Stonehenge : a photo-essay.

I recently spent a week touring central southern England in my camper van and one of the locations I visited was Stonehenge in Wiltshire. I had only seen the stones once before; I believe I may have been to a free festival there in my youth but that might be my imagination! I do recall that I had been expecting the stones to be larger than they in fact are. I gather this is a common misconception, and may be due to the ability of photographers to compress the perspective of the scene using telephoto lenses.

Entry to the visitor centre and monument costs a staggering £21.50: it is a real cash-cow for English Heritage. However it is possible to get close-ish without paying by using the remains of the A344 which passed the stones on the northern side. Although the road has now been grassed over it appears that a right of way on foot has been retained. A wire fence is all that separates the viewer from the grassland surrounding the stones.

The weather on my visit was clear and still at dawn rapidly clouding over and becoming very cold with a northerly wind and showers.
Between the showers the light was dramatic.
From certain angles the visitor infrastructure surrounding the stones was very evident.
Security guards patrol the site 24/7.
About 5 a.m. I was woken by voices outside my van. Then laughter and dogs barking. I hurriedly got dressed and put on my best Mr. Angry voice. What do you think you’re doing at this time in the morning etc, etc……? It turned out they were celebrating Beltane (even though it was four days previously …..) and it had to be done just there. It’s the alignments, man …. It was a bit of a grumpy interlude all round but I soon saw the funny side of it. I hope they did.
It was a lovely morning, though, and skylarks were singing their little hearts out overhead.
The travellers were living in vans about a quarter of a mile away. This one had been burnt out a couple of nights earlier. I met the couple whose prized possession it was. He blamed himself for the fire and she was in tears, having lost everything she owned.
Jackdaws are nesting in crevices between the stones.

Until the closure of the A344, the stones were within the fork of that road and the A303 to the south. For many years there have been plans to divert the A303 away from the site and recently a £1.7 billion plan was approved for it to pass underground in a two-mile long tunnel. That would seem to a layman like myself to be an expensive but reasonable solution. However the Stonehenge monument is only part of a much larger historical landscape of world-class importance. Archaeologists believe that a tunnel would need to be about 5 miles long to avoid damage to the outer sections of the site. A protest camp has already been set up and a judicial review is under way to decide on the matter, but I can’t help feeling we have not heard the last of this one!

Viewing the stones even from a respectable distance I did feel that they gave off far more of a presence than I had felt all those years ago.

After about twenty-four hours around the Stonehenge I hit the road again. I’ll write about the rest of my trip shortly.

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