It’s been a tense few days for Silbury Hill, and the rain to come gives no respite.
On the 26th, English Heritage halted all works, due to instability above the Atkinson Chamber (the improperly refilled 1968 televised intrusion from the roadside), “which has also been exacerbated by the volume of rainfall”.
Posting a statement to their weekly updates section, there was no word on just how much instability there was, and rumours began to spread about a ‘catastrophic internal collapse’.
A local radio station picked it up, but on ringing the BBC in the region on Thursday evening, they’d had no word. By morning, and another phone call, BBC Radio Wiltshire we’re investigating and had a statement from English Heritage. Sadly I missed this, and ended up ringing English Heritage myself.
All work had stopped because Skanska’s original (and admirable) plan of not introducing any more modern intrusion than was necessary by using Atkinson’s own tunnel supports was no longer workable. There had been an internal collapse in the earlier, vertical shaft (re-opened in 2001 and had been temporarily filled) and the surface of these tunnels was now so waterlogged that there was lots of loose material. Safety concerns preventing access, it was impossible to judge the extent of the danger the Hill was in.
A new working plan had already been devised by Rob Harding by Friday when I spoke to him (I gather he gave the statement to the BBC, but was more than willing to give me all the detail on the situation again when I rang, for which I am thoroughly grateful), and it is hoped this can begin to be implemented next week. The costs and duration much expanded by the additional works.
More information can be found at the Excavation diary on the Avebury Lodge website, EH’s own pages, and many of the news agencies have now picked up on this story, The BBC posted this on Friday after the interviews and the Guardian covered it on the same day.
Silbury still stands and fingers-crossed the rains will abate and work will continue, The situation for the Dinedor Serpent is not so certain.