STONEHENGE will be welcoming back visitors once again after being closed for months due to Covid-19.

Monday (April 12) will see the second phase of the easing of lockdown restrictions, which means the attraction is able to reopen.

The lockdown easing will see shops, gyms, most outdoor attractions including zoos and theme parks reopen, as well as holiday campsites, personal care services, including hairdressers, and beer gardens and outdoor hospitality.

Jenny Davies, the head of historic properties for Stonehenge, spoke to the Journal about the reopening of the historic site.

She said: "We are quite giddy with excitement to reopen because it has been a long time and we miss our visitors."

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All pictures by English Heritage

What to expect when you visit

When visitors arrive they will join a socially-distanced queue and will be welcomed by staff who will be on hand to explain procedures in place.

People are being asked, if they are able to, to walk to the stones. A one-way system will be in place.

However, for those unable to walk the buses will still be running.

"We've got a lovely walking route through the World Heritage Site landscape. It's a one-way system but there is loads of room. Depending on how fast you walk it takes around 20 to 25 minutes," explains Jenny.

"But if you need to catch the bus, for accessibility reasons or you have got young children the buses are still running. They are sanitised between every journey and the seats are socially distanced and safe to use."

Food will be available on site from the takeaway catering facilities and there will be plenty of outdoor seating.

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Safety measures

Socially distanced queues are in place and hand sanitiser will be available.

At busy points of the site one-way systems are in place.

There is a limit on the capacity of visitors in the shop, which will be open.

"Just to reassure people we have got social distancing and hygiene measures in place throughout the site, which we practised and trialled last year and tweaked and made improvements.

"It is a big, wide open space to come and spend time with your family. It gives you a focus on your wellbeing. Spending time in a place that has been here for so long it's seen pandemics come and go and has seen every challenge the world has shown and it is still standing."

The cafe and indoor exhibitions will remain closed and hope to reopen next month.

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Now is the time to visit

Visitor numbers at Stonehenge are also being capped. This is the case for other English Heritage sites, including Old Sarum and Old Wardour Castle.

Jenny said: "Sometimes people who live locally think it is always going to be there and 'why would I come now?'. Actually the reduction in capacity is why you would come now. You get to enjoy it with hardly any other people.

"It is the most personal visit that you'll have really. We don't have international tourists and are at about a third of our usual capacity if that.

"It's a great time to get out to visitor attractions that you might not ordinarily think of going to."

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What has been happening during the closure

The site was closed to the public on New Year's Eve but during that time essential maintenance work has been carried out on site and making sure it looks its best.

"We have a team of volunteers up there tidying up the grass directly around the stones ready so they are looking their best on Monday," said Jenny.

The big news is the refurbishment of the cafe. Unfortunately, visitors will have to wait until next month to see and enjoy the new facilities, which includes more seating.

Please pre-book your visit

"The top message is to pre-book. Even if you are an English Heritage member or you have a local residents pass, your tickets will still be free, but you do need to book. That is helping us manage how many people are on site at any one time," said Jenny.

"We have a capacity limit in place as we did last summer just to make sure we have no pinch points and people can move around."

This can be done by going to the English Heritage website. Tickets are available to book now.

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English Heritage offer memberships which give unlimited access to more than 400 historic places all year round. Go to its website for more.

Opening times

9.30am to 5pm.

Stonehenge Tour bus service resumes

The Stonehenge Tour is to resume as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted.

Salisbury Reds will be operating its tour bus - which runs from Salisbury Rail Station and the city centre through to Stonehenge itself - from Monday.

For more information go to the Stonehenge Tour website

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