Fears about the number of visitors a new 45-mile walking route will bring means proposed improvements to some rights of way cannot go ahead.

As a result, a grant offer from the European Union of £27,700 for the scheme linking the World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury has been withdrawn.

The Great Stones Way would run from the Iron Age hill fort of Barbury Castle on the Ridgeway National Trail, past the current end of the trail at Overton Hill near Avebury, along the Avon Valley to Amesbury, to end at historic Old Sarum near Salisbury.

Ian Ritchie, chairman of the Friends of the Ridgeway, said: “If you go back through history, there clearly was a walking route between the two great circles and there are existing rights of way.

“Our interest is what would have been the very original historic route.

“That isn’t a problem on the southern half of the Great Stones Way.

“Everybody here thinks it’s a great idea that will bring tourists, money and jobs in, but there has been stout resistance from some communities in the Vale of Pewsey, who feel there will suddenly be thousands of walkers in their quiet villages.

“We have got sizeable amounts of European money lined up to make improvements to the route, but we’ve effectively been stopped from spending money in the Vale of Pewsey because of local opposition and we’ve needed to have Wiltshire Council’s approval.

“Wiltshire Council are sitting on the fence.”

There are several routes across the Pewsey Vale and the Friends are now looking to work with other partners to develop the route.

Dick Tonge, the council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This walking route has caused considerable controversy, with some communities in favour and some totally against.

“We are considering whether this is an initiative we would be able to support and will be asking the area boards to take a view.”