Stonehenge - summer solstice celebrations / winter solstice / equinox dawn gatherings & other issues

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  1. The changes which have taken place at Stonehenge i.e. the construction of the new visitor centre and landscaping of the A344 will result in the old road being permissible for walkers and cyclists hopefully by summer 2016. However, apart from some bike racks at the new centre, little else has been done to improve conditions for cycling in the wider landscape. The Winterbourne Stoke Bypass Angst traffic action group (WiSBAng) looked at some of these issues in little more

    English Heritage were recently reclassified as a self sustaining charity and despite an initial grant of £80m they will have to generate more of their own income in the future. However, they have ‘overlooked an opportunity’ when it comes to cycling. If they were to establish their own cycle hire business at the new visitor centre it would have many benefits. Even if this was a simple bicycle hire scheme. In addition to this, what is really needed at Stonehenge is a new dedicated circular cycle route starting from the visitor centre, running parallel to the A360 down to Longbarrow Crossroads and then along northern side of the A303 before dropping down to the stones on Byway 12 (Drove Road / Bridleway).  The nearest example to this proposal would be the parallel shared-use paths on the A354 Weymouth Relief Road and on the B2123 Falmer to Woodingdean in the south Down near Brighton. Although any new path at Stonehenge would be much wider and include a separate path for pedestrians.

    Weymouth Relief Road

    The shared-use cycle path by the A354 Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset. Photograph courtesy Joe Dunckley War-on-the-Motorist

    Could cycling therefore really offer a part-solution to Stonehenge and its traffic problems? Well I believe that it can. It would be sustainable, pollution free and enable people to explore the wider landscape and provide an important means of getting people in and out of the site. Also it could help generate income and employment opportunities.

    If a circular route or routes were provided then these could extend onto Countess East (Amesbury) service station so that visitors could park and ride when coming from the east without having to traverse that A303 in a vehicle. A well-used cycle path next to the A303 would send out a clear message that cycling can offer a real alternative that is achievable and cost effective. The link cycle path to the A354 Weymouth Relief road link for example cost a reported £985,000 for 6km of track and the parallel cycle track by the B2123 linking Woodingdean to Falmer near Brighton cost £190,000 for 2.5km. As the Falmer scheme falls partially within the South Downs National Park, special crushed pale limestone was used rather than tarmac so that it would blend into the landscape in a more enviromentally friendly way. Such features could easy be replicated at Stonehenge.

    If the A303 were to be put in a tunnel, then some sort of pedestrian / bridleway / cycle route is likely to be constructed along the top of covered road anyway, but my concern is that this will be a substandard unconnected after-thought, rather than the main focus of well-thought out scheme in its own right.