'Free access' Stonehenge footpath open to the public

image captionThe A344 - which ran within feet of the stones - has been restored to grass and opened as a permissive path

A footpath which allows visitors to see Stonehenge free of charge has been opened a year behind schedule.

The right of way, which passes within feet of the ancient circle, follows the route of the A344 which was closed to traffic and grassed over in 2013.

The path was due to open last summer but was delayed by English Heritage to allow the grass to "fully establish".

Former Wiltshire councillor Ian West said the path is three years overdue and was only "very quietly opened".

The A344 was closed by English Heritage four years ago in a bid to "restore the dignity" of the World Heritage Site.

As part of the agreement with Wiltshire Council, the grassed over section of the road was to be re-opened as a "permissive path".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMr West says the path allows visitors "free access" to the site "without a local residents pass"

The path allows visitors free access to the site without a local residents pass, but Mr West said campaigners had been "struggling for three years to get it open".

"This was supposed to be opened before the new visitors centre opened," he said.

"But there was a three-year delay waiting for the grass to grow strong enough to bear the weight of a few cyclists and pedestrians.

"Now, it's been very quietly opened but there are still misleading signs deterring people from using it."

A spokeswoman for English Heritage, said the path, which runs from Byway 12 to Stonehenge Bottom, was opened at the end of September.

"An extension of time was granted by Wiltshire Council to allow for the re-vegetated section of the A344 to fully establish," she said.

"Allowing visitors, cyclists and walkers access to it any earlier would have had a damaging effect on the grass."

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