STONEHENGE yesterday began reclaiming its ancient natural landscape with the closure of a busy road running through the World Heritage site.
The A344, which carried 6,000 cars a day past the monument’s Heel Stone, will now be turfed over and the high fences removed to recreate the traditional downland pasture.
The closed section of the A344 is between the junction with the A303, the main road to the southwest, and Byway 12 which severs Stonehenge from its ancient processional approach, the Avenue.
The move is part of a £27million English Heritage programme to protect the site and improve the experience for visitors.
This includes a new visitor’s centre, due to open in December, which will be 1.5 miles form the monument instead of on its doorstep.
The remaining section of the A344 will become the route of a new visitor shuttle service to and from the Stones.
The closure fulfils a pledge given by the Government to UNESCO 27 years ago to remove the A344 where it crosses the Avenue.
And this time next year, once the landscaping is complete, visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of ancient Britons and approach the monument from the Avenue.
Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director, English Heritage, said: “The Stones have never failed to impress visitors, but for too long their setting has marred people’s appreciation and enjoyment of this special place. At last, this is going to change. For the first time in centuries, when all the works are complete, people will be able to experience this complex and extraordinary monument in a more tranquil, natural setting.”
Jan Tomlin, the National Trust General Manager for Wiltshire Landscape, said: “We welcome the closure of the A344 past Stonehenge – it is an important step towards the vision for the future of the monument. We have worked over the past decade to restore much of the land we own around Stonehenge to grassland and this is an important step in linking Stonehenge to the ancient landscape.”
Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog