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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Bluestone bill sunk in balance sheet
stone
Volunteers could not save the bluestone project
A local authority which hoped to mark the millennium by re-creating a Stonehenge-era odyssey has been landed with a five-figure bill for the project, which ended in farce.

The millennium bluestone project was an ambitious plan in April 2000 to replicate the journey of a giant stone from the Preseli mountains in west Wales to Salisbury Plain, by land and sea.

But the scheme, which tried to use only muscle power and the technology of the ancients, ended in disaster when the stone sank off the Welsh coast last year.

Engineers help bring the ill-fated project back from the sea
Engineers helped bring the ill-fated stone back from the seabed

The funding of the scheme, which attracted up to 1,000 volunteers, has now been finalised, leaving Pembrokeshire County Council with a tab of 10,000.

The National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, the main sponsor of the project, set aside up to 100,000 to complete the project.

Stonehenge's creators are thought to have transported the bluestones from Preseli 240-miles by land and sea in order to build the monument's inner circle.

However, the ill-fated new millennium adventure to re-enact the 4,000-year-old feat managed only 17 miles.

It was in trouble from the start when volunteers found they could not haul the four-tonne stone as fast along modern roads as their Celtic counterparts could over that age's much wilder landscape.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge: the stone's proposed destination

But the worst moment came when the stone was being rowed across the Bristol Channel on two replica ancient boats - and slipped into the sea.

It was later retrieved by navy divers but the ambition to continue had to be abandoned when insurance cover could not be found for a repeat seaward journey.

Since then, the body running the scheme, Pembrokeshire council's rural development initiative, Menter Preseli, has been wound up to make make way for a new agency.

Funding for the failed project has come under criticism as people have sought to find out how much the episode has cost the west Wales local authority.

It has now emerged that the Heritage Lottery Fund has paid 53,000 towards the scheme's overall cost, leaving Pembrokeshire to find the remaining 10,000.

It is thought Menter Preseli had around 50,000 in its reserves when it was wound up.

The bulk of that money has gone to its successor organisation.

Permanent home

A spokeswoman for Pembrokeshire council said the difference between the bill for the bluestone project and the Heritage Lottery Fund contribution amounted to an alternative interpretation of how the salaries of Menter Preseli staff should be taken into account.

She said the authority would have met Menter Preseli's salary costs whether the staff were working on the bluestone project or not.

The stone, currently lying at Milford Haven quayside, is due to be given a permanent home.

Several requests to house it have been made including one from Mynachlogddu Community Council to return it to its starting place in the Preseli mountains.

Plans to install the stone in a museum in Wexford in Ireland are also under consideration.

Meanwhile an application to house the monument at Oakwood Leisure park in Pembrokeshire has also been received.

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