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Amesbury lantern parade saved
AMESBURY’S annual Christmas lantern parade has been saved at the 11th hour.
On Monday it was announced that Amesbury Town Council was cancelling the popular event due to problems with access to the planned starting point at Stonehenge, predicted traffic problems and rising costs.
But at a meeting of the town council on Tuesday night, Councillor Fred Westmoreland announced a new route for the lantern parade courtesy of Lady Cornelius Reid, owner of Amesbury Abbey Nursing Home.
"It would start at Amesbury Museum, take us through the Abbey grounds, over the bridge and to the spring near to the site of the recent dig," he told councillors. "Then we would go back via the abbey for a glass of mulled wine and on to the museum.
"It would be a different route and not involve Stonehenge but it is better than nothing.
"It would be cheap, cheerful and local.
"It is short notice but I'm sure that people would want to be part of it and it would be a shame not to have a lantern parade at all."
The parade would take place on Saturday, December 21 starting at 4.30pm.
It will be free to take part and lanterns can be bought from Amesbury Museum for a small charge.
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 meant the event would be too difficult and expensive to organise.
“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," said a town council spokesman. "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 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.
Some town councillors questioned whether there would be time to properly publicise the new arrangements for the lantern parade starting at Amesbury Museum, which is housed in the former Melor Hall.
But Cllr Westmoreland said arrangements would now begin "in earnest" to ensure the event is a success.
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