Taking a hike along the pylons at the North Wessex Downs Walking Festival

National Grid team swaps hard hats for walking boots

Members of National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (VIP) project team swapped hard hats for walking boots on Saturday 18th June leading two walks over the Wiltshire downs as part of the North Wessex Downs 50th Anniversary Walking Festival.

Lead Project manager, Ben Smith and External Affairs manager Lizzie Horne led 25 enthusiastic ramblers in two walks over Roundway Hill north of the market town of Devizes. The walks gave excellent views of the 4.5km and up to 13 pylons which will be removed and replaced with underground cable as part of National Grid’s VIP project in England and Wales.

Along the way the team stopped at key vantage points to explain how work would be done and the extensive archaeological and ecological work was that will be carried out as part of the project. The site runs across the historic Roundway Down Civil War battle site, where the Royalists defeated the Parliamentarians.

Early archaeological surveys have already revealed a number of Civil War artefacts as well as Romano British features and some neolithic pits to the east of the proposed work site near Horton Road. There is much more archaeology to come over this year and next and the National Grid team is working closely with the Wiltshire County Archaeologist and Historic England to plan the work.

As well as archaeology, the walkers discussed local ecology and the measures that would be undertaken to minimise impact during the works and enhance biodiversity both onsite and in the wider area afterwards.

The area is very popular with ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists alike and National Grid will aim to keep public rights of way including the White Horse Trail and Mid Wilts Way open throughout the works, with diversions only required to a footpath off Horton Road.

Ben Smith, National Grid VIP Lead Project Manager added, “It’s great to get out with members of the public and tell them about our plans, especially in such a beautiful landscape. We can’t wait to get started in transforming this wonderful area by taking the pylons down. We are working very closely with the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership on the project and were delighted that its Director, Henry Oliver was also able to join us.”

Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership said, “The North Wessex Downs is a landscape protected for 50 years for its natural beauty and distinctive character. National Grid’s excellent work putting cables underground will really help keep this landscape special, and create a fantastic opportunity to enhance the downland ecology.”

National Grid expects to submit a planning application for the work to Wiltshire Council during the summer with survey work due to start in full next year and construction in 2024. The pylons should then be ready for removal once the underground circuit is in place in 2025 / 26.