National Trust closes many of Avebury’s iconic sites - so they can recover from the wet weather
Because the ground is badly waterlogged, the monument is not only becoming unsightly, and possibly dangerous for visitors, but it has the potential to damage the archaeology if steps are not taken to protect it.
The National Trust has owned Avebury since 1943 and in that time has only had to take such drastic measures once before - during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001.
Jan Tomlin, General Manager of the National Trust Wiltshire Landscape, says they have not taken this decision lightly: "The National Trusts pledge is to protect Avebury and the other sites we care for, for ever, and for everyone, and it’s a pledge that we take very seriously indeed."
"Hopefully we will be able to open the areas that are closed in a few weeks and by taking these quite drastic steps now, we really can make sure that Avebury will be here for people to enjoy for ever."
The weather has been unusually mild during January, with few frosts and with little time for the ground to dry out between wet spells. This has resulted in deep muddy patches.
Hilary Makins, Countryside Manager: "Parts of the henge have already been closed for a number of weeks in the hope that the worst affected areas would recover. They have started to improve but not enough to withstand re-opening and the rest of the henge and West Kennet Avenue are also becoming increasingly muddy and very slippery."
"Closing the Avenue and much of the henge will ensure that it has sufficient time to recover before our busiest period begins.’
Avebury henge and stone circles is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it is also part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site for the outstanding universal value of its Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology.
Dr Nick Snashall, Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site: "We know through geophysical surveys and excavation that there is more archaeology under our feet as we walk around Avebury. However, the topsoil here is very thin and the archaeology can be quite near to the ground surface. So it’s important that we take steps now to ensure that people walking through the deepening mud don’t damage the site."
"The henge and West Kennet Avenue have been here for 5,000 years, and it’s our responsibility to make sometimes difficult decisions that will ensure it’s here for another 5,000 years and beyond."
Members of the team are inspecting the site regularly and will open the henge and avenue as soon as possible, however, it is likely to take a few weeks to recover sufficiently.
There is still plenty for visitors who go to Avebury: the village amenities, including the Post Office, Red Lion pub and shops are open as usual, as are the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury Manor and all the other National Trust facilities.
During these closures there will be no parking charges in the National Trust car park. More information about the closure is available here.