The National Trust is encouraging everyone to join the virtual Summer Solstice being organised by English Heritage this year, rather than try to visit either Stonehenge or Avebury, both of which will remain closed due to Government restrictions in place because of Coronavirus.
All National Trust facilities in Avebury will remain closed for the Summer Solstice, which this year falls on the weekend of 20-21 June and the National Trust is asking visitors not to travel to the area.
This decision was made due to the on-going ban on mass gatherings, and the need to maintain social distancing – still the mainstay of measures to combat COVID-19.
The Trust has consulted widely with its partners (English Heritage, Wiltshire Council, the Police, Ambulance services and Avebury Parish Council) in coming to this decision. Jan Tomlin, General Manager for National Trust Wiltshire Landscape, said: “Disappointing as it is, we have to do what is right, and with the ongoing ban on large gatherings, the health and safety of residents, visitors and staff is paramount, we have no choice but to keep our facilities at Avebury closed during this time.”
The Trust’s campsite, car parks, toilets, restaurant and shop will not be open. The Red Lion public house, Elements of Avebury, and The Henge Shop also remain closed.
Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We know how special the Solstice is for many people, and we’re all disappointed that it can’t go ahead this year due to COVID-19. However, we fully support the decision for the sites to close. It’s important that people don’t attempt to travel to Avebury or Stonehenge to mark the event, as you may be putting the local communities at risk. Other amenities around the sites – including parking facilities, byways, toilets, shops and pubs – will also be closed, so please do not attempt to travel.”
Chair of Avebury Parish Council, Stephen Stacey, echoed that message: “‘Staying alert’ means respecting government advice, especially on social distancing. Avebury is simply not able to accommodate large numbers of visitors for this year’s summer solstice. We look forward to welcoming them in 2021.”
The pagan community are also asking people to respect the restrictions and asking to mark the event from the comfort of their own homes.
Gordon Rimes, Pagan Priest, said: “It’s sad that these exceptional circumstances mean that we are not able to celebrate as normal. So, on this Solstice morning close your eyes, visualise the best sunrise you have ever seen and let’s make sure you and those near to you are well and healthy”.
Stonehenge, managed by English Heritage, is also closed for the Solstice this year. Those who don’t have access to a dawn view from their homes can watch the Summer Solstice sunrise via a live-stream by English Heritage. Information for this can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury.