VILLAGERS in Avebury are pleading with would-be visitors to keep their distance following the easing of lockdown restrictions on travel and exercise..

They fear an increase in coronavirus infections - with one death and several cases already reported in the tiny village.

National Trust car parks and toilets are closed, and as a result, tourists have been seen urinating in the churchyard, the sacred stone circle and in people’s gardens.

Around 360 people live in the villages of Avebury and Avebury Trusloe. Avebury is nestled in the centre of the stone circles with Trusloe less than a mile up the road. Residents say people are coming as far afield as Bristol, Oxford and Reading in increasing numbers.

“We are not saying that people shouldn’t come here, but we want to make them aware that that people do live here, and it is not just a tourist destination,” said Rev. Maria Shepherdson.

“I have seen more and more people come, even since before the Prime Minister relaxed the lockdown restrictions. There were three big groups of cyclists and walking groups, and people start visiting from six o'clock in the morning,” she said. “This makes people who live here very anxious, and we would like visitors to be aware of this.”

“As the parish priest, I hear many people’s concerns. We have a number of elderly people here, and their relatives are concerned. We would like to make people realise this is a living village as well as a beautiful spot to visit.”

Parish Council chairman Stephen Stacey said the National Trust would not be opening any of the car parks or toilets, and that the pub car park was also closed.

“Obviously the site is open access and visitors observing social distancing can come although they need to know that there is nowhere in the village for them to park,” he said.

Avebury, like many rural villages has organised a volunteer task force which is now planning to take turns in sanitising the gates in and out of the stone circle.

One of the volunteers is Natasha Kenyon. “The gates are obviously potential points of infection. We are going out morning and night to see what we can do to sanitise them, but that won’t last for long with the amount of people using them.

“ We hope people realise it is worrying for those here to see so many visitors at this time.”