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Press release from the National Trust

Avebury closed for Summer Solstice

The National Trust have today (Monday 18 May) confirmed that neither Avebury nor its land across the Stonehenge Landscape, will be open for this year’s summer solstice and are asking visitors not to travel to the area.

Avebury: South-west quadrant

The celebrations which take place every midsummer, on or around the 21st June, regularly attract in the region of 10,000 people to Stonehenge and surrounding areas including Avebury.

A spokesperson said: ‘Our priority is always to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, volunteers, attendees and residents. This decision was made due to the on-going ban on mass gatherings, and the need to maintain social distancing – still the mainstay of measures to combat Coronavirus.’

English Heritage who manage Stonehenge have also announced that they will not be able to host the solstice at the World Heritage site, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all attendees, volunteers and staff.

The National Trust has consulted widely with its partners (English Heritage, Wiltshire Council, the Police, Ambulance services and Avebury village community).

The spokesperson said: ‘The National Trust recognise the spiritual importance and relevance of the summer Solstice and understands that this will come as a great disappointment to many but also not a huge surprise given the on-going pandemic crisis and a ban on mass gatherings. We hope that this announcement will be received with the understanding of everyone who likes to celebrate this important time of year and traditional acts of worship.’

Many other live events have either been cancelled or postponed this year due to the ongoing battle against the disease and to limit its spread.

The camping sites, the village pub, car parks and toilets will all be closed.

Each year the Trust works closely with partners through the Avebury Solstice Planning Group to manage visitors who come to Avebury for the Solstice aiming to ensure
the event allows peaceful access for celebrants and to minimise disruption to the village and neighbouring farms. We thank everyone for their understanding and hope to welcome summer solstice visitors back next year.

Not yet.

But one day…

Tryphena Grommit (Miss), pictured, was shocked by a parking fiasco at Avebury yesterday.

“I’m a frequent visitor to Avebury” said Miss Grommit “and I often stay all day and spend lots of money. But yesterday I was on my way to Devizes and wanted a tinkle, I was desperate. I only wanted to pop into Avebury for a moment to use the facilities there but imagine my distress to see the notice – £7 pounds for ten minutes!. It’s an outrage, the blinking jobsworths”.

We understand this is not the first complaint and the Trust have said they’ll reconsider if they get enough of them. Watch this space….

From a correspondent……

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“Remember recent criticism rightly broadsiding the National Trust (NT) over actions in the Lake District plus a report of a hit on the finances of the “bullying” NT where “Donations have fallen by £2.5 million a year since 2010, while revenues from commercial activities rose by almost £10 million in the past year”? Interesting then that at Avebury the NT pleads “we are a charity” whilst locals seethe over the closure of public toilets in the High Street. The background includes the NT obtaining alcohol licenses for their premises on top of opening a fast food outlet in the largest stone circle in the world. Let us not overlook the NT have a food outlet in the Manor too as well as a restaurant and shop alongside the nearby barn. Now we also hear of some sort of snack van “trial” in the car park, which will add yet more competition for the village pub, community run shop and fundraising “teas for tourists”. The writing was on the wall when the NT’s giant promotional signage appeared on a footpath (pictured).

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Time to allow the public to judge if the commercial assault on Avebury is in any way justified – declare a list of NT staff working at Avebury, drawn up along with what their role is in Avebury together with their salaries and expenses! And while the NT are at it what about the staff just up the road in Swindon too? The Times reported last year the NT has 9 board members sharing £1.3M and nearly 100 staff on over £60,000 a year. And the NT can’t afford to keep the public toilets open in Avebury High Street?”

brass-neck

Today Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage will be taking to the platform of the conference celebrating 30 years of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site – why?

Historic England are endorsing their employer’s wish for a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

The National Trust has opened a fast food outlet in the centre of Avebury’s henge, amidst the largest stone circle in the world, and also support a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

English Heritage have summarily failed to protect Stonehenge from damage during annual solstices, and also support a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

The question this collective act of bare faced cheek should leave on everyone’s lips is whether they can be trusted to truly care for our greatest prehistoric monuments?

 

Visited Avebury yesterday. Concocted a riddle:

Q: How do you stop 6 people climbing onto the stones in a ten minute period?
A: By putting up signs asking them not to – that are bigger than 1.25 square inches!

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connected1.

We know the National Trust aren’t big on listening (they’ve ignored us on this matter repeatedly, going back to 2010) but we thought we’d mention it anyway. Yesterday there were some really small children on top of one tall stone, which leads us to a second riddle:

Q:  If a child fell down and broke a leg would NT’s sign stand up in court?
A:  ????

Megameet 2016.

The annual Heritage Journal Megameet – for members, friends and supporters of the Journal and anyone else with an interest in prehistoric sites – will return once again this year to the Avebury WHS. The first one was in 2003 so we think this will be the thirteenth,  but we’ve slightly lost count.

Anyway, everyone’s welcome to come and chat or walk around the henge, the museums or further afield with kindred spirits, be they novices or knowledgeable. We’ll be near the two large portal stones and the beech trees at the southern entrance. Bring a picnic and maybe a couple of books to swap. We’ve yet to hear anyone say they didn’t have a good time so see you there.

This morning, 9th May, this flock of 150 sheep will walk from the megalithic site at Carnac to the megalithic site at Locmariaquer. The animals feed on the vegetation on the megalithic sites of the area and thus contribute to their maintenance.

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carnac sheep

Such a relaxed, low impact approach could hardly be further from the UK’s aggressive guardian-centric guardianship of its own flagship sites (the National Trust has imposed its own commercial stranglehold on Avebury and the guardians of Stonehenge are telling the world massive new approach roads can somehow be seen as “protection”!)

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See also the article 7 years ago by our member Graham Orriss, Carmac, curation and display with a refreshingly light touch.

Many people opposed to parking charges and sobriety at Stonehenge have said they’ll go to Avebury instead. This seems to have prompted the National Trust to take action: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.”

However, as at Stonehenge the real motivation seems to be less about parking than an attempt to limit numbers and improve behaviour – “to curb the excesses of the revellers who gather there”, to make solstice “a more peaceful occasion” ….. “safe for everyone and respectful of the World Heritage Site”…. “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”. To this end, “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.”

No doubt the Trust will get a lot of stick (and Heaven knows, there isn’t a stick big enough on some occasions!) but it would be nice if the complainants at both Avebury and Stonehenge recognised that there IS a behaviour problem that needs addressing.

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