Bryan builds his own henge

25 06 2010

IT’S Hampshire’s own answer to Stonehenge.

Bryan builds his own henge
Bryan builds his own henge

Alone in a rural setting stands an eerie circle of stones, each painstakingly positioned in such a way as to celebrate the earth’s natural calendar.

But, unlike the world-famous monument on Salisbury Plain, it took just one person to build this modern version.

The 24 stone towers are made out of fly-tipped waste and they have been erected over a decade by a man fascinated with Britain’s ancient history.

Bryan Raines started his Millennium Circle in 2000, each year arranging the monuments in line with specific times in the year such as summer and winter solstice and the spring equinox.

The circle, in Bryan’s field near Awbridge Village Hall, surrounds a barrow constructed of soil.

The 55-year-old conservationist believes the site lies on an ancient ley line running from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Wight.

Bryan, who lives in Michelmersh, said: “I was in the process of collecting builder’s rubbish that I had accumulated and I thought I would use it for a stone circle.

“Some of the stones are between five and six feet high but, unfortunately, cows keep knocking them over.

“I’ve ended up with a sort of 24-hour sundial. It’s a good 50 metres across.

“I’m quite proud of it, actually. I have had quite a few people who were surprised about it.”

The lowdown on ley lines

Some people believe sites of geographical interest and ancient monuments and megaliths are connected by straight lines, known as ley lines.

Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist, Alfred Watkins, in his book, The Old Straight Track.

Those who believe in them think that the lines and their intersection points resonate a special psychic or mystical energy.

Watkins believed that, in ancient times, when Britain was far more densely forested, the country was crisscrossed by a network of straight-line travel routes on which prominent landmarks were used as navigation points.

Since then, ley lines have become the subject of magical and mystical theories.

Two British dowsers, Captain Robert Boothby and Reginald A. Smith, of the British Museum, linked the appearance of ley lines with underground streams and magnetic currents. HisTOUries UK offer guided tours of Stonehenge and Avebury abd demonstrate the ancien art of dowsing.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Celebrations at Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2010

22 06 2010

About 20,000 revellers were at Stonehenge to mark the Summer Solstice, each hoping to see the sun as it rose above the ancient stone circle at dawn.

Police described the event on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire as one of the safest in years, although 34 people were arrested for minor drug offences.

Sunrise, marking the longest day of the year north of the equator, occurred over the circle at 0452 BST.

The Heel Stone, just outside the main circle, aligns with the rising sun.

Peter Carson from English Heritage said: “It has been quieter this year but it’s been a great solstice.

‘Monday morning’

“It’s an improvement on the last few years – the last time I remember seeing the sun rise was in 2003 – so it’s great to see the sun has put in an appearance.

“This year there are about 20,000 people and last year it was about 35,000 – so that is quite a bit down which has meant the operation is a lot easier. ”

He said two years ago the solstice happened early on a Saturday and about 30,000 people attended.

He added: “I think the days of the week do make a considerable difference to the number of people who come along – this year it’s a Monday morning.

Pagan roots

“The people who are streaming out now – a lot of them are going to work.”

Victoria Campbell, 29, was among those marking the solstice.

She said: “It means a lot to us…being British and following our pagan roots.”

The Londoner, who works in the finance industry, added “getting away from the city” was a major draw.

On Sunday police chiefs said they had planned for “all eventualities” ahead of the event.

Last year a record 36,500 revellers attended, causing traffic chaos and road closures.

Merlin @ Stonehenge

The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Building a 20ft man for summer solstice at Stonehenge

22 06 2010

The massive steel Ancestor is over 20 feet tall and weighs in at an impressive six tonnes

For the last six months, like Dr Frankenstein, a married couple have been building a man – a 20-feet man in a barn a stone’s throw from Stonehenge. In Pictures: Solstice Giant at Stonehenge Reaching to the rafters, of a massive hangar, and weighing in just shy of an African bull elephant – he’s a monument in the making and the creation of Andy and Michelle Rawlings. “He’s very big,” admits Andy. “He’s as big as a double-decker bus and at least 20 feet on his knees. Shaped by eye the giant not only has a four-pack but a pot belly as well “And he’s going to weigh about six tonnes, when he’s finished. So, yeah he’s quite a chunk of metal.” ‘Quite a chunk of metal’, needless to say, is a bit of an understatement. Not only will this giant steel man dwarf a double-decker bus, by at least six feet, but his glittering mosaic of steel plates is a far cry from a hunk of a metal. Wielding plasma cutters and welders – Andy and Michelle, who found herself metal working after a ‘spectacular mid-life crises’, have not only cut their way through miles of steel plate. More miles then either say they’d liked to have actually walked. But painstakingly welded thousands of randomly cut steel pieces on to a super-sized steel frame in a colossus of a jigsaw. ‘Thierry Henry goal celebration’ “I’ve had to remove his crotch to give me access through there,” admits Andy, “it will be a removable panel. “It’s not the best entry point in the world but it’s got to be done.” Working with their heads, where even the solstice sun doesn’t shine, both Michelle and Andy have spent nine months creating their giant. An ancient-looking man who, both hope, will represent everyone’s ancestor on his knees in praise of the sun. “What we tried to do with his position,” says Michelle, “is to actually capture the very moment the sun comes up and he’s dropped to his knees in thanks. Andy is hoping that they’ll be able to fly him in by helicopter “One lad saw him and immediately said: ‘Thierry Henri goal celebration’ – it’s that moment that we’ve tried to create with him and hopefully we’ve pulled it off.” Created and shaped by eye, ‘in the old fashioned way’, without a computer or a CAD programme in sight – the Ancestor has, according to Michelle, had to evolve. And he’s evolved with slightly less then a six-pack. “Well he’s got a four pack and a little bit of a pot belly,” laughs Michelle, “in honour of the Great British pot belly. “We think the way he’s been built and where he’s been built really is a salute to the Great British shed heads – that do these mad projects in their sheds and pull it of. We salute them.” For Sale And like the Great British shed heads, Michelle and Andy have had to dig deep into their own pockets to create him. But with just weeks to go, before sun-up on the longest day, and just two gargantuan arms and hands to finish, the couple are hoping that they’ve found a buyer in Amesbury. “Hopefully the owner of the Holiday Inn will like him,” says Andy. “He’s been good enough to allow us to put him in front of his hotel for sale – with an option for him to buy. For Sale: the Ancestor is up for sale for an undisclosed amount “And he’s going to be in a very prominent position so that most people will be able to view him down the A303. So hopefully he’ll become our Angel of the South.” But with transportation arrangements having to include chopping him in half, a giant crane and a gang – Andy is hoping his ‘Angel of the South’ might actually take to the wing. “I would like to think we could fly him in by helicopter” says Andy. “but we’ve got to speak nicely to the Army for that. “But it would be nice and I would be very happy for him to be 100 foot up in the air.” But before the giant ancestor heads to Solstice park, or is spotted in the skies over Amesbury, he’s making a stop-off at Stonehenge just in time for sun-up on the longest day. But how will Stonehenge’s largest sarsen stone measure up to the 20ft steel man? And, despite the traditional lack of actual sun at solstice, will the massive sculpture overshadow the ancient monument? “No,” says Michelle. “We’re hoping to enhance. We’re not trying to compete. “We want to enhance the Stonehenge experience and just give people the opportunity to think about where we’ve actually come from and what a proud race we are.”

Merlin & Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Glasgow Megalith – astronomer bids to rejuvenate stone circle

7 06 2010

It was created in the late 1970s to mirror the rise and fall of the moon and sun across Glasgow on a site of ancient astronomical interest.

Now efforts are being made to rejuvenate the Sighthill Stone Circle, created by amateur astronomer and science writer Duncan Lunan, who brought Britain’s first authentically alligned stone circle in more than 3000 years to Glasgow’s inner city.

More than 30 years later, Lunan hopes to revive interest in the stone circle, which was built by the Glasgow Parks Astronomy Department using funds from the former Jobs Creation Scheme.

When money for the project was abruptly scrapped by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, four pieces of stone never made it to the circle and are now stashed under a nearby bush in Sighthill Park. It is hoped the circle can now be completed as Lunan intended.

At the stones yesterday, Lunan said: “There is still nothing up here to say who built the circle, who it was built for or how it works. I have been told that nowadays children are afraid of it, that they think it is linked to black magic, that sort of thing. That is something I want to change.”

The site of the stones may not at first seem a likely spot of spiritual significance given that they are surrounded by 1960s tower blocks, acres of plain parkland and a belching incinerator.

Built on a hilltop with dramatic views across the city, they incorporate the line of the midsummer sunset across the city, which is historically mapped by Dobie’s Loan from the neolithic site, where Glasgow Cathedral now sits, to Summerhill.

It was here where midsummer parties were held to celebrate the sun at its highest and most powerful, where bonfires were lit to hail the light and ward off evil spirits believed to roam freely as the sun turned southwards again. The Pagan-style parties continued until the 17th century, when they were halted by the church.

Lunan would like to revive the celebrations of the midsummer sunset at Sighthill, with a gathering planned for the night of June 21.

Whereas in Neolithic times stone circle creators would take 100 years to observe the movement of the moon, the earth and the light of the sun, Lunan had a matter of months to work out the necessary co-ordinates on his New Stone Age calendar.

“Getting the precision right was the really hard part. And the winters of 1978 and 1979 were really terrible too, you could hardly see a thing,” he said.

Photographs and astronomical graphs gave Lunan and his colleagues the necessary guide with the last of the 17 stones lowered into place by an RAF helicopter from HMS Gannet.

“The moon stones were too big to be brought by helicopter so it was the sun stones and the star stones that came by air. That was a hell of a day,” he said.

At first the project was to build a replica Stonehenge and Callanish Stones using modern materials, but given the significant astronomical setting it became a true stone circle of which Lunan remains proud.

He built it in tribute to four academics at Glasgow University who are responsible for the promotion and understanding of ancient astronomy; Professor Archie Roy, Dr Ewan McKay, Professor Alexander Thom and his son, Dr Archie Thom. “It started with Alexander Thom who, between the two world wars, was inspired by the falling moon over the Callanish Stones,” Lunan said.

“He became convinced that they used astronomy and mathematics on an advanced scale.”

The work was continued by his son and explored further by McKay and Roy.

“This was at a time when most archaeologists wouldn’t go near this stuff, claiming that primitive society was not capable of such understanding. It is very fitting that this stone circle is in Glasgow, as a tribute to them.”

Lunan would ultimately like the stone circle to be a key feature of a city-wide astronomy map, with the entire solar system represented on the correct scale within the city limits. If the stone circle represented the sun, Pluto would be at Cathkin Braes, Lunan said.

An illustrated talk on the Sighthill Stone Circle will be held at the Ogilve Centre, St Aloysius Church, Rose Street, Glasgow, on Monday June 21, followed by a visit to the circle for midsummer sunset from 9.30pm to 10pm.

The stone festivals

Stonehenge: The axis of Stonehenge in Wiltshire is aligned with sunrise at the summer solstice. Druids and other Pagans have gathered here at different points in history to celebrate the longest day of the year. Because of clashes with police in the 1980s, ceremonies were banned until 2001.

Callanish: The prehistoric site on Lewis has become a focus of summer solstice celebrations. According to local legend, the “shining one” walks up to the stone on the midsummer dawn. A path has been laid around the perimeter by Historic Scotland to lessen the damage caused by visitors.

Cornwall: The Golowan Festival is held on June 23, the eve of St John’s Day. Bonfires, feasting and merrymaking define the celebration. The streets of Penzance were traditionally lined with burning tar barrels and fires blazed on nearby hills but these were scaled back for safety reasons.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

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