Items of general interest to the village.

Onboard and Online: Highways England Community Forum (A303-Bypass)

Those of you who keep an eye on the Salisbury Journal may have picked up on Highways England’s plans to set up a Community Forum to engage with those bodies and, possibly, some specific individuals who might be able to contribute too it.   Understandably, it isn’t open to everyone, as that would have been too unwieldy and would have been a nightmare to organise.

The Parish Council will be represented on the Forum, which meets for the first time, in Amesbury, on Thursday 1st February 2018; although we have not yet received a formal confirmation of this from Highways England.  Back in September, you will recall their arrangements were equally chaotic and last minute.   More importantly, we haven’t yet see Terms of Reference for the group, or an Agenda for the forthcoming meeting.  As soon as we do, we will make you aware of as much as we can through the medium of this website, with key bits of information (such as this notice) posted on the village noticeboard.  Please be aware that there may be too much information to make it all available on the noticeboard, so please ask a Parish Councillor to help you get access to it if you don’t have your own internet connection.

We understand that one of the key things that Highways England want to use the Forum for is to understand what they term “legacy issues”.   This means the sorts of things they can do mitigate the effects of road-building and the road on the local community.   These are likely to impact on issues at all levels.  Some will affect the whole community from Amesbury to Berwick Down and a mile or two north or south,  some will affect Winterbourne Stoke and Amesbury lying on the direct path of the A303, others will affect villages further north and south of the road and others will affect those with businesses (farms, pubs, petrol stations, etc) lying on the path of the road.   The Parish Council is likely to wish to have input on most, if not all, of these (the exception might be those issues that ONLY effect those communities outside the Parish) and we wish to put forward the consensus view of the village.

When it comes to the village, based on what has happened during other roadbuilding schemes, it might be possible to get Highways England to assist with schemes that a small village like ours might otherwise be unable to afford; for instance by making use of unused or unwanted construction materials that might otherwise cost money to remove from site. The trpes of schemes we have had suggested by villagers already include:

  • A small, multi-purpose “village hall” or room (s) that could be used for meetings, small events, changing room, etc.
  • A playing field/football pitch/events area
  • Village allotments
  • A village orchard
  • A new wood
  • Narrow the A303 east of the village up to the new connection with the A360, construct a protected (ie physically separated) bridle path/cycle trail that links directly to Stonehenge without the need to cross the A303, or the A360, at grade.
  • Create green bridges (rather than conventional bridges) across the new A303 wherever Byways cross the road within the Parish and eastward to Stonehenge.  These encourage the movement of wildlife and people in the landscape.
  • Help in promoting new businesses and diversification of existing ones; if needed.

The idea being to make use of land freed up by the removal of the A303 to the west of Scotland Lodge Farm and the route to the east of the village.  We suspect that there are many other ideas out there and we want to hear them.

Please don’t add your ideas as comments to this post – they will be deleted!  Instead, pop across to the Forum (register if needed) and add your comments here:  How Can the Village Benefit From the Bypass

If you want to have a say, but don’t want to do it online, please just pass your point to the Parish Clerk, or a Parish Councillor, in writing.

Winter Has Come: Water Levels

It ‘s that time of year again.  December 1st; which for those of you who don’t necessarily revel in such things is the first day of the meteorological winter.  For the last four winters, we have been monitoring water levels in the Tilshead borehole as a means of getting an early warning of flood levels in the aquifer that might affect the village.  Today marks the start of the 2017-2018 monitoring season and there will be weekly updates appearing on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of each week between now and the end of March 2018.  They will be published in the “Notices” section of this website.

The water level in the Tilshead borehole this morning was 79.23 metres. That’s the lowest level on 1st December since 2015, when the level was exactly the same.  This years level will be shown, as always, in red, last year’s level is shown in green, the 5-year average is shown in black.

Nobis villa in agro?

Our apologies for using a Latin title for this post, but we hope you will soon see why.  Back on the 31st of July we published a news item entitled “What Lies Beneath” having seen Wiltshire Archaeology at work in the field that runs alongside the Winterbourne Stoke to Berwick St James road, close to the boundary between two villages and close to the River Till.

What we didn’t say at the time and have resisted saying in public until now  is that we had an idea what they might have stumbled across – but little hard evidence.  Our hypothesis was based purely on the area where the ground penetrating radar was being used, the known history of the Till Valley, the clusters of springs along the route of the Till and what appeared to be “missing” from the local archaeology.

Having seen Wiltshire Archaeology at work, we turned to Google Earth to see if there was anything there that might confirm our suspicions.  In the Pro version of Google Earth, you can examine the latest images of an area, but also historical imagery.  Those images taken in winter, with low sun angles, are often very good at showing up ground features that aren’t obvious at other times of the year.  If you get really lucky, you can sometimes see ground features because of the different rate of growth of crops that overlay stone foundations.  We weren’t that lucky, but we did find an image taken on 26th January 2005 that had some possibly interesting features.

It’s quite hard to see, but at the end of the large arrow, there seems to be a large rectangular feature about 60ft by 20ft in size, which runs pretty much East-West in its longest dimension.   In other words, it has a similar footprint to St Peter’s Church.   To the East are two or three much smaller square foundations.

This had all the features of a Romano-British site, but we still didn’t want to set hares running because of a phenomenon called pareidolia.  The human brain is very prone to ‘seeing’ familiar images of shapes, people and animals when you look at a picture or view –  Donald Trump’s image on a piece of burnt toast, clouds that look like flying saucers, etc.  Although we thought it might be a Romano-British site bang on the route of the proposed southern bypass, we still weren’t sure.

So back to the title: Nobis Villa In Agro? – Do we have a villa in the field?

On Friday, following the announcement of the northern bypass preference, we asked Highways England consultants what had been found and they offered that it was “possibly a Roman-British site”.  However, that was their working hypothesis and still needs to be confirmed – they noted that the site could be much more recent than that and the truth is only likely to be uncovered through excavation.

The reason for mentioning this now, is of course its potential for developing local tourism in the future.  Mosaic floors (and that is a huge stretch of the imagination!) are very good at bringing in the tourists and boosting the local economy.

We’ve also noted the ground penetrating radar being used north of the A303 more recently, suggesting that even more interesting sites are turning up there as well.  All the archaeological work that has and is being undertaken as part of the Highway England planning will be published and we will provide links to all that directly affects our Parish.  It’s then up to us how we best exploit it.

Putting In The Ducting

Anyone who has been looking for signs of BT activity on the Shrewton road over the last couple of weeks would have found it hard to spot anything at all.  However, today there were a few signs that things are moving forward.

First of all, some BT subcontractors were spotted feeding ducting or possibly cable into one of the access chambers that were installed last year.

Further down the road, another contractor was pumping out another access chamber in the road at the foot of a BT pole:

However, they don’t appear to have brought the mole plough back yet, as the yellow plastic poles are still in the verge:

There is no evidence that they have installed any of the poles for which they had sought permission for traffic controls.  That might suggest there is a bit more work to be done over the next couple of weeks.  Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; they are stills from a windscreen video.

The Village Events Committee

Thanks largely to the organisational efforts of Steve Fair, the Events Committee was given a new lease of life back in June, with the election of a new committee at a very well attended meeting at the Solstice Rest:

Chairman:    Peter Stoner

Secretary:     Ryan Davis

Treasurer:    Angie Carr

We are assured the minutes will follow in due course.   The first meeting was followed by another, last night (3rd July), to firm up on a few ideas for events over the summer.  Please pencil in the following dates for your diary.  As soon as they are confirmed, we will publish more details and add them to the events calendar on the website.  So, the first part of the cunning plan is to hold an event over the weekend of 5/6th August 2017.  The Events Committee is hoping to lay on a barbecue and an event for kids on the Saturday afternoon, with a quiz and some music in the evening.

On the Sunday, the plan is to hold a Bacon-Butty-Breakfast and Car Boot-type sale.  All will be welcome to come along and buy, but sellers will have to be restricted to villagers due to the limited space available.

Other events are in the planning stages for later in the year, including a Christmas Party for the children.

Look on the Forum if you are a budding Quiz star, as the Events Committee are trying to establish if there is any interest in having a quiz night.  Similarly, if you have a bright idea for other events villagers might like to get involved in, please feel free to start a Forum topic off yourself to help judge local opinion.

Mended Stile

We are delighted to be able to say that the stile into the meadow at the southern end of Church Street has now been mended, and very robust it now looks as well.  For the first time in many years we have an upright that is tall enough to provide some useful support, nice thick treads that don’t flex as you stand on them and rounded ends so you don’t gouge your shins or knees on the corners.


Thanks to Druid’s Lodge Estate for fixing it so promptly on this occasion.  Wiltshire Council have been advised of the repair.

A303: Latest Comments from UNESCO/ICOMOS On The Highways England Proposals

A second UNESCO/ICOMOS Advisory mission to consider the emerging proposals on the Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme occurred in February 2017. The mission report acknowledges the responses to the first advisory mission recommendations, particularly on processes, archaeological investigations and assessments, but notes that some matters are yet to be implemented. This second mission recommends that a non-tunnel by-pass to the south of the property be re-considered and that further work should also occur on longer tunnel options, particularly in relation to portal location and potential impact on the overall Stonehenge cultural landscape and the setting of the property.

The full report is not yet available, but is sure to raise further concerns and questions locally.  If a southern, above-ground route is going to be pushed-for, nationally and internationally, by the bodies responsible for the World Heritage Site, we all need to consider where the best route for this might actually lie; if the idea starts to be taken seriously by government.  The F10 route, referred to below, follows the same course between Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James as does the southern bypass route offered in conjunction with the tunnel; with all the same issues for us as the by-passed village and for Berwick St James.  However, there are many other alternative routes that have been proposed, historically, that would take the A303 to the south of Berwick St James, with some of them offering possible partial solutions to the A36 congestion problems as well as those on the A303 – and they are also likely to prove cheaper than the existing tunnel solution, let alone a longer one.

Onboard and Online: The Events Committee

Apologies for the somewhat short notice, but we have just been advised that there will be a meeting of the Events Committee at 7:30pm on Monday 12th June in the Solstice Rest.  We understand that all villagers are welcome to attend.

For those of you who are new to the village and are unaware of what the Events Committee is , or does, or perhaps have lived in the village for a while and still aren’t too sure about things, we have attached the groups constitution here: WS Events Committee Constitution.


Broken Stile

Please be aware that the stile into the meadow at the southern end of Church Street (Footpath WST010) collapsed on Tuesday evening (6th June).  One of the steps and two of the vertical posts, which had rotted through at the base have been removed as they were a danger to the public, dogs and livestock. The remaining parts of the stile are also rather unsound.

The deteriorating state of the stile has been reported to Druid’s Lodge Estate on several occasions over the last year and has been reported to them again following yesterday’s failure.  It has also been raised with Wiltshire Council, as the duty to maintain the Public Rights of Way network is shared between Wiltshire Council, as the Highway Authority, and the landowners/occupiers of the land over which the path exists.  We have also raised the general issue of the lack of maintenance on footpaths from the village.

Hopefully, the stile will be replaced in short order.  Meanwhile, please take great care if you decide to climb over the remaining part of the stile before this is done, as we do not think it is safe and cannot recommend doing so.