Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access Arrangements 2019

7 12 2019

Winter Solstice Open Access: Everything you need to know

On December 22nd 2019, to celebrate the winter solstice, Stonehenge’s inner circle is open to the public for one of only four times a year! The Stones were originally constructed in conjunction with the solar calendar – there could hardly be a more important time to be at the ancient landmark. Today, visitors from all over the world congregate to enjoy the event and English heritages policy of open access allows everyone, for this very special occasion, into the inner circle of Stonehenge, to enjoy the sunrise and interact with the monument. To ensure you have the best experience possible, we have collated all the vital information about this year’s event:

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English Heritage is looking forward to welcoming people to Stonehenge to celebrate Winter Solstice on Sunday 22nd December.  Visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely.  Please read the information below before planning your visit. Please visit the English Heritage website for further details

  • DATE AND TIMES

Sunday 22nd December 2019

Stonehenge Respect

RESPECT THE STONES AND EACH OTHER! Click here

The following timings are subject to change. Please do check back nearer the time for the confirmed schedule.

6am: Limited car parking opens
7.45am (approximately depending on light levels): Monument field opens
8.11am: Sunrise
10am: Monument field closes 

Please Note: Due to a ‘Temporary Traffic Restriction Order’ (TTRO) By-ways 11 and 12 will be closed over the Solstice period (18th -23rd December) 

What is the solstice?

Throughout the winter solstice, the earth’s axis is tilted at its furthest point from the sun. In the UK, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. It is both the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Visitors gather to see the sunrise above the stones – an event celebrated at this time of year for thousands of years, there could hardly be a more ideal time to be amidst the sacred monoliths. Entry is completely free!

When Exactly is the Solstice?

The exact time of the Solstice on the 22nd December is 4.19 am. Open access begins at 7:45am and ends at 10:00am. This should give you plenty of time to enjoy the sunrise, appreciate the stones and meet some interesting new people, speaking of which…

Who celebrates the Solstice?

Anyone is welcome to celebrate the winter solstice and as a result it always draws a diverse and friendly crowd. It is an important spiritual occasion for some groups – so you can join a congregation of today’s druid community, including neo-druids, neo-pagans and wiccans – as well as sightseers from all over the globe.

How do you get to the Solstice?

It is possible to drive yourself to the Stones, parking costs £5 or £2 for motorbikes (Stonehenge’s postcode is SP4 7DE for your sat-nav). However, there is no guarantee – once the car park is full there is very little you will be able to do. Luckily, Salisbury Reds is running shuttle bus service, which could relieve you of a potential parking nightmare. The 333 service will run between 6.00am and 6.50am from Salisbury New Canal– with buses returning from Stonehenge between 9.15am and 10.15 am.

The service will also stop at Salisbury Railway Station and Salisbury Street in Amesbury.

Special buses planned for Stonehenge during Winter Solstice – CLICK HERE

PLANNING YOUR JOURNEY

Parking for Winter Solstice is very limited and we cannot guarantee that there will be space in the two Winter Solstice car parks. We strongly recommend car sharing or using public transport.

  • Travel by Bus – Salisbury Reds buses will be running from 6am from Salisbury via Amesbury.

    Organised Tours – If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice celebrations you can join an organised tour.  Use a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company and offer guided tours and transport from London. Solstice Events offer small group Winter  Solstice Tours from Bath using local expert guides.

What should you bring to the Solstice?

The most important thing to remember is that it will likely be very cold and potentially wet! Warm clothing and sensible footwear, a pair of wellies for instance, are essential, last years solstice reached lows of 5 degrees C. Glass, drones, tents and pets (with the exception of guide dogs) are all strictly prohibited.

Ultimately, there really isn’t much you need to bring to enjoy this special occasion – a sense of adventure, a smile and a warm jacket will ensure that you have a wonderful experience. And so for all those venturing to Wiltshire’s finest historical site for this magical, midwinter day, I wish you all the very best!

Access to Stonehenge for Winter Solstice is free and is subject to the Conditions of Entry. Please read these before deciding whether to attend.  Stonehenge is in a field on Salisbury Plain and the weather in December will be cold and wet.  Even if it isn’t raining, the ground will be wet from the dew and there may also be frost. Sensible footwear and warm, waterproof clothing is essential. Please note, parking charges apply

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Links:
What has Stonehenge got to do with the winter solstice? click here
Celebrate Winter Solstice at Stonehenge – Click here
Stonehenge, the Winter Solstice, and the Druids – Click here
Winter solstice 2020: Why do pagans celebrate the shortest day of the year? click here
Special buses planned for Stonehenge during Winter Solstice – CLICK HERE
Respecting the Stones.  Managed Open Access – Click here
Solstice at Stonehenge. From Past to Present. – click here
English Heritage Conditions of Entry – click here

Please help us to create a peaceful occasion by taking personal responsibility and following the Conditions of Entry and guidelines

For traffic, weather and other updates on the morning of the winter solstice, Follow @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @VisitStonehenge @HighwaysEngland @VisitWiltshire @DruidKingArthur @Wiltshirepolice for #WinterSolstice2019

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE STONEHENGE BROADCAST

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Ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list.

30 11 2019

For people across the world- Stonehenge is a must see location, it’s majesty as well as it’s mystery has made it a mainstay on everyone’s bucket list. 

Stonehenge sunset

However, here lies the problem. Is Stonehenge merely a pretty collection of stones which need only be sited to be ticked off the list? There is no doubt that the site itself, taken as it is, is fulfilling. However- the occasion of ticking such a magnificent and ancient spectacle off a list of things to do on this earth before you die, should be done properly. The site and the whole surrounding area deserve more than tentative voyeurism. To truly ‘tick off’ Stonehenge, one must engage with its history its myths and crucially observe the entire  surrounding area which is a veritable tapestry of Neolithic history. A tapestry which considered in its entirety enriches the ultimate site to see- Stonehenge itself. 

I want to take you on a preliminary journey around Neolithic Wiltshire’s most fascinating sites- all a walking distance from the stones, which an expert guide can take you on for a holistic experience- Weaving together the history and myth of this most beautiful landscape.

On ground level-  you and the stones in front of you, it is hard to appreciate anything else. However, imagine you could fly straight up in the air and take a birds eye view- looking down on the ancient henge and its famous stones- so they are a wonderful miniature series of concentric circles…

…then go higher and take in more and more of the landscape and you’ll notice the ground is littered with meaningful scars- tell tale signs that the entire area surrounding Stonehenge has been heaving with meaning for 5,000 years. 

Luckily the wonder of the modern day means we needn’t defy gravity to appreciate the Neolithic saturation of the landscape- a simple satellite picture reveals all the key location you need to visit.

stonehenge-map

Durrington Walls 

Starting 2 miles east of the stones with Durrington walls. This was once a Neolithic settlement and may have even been the largest village in Northern Europe sometime between 2800-2100 B.C.

Woodhenge 

Heading immediately south from Durrington walls we soon will encounter Woodhenge, the elemental antithesis of Stonehenge itself. Sadly, due to the nature of wood,  the former structure has long since rotted away. This ancient site may well have been lost forever if it wasn’t for aerial photographs which revealed dark spots in wheat crops. These dark spots signalled the former post holes of large wooden posts which formed the ancient structure. Today the post holes have been filled with concrete to partially recreate the previous composition of woodhenge. It represents a magnificent symbiosis of past and present, modern techniques ensuring the survival of ancient monuments and their memory and preserve the heritage of Wiltshire .

The Cursus

Around 4000 years ago from our aerial view the Cursus would have been a bright white scar across the land, thanks to wiltshires famously chalky ground. In the Neolithic period the cursus was a 3k avenue cut into the earth for an unknown purpose.

The cursus is so named because the famous antiquarian William Stuckley and the Cursus’ discoverer- imagined roman chariots riding along its length (cursus meaning race course in Latin). Although the earth is no longer dredged along the cursus it still makes a fascinating route to wander along and to ponder, with its purpose still not totally understood

The Cursus group

At the west end of the cursus you might expect to get a good view of the Stonehenge- however your view is blocked. Instead you  are met with the curious view of a ridge of land, topped with a barrow; a Neolithic burial mound. Between the west end of the Cursus and Stonehenge itself lie the ‘Cursus Group’ an assortment of sixteen  of these Neolithic round barrows. The land literally bulges with history at this point- on top of the ridge you can see the land ripple with various barrows as you survey it- before your eyes are drawn magnetically to the stones themselves. But before you reach them it is fascinating to hear the tales of the barrows, how they had once concealed pottery, weaponry and even jewels for thousands of years.

Beyond tales of treasures it is edifying for those who wander the mounds to ponder their ancient logic- for there certainly appears to be a system- but it is yet to be determined. 

Stonehenge Avenue

Heading East from the swollen turf of the Cursus barrows you will intersect the penultimate Neolithic wonder of our imaginary tour. Like the Cursus, Stonehenge Avenue is an ancient Avenue, stretching for 3 kilometres. And like the cursus Stonehenge Avenue would have been an brilliant white scar on the earth- an alabaster pathway connecting Stonehenge with the river Avon. 

Today the avenue is still recognisable, If a slightly more furtive path then it once was but is nonetheless the pathway to the enigmatic stones, linking up with the henge as though drawn on by a higher being.

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Photo taken by Stonehenge Dronescapes. Visit their Facebook Page for more amazing photos of Stonehenge and Wiltshire.

Stonehenge Stone Circle

At last you reach the stones themselves. The colossal upright sarsen stones, rendering you minuscule in comparison- whilst the horizontal blue stones, quarried from South Wales, add the real dimension of wonder to this wonder of the world. The stones are the crowning sight to this antiquarian tour of Wiltshire’s Neolithic sights. 

Words can hardly to this magnificent structure justice and it really must be beheld to be appreciated. What is certain is that the truest appreciation of this cultural icon is ascertained through a thorough engagement with its surroundings- appreciating the wider history and indeed mystery of the land and truly attempting to cast your mind back to the remote past; ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list in the process.

Relevant Stonehenge Links:
English Heritage – Interactive Maps of the Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge Guided Tours – The Stonehenge Touring Experts – click here
National Trust – The Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge – Neolithic / Bronze Age Henge and Stone Circle. Click here
Salisbury and Stonehenge Guided Tours – The local megalithic tour operator – click here
Stonehenge Dronescapesclick here

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Celebrate the stars above Stonehenge this half-term.

11 10 2019

Enjoy a closer look at the relationship between Stonehenge and the skies above the monument this October half term with moon filled family fun.

MOON MAYHEM AT HALF-TERMStonehenge Full Moon

Running throughout the day at the Stonehenge visitor centre, this drop-in activity explores our long held fascination with the moon in a lively show that covers everything from werewolves to Galileo, and from H G Wells to Neil Armstrong – with a lot of fast-paced costume changes.

Families of all ages will enjoy this two-man show, taking place at the Stonehenge visitor centre.

This season of celestial themed events marks the anniversary of the moon landing and the launch of SkyScape,

Saturday 26th October – Sunday 3rd November
No booking required for Moon Mayhem, although advance booking for Stonehenge admission tickets is recommended.  Visit the English Heritage website for full details

Can’t make it to Stonehenge this half term?  You can still soak up the atmosphere thanks to Skyscape, a new feed of the sky above the Stones.  Skygazers from all over the world can experience sunrise over the ancient monument , and see the journey of the moon and stars from within the stone circle any time of the day or night by visiting www.Stonehengeskyscape.co.uk

STONEHENGE AND AVEBURY WORLD HERITAGE SITE, AND ITS ASTRONOMICAL IMPORTANCE: 20th NOVEMBER 2019 – Click here
More English Heritage Stonehenge Events – click here
National Trust Stonehenge Landscape Events – Click here
Guided Tours of Stonehenge from London, Bath and Salisbury – Click here
Solar Astronomy at Stonehenge Blog – Click here

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Stonehenge Autumn Equinox Open Access Arrangements: 23rd September 2019

8 09 2019

THE Autumn Equinox is rapidly approaching as the last days of summer slowly come to an end. English Heritage are expected to offer a short period of access, from first light or safe enough to enter the monument field (approximately 06.30am) until 08:30am on the 23rd September this year.

The Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
The 2019 Autumn Equinox is at 08.50 GMT on the September 23rd
Sunrise will be 6.55am

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Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

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What is the Equinox?

The equinox is when day and night are actually the same length. It happens several days before the spring equinox, and a few days after the autumn one.

The reason day and night are only almost equal on the equinox is because the sun looks like a disk in the sky, so the top half rises above the horizon before the centre, according to the Met Office.

The Earth’s atmosphere also refracts the sunlight, so it seems to rise before its centre reaches the horizon. This causes the sun to provide more daylight than many people might expect, offering 12 hours and 10 minutes on the equinox.

The word ‘equinox’ itself actually mean ‘equal’ (equi) and ‘night’ (nox).

Respecting the Stones
The conditions of entry for the Managed Open Access.  Click here

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Autumn Equinox and do not have transport you can join a specialist organised small group tour.  Use a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions of entry.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company offering award winning discreet tours from London and Bath – click here for their exclusive Autumn Equinox tour. Solstice Events offer small group sunrise tours using only local expert guides.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for Equinox updates and Stonehenge news
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Stonehenge monoliths may have been dragged there using greasy sledges lubricated with pig fat

21 07 2019

This new theory is based on pig fat residue on ancient pottery found near the famous monument and fits in with the generally accepted concept that the monoliths were dragged by people all the way from quarries in west Wales.

Stonehenge

Archaeologist Lisa-Marie Shillito say residues of fat on pottery discovered near the monument suggest Neolithic people greased the sleds used to move the huge stones with lard.

  • Scientists claim the enormous stones were dragged using ‘greased sledges’
    Newcastle University archaeologists found fat residues on shards of pottery
    They suggest the same lard could have been used to lubricate the sledges

The pig fat concept was proposed by researchers from Newcastle University after they studied pottery found at Durrington Walls, a Neolithic settlement that is just a couple of miles away from Stonehenge.

According to Science magazine’s Eva Frederick, archaeologists previously posited that the high concentrations of lard left in bucket-sized ceramic containers at the prehistoric village resulted from elaborate feasts hosted by Stonehenge’s builders. Shillito believes otherwise, arguing that the size and shape of the pottery make it better suited for storing animal fat than cooking and serving meals. Additionally, the archaeologist notes in a statement from Newcastle, “The animal bones that have been excavated at the site show that many of the pigs were ‘spit roasted’ rather than chopped up as you would expect if they were being cooked in the pots.”

Analysis of residues of absorbed fat is a widely-used technique which can reveal what foods different type of pottery was used for. There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the construction of Stonehenge’, she says.

‘Until now, there has been a general assumption that the traces of animal fat absorbed by these pieces of pottery were related to the cooking and consumption of food, and this steered initial interpretations in that direction.

‘But there may have been other things going on as well, and these residues could be tantalising evidence of the greased sled theory.

‘Archaeological interpretations of pottery residues can sometimes only give us part of the picture.

‘We need to think about the wider context of what else we know and take a ‘multi-proxy’ approach to identify other possibilities if we hope to get a better understanding.’

RELEVANT LINKS TO THIS STORY:

ROCK SLIDE Stonehenge builders may have ‘dragged rocks into place on sledges greased up with PIG FAT –  THE SUN

Did Stonehenge’s Builders Use Lard to Move Its Boulders Into Place? SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

STONEHENGE: NEOLITHIC PEOPLE MOVED ENORMOUS ROCKS USING PIG FAT FOR LUBRICATION, ARCHAEOLOGIST SAYS – THE NEWS WEEK

Stonehenge was ‘dragged into position using LARD’: Massive stones of the 5,000-year-old Wiltshire monument may have been slipped into place using ‘greased sledges’ lubricated with pig fat – THE DAILY MAIL

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The first-ever scale model of Stonehenge that lets researchers explore how the monument would have sounded in its heyday has been created by UK researchers.

12 07 2019

Scientists turn to ‘laser accurate’ model to test Stonehenge acoustics

A diminutive model of Stonehenge could help crack the acoustic secrets of the ancient site, according to scientists who have built a version of the megaliths at a 12th of their size.

sonic

The team say the 1:12 model, with a stone circle spanning 2.6 metres, has an edge over other replicas of Stonhenge, such as the full-scale one near Maryhill,Washington, for being based on laser scan data. The data collected by Historic England allowed the team to produce a highly accurate representation.

Academics worked with English Heritage using laser scans of the stones and architectural research to create the shape and position of the stones in an acoustic chamber.

In 2012, a team of academics carried out acoustic experiments using a full-sized concrete reconstruction of the monument in Maryhill in the United States.

RELATIVE LINKS: 
Scientists turn to ‘laser accurate’ model to test Stonehenge acoustics.  THE GUARDIAN
Stonehenge mini model reveals sound of monument.  BBC NEWS

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The Quarter Festivals and the Druids

9 07 2019

Public access to Stonehenge currently takes place on four of the so-called ‘quarter festivals’. What exactly are the quarter festivals? And why are these occasions so celebrated by the Druids?

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

Quarter festivals are sets of four dates that divide the year into four equal quarters. The dates when Stonehenge has open access to the public are the solar quarter festivals, defined by the movements of the sun. The summer and winter solstices (usually 21 June and 21 December) are the days when the noontime sun is, respectively, highest and lowest in the sky and so the hours of daylight are, respectively, their longest and their shortest. The spring and autumn equinoxes (usually 21 March and 21 September) are the dates when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west and so the night and day are of equal length. These observable facts about the sun in the sky have made these points in the calendar sacred times in cultures all over the world – including at Stonehenge, whose axis is aligned to the directions of summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset.

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

But there’s another set of quarter festivals – fitting in between the solar festivals – that were celebrated by the ancient Celts. They’re known as ‘lunar festivals’ because they were determined by the full moon. They didn’t fall on regular calendar dates like the solar festivals, since the cycles of the moon don’t match exactly with the calendar of the year defined by the sun’s movements (in reality the earth’s orbit around the sun). However, in modern usage these four originally lunar festivals have gained fixed calendar dates. Using the Irish terminology, the two most important are Samhain (31 October) and Beltane (1 May), which divide the year into summer and winter halves. The other two are Imbolc (1 February) and Lughnasa (1 August).

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The fixing of their dates links these four festivals to the corresponding Christian festivals and names by which they’re best known in English. Imbolc has become St Brigid’s Day, and the following day, 2 February, is Candlemas. Lughnasa corresponds to the harvest festival of Lammas. Samhain has become Halloween, the eve of All Saints’ Day, also known as Hallowmas. Of the four festivals, Beltane – May Day in English – has perhaps best preserved its pagan origins in the perennial customs of maypoles and may queens, although in modern times it has gained a new significance as Labour Day, the holy day of socialism.

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The lunar festivals were also called ‘fire festivals’ because the ancient Celts celebrated

them with bonfires. The establishment of Bonfire Night on 5 November shifted the fires of Halloween by a few days and attached to them a new political significance. In my view, it’s high time that British custom got over its symbolic need to demonise Roman Catholics (as represented by Guy Fawkes) and moved the bonfires back to Halloween where they belong. In Celtic – especially Irish – tradition there are many stories associated with the lunar festivals, especially with Samhain, when the veil between this world and the otherworld is very thin – a great opportunity for adventures back forth between the worlds.

 

Modern Druids conduct ceremonies on the four lunar festivals in the tradition of the ancient Celts. They also conduct ceremonies on the four, more universal, solar festivals. This makes a total of eight quarter festivals that provide the backbone of the Druids’ sacred calendar. It is thanks to modern Druids’ custom of doing ceremony at Stonehenge on the solar festivals that public access has been negotiated on those days. I understand that the Druids are also conducting ceremonies near Stonehenge on the lunar festivals too, in order to establish a custom of religious usage in this location which they hope in time will enable public access on these four dates as well.

Article by guest blogger and author/storyteller Anthony Nanson.  Sponsored by Stonehenge Guide Tours

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