridgeway

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NT Crackdown on Ridgeway during Avebury Solstice

Western Daily Press

The National Trust and Wiltshire Police are to crack down on the 'number and behaviour' of people camping on Britain's oldest roads – the ancient Ridgeway near Avebury – for the summer solstice.

A new plan has been drawn up by the Trust, which owns the stone circle in the Wiltshire village, to clamp down on the growing numbers of people staying outside the village and blocking the Ridgeway, which runs along the hillside just to the east of the village.

The crackdown will also see more enforcement of tighter new parking restrictions at Avebury village itself, as the National Trust aims to curb the excesses of the revellers who gather there.

The move follows hugely controversial measures put in place by English Heritage for the summer solstice at Stonehenge, including charging £15 to park cars in the temporary car park, and banning alcohol on the site for the night.

While the crowds can reach 40,000 at Stonehenge to see the sunrise on the longest day in June, the solstice at Avebury is a much smaller affair. Crowds there can reach 5,000, and there already has been one major crackdown on what went on there.

There was absolute chaos in 2005 and 2006 when so many people parked all over the village that they completely blocked the main A361 Swindon to Devizes road, which runs through Avebury. During the 2000s, residents also complained consistently of drunken, loutish behaviour by revellers, including finding people vomiting, sleeping, urinating or defecating in their gardens. Many residents still go away for the two days either side of the solstice to avoid the event.

The National Trust and police clamped down on parking. It is no longer allowed anywhere outside the existing visitors' car park, which fills up almost as soon as it is opened on the eve of the solstice, and camper vans are banned.

But increasing numbers of people are heading to Avebury – anecdotally to avoid increased regulation at Stonehenge – and many camp wild along the Ridgeway, which is a short walk across the fields from Avebury village, and affords amazing views over the stone circle and Silbury Hill.

The Ridgeway there is the start of an ancient road that runs all the way to East Anglia and dates back to at least the creation of the Avebury stone circle more than 5,000 years ago.

The Trust said it wanted to make 'Solstice a more peaceful occasion', and its plan would make the celebrations at Avebury 'safe for everyone and respectful of the World Heritage Site'.

As part of the plan, the Police and Wiltshire Council will increase patrols on the Ridgeway – a byway east of Avebury where the number and behaviour of people gathering during Solstice has become a problem.

The National Trust said regular patrols of the byway 'will ensure safety, keep access along the byway open and prosecute and remove those found to be breaking the law'.

Jan Tomlin, the National Trust's General Manager in Avebury, said: "We want the Solstice at Avebury to continue to be known for being a peaceful, respectful occasion which all those who care most about the henge and the village would want it to be – that is why we are taking this action."

"As landowner we are concerned about the safety of anybody using our land – including the Ridgeway. A robust management plan as proposed and enforced by the council and Police is the right thing," she added.

Philip Whitehead, Wiltshire council's highways boss, said he was 'delighted' action was being taken. "I am delighted we are taking a real partnership approach to tackling the challenges the Summer Solstice brings to Avebury," he said. "It is a real team effort, and I look forward to another successfully managed event."

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Chance Posted by Chance
22nd April 2016ce

Comments (1)

Update from Marlborough News Online:

Summer Solstice 2016
Slightly better news for the village has come with the NT's change of mind about closing the Ridgeway at the solstice to cars, vans and caravans. Avebury residents expected that this would simply divert these vehicles into the village itself.
Instead a partnership of the police, various Wiltshire Council departments, fire and rescue, the National Trust and others will "be politely but robustly managing the Ridgeway this year". And roads in the village will be closed to waiting and parking.
Although police numbers for the period are expected to be reduced, officers will be on point duty at the entrance to the streets which attract parking by those going to observe the solstice.
tjj Posted by tjj
27th April 2016ce
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