The new visitor centre is now reaching the latter stages of construction and the transformation of the landscape surrounding Stonehenge will begin imminently when the A344 road closes in June.
Wednesday 8 May saw the last piece of steel welded into the structure that supports the canopy roof above the new visitor centre. The gently rolling roof aims to mirror the contours of Salisbury Plain and helps the building fit discreetly into the landscape. Beneath the roof are two 'pods', which are almost complete: a glass one which will house the café, shop and education space; and a sweet chestnut-clad pod, containing exhibition galleries, membership area and toilets.
Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director, said: "It is fantastic to see the building taking shape and to see how well it sits in the landscape. Progress with the creation of the interior spaces for the museum galleries, education area, shop and cafe is equally exciting because it is now possible to see on the ground how these great new facilities will be experienced by our visitors."
A344 Road Closure and Access to Stonehenge
Central to the vision of returning Stonehenge to a more tranquil and dignified setting is the closure of the A344 road that runs past the monument, almost touching the Heel Stone and severing the Stone Circle from the Avenue, its ancient processional approach.
The section of the road running closest to the moment, from Stonehenge Bottom (junction of A344 and A303) and Byway 12, is scheduled to close from 24 June. Over the summer work will start to remove the high fences along the road and the road surface itself will be removed and grassed over.
There will be continued access to Stonehenge on and after 24 June but motorists will need to use a diverted route via Longbarrow Roundabout (junction of A303 and A360) and onwards via Airman’s Corner (junction of A360 and A344). Motorists travelling west on the A303 will see a sign in the vicinity of Stonehenge Bottom indicating that they should continue straight ahead for Stonehenge. There will also be signs at Longbarrow Roundabout.
Test Building Neolithic Houses
Around 60 volunteers have just completed a test build of three Neolithic Houses at Old Sarum near Salisbury. The lessons learned from this experiment will help us build the final houses at Stonehenge in 2014, which will be the highlight of the outdoor gallery at the new visitor centre.
Luke Winter, manager of the Ancient Technology Centre who was appointed by English Heritage to lead the project and guide the volunteers, said during the experiment: "Lots of different thatching and walling methods have been tested and new questions about how the Neolithic people lived are appearing every day." We are very pleased to soon be able to offer visitors a glimpse into the lives of the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge!
The project will be completed in two stages: the first phase will be the visitor building which WILL open in December 2013. In January 2014 work will start on decommissioning the existing facilities and returning the car park to grass with a small operational hub tucked into the landscape. This work will be complete by the end of June 2014 although it will take some time after that for the newly seeded areas to establish fully.
If you have any questions regarding the project please email English Heritage at firstname.lastname@example.org