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Amesbury lantern parade cancelled
AMESBURY’S annual Christmas lantern parade has been cancelled.
For the last two years, hundreds of people of all ages have taken part in the event, carrying illuminated lanterns from Stonehenge to Amesbury to mark the winter solstice.
But plans for a lantern parade this Christmas were scuppered when organisers failed to get permission to start the procession at the famous Heel Stone at Stonehenge.
The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre is set to open on December 18 and English Heritage would not allow access to the World Heritage Site for the walkers and their lanterns three days after the opening of the £27m building.
A working party of Amesbury town councillors was set up to find an alternative route and was making plans to start the procession at Woodhenge.
But problems with transport, rising costs, traffic congestion and access led councillors to decide to cancel this year’s event.
“The town council is sorry to say that it has experienced difficulties in putting together the parade this year,” said a town council spokesman.
“The day of the parade was changed to Saturday, December 21 to avoid the inevitable congestion at the Countess Roundabout and along the A303 on the last Friday before Christmas, and to make the parade more accessible to local schoolchildren, but this meant that the free use of Wilts & Dorset buses was not available to us.
“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to secure access to the starting point opposite the Heel Stone. Consideration was therefore given to starting the parade from Woodhenge.
"This presented its own problems, however, having no toilet facilities for those who would arrive on the first bus and have to wait for more than an hour before the start of the parade.
“The National Trust and the police also advised that buses would not be able to turn around at Woodhenge, but would need to continue to Larkhill before heading back to Amesbury to collect further passengers.
“With ticket sales needed to cover the cost of the lanterns, buses, refreshments, first aid cover and traffic lights on the A345 at Countess Crossing, the town council believes that the event is not viable.”
The first lantern parade took place two years ago as part of the Amesbury 2012 year of celebrations, with 600 people taking part.
Last year’s event followed a slightly different route and saw 300 people walking from Stonehenge to Amesbury.
The town council says it hopes to restart the procession next year with a parade in the town centre including South Mill and Bonnymead Park which will be accessible for more people and not require them to travel to the starting point by bus.
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