A walking challenge has been issued by the National Trust to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site – and launched on World Heritage Day today.
To encourage people to get out a little further into the landscape around the famous stone circles, the Trust has set up a 50km walking challenge.
‘We want to make it easier for people to get out into the wider landscape, to find out more about the history, archaeology, the wildlife or just the great views of the Wiltshire countryside and find out more that the World Heritage Site has to offer,’ said Abby George from the National Trust at Avebury.
The challenge invites people to walk 50km across both the Stonehenge and Avebury parts of the World Heritage Site before the end of the year, along eight separate routes.
The series of eight walks have been designed by the National Trust team at Avebury using routes through both parts of the World Heritage Site. They vary in length up to a maximum 10.5km (6.5 miles) and explore the various aspects and views of the landscape. Some of the walks follow ancient routes just as people would have done 4,000 years ago, leading up the avenue towards Stonehenge, or processing along West Kennet Avenue into Avebury.
‘Stonehenge and Avebury are two of the most iconic sites in the world and are visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year from all over the world,’ said Abby. ‘But while people marvel at the stone circles themselves and wonder at their purpose and who built them, we’d like to show how much more is to see nearby as well.
The walks give a sense of the scale of the ritual landscape, both in time and space. They reveal the importance of procession to the ancestors who build the great monuments and show how natural features such as rivers and hills were important in prehistory.
Both sites are on chalk and in the spring and summer have a wealth of flowers starting with cowslips and followed by orchids, knapweed, scabious and the uncommon round headed rampion on the banks of Avebury henge. They in turn attract butterflies including Common blue at Avebury and Adonis blue at Stonehenge and a wealth of arable farmland bird including corn bunting and yellowhammer. Above a wheeling kite might be spotted, once rare but now a common sight, and accompanied by the ever present sound of the skylark.
‘We hope that the challenge will appeal to people who love working towards a goal and will welcome the chance to get outdoors and into the fresh air of the Wiltshire countryside,’ Abby added.
‘We do know there are good health benefits of walking in a beautiful place. Recent research has shown that walking in natural, green environments has been shown to have an effect on improving mood, fatigue and reducing stress and reducing people’s tendency to focus on negative thoughts.
The Stonehenge and Avebury walking challenge can be joined at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury . Registration costs £10 – with the money going towards looking after the Wiltshire landscape cared for by the National Trust. Walkers will get a challenge pack which includes the 8 walks and a map holder and will then have until the end of December to complete their walks. Once the walks are completed, they can enter into a draw to win a £300 voucher to spend at Cotswold Outdoor.
Image courtesy of Clare Green