The National Trust and Avebury village are once again open to visitors. With the lockdown eased, the Trust’s car park and toilets have re-opened and local shops, the pub and the Trust’s own restaurant have opened their doors to visitors again.
Avebury, part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, is the site of the largest stone circle in the world and is within easy access of a number of Wiltshire towns, being just a few miles, and a short bus ride, from Swindon. Part of the village and the spectacular archaeology is looked after by the National Trust.
If you take a stroll around the stone circle on a normal summer’s day, you might well encounter people meditating, pagan ceremonies taking place, children playing, families picnicking, couples hand in hand and sheep peacefully grazing.
However, this year, like most other villages in the country, Avebury had to close its businesses and facilities and lock down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This was an extremely difficult time for local businesses and the National Trust, who rely on visitors for an income.
Eva Stuetzenberger, Operations Manager at National Trust at Avebury, said, “It was a tough time for all of us.
Managing an open access site during a pandemic is something nobody had experienced before. We were particularly mindful of the impact on the village, especially the concern among residents, some of whom were vulnerable, about the number of visitors still likely to visit Avebury. With that in mind we took the sad decision, at an early stage, to temporarily close all our facilities.”
The Community Shop and the Post Office remained open throughout to serve the local community and provide home deliveries for the vulnerable.
Eva Stuetzenberger added, “It’s a huge relief to be able to welcome people back to Avebury. Re-opening hasn’t been as straight forward as it might sound though and was a real learning curve when it came to implementing Government and National Trust guidelines to ensure everybody’s safety. The visitor experience on site has changed in many ways, but the feedback we have received so far has been overwhelmingly positive with people appreciating the site more than ever before.”
Stephen Stacey, Chair of Avebury Parish Council, said, “We’re delighted to have our shops and pub open again and are very grateful for the financial sacrifice their owners accepted for almost four months on public health grounds. Now all we need is for visitors to use them – whilst of course respecting the formal requirement to socially distance and, in a week’s time, wear face coverings.”
Unlike many National Trust sites, people do not need to book before visiting. Social distancing measures are in place across the visitor route and the restaurant is currently only doing take-away food and drinks with seating across the Old Farmyard. The Trust advise visiting their website beforehand so that people know what to expect. This can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury.