Calls for Stonehenge to be lit up at night to capitalise on its appeal have been resisted by experts who claim it would spoil enjoyment of the prehistoric Wiltshire monument.
I was listening to this discussion on Radio 2 (Chris Evans) this morning so thought I would share this article by Andy Bloxham in the Telegraph today
After years of little progress, a multi-million-pound development plan was recently adopted to improve the site, which abuts the busy A303.
However, some people believe more could be done to ensure that Stonehenge can be appreciated around the clock.
They suggest the ancient stone circle could be lit at night “like the pyramids in Egypt or Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome”.
The discussion became a national debate when Lady Mimi Pakenham, of Warminster, in Wiltshire, raised it in a newspaper.
She said: “The magic of Stonehenge could be shared every evening with all who pass, many of whom can’t afford a ticket, just as it was a magical place thousands of years ago, sometimes with the Moon and clouds shining as well.
With subtle lighting sunk well out of view and endless possibilities of solar energy, the monumental power of ancient man’s achievement in another age would inspire all who pass by.
“Perhaps in depressing times a cocktail of cost-free magic is the very least we can expect from the guardians of the national heritage.”
However, some archaeologists disagreed.
Clive Ruggles, a professor of archaeoastronomy – the study of how ancient cultures understood the sky, said seeing Stonehenge alongside the stars was a key part of its appeal.
He said: “Stonehenge is iconic of the connections between ancient monuments and the sky, not only with strong connections to the annual cycles of the Sun but also very likely to the Moon and stars.
“Lighting up the monument would cut the visual connection between the monument and the starry night sky at a stroke.”
A number of groups, including the Royal Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union, have been working alongside English Heritage for several years to try to preserve as dark a night sky as possible in the area.
They have also been exploring ways in which “night tourism” might be permitted and encouraged in the future, Prof Ruggles said.
However, the debate is likely to only make the ongoing struggle to acceptably improve the site more knotted.
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