thinking about archaeology

Digging up the A344

A303 1

Yesterday evening I went down to Stonehenge to look at the roads. Not something everyone does, but this is a turning point in a century of argument and striving for change: on Monday part of the A344 was closed. Already the tarmac is being broken up, and soon it will be dug out and the cutting filled.

So now, if, like most people, you approach Stonehenge on the London road from the east, you have to take a slightly longer journey to get to the stones, and enjoy a more gentle winding down as you approach. This is only the start of the changes, but it’s huge. For anyone who’d like to see it but can’t be there, here are some photos. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

They are in three groups, which I’ve marked on the map I used earlier. Coming down the A303 from the east, you now follow the yellow arrow. You have no option but to drive straight through Stonehenge Bottom on the A303. There is a newly enlarged roundabout where you turn onto the A360, but there is nowhere obviously safe to park so I took no photos there. Then a completely new roundabout where the A360 meets the A344 and the B3086 (see my earlier posts here and here and here). Driving down the A344 from there to Stonehenge was weird; it’s no longer a through route, and in time it will soon close to public traffic too.

stonehenge-roads-map

A303 2

A303 3

A303 4

A344 2

A344 1

A360

A360 looking south from Airman’s Cross

B3086 looking north from Airman's Cross

B3086 looking north from Airman’s Cross

A344 3

A344 3.2

New car park entrance at Stonehenge

A344 4

A344 5

A344 6

As a footnote, you may have noticed a row of vehicles near the horizon in the views of Stonehenge from the east. Here is a detail:

Byway 12

This is not a road, but an unpaved track known as Byway 12. The anomaly that allows road vehicles onto it is going to become increasingly apparent (for the background to this, read down in my earlier post here)

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7 responses

  1. Dr Dan H.

    You know, whilst that byway ought to be open to all traffic, it isn’t an adopted road and there is no law to say that it must bu suitable for all traffic. So, why not deliberately make it too rough for normal road vehicles to negotiate, or even block off the ends to everything save vehicles with a couple of feet of ground clearance?

    Tractors and farm traffic could still use it, and horse, bike and foot traffic wouldn’t be greatly impeded, but casual campers would be forced to go elsewhere. A Traffic Regulation Order forbidding all overnight parking within the World Heritage Area (except with English Heritage permission) would also help matters immensely.

    June 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm

  2. mikepitts

    Note that at the public inquiry where the inspector found that road traffic had a right to continue to use Byway 12, he said that that is a right of passage (it needs to be spelled out rather than spoken!), not parking (see my blog at the link at the end of this post above).

    June 28, 2013 at 5:54 pm

  3. Do you know if there is a plan for archaeological excavations along the A344 as it’s being dug up?

    July 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    • mikepitts

      I understand the works will be monitored by archaeologists. The road is sunken, cut down a bit into the soft chalk before it received a permanent surface. So only relatively deep archaeology is likely to survive (one thinks most obviously of the bottoms of the two avenue ditches). When I wrote up my own digs in 1979 and 1980 on the very verge of this road (where we found important stuff where few had expected it) I took care to say that any future disturbances should be carefully watched. But I hadn’t expected any on this scale!

      July 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm

  4. Mike, regarding the geo-physics survey you posted previously, I wonder if you could interpret its image of the first section of the banked track running NE from the Henge ? In places it shows six parallel pale stripes with five darker areas between them, which doesn’t really mesh with two ditches, two banks and a track. It is also very much more developed than the track after the turn NE, indicating additional work possibly at an earlier date on that first section. I should be very interested to read your thoughts on the matter.

    Regards,

    Lewis

    July 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm

  5. Paul, Bedfordshire

    Apparently the failure to close Byway 12 is now causing chaos. AIUI people on the A303 westbound who used to use the A344 are now turning right onto the byway just past the stones. There is no “refuge” for vehicles turning right, and you have a long wait to turn right due to heavy vehicles, (plus vehicles coming the other way along byway 12 which as well as being unmade is not wide enough for two vehicles to pass). Result, westbound chaos on the A303 with traffic queuing back almost to Thruxton and byway 12 has to all intents and purposes become part of the A344.

    August 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm

  6. Heads up!

    Right turn into Byway12 from A303 is now outlawed and has stopped the major west bound traffic delays caused by these right turners. Now all the traffic delay is all up at the visitor centre roundabouts (long barrow and visitor centre) as predicted by the locals.

    Maybe we should stop traffic turning into there as well? For safety of course!

    Byways are ancient rights of way, for all traffic. The mandate given to EH does not include shutting the site off to people passing through on Byway12. In fact the mandate never went as far as fencing the stone circle off at all, but push the politics far enough and you can acheive anything?
    Anyway, now money grabbing and has to come to a halt on occassion to let people through. Of course, archaeologists can just drive their 4×4 anywhere they want to dig huh?

    I do wonder though if many people drove their cattle or live stock along Byway12 anymore though? Anyone got any sheep they can lend me?
    But then I do wonder why people who are digging up the past think that is more important than those living now enjoying their lives, freedoms and liberties?

    Weird bunch you archaeologists!

    January 23, 2014 at 2:06 am

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