BREAKING NEWS: Plans for proposed dome to cover Stonehenge from 2021

31 03 2020

Stonehenge is one of the countries most beloved sites, the Neolithic monument becoming a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986. Although many measures have been taken since to protect the ancient stones, the current climate crisis is beginning to take its toll; increased carbon dioxide levels and acid rain have both contributed to the stones’ deterioration.  On top of that, vandalism and even the threat of terrorism has led English Heritage, in partnership with UNESCO, to seek drastic measures for the preservation of the prehistoric wonder:  namely covering the stones with a glass dome.

STONEHENGE GLASS DOME

Stonehenge Dome Architectural Illustration. Copyright Thor Design

The dome is the simplest way to preserve the monument, both protecting the stones from any external threat whilst allowing a nitrogen rich atmosphere to be maintained within the dome, preserving the delicate lichen which grows on the surface of the stones – slowing the rate of decay inexorably. An English Heritage representative excitingly described the project as an attempt to create “the world’s first climate-controlled stone circle”

Proposed Glass Specifications: UV resistant | Water resistant | Wind resistant |EN 1090- 1:2009+A1:2011 Compliant | Polyethylene 140 g/m2 

At this stage various firms are bidding for the project and their exact specifications
differ. An Exeter based architectural firm has proposed ‘a polycarbonate titan arch’, whilst another unnamed bidder has put forward a ‘louvre style pyramid’. The most likely option seems to be the idea put forward by the London based architectural engineering firm PCMR, who specify an ‘Igloo style dome’, designed with a PVC weatherproof cover. PCMR’s patented scratch resistant glass is reportedly ‘perfect’ for the project.

Sources at PCMR say the dome will take nothing away from the viewers experience whilst its “…magnifying properties would also make the stones look bigger from the outside as many tourists are disappointed by the size of the stones”.

However, with conservative estimates of the project getting into the millions, cheaper alternatives may have to be considered. Local councils have suggested more of a ‘gazebo’ style design or even a giant poly tunnel.

The plans have been labelled ‘project snowglobe’- and have summer Solstice organisers are excited by the technological prospects the project could bring to the celebrations. The dome allows for advanced lighting and sound systems to be installed; the Chemical Brothers are already rumoured to be interested in playing the maiden show and tickets could retail from upwards of £100.

Some plans even include adding additional features within the globe. One proposal plans to utilise the climate-controlled environment and plant an elegant orange grove, adding some continental beauty to Neolithic stones as well as the prospect of Wiltshire’s first orange juice vintage. Although the orange grove idea has been met with enthusiasm by residents, suggestions that the giant globe design could also be used for growing herbs has been called a waste of thyme.

However, the glass isn’t all rose tinted.  Representatives of the World Greenhouse Federation (WGF) have registered concerns as to the magnifying capabilities of the proposed dome, releasing a statement that nearby villages such as Amesbury and perhaps even parts of Salisbury could ignite if the sun was to shine on the globe from particular angles. Furthermore, local window cleaning firms have been fervently bidding for the job of cleaning the proposed dome, it being called the biggest job in the industry since the Shard. But things have turned nasty and there have been reports of threats and even of violent clashes between rival firms in the build up to the announcement. On top of that, Salisbury window company, Curt & Rod are disappointed local companies were not contacted and one preeminent Archaeologist claimed the greenhouse idea would be a costly and a real pain.

However, setbacks haven’t stopped the tide of incoming ideas. British Company Vision Express submitted plans for a grand ‘Crystal Palace’ design, however UNESCO dismissed the design and said, ‘we should have gone to Specsavers.’

Let’s hope whoever lands the contract, goes out there and absolutely smashes it.

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WHILST STONEHENGE IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE STONES

20 03 2020

Take an interactive tour of Stonehenge with the 360 degree view from inside the monument. Visit the English Heritage website and click the hotspots to find out more.

There is a also a great panoramic tour inside the stones created by Howard Goldbaum whose website Voices of the Dawn mainly concentrates on the Folklore of Ireland’s Ancient Monuments. Stonehenge virtual inner circle tour.Back in 2010 he spent many sessions taking thousands of photographs inside Stonehenge, when it was closed to the public, which have been ‘stitched’ together to unique set of views of the inner circle. All similar ones we have seen are taken from just one spot, but what makes this unique is that you can take a panoramic view from several different places inside Stonehenge – just choose your viewpoint on the plan in the bottom left hand corner and away you go.

INTERACTIVE MAPS OF THE STONEHENGE LANDSCAPE: Discover what the landscape around Stonehenge has looked like from before the monument itself was first built through to the present day. Move between the four maps to see the Stonehenge landscape at different periods, and open the image windows to find out more about each feature. Click here

Nearby Avebury Stone Circle remains open (from dawn to dusk) for you to enjoy, while observing social distancing measures.

If this has whetted your appetite and you want to go inside Stonehenge and learn more about the other monuments in the surrounding landscape which help explain why the stones are where they are, then have a look at the Stonehenge special access tours 

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STONEHENGE CLOSED FROM 19th MARCH DUE TO COVID-19

18 03 2020

English Heritage and The National Trust are both taking drastic action to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Stonehenge

In what would ordinarily be busy tourism season, visitor numbers have slumped due to the Covid-19 virus

Following the latest government recommendations, English Heritage have taken the decision to close Stonehenge and all their staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March. They will be reviewing this and will keep you updated. Some sites may be opened earlier and they will let you know if this is the case. They will also need to cancel public events during this period. Visit the English Heritage website for more details.

In an email to its members, Kate Mavor the Chief Executive of English Heritage said:

“Following the latest government recommendations, we have taken the decision to close all our staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March until 1st May. We will be reviewing this and will keep you updated. Some sites may be opened earlier and we will let you know if this is the case. We also need to cancel our public events during this period.

Free-to-enter sites will remain open to visitors. These sites have large open spaces in which visitors can maintain social distancing and they are often located in quieter spots away from crowds.

Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of all our Members, visitors, volunteers and staff, and we hope you can understand why we have taken this unprecedented step.

England’s past is full of stories of hope in the face of adversity, and of people coming together to overcome all kinds of challenges.

We look forward to welcoming you at our sites again soon, and we will let you know about our plans for reopening as soon as we are able. Until then, I hope that you and those close to you keep healthy and safe.”

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Stonehenge Spring (Vernal) Equinox 20th March 2020

14 03 2020

The Spring, or Vernal, Equinox is the point at which the sun crosses the equator, returning to the northern hemisphere, the point when day and night are at equal length.  The exact time of the 2020 Spring (Vernal) Equinox is at 03.49am

Stonehenge Vernal Equinox

As the sun returns, bringing with it the prospect of spring and all its light and warmth, where better to witness this celestial dance then amongst the essential beauty of the world’s most famous megaliths.

English Heritage are expected to give a short period of managed open access from approximately 05.45m to 8.00am. Due to the current climate concerning coronavirus we recommend checking the English Heritage website for any updates.

Spring equinox 2020

This is the first of the four ‘sky points’ in our Wheel of the Year and it is when the sun does a perfect balancing act in the heavens. This is the point of the year when once again day and night are equal – 12 hours. The equinox, (the Latin word for Equinox means time of equal days and nights) is only the very moment the sun crosses the equator.

The return of the sun and the promise of spring has always been a cause for celebration.

At the North Pole the sun will blaze for the next 6 months, here the days will elongate. Across the northern hemisphere, across the centuries, our ancestors have rejoiced in celebration at the end of winter. Globally, it is a time of unity between the northern and southern hemispheres as our days hang in perfect balance with one another. Stonehenge’s connection with the stars has ensured it as a hub for equinox celebrations and to this day the celebrations continue.

The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°

For the ancients, as well as today the celebrations welcomed the spring and the end of a harsh winter; this was the time when crops were resewn and the people celebrated the triumph of light over dark, of life over death. The celebrations have always been full of hope and joy – it is even foretold that as the wind and the weather are at the vernal equinox, so they will be for the next few months.

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? The Quarter Festivals and the Druids

Stonehenge and the Druids – who are the Druids?

Visiting Stonehenge this year for the Spring Equinox Celebrations? RESPECT THE STONES

English Heritage –  conditions of entry for ‘Managed Open Access’

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Vernal 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 Spring Equinox tour.  Solstice Events offer small group sunrise tours using local expert guides.

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

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The government has given the go ahead to the controversial Stonehenge tunnel scheme.

12 03 2020

Plans to dig a two-mile (3.2km) road tunnel near Stonehenge have been given the go ahead by the chancellor

Stonehenge tunnel

The A303, which often suffers from severe congestion, currently passes within a few hundred metres of the ancient monument.

The full Budget documents posted on the government website state: “The government is boosting regional connectivity and transforming connections through the largest ever investment in England’s strategic roads.

The announcement made yesterday, (Weds 11th March), quashes rumours that the multi-million pound project was about to be scrapped.

Earlier this week Wiltshire Council came out IN FAVOUR of A303 Stonehenge scheme.

Chancellor pledges A303 tunnel ‘will get done’

“Through RIS2 the government will spend over £27 billion between 2020 and 2025.

“It will take forward schemes such as building a new, high-quality dual carriageway and a two-mile tunnel in the South West to speed up journeys on the A303, and to remove traffic from the iconic setting of Stonehenge.”

In February, campaign group the Stonehenge Alliance amassed more than 50,000 objections to the plans and delivered the petition to Downing Street.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Chancellor pledges A303 tunnel ‘will get done’ SPIRE FM

Government gives go ahead to Stonehenge A303 scheme in Budget – SALISBURY JOURNAL

A-OK Chancellor gives green light to landmark A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme to end traffic nightmare  THE SUN

Stonehenge A303 tunnel given go ahead by chancellor – BBC

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‘Scrapped’ – End of the Road for the Stonehenge Tunnel?

28 02 2020

The proposed plans to ‘upgrade’ the A303, which currently runs within 165 meters of the Neolithic monument, is set to be ‘scrapped’. In the wake of an UNESCO survey which uncovered a plethora of issues which were set to escalate the costs of the build to over £2 billion. The proposal sought to both ease traffic around the monument and improve the environment surrounding the 5,000-year-old the world heritage site by creating a 2-mile-long dual carriageway, within a tunnel, beneath the monument. The projects scrapping sees the end of a 25-year battle and will leave thousands of campaigners feeling triumphant.

Stonehenge Tunnel

When it comes to the initiation and completion of this project there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.

Escalating Cost

In 2018 the budget for the project was a whopping £1.6 billion, a figure that unsettled many MPs at the time. However, due to the rich Neolithic history of the area surrounding Stonehenge, UNESCO conducted an archaeological survey around the area of the proposed tunnel. The survey found significant material, which adds more layers of complexity to the project. With the project already spiralling into a complexity nightmare – with amongst other things, four green bridges, a viaduct, 100 ha of grassland – the additional costs required by the surveys findings pushed costs to over £2 billion, a figure the government is not likely to pay. Ultimately, the decision lies with Grant Schnapps, the secretary of state for transport, who still has time to announce his decision. However, it seems almost certain that the plan will be scrapped by the time the budget is announced on March 11.

Opposition

One group who will be over the moon with the news is the Stonehenge alliance:

A group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site

The group have represented a staunch opposition to the proposed tunnel, regularly siting its archaeological shortfalls, as it says on their website:

All archaeology in the construction zones would be destroyed and the A303 would become the largest ever human intervention in an area fashioned and revered by over a hundred generations of our ancestors.

They will certainly feel vindicated in the light of UNESCO’s survey, proving that archaeological considerations were in fact inadequate in the original plan. Todays announcement comes only a week after Stonehenge alliance gathered over 50,000 signatures for a petition against the project.

However, this might not be an end to the saga. The fact remains that the A303 ‘bottleneck’ around Stonehenge is getting worse and the government are believed to be looking at alternatives to the tunnel. Long serving Salisbury City MP John Glen, a supporter of the proposal, said: ‘Large, strategic infrastructure projects like this are always subject to ongoing controversy and rumour until the final decision is made by government…. I appreciate there is considerable cost accompanying the project but I have always been clear that the alternatives to what have been proposed do not stack up.’

For now this exact plan seems dead in the water, but don’t be surprised if another iteration springs up to replace it.

Relevant links:

Two mile tunnel underneath Stonehenge is set to be scrapped over funding problems after survey uncovered issues that could send costs soaring to £2billion – DAILY MAIL

Stonehenge Tunnel scheme ‘scrapped’  – Salisbury Journal

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Stonehenge and the Druids – who are the Druids?

23 02 2020

Stonehenge’s mysterious beauty affects us all in different ways, but for many it is a sight of genuine religious importance.

Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations

Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations

‘Druids’ is the general term used to refer to this multitudinous group who see Wiltshire’s world heritage site as a place of worship. In reality, Druidic beliefs vary, with different groups including neo-pagans and wiccans. Nonetheless, a whole host of Druidic worshippers converge on Stonehenge for the solstices, equinoxes and beyond. Today, there are over 7,000 members of the British druid order and I wanted to take a look at the history of druidism and its ties with Stonehenge’s arcane monoliths.

History of Druidism

DruidDruids pre-dated the Roman invasion of Britain and in ancient Celtic cultures they were members of highly respected shamanic class. They were typically religious leaders, but also law keepers, chroniclers, doctors, and even political advisors. They were first mentioned in the 2nd century BC in roman sources and were even reported by Julius Caesar in 59 B.C. Druid’s were the arbiters of spirituality in pre-roman Britain and had a deep connection with the lore of the isles.

With first the Roman invasion (Roman religion tended towards assimilation, absorbing deities of other faiths in the hope of conversion) and then the rise of Christianity, Druidism faded into near non-existence. However, something of Druidic traditions remained and was eventually revived.

Two figures of huge importance to the Druidic revival were John Aubrey (1626-1692) and William Stukely (1687-1765). Aubrey was the first to suggest that Stonehenge had been built by Celtic Druids, the most prominent theory on the formation of Stonehenge until the 20th Century. Stukely (also famous for discovering the Cursus and Avenue at Stonehenge), proliferated the theory that Druid’s built Stonehenge and also worked hard to revive the culture, eventually proclaiming himself a Druid. Stukley worked hard to popularise Druidism, reviving pagan lore and dress whilst throwing parties in accordance with ancient beliefs. For Stukley, Stonehenge was a temple of worship – eventually publishing Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids.

The origin of the word ‘Druid’’ is unclear, but the most popular view is that it comes from ‘doire’, an Irish-Gaelic word for oak tree (often a symbol of knowledge), also meaning ‘wisdom’. Druids were concerned with the natural world and its powers, and considered trees sacred, particularly the oak.

Today, the most prominent druid could be said to be a Salisbury Druid by the name of Arthur Uthur Pendragon – who has spent 33 years a Druid. A religious enthusiast, he can be found at every Stonehenge celebration and he also leads campaigns to reduce parking fees and has even run for MP.

IMG_20200111_201224_277

Arthur Pendragon

Druidic Beliefs

From the time of the Celtic Druids, Druidism has had a strong bond with the natural world as well as the cosmos. Although Stukley determinedly linked his version of Druidism with Christianity – dubbing it ‘Patriarchal Christianity’ – Druidism since ancient times has been polytheistic, with different deities existing in the elements around us. The community largely believes that Stonehenge was built by ancient Druids as a place of worship – it being aligned with the midsummer sunrise so perfectly. Stonehenge thus represents the spiritual connection of man and the elements which is intrinsic to the beliefs of the Druid community.

Druids at Stonehenge

Although the 21st century has seen a decline in Druidism, (In the 2001 census 30,569 people described themselves as Druids), the numbers are once again on the rise. Perhaps in a digital age, more and more people are seeking a deeper connection with the elements. A connection that Druidism certainly offers. Who knows? Maybe you too will feel this spiritual connection on your visit to the stones.

Stonehenge and the Druids links:

The Quarter Festivals and the Druidsm – The Stonehenge News Blog
Who were the Druids? History UK
Who Were the Druids? Live Science
A Brief History of Druidry | Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – The Druid Way
Stonehenge and the Druids – Stonehnege News Blog
Druid Leader King Arthur Uther Pendragon, Head of the Loyal Arthurian Warband. The Stonehenge News Blog

Here are links to some of the Druid Orders:

The Ancient Order of Druids – http://www.aod-uk.org.uk
The Druid Order – http://thedruidorder.org
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – http://druidry.org/
The Dolmen Grove – http://www.dolmengrove.co.uk/
The Dorset Grove – http://www.dorsetgrove.co.uk/
The Cotswold Order – http://www.twistedtree.org.uk/
The Loyal Arthurian Warband – http://www.warband.org.uk/
The Stonehenge and Amesbury Druids – http://www.stonehenge-druids.org/
The Gorsedd of Cor Gawr – http://bards.org.uk/
The Glastonbury Order of Druids – http://www.glastonburyorderofdruids.com/

Our sponsors at Stonehenge Guided Tours offer an exclusive opportunity to join the Druids at Stonehenge for the Equinox and Solstice celebrations

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