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Stonehenge and its Environs


Magic circles: Walking from Avebury to Stonehenge

Lovely article in the Guardian today by Hugh Thomson about 'The Great Stones Way' walk

A new walking path links Britain's two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, and is as epic as the Inca Trail.

The Great Stones Way is one of those ideas so obvious it seems amazing that no one has thought of it before: a 38-mile walking trail to link England's two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, crossing a landscape covered with Neolithic monuments.

But like any project involving the English countryside, it's not as straightforward as it might seem. The steering group has had to secure permission from landowners and the MoD, who use much of Salisbury Plain for training. They hope to have the whole trail open within a year, but for now are trialling a 14-mile southern stretch, having secured agreement from the MoD and parish councils. The "Plain & Avon" section leads from the iron age hill fort of Casterley Camp on Salisbury Plain down the Avon valley to Stonehenge. Walkers are being encouraged to test the route, and detailed directions can be found on the Friends of the Ridgeway website.

It's an area all but the boldest have avoided: negotiating the MoD areas needed careful planning. Few walkers come here and not a single garage or shop along the Avon valley sells local maps. The Great Stones Way should change that.

What makes the prospect of the Great Stones Way so exciting is the sense that for more than a millennium, between around 3000 and 2000BC, the area it crosses was the scene of frenzied Neolithic building activity, with henges, burial barrows and processional avenues criss-crossing the route.

At Casterley Camp, high on Salisbury Plain, it takes me a while to realise what is strange about the landscape, as wild and empty as anywhere in southern England, and with a large burial mound directly ahead. Then it hits me: this is perfect high grazing country, but there's not a single sheep. Maybe they have read the MoD notice which points out that "'projectile' means any shot or shell or other missile or any portion thereof", and that over much of what you can see you're liable to be hit by one. You can also be arrested without a warrant. But the trail cleverly and legally threads its way past the firing ranges towards a delightful and ancient droving road that plunges down between cow parsley to an old farm.
Read the full article here ..
moss Posted by moss
14th May 2011ce
Edited 14th May 2011ce

Comments (2)

Yes, an interesting article though I'm not sure about his comparison to the Inca Trail. There are many 'epic' walks throughout the British Isles. The article doesn't make any reference to the concerns about erosion - which has had such an impact in places like the Lake District.
I agree that you can't beat approaching Stonehenge by foot - it gives it a whole new perspective. Am 100% behind the project - anything that gets people out of their cars has got to be good. I do believe that the Henge Hopper service hopes to link in with walkers at various points as many people would only want to (or be able to) do part of the walk.

Quote from Rigeway Friends website:
"During the winter we’ve been talking to several councils and statutory organisations about The Great Stones Way to try and allay fears regarding the impact of the route on the local environment and archaeology.

Although we believe that their fears are largely un-founded, we are of course sympathetic to any such worries and are seeking meetings with Wiltshire Council to discuss how they can best be addressed."
tjj Posted by tjj
14th May 2011ce
I was at Avebury a couple of weeks ago, it was the Avebury/Stonehenge Marathon. 26 miles cross country and well attended. I cheated, watched the start then drove to Stonehenge to watch them coming in.

hamish Posted by hamish
15th May 2011ce
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