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Recently the Friends of the Ridgeway gave a presentation to an open meeting of the Avebury Parish Council about the proposed Great Stones Way. Originally concerns had been raised about the impact on the village as it was intended the route would pass close by. This has now been resolved but it seems the Council is still rather NIMBY about it and according to the minutes of the meeting it expressed four main concerns: 1. The World Heritage Site Management Plan states that the village is at maximum tourist capacity now. There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised 2. Damage to Avebury’s economy 3. The fragile balance between visitor numbers and the village’s capacity to cope and 4. Limited parking in the village.

We can’t quite see how a walking route that is now well away from the village presents a parking problem for the village or could damage its economy. (The National Trust opening another food outlet is another matter altogether though!). But the really interesting bit is this: “There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised”! Consistent with this the Chairman requested that Friends of the Ridgeway avoid promoting Avebury as a tourist destination by dropping the title ‘Great Stones Way’ and also suggested a good alternative would be “The Great Wiltshire Ridgeway” (although Mr Ritchie of the Friends of the Ridgeway made it clear that a name-change at this late stage was unlikely).                     

It seems a bit surprising that the “tacit agreement” made in the eighties about not actively advertising Avebury is still being talked of, what with the village being in the middle of the world’s largest stone circle and having two museums etc. and everyone now being on the net. If there’s a problem it’s not going to be solved by trying to keep quiet about the existence of Avebury – and particularly in connection with the walking route. (This is not to say there aren’t issues to be resolved about the limited capacity of the carparking alongside the route, that does seem to be a real problem).

In any case, it seems that a change to the name of the walking route is not going to happen. Which leaves only one alternative: changing the name of the village!  

Stoneless on Avon, Gloucestershire


May 2011

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