A tunnel past Stonehenge will be dug largely along the route of the existing A303, the government has announced.

12 09 2017

Stonehenge tunnel route altered to protect winter solstice view

Previously it was planned to go south of the stones but there were concerns this would intrude on the view of the setting sun at the winter solstice.

How Stonehenge could be viewed if the tunnel is built

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage said “if designed with care”, this would “restore peace and tranquillity” to the landscape.

But campaign groups have called for a “complete rethink” to the plan.

They fear the work will mean the area will lose World Heritage Status after Unesco, the organisation that decides on such sites, said the tunnel should be “reconsidered”.

Unesco has previously backed the option for a bypass to be built.

What is new in this plan?

  • A tunnel that is “at least” 1.8m (2.9km) long beneath the World Heritage site
  • The western tunnel entrance will move 50 metres further away from the stones
  • A new bypass to the north of Winterbourne Stoke
  • A new flyover at the Countess Roundabout – on the eastern side of the tunnel
  • Junctions to the A345 and A360 at either end of the tunnel

Read the full story in on the BBC NEWS website

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The Knotty Problem of the A303 and Stonehenge.

16 03 2017

For over 30 years people have been trying to come up with a solution to the problem of the A303 road that runs past Stonehenge. It’s a stretch of single carriageway road with a dual carriageway at either end. As a result it’s a traffic bottleneck, especially during holiday season, and people slow down to take a picture of Stonehenge as they drive by.

A number of options have been proposed – from upgrading the single carriageway road into a dual carriageway on the existing route, to a tunnel to hide an upgraded road from view. Tunnels have been suggested that range in length from 2km to 4.5km constructed either as “cut and cover” or “bored”.

Over 50 alternate routes – some that take the road entirely out of the World Heritage Site – have been put forward, so many that the map showing them all is called the Spaghetti Diagram.

A303routes
Most recently, a 2.9km long bored tunnel has been proposed which would run about 200m south of the existing A303. The tunnel would be below the archaeological layer, well away from Stonehenge itself and remove the view, noise and fumes of traffic from the immediate vicinity of the monument.

You’d think everyone would be delighted. They’re not.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) runs from the A345 road in the east to the A360 road in the west, a distance of 5.4km. A tunnel of 2.9km clearly isn’t long enough to span its entire width, and this means that the tunnel portals must be dug into the ground within the WHS itself.

On top of that, new lengths of road and new junctions must also be built within the WHS – at the western and eastern end of the tunnel – to link up with the existing roads.

When the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS was inscribed in 1986 they were recognised as Cultural Sites. At the time, there was no designation of “Cultural Landscape” but the inscription said:

Criterion (iii): The complexes of monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.

The proposal to destroy large areas of the Stonehenge landscape with new roads and tunnel portals is what has upset a lot of people.

The Stonehenge Alliance is a group that represents the views of a number of organisations, their view is that the tunnel is too short and would cause “irreparable damage to the WHS”.

SA Leaflet

ICOMOS is an important heritage advisory group to UNESCO and it firmly objects to the current option for a 2.9km tunnel for the substantial negative and irreversible impact it would have on the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage site (WHS) of Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated sites.”

A group of 21 leading archaeologists who have worked in the Stonehenge landscape over decades says that the proposal has dreadful consequences for the world’s most famous archaeological site and its landscape setting.

The list of objecting organisations goes on and on – the Council for British Archaeology, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, the Prehistoric Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Society of Antiquaries, the International Astronomical Union Commission on Heritage and Astronomy….

The National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England have also expressed very strong concerns over the positioning of the western portal and its approach road.

Historic England said The current location is very close to the Normanton Down barrow cemetery, one of the best preserved and most significant Neolithic and Bronze Age cemeteries in the UK. The portal would certainly have a significant adverse impact upon the setting of this barrow group and upon the OUV of the WHS.

The National Trust’s chief archaeologist for the WHS says, in an appendix to the Historic England report, The western portal is very close to the Normanton Down Barrow Group while both surface routes have adverse visual and aural impacts on the surrounding Winterbourne Stoke, Normanton Down, Lake and Diamond Groups (nearly a quarter of the identified key attribute groups).

The proposal actually places the western tunnel portal directly on the Winter Solstice Sunset line as seen from Stonehenge, and the new road leading away from it runs along this alignment.

Western Portal Trenching SMR Montage

Astronomers have viewed this idea as absolutely crazy.

Prof. Clive Ruggles, a leading archaeoastronomer and key figure in the interpretation of astronomical sightlines of ancient monuments across the world says there are serious concerns that the integrity of the SW sightline from Stonehenge could be permanently destroyed, eliminating forever the possibility of visitors to Stonehenge once again seeing the winter solstice sun setting behind the distant natural horizon along the axis of the monument.

The public consultation for the initial route proposals finished on the 5th March 2017. Highways England now have several months of work ahead of them to refine their proposal to take into account the more than 7,000 submissions they’ve received so far.

Local residents, holidaymakers and hauliers have suffered traffic problems along the A303 for over 30 years, so a solution that speeds up traffic is desperately sought by Government.

What’s crucial to bear in mind is that whatever solution is implemented, unless a route entirely outside the WHS is found, it will have a permanent impact on the setting of one of the most important landscapes in the world, and that we all have a responsibility to the future not to make a terrible mistake.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Stonehenge tunnel plans finalised by government.

12 01 2017

Long-awaited plans for a road tunnel past Stonehenge have been finalised by the government.

The proposal for a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) dual carriageway tunnel is aimed at easing congestion on the nearby A303.

a303

The proposals involve building a tunnel for the A303 which runs past the ancient monument

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the proposal will “transform’ the road and benefit people by “cutting congestion and improving journey times”.

A public consultation aimed at drivers and residents will run until 5 March.

The tunnel plans form part of a £2bn government scheme to upgrade all remaining sections of the A303 between the M3 and M5.

Highways England’s Jim O’Sullivan said: “Our plans for the A303 recognise the national importance of the route and these improvements will bring real benefit to the region and local communities.

“The public exhibitions will provide an excellent opportunity to explain further our plans and to hear feedback from stakeholders on our proposals to deliver the scheme.”

A report by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites has recognised the benefits of the project.

At the moment the busy A303 passes within a few hundred metres of the ancient monument.

However, campaign group Stonehenge Alliance believes any tunnel shorter than 2.7-miles (4.3 km) would do “irreparable damage to the landscape”.

In 2015 it launched a petition calling for a longer tunnel which gained 17,500 signatures.

A spokesperson said: “The Alliance does not advocate new road building at Stonehenge but accepts the need to improve the tranquillity and appearance of the World Heritage Site and its setting.

“If the government insists on widening the A303 by means of a tunnel it must be sufficiently long to avoid any further damage to [Stonehenge] and its setting.”

English Heritage and the National Trust have also given their support to the option of “the longest tunnel possible”.

Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust Andy Rhind-Tutt described the tunnel plan as a “self-destructing time bomb” which would “do nothing” for traffic problems in the area.
BBC NEWS

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Barrows or Burial Mounds Near Stonehenge.

5 10 2016

The area within a 2 mile radius around Stonehenge contains more than 300 Bronze Age burial mounds or “barrows”. Often these are clustered into what are termed “cemeteries” – groups of barrows that often occur along the ridgelines within sight of the stone circle. Almost all have been opened by investigators and treasure hunters prior to the 20th century and have had their grave goods removed.

The nearest ones to Stonehenge are within easy walking distance – 10 to 20 minutes away – and the views across the landscape are well worth the journey. Please don’t climb the barrows, tempting though it is, as they are easily eroded.

Less than a mile to the east lie the King Barrows under the beech trees on the horizon to the north of the A303 main road. These are amongst the very few barrows that have not been opened by antiquaries in the 18th or 19th centuries and are some of the largest and oldest.

Northwest of Stonehenge are the Cursus Barrows, a group that is easily accessible – being less than a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the monument field. These were all excavated by William Cunnington and Richard Colt Hoare in the early 19th century.

The double bell barrow in this group had previously been opened by Lord Pembroke in 1722 and it contained some very fine grave goods including a dagger; amber, shale and faience beads as well as a gold mounted amber disc which all accompanied the cremated remains of a young teenage girl.

Within the monument field itself, 100m east of the stone circle, sits a wonderful example tweezersof a bell barrow. It was excavated twice by Cunnington and on his second attempt he discovered a cremation burial within an urn along with a beautiful set of bone tweezers which are now in Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

Visible from Stonehenge on the ridge south of the main A303 road are the Normanton Down Barrows, a huge linear cemetery of burial mounds. This group is on private farmland and so cannot be visited.

stonehenge-cupWithin the group is a bell barrow catalogued as Wilsford G8 that contained some extraordinary items of gold and amber jewellery along with a ceramic incense vessel that is known as the “Stonehenge Cup” because of a perceived resemblance to the monument.

At the time of writing (October 2016), the items from Wilsford G8 are on display in the
Stonehenge Visitor Centre Exhibition, on loan from Wiltshire Museum.

Also in this group is the famous Bush Barrow – so called because it has a large bush growing out of the top of it.

The excavation of this barrow in 1808, again by Cunnington and Colt Hoare, found the body bush-barrow-lozengeof an adult male laid north-south accompanied by one of the most spectacular grave assemblages ever found in Britain, including two lozenges of sheet gold, a polished macehead and 5 cylindrical bone mounts, bronze and copper daggers, and thousands of tiny gold pins used to decorate the hilt. All of the Bush Barrow finds are on display in Wiltshire Museum.

There is an interactive map showing all of the barrows which were investigated by Cunnington and Colt Hoare in the Stonehenge landscape at http://web.org.uk/barrowmap/

The Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Explorer Map 130 “Salisbury and Stonehenge” is an excellent reference for exploring the area, showing public footpaths and National Trust open access land.

This weeks article was submitted by guest blogger and local Stonehenge expert Simon Banton

Stonehenge Landscape walking Tours:
National Trust: Walk with an archaeologist: Durrington Revealed
Local Tour Operator: Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
Foot Trails:  Full Day Stonehenge Guided Walking Tours
Tours from London:  The Stonehenge Experts
Durrington Walls, Wiltshire walk of the week: The Daily Telegraph

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A303 Stonehenge expressway. Contractors called to tunnel meeting: 12th October

5 10 2016

Highways England is holding a market engagement day next week for contractors interested in bidding to build the A303 improvement project by Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Tunnel Project

The ambitious project is expected to cost anywhere between £300m and £1.3bn depending on the final route selected.

A joint venture of WS Atkins and Ove Arup is designing a scheme to improve the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire. The project includes a tunnel near Stonehenge and a bypass of the village of Winterbourne Stoke.

The A303 at Stonehenge currently severs the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS) and is one of the last remaining single-carriageway bottlenecks between London and Cornwall.  The proposed scheme would create an expressway standard dual carriageway route.

The scheme is currently in the Options phase, with a preferred route announcement planned for summer 2017 and a DCO application planned for summer 2018. Subject to statutory procedures, construction work should start by April 2020.

Highways England intends to appoint a contractor on an early contractor involvement (ECI) basis, initially to assist with the DCO application and then to design, build and maintain the scheme.

On the project page on the Highways England website, the value of the scheme is somewhat vaguely put at between £275m and £1,321m.

The market engagement day takes place in Bristol on 12th October 2016 to provide more information on the scheme and the procurement strategy. Those wishing to attend should email simon.chohan@highwaysengland.co.uk for the time and location of the event.

Links:
Race starts for £1.3bn Stonehenge expressway
Contractors called to Stonehenge tunnel meeting

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2016 Stonehenge Summer Solstice Information

17 06 2016

Once upon a time (until 1977, actually) it was possible to turn up and wander around the world-famous prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, touching ancient stones and experiencing wonderment at being in such an atmospheric place, often alone. Not any more – all those hands were contributing to erosion and today’s multitudinous visitors may look but not touch.

druids-equinox

Stonehenge began as a circular ditch and earth bank constructed around 3100 BC, with the standing stone circle erected some nine centuries later. Research suggests that Stonehenge marked an important burial site, but this prosaic explanation is not accepted by everyone.  The purpose of Stonehenge has long been passionately debated with diverse theories mooted – these include religious ritual, astronomical observation and assorted complex and often outlandish supernatural notions. Was it really a landing site for space travellers? Probably not.

Whatever the truth, the place retains an aura of mystery. It was the site of the
Stonehenge Free Festival
1972 and 1984, when revellers gathered to celebrate alternative culture at the summer solstice. That laid-back era came to end in 1985 when the police did battle with ‘New Agers’ bent on reaching Stonehenge after the festival was banned.

Guardians English Heritage relented in 1999, and those who wish to experience the summer solstice in the company of like-minded people are now permitted to do so. Many thousands who gather to do just that invariably experience powerful emotion at the moment when the sun rises over the mystical circle on solstice morning, and find themselves amidst all sorts of alternative believers like neo-pagans and druids in fantastic garb who are conducting esoteric ceremonies. It’s a magical moment, but reality soon intrudes – the site must be cleared by 08.00 so Stonehenge can revert to lucrative ‘tourist business as usual’. (content extracted from 501 Must-be-there Events (501 Series) by David Brown and Arthur Findlay)

English Heritage are pleased to welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate this year’s Summer Solstice. This is the 17th year that English Heritage has provided access to the stones and are looking forward to a peaceful and sober celebration.

MONDAY 20th JUNE
Access to monument field – 7pm
Sunset – 9:26pm
TUESDAY 21st JUNE
Sunrise – 4:52am
Monument field closes – 8am

 Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
    • SOLSTICE CAR PARK OPENS 19.00 hours (7pm) 20 June (see new charges)
    • ACCESS TO STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD 19.00 hours (7pm) 20 June
    • LAST ADMISSION TO SOLSTICE CAR PARK 06.00 hours (6am) 21 June – or earlier if full
    • STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD CLOSES 08.00 hours (8am) 21 June
    • SOLSTICE CAR PARK TO BE VACATED 12.00 hours (12 Noon) 21 Jun

“We strongly advise anyone planning to come to Stonehenge for solstice to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Salisbury is easily accessible by train and the local Salisbury Reds bus company will be running a special service from Salisbury to Stonehenge through Saturday night and into the next day. Solstice Events are offering their usual transport from Bath and Stonehenge Guided Tours are offering their popular annual tour / transfer from London.

 

Bus service information: including timetables and costs can be found on Salisbury Reds website.
Train service information: trains run regularly to Salisbury from London, Bristol, Bath and Southampton. Train times, tickets and further information for your train journey can be found at:
South West Trains
South West Trains
Tel: 0845 6000 650
Great Western Railways
Great Western
Tel: 0845 7000 125
National Rail Enquiries
National Rail Enquiries
Tel: 0845 7484 950

Follow @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @HighwaysEngland @Wiltshirepolice and @VistWiltshire for #summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE BROADCAST

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Respect the Stones and each other!
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UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans

5 05 2016

Plans to build a tunnel under Stonehenge have been welcomed in an influential report.

303-road

The A303 past Stonehenge is a highly congested route

The report by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites recognised the benefits the 1.8m (2.9km) project.

In 2014 the government announced it would commit to building a tunnel, removing the A303 from the landscape.

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage also support the plans.

The report highlighted the scheme’s potential to become a “best practice case” for a World Heritage Site.

It said the scheme must “both protect the outstanding universal value” of the site and also “benefit road users”.

303congestion

At the moment the congested A303 cuts through the middle of the area.

Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said the report “recognises the unmissable opportunity” the government’s road improvement scheme offers to address “the blight of the existing A303”.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, welcomed the report but said “sensitive design” would be needed.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, added: “Provided that it is designed and built in the right way, a tunnel would reunite the wider landscape around the ancient stones, helping people to better understand and enjoy them.”

FULL STORY: UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans – BBC News

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