Stonehenge enjoys a moment in the sun at summer solstice

21 06 2012
Crowds at Stonehenge at dawn for the summer solstice. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

Crowds at Stonehenge at dawn for the summer solstice. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

As worshippers and revellers descend, the Wiltshire landmark is thriving – inspiring bouncy art and more wild theories than ever

In the 1930s there was an advertisement for an oil company that went: “Stonehenge Wilts, but Shell goes on forever.” In 2012, with oil supplies falling and the remnants of the iconic slabs indomitable on the windswept plains of Wiltshire, the truth is surely otherwise.”The stones themselves still stand, enduring in a society which is not,” argues Christopher Chippindale, of the University of Cambridge’s museum of archaeology and anthropology, who is also author of the book Stonehenge Complete. Today the World Heritage’s foremost lintelled sarsen structure is not just enduring but thriving, spawning more academic research, wild theorising, bouncy art, and pagan robe sales than ever.

Just consider some of the Stonehenge activities that will take place in the next few weeks. At sunrise on Thursday, the 14,500 transcendence questing druids and varied revellers may have been outnumbered only by world weary media drones as they tried to celebrate the summer solstice at the 4.52am sunrise (ideally in line with English Heritage’s stringent Conditions of Entry document, which might be downloaded by socially responsible pagans). Heavy rain overnight reduced the number of people who camped out or arrived early to witness the dawn compared with previous years, which have seen numbers of around 20,000.

And in Wales there was also a chance to get excited about mid-summer – for Stonehenge’s inflatable simulacrum has arrived at the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthenshire. Although the rain may have dampened spirits.

Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, first placed in public on Glasgow Green, will be inflated to pop up in the capital as part of what sceptics would call that oxymoron the Cultural Olympiad.

Is there anything more fun than a 35-metre bouncy castle that looks like Stonehenge, you ask? Not until they make a bouncy Warwick Castle with water slide into a moat laced with gin, I reply.

What is Deller, the Turner prize-winning artist, up to? “It’s a very entry-level way into thinking about ancient history for five-year-olds,” he says. True, but several bouncing Glaswegians were at least 45 years older than that target demographic. “It’s good to play with our history and culture. Stonehenge is part of British identity but no one knows what it was for.”

Good point. Ever since King Arthur’s dad, Utherpendragon, invaded Ireland, defeated an army and shipped Stonehenge from Ireland to Salisbury with the help of the wizard Merlin, the stones have sunk themselves ever deeper into British national consciousness.

In chapter 58 of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, for instance, slimy Angel Clare and the dopey heroine are walking fugitively through darkling Wessex when “on a sudden, Clare became conscious of some vast erection close in his front [Oh grow up!], rising sheer from the grass … ‘It is Stonehenge!’ said Clare. ‘The heathen temple, you mean?'”

Tess lies down on a sun-warmed stone. “‘Did they sacrifice to God here?’ asked she. ‘No,’ said he. ‘Who to?’ ‘I believe to the sun. That lofty stone set away by itself is in the direction of the sun that will presently rise behind it.'”

Victorians wrote yards of this stuff: anybody who was anybody in 19th-century fiction got arrested, died, or got it on on those stones.

Incidentally, if you are Irish and thinking that the paragraph above suggests Stonehenge is like the Elgin Marbles and should be repatriated immediately, think again; according to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s marvellously unreliable 12th-century History of the Kings of Britain (the leading medieval account of Stonehenge’s origin), Irish giants transported the stones from Africa to Ireland earlier and used them as a curative bath until they were nicked by King Arthur’s dad.

Part of Stonehenge’s appeal is that it’s a riddle wrapped in mythology, swathed in druidical vestments and draped in a dodgy, if grand, relationship to the cosmos. Over the millennia, intellectuals have cast it as vast cosmic clock wound up by woad-daubed neolithic nudists (a theory embellished recently by archaeologists at Birmingham University’s Ludwig Boltzman Institute).

Other thinkers, like the 17th -century architect Inigo Jones, maintained ancient Britons were too thick to have created such a sophisticated edifice, and concluded it must have been Roman.

Today we aren’t sure who built it or why. Was it a burial ground, a magnet for crusty rave-ups, a sacred zone where our bearded forebears chillaxed old school, or a mystic portal to the celestial superhighway?

“Stonehenge sets a puzzle that has never been solved,” notes Chippindale.

Could Stonehenge have functioned as a helipad for Lord Sugar’s neolithic ancestors? It’s not impossible. More likely it resembled a lecture theatre with uncomfortable seating and no power sockets. Archaeo-acoustic researchers at Salford and Huddersfield universities suggested as much recently after examining the 5,000-year-old-structure’s acoustic properties.

Their work, at the site and at a concrete replica in Washington, indicates that Stonehenge had the sort of acoustics desirable in a lecture hall.

It wasn’t only the sight of Stonehenge that would have blown ancient visitors away.

Bruno Fazenda, professor at the University of Salford, says: “As they walked inside they would have perceived the sound environment around them had changed in some way.” Lucky them: all you can hear nowadays is the traffic howl from the A303.

Ever since those ancient days of magic stones shipped from Ireland, Stonehenge has satisfied a yearning among the citizens of these lands for mystic grandeur. That yearning will be kindled in July when the flaming French move in to Stonehenge.

Compagnie Carabosse will turn the site into a “fire garden” with flaming pots animating the stones, and cascades of candles lining the pathways. Think: rows of tea lights running down your garden path as you sink a sundowner, but much, much, more poncy.

Shortly afterwards, in the culmination of Stonehenge’s 2012, diggers will move in to right one of the most grievous historic wrongs in modern Britain. The stones will be moved slightly to the right away from the A303 and into proper alignment with the sun.

I’m kidding. In fact, the bulldozers will rip up the inadequate car park and visitor centre that have been a national disgrace since 1968.

Simon Thurley, English Heritage’s chief executive, said of the £27m makeover: “These are crucial steps which bring closer the transformation of the currently blighted Stonehenge landscape.” The centre will be moved 1.5 miles away and visitors will get to the stones on a low-key transit system or, as others call it, a Noddy train. Noddy Goes To Stonehenge – what a film!

There have been films, indeed. In National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), Mr Griswold gives an affecting speech on the monument’s indomitability before climbing into his rental car and (can you see the gag yet?) reversing and toppling the thing like dominoes. Hilarious: in reality an Austin Maxi couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding.

In the no less amusing Shanghai Knights (2003), this gag is reprised when the two main characters crash their car into Stonehenge. One says: “Who the hell would put a pile of stones in the middle of a field?” Somewhere someone’s writing a PhD on Hollywood’s symbolic castration of British heritage by means of such movie demolition jobs.

Stonehenge’s image reached its mock-heroic apogee in the rocku/mocku-mentary This is Spinal Tap (1984). Picture the scene: the band’s plotting a comeback tour involving a lavish stage show featuring a replica of the monument as a backdrop to their pomp rock classic, Stonehenge. Only one problem, the order for the prop goes wrong and instead of being 18ft high it’s 18in tall, making the band a laughing stock.

Did Deller consider this pitfall in making his scaled-down bouncy version? You’d think.

He never thought, though, of emulating Steven Moffat’s insanely elaborate cosmological topography in the 2010 two-part special of Doctor Who, The Pandorica Opens. All the doctor’s many enemies hover above Stonehenge, while below in Underhenge lies the fabled prison of Pandorica holding the universe’s most detested and feared prisoner, Jeremy Clarkson at the co-ordinates of a worrying fissure in the universe’s frankly baffling structure.

Actually, it wasn’t Clarkson but some being even more unimaginably evil.

Most of the filming took place at Foamhenge, a lightweight replica set up near Port Talbot. It was there that the doctor battled an army of cybermen and others in what proved to be a critic-slaying, award-winning and discombobulatingly mytho-metaphysical fuss. Very Moffat, very Stonehenge.

It was also indicative of what Stonehenge really is: an open text, endlessly interpretable and readily bendable to our times and imagination. “It is a mirror which reflects back, more or less distorted, that view of the past which the onlooker takes there,” Chippindale says. Long may that continue.

Link Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/jun/21/stonehenge-moment-sun-summer-solstice?newsfeed=true

Merln says “Good time had by all!”
Check out my TouTube Channel and Flickr Accoint later

Merlin @ Stonehenge

 





Visiting Stonehenge for the 2012 Summer Solstice ? Use it, Don’t abuse it!

19 06 2012

Respect the Stones and Respect each other!

Stonehenge is an ancient pre-historic site. It has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice since time immemorial.   Use it ! Dont abuse it!

WE HOPE THE WEATHER WILL BE KIND AND WISH YOU A PEACEFUL AND CELEBRATORY SOLSTICE. 

Get off our Stones!

Get off our Stones!

English Heritage is pleased to be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. Please help us to create a peaceful occasion by taking personal responsibility and following the Conditions of Entry and guidelines set out on the following pages. We have a duty of care to ensure public safety and are responsible for the protection of Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments. If we are to ensure that future access is sustainable, it is essential that everyone observes and abides by these Conditions of Entry

Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

SOLSTICE CAR PARK OPENS 1900 hours (7pm) Wednesday 20th June ACCESS TO STONEHENGE 1900 hours (7pm) Wednesday 20th June LAST ADMISSION TO SOLSTICE CAR PARK  0600 hours (6am) Thursday 21st June STONEHENGE CLOSES 0800 hours (8am) Thursday 21st June SOLSTICE CAR PARK TO BE VACATED 1200 hours (12 Noon) Thursday 21st June – see the pages on Travel and Parking for further information on travel and parking arrangements.

Sunset and sunrise occur at the following times: Sunset on Wednesday 20th June 2012 is at 2126 hrs (9.26pm) Sunrise on Thursday 21st June 2012 is at 0452 hrs (4.52am)

CAMPING:
Please remember camping is NOT permitted at Stonehenge, in the Solstice Car Park, or anywhere in the surrounding National Trust land.   There are four local campsites. Please check availability and entry conditions in advance.   Stonehenge Touring Park Orcheston, Nr Shrewton, Salisbury SP3 4SH 01980 620304

Salisbury Camping & Caravanning Club Site Hudson’s Field, Castle Road, Salisbury, SP1 3RR 01722 320713

Coombe Caravan Park Coombe Nurseries, The Race Plain, Netherhampton, Salisbury, SP2 8PN 01722 328451

Stonehenge Campsite Berwick Road, Berwick St James, Salisbury, SP3 4TQ 017880 746514

Tourist Information Centres  

Tourist Information Centres for local area are:
Amesbury Tel: 01980 622833
Salisbury Tel: 01722 334956 www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/salisbury
Devizes Tel: 01380 800400
Andover Tel: 01264 324320 www.touruk.co.uk/hamp/ham_and.htm

Stonehenge Summer Solstice Information Hotline  

For further information about the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, please telephone English Heritage Customer Services Solstice Information Hotline on 0870 333 1186

Travelling to Stonehenge for Summer Solstice

Stonehenge is approximately 2½ miles (4 kms) from the town of Amesbury. The nearest bus and railway stations are in Salisbury, which is 12 miles (19 kms) away from Stonehenge.   As the roads around Stonehenge will be very busy, it is recommended that you leave your car at home and travel to Stonehenge using public transport.

Stonehenge by bus  

The bus service will commence at 1830 hours (6.30pm) on Wednesday 20th June and run regularly until 0115 hours (1.15am) on Thursday 21st June. A service taking people back to Salisbury will start again at 0400 hours (4am) and run frequently until 0945 hours (9.45am). The collection point for the return service is in the same location as the drop-off point.   The walk to Stonehenge from the bus drop-off/collection point is 1½ miles (approximately 2½ kms) – about a 20-30 minute walk and is through National Trust farmland. Sensible footwear might not be fashionable but is definitely advisable as the land is agricultural and the route includes some sloping ground. Also the route is not lit and you may wish to bring a small torch (not naked flame though!!).   To help you plan your journey to Stonehenge, bus timetables and fares are available from the following links:

For bus service information:

Wilts & Dorset Bus Company www.wdbus.co.uk Tel: 01983 827 005

 

Stonehenge by train and bus  

Trains run regularly to Salisbury from London, Bristol/Bath and Southampton and the local bus company, Wilts & Dorset, will be running a special service, from Salisbury railway and bus stations to a drop-off point near Stonehenge. The buses will also stop at any recognised bus stop along the line of the route, which is via Amesbury.   For train information:

South West Trains www.southwesttrains.co.uk Tel: 0845 6000 650

First Great Western www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk Tel: 0845 7000 125

National Rail Enquiries www.nationalrail.co.uk Tel: 08457 48 49 50

 

Stonehenge by car  

A high volume of traffic is anticipated in the Stonehenge area on the evening of Wednesday 20th June. The Summer Solstice parking facilities close to Stonehenge are extensive but also finite.   Although traffic, as you approach Stonehenge, maybe slow, please do not be tempted to abandon your vehicle and park it either on the A303 or other neighbouring roads and public rights of way. Cars parked illegally will be towed away by the Police or Wiltshire Council.   Please also be aware that a number of road closures will be in operation to ensure safe pedestrian passage to Stonehenge and to allow unimpeded access in the event of an emergency. As you approach Stonehenge, signage will be in place to direct you to the Solstice Car Park.   Please see Parking for further information.

 

Cyclists  

It is not advisable to bring cycles to Stonehenge as they cannot be accommodated at the Monument and they will not be permitted beyond the Solstice Car Park (which is located approximately 1 km west of Stonehenge). Please bring your own locking device and park your cycle in the designated area in the Solstice Car Park. Ask a steward at the Solstice Car Park entrance for assistance.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/summer-solstice/

 Merlin says “Happy Solstice and respect the Stones!  See you there”
Follow me on Twitter for updates and pics:  http://twitter.com/#!/st0nehenge
Merlin @ Stonehenge







%d bloggers like this: