The section of the Ridgeway National Trail between Overton Hill and Hackpen will be closed to motor vehicles over the spring and summer months to enable repair works to be completed. Normally closed across the Winter between 1 October and 30 April, the extension will now include the period 1 May to 30 September, so in practice this stretch will be closed until 30 April next year.
Use by motor vehicles over time has caused considerable rutting of the surface, making it difficult for all types of users to travel and damaging internationally important archaeological features.
During 2019, local materials appropriate to the World Heritage Site were used to carry out repairs to the surface but the exceptionally wet weather over the winter has resulted in the need for additional time for them to bed in.
In order to protect the surface during the wettest months of the year, a seasonal Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) currently prohibits motorised vehicles from using this stretch of the route throughout the winter months, between 1 October and 30 April. But this year, from 1 May to 30 September, a further Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) prohibiting motorised vehicles is being put in place.
Walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horse and carriage drivers will be able to continue to use the route at all times, ensuring they are following the latest stay-at-home restrictions. The TTRO will be in place during the summer solstice celebrations should they take place, but the first stretch of the Ridgeway and byway Avebury 5 will be open for public access as usual. The permanent seasonal TRO will then come into place on 1 October 2020, as normal.
Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council Cabinet member for highways, said: “It’s important we do all we can to protect this area with its archaeological heritage. We are pleased with the results of last year’s repairs, but a few more months are needed to allow the grass to establish properly. Once we’re satisfied the repairs have ‘taken’ properly we will then be able to test them properly to see how robust they are.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but the repairs required are essential. The subsequent testing will help us and our partners decide how we best protect in the future this part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the National Trail and the internationally protected archaeological features that it contains.”