An old agricultural tunnel has been opened so that walkers and horse riders can cross under the busy A361 dual carriageway near Bishops Cannings.

Three short new public rights of way have been created, linking with the Wansdyke Path, the White Horse Trail, Wessex Ridgeway and Kennet and Avon Canal towpath.

It is thought the tunnel was built in the late 1960s when the A361 was dualled, allowing West End Farm to reach land on the other side.

Bishops Cannings Parish Council clerk Eric Clark and tenant farmer Cameron Naughton had been discussing the project for 12 years but did not have the funds to carry it out until they heard of the Paths For Communities scheme. It gave a grant of £13,000 and Bishops Cannings Parish Council gave £1,000.

As well as funding from Paths For Communities, administered by Natural England, the scheme needed the permission of landowner the Crown Estate and Mr Naughton.

Engineering work has been carried out to create a ramp for horses and mounting blocks are installed at both ends of the tunnel to allow riders to lead horses through.

Mr Clark said: “ It’s great to have the tunnel open. Stonepit Hill (on the opposite side of the A361) is a wonderful area and hardly ever used as it was so inaccessible.”

Mr Naughton said before the tunnel was opened up he was always concerned about ramblers crossing the A361.

“It was jolly dangerous. Now people don’t have to dice with the dual carriageway,” he said.

The new rights of way will go on the Ordnance Survey map for the area.