Trump Time – The Living and the Dead
Privileged though we are in Winterbourne Stoke to live within a stone’s throw of Stonehenge and its associated World Heritage Site (WHS) status, it is surely paradoxical that preserving the remains of the dead sometime seem to take precedence over the needs of the living. Indeed the dead sometime seem as though they are the ones framing the debate on the route of the Winterbourne Stoke A303 bypass!
Of course Stonehenge is an iconic historic site of global historic significance on a par with the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Of that there is no debate. Of course, we are reliably informed, it is a one of the country’s top tourist attractions, each year drawing thousands of visitors from around the world.
What is more problematic (some would say morally wrong) is that the status of the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge appears to be framing a significant part of the debate on the route of the bypass to the north or south of Winterbourne Stoke. Archaeological concerns appear to be “trumping” considerations such as the impact of a bypass at Winterbourne Stoke on the local residents, the environment and the surrounding landscape to the north and south of Winterbourne Stoke.
The need to preserve the historical integrity of the WHS appears to have determined the location of the western tunnel portal of the A303 which has, out of the blue, in turn brought a bypass route to the south of Winterbourne Stoke into play. Meanwhile, recent archaeological discoveries to the west of the Long Barrow Roundabout seem likely to determine the location of the A303 junction on the northern bypass route and influence groups are pushing for the WHS to be extended from its current western boundary with the A360, to the banks of the River Till!
In order to return Stonehenge to its pristine prehistoric state, free of traffic noise, air pollution and a blighted landscape, it seems an awful lot as though Stonehenge’s problems are being exported 4 miles west to Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James. The Americans call it “kicking the can down the road”. It sometimes feels as if preserving the lives of the dead take priority over promoting the interests of the living – in Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James that is!
But every cloud has a silver lining. Even if the pub and garage in Winterbourne Stoke close (as seems inevitable) once a bypass is opened, even if the village is blighted with increased traffic noise and pollution if a southern bypass route is chosen , even if you’ll no longer be able go for a walk down the Till valley between Berwick St James and Winterbourne Stoke without hearing the constant drone of traffic noise, even if your local resident’s card no longer enables you to get 2p off a litre of petrol at the garage once it has closed, even if there are no more Bingo nights at the Solstice Rest once it has closed, at least there will be one benefit from living in Winterbourne Stoke or Berwick St James: you’ll still be entitled to free family entry to Stonehenge. Its “Trump Time” as the saying goes, for the dead over the living!