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The Great Stones Way

by Figheldean Webmaster at 17:06 11/11/10 (Rights of Way)
The Great Stones Way is a project initiated by the Friends of the Ridgeway.

The Project aims to develop, mainly over existing rights of way, a new walking route in Wiltshire, to be named The Great Stones Way (GSW), between Avebury and Stonehenge, with an extension to Old Sarum near Salisbury when this becomes possible.

It is intended that the new path will be developed to standards of surface, signage and access similar to those of National Trails.

Although the exact route has yet to be determined, it will pass through Figheldean parish.

Great Stones Way proposed route through Figheldean

The Great Stones Way will most likely enter from the north at the Fittleton border along Figheldean footpath #28 (please refer to the map above).

At Choulston Farm it'll head southeast along Figheldean footpath #1 to where it meets the back road for a short stretch before rejoining #1 again near the top of Church Lane.

Figheldean #1 then runs along the cleeve, past the allotments, across Pollen Lane, behind the Village Hall and down to Ablington.

At Ablington Farm, #1 diverts around the farmhouse paddock before it resumes its original path and continues through the woods past Syrencot, ultimately leaving the parish near the military track that goes to 'C' crossing.

The following is extracted from the GSW Project Overview draft document.

The new path will be not only a valuable recreational facility for the local communities along the route but also a catalyst for economic and community development along its benefit corridor. It is expected to increase significantly the number of visitors passing along the upper Avon Valley and across the Vale of Pewsey, with 250-400,000 users a year generating economic benefits estimated at £6 -10m annually, and supporting many new jobs, for the benefit of local service businesses and the community at large.

The Friends of The Ridgeway: The Friends of the Ridgeway (FoR), a registered charity (No 1107926), was set up 25 years ago. After the success of the campaign to curb the damage caused by mechanically propelled vehicles on The Ridgeway National Trail, FoR is now focussed on raising awareness of the historic Ridgeway paths.

The Ridgeway: Since pre-history there has been an ancient Ridgeway route across Southern England from the South Coast to East Anglia. The route links many of our finest Iron Age hill-forts, pre-historic barrows and monuments. A central section of The Ridgeway, between Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire, and Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire was approved in 1972 as The Ridgeway National Trail.

The Great Stones Way: The GSW may be considered as an integral part of the ancient Ridgeway, linking the great megalithic monuments of Avebury and Stonehenge. GSW will follow the apparent ancient alignment from the current end of The Ridgeway at Overton Hill and The Sanctuary, across the Wansdyke and up to the edge of the Downs at Walkers Hill, and thence across the Vale of Pewsey, via Alton Barnes, Broad Street and Wilsford, to the crest of Salisbury Plain at Broadbury Banks. It will then descend to the Avon Valley and follow the river through Enford, Longstreet, Netheravon and Figheldean to Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and Stonehenge itself. An alternative path alignment across Salisbury Plain itself, skirting the flagged Danger Area, is planned for when the necessary permissions can be obtained from the Ministry of Defence. The planned extension from Stonehenge to Old Sarum will link the route to Salisbury, with its Cathedral, rail access and local services.

Feasibility: FoR recognised that, while a simple, way-marked path could be established within its own resources, a route meeting international standards of access, surface and security, with appropriate signage and information and safe main road crossings, would require substantial investment. A detailed feasibility study would be needed to establish costs, demand and potential economic returns on investment. FoR accordingly sought and was grateful to receive grants from the Sustainable Development Fund of North Wessex Downs AONB; from Plain Action, the Salisbury Plain Local Action Group from LEADER funds; and from WiltshireCouncil. These grants enabled FoR to commission a Feasibility Study from a consortium of professionals, led by Land Access Ltd. The study was completed by early-April, 2010, and its conclusions were as follows:-

  • The proposal is a good fit with the relevant national and regional strategies, and with Wiltshire's Rights of Way Improvement and Local Transport Plans.
  • As a good quality route with a very strong heritage theme, The Great Stones Way should appeal to a great many walkers and quickly establish itself as a high-profile Strategic Regional Route. Usage is conservatively estimated at between 250,000 and 400,000 walkers per year.
  • Development is technically feasible, although there are concerns as to the major road crossings - some of which can be alleviated by choice of route. Continuation of the route south of Stonehenge is likely to require amendment to the Longbarrow crossroads on the A303.
  • The likely cost of development, including legal costs, contingency and project management, is estimated to be in the region of £105,000 from Avebury to Stonehenge and an additional £55,000 for continuation to Old Sarum.
  • The route, once fully established, is expected to generate economic benefits of between £6mn and £10mn per annum, conservatively based on the experience of other similar trails.
  • Existing services are adequate to launch the route, but demand generated by the project would support additional provision, supporting many new jobs.
  • There is good opportunity to develop a series of shorter distance circular walks based on the spine of the GSW. The number of archaeological and historic attractions en route is overwhelming.
  • The proposal fits well with the advertised aims of several grant schemes, particularly LEADER, with its focus on rural, economic development.
  • The overall conclusion is that there is a very strong economic and social case for developing The Great Stones Way as an internationally important recreational amenity, with a world-class heritage appeal.

Community Support: FoR has discussed the concept with the relevant departments of Wiltshire Council, with the Wilts and Swindon Local Access Forum, and with local walkers' associations. The plans have been formally presented to and been welcomed by the Wiltshire Area Boards concerned, and many of the Parish Councils along the route.

Environmental Impact: FoR will work closely with the World Heritage Site authorities and National Trust, and with Parish Councils along the route, to develop and apply an effective environmental impact mitigation policy to minimise adverse effects on the communities and the sensitive archaeology within preservation areas.


Ian Ritchie, Chairman FoR, The Limes, Oxford St, Ramsbury, Wilts, SN8 2PS
Ian {dot} Ritchie {at} ukonline.co.uk
Tel: 01672 520090/07977 454047

Jeff Goddard, Secretary FoR, 6 Darell Road, Caversham, Reading, Berks, RG4 7AY
Jandjgoddard {at} googlemail.com
Tel: 0118 9478556

Please see the attached files and the Friends of the Ridgeway website for more information.

You can send comments or questions directly to FotR, or you can relay them via the Parish Council.

PDF file GSW - Development Process
PDF file GSW - Environmental Impact
JPEG image Proposed route through Figheldean

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