Stone Circle (“Special”) Access

20 08 2017

Before 1978 you were free to walk around inside the stone circle at Stonehenge once you’d paid your admission fee. The lack of any guards overnight meant people also hopped the fence once the site had closed.

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Stonehenge at dawn.  A special access ‘inner circle’ visit at sunrise.

Finally, in response to the over 800,000 annual visitors, access was restricted. An article entitled “Heritage Under Siege” in New Scientist (Sept 27th, 1979) reports the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings as saying:

“The whole problem of Stonehenge is numbers … all through the year. What menaces Stonehenge are the millions of feet (and hands) of the ordinary visitors.”

… and continues:

“An archaeologist calculated that if each visitor walked around the central area just twice during his or her visit, the effect would be the same as having one man standing on each square foot inside the ring and jumping up and down on that spot 62 times every day throughout the year.”

After March 1978, everyone was banned from inside the circle – including archaeologists and other researchers, much to their annoyance. Department of the Environment officials said that the plans to allow out-of-hours access to “those with a special interest” had to be abandoned because the custodians were unwilling to work overtime. And so it remained for a long time.

Eventually things changed and these days it’s possible to book to go inside the stone circle on what is called a “Stone Circle Access” or “Special Access” visit. These are one-hour long slots before and after the monument is open to the public during the day, and a maximum of 30 people are allowed inside at a time.

You can book as an individual, or via a tour company who may (or may not) provide a well-informed guide to show you some of the hidden features that you might otherwise miss.

Once inside, if the light’s right you can pick out some of the hundreds of examples of wrencarved initials and names on the stones. One of them might even be that of Christopher Wren – a local lad who made good and went on to design the new St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

One thing that a lot of people fail to notice is the sound of the place – there’s a definite sense of entering into an enclosed, peaceful space a soon as you come in through the primary entrance beneath the central lintel of the three on the northeast side of the circle.

It’s only when you’re up really close to the monument that the epic scale of the stones really strikes you – the tallest one is over 7m from grass to top, and there’s a further 2.5m in the ground. Weighing in at over 40 tons it’s a beautifully shaped monolith that was part of the tallest trilithon on the site. Sadly its partner upright fell and broke long ago, leaving the lintel they both supported lying on its side in the southwest part of the central area.

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The bluestones, though much smaller than the sarsens, are still impressive rocks – the tallest one stands leaning in front of the highest sarsen stone and has a wide groove worked all the way down one edge. No-one knows why.

There are a few rules – no standing on the stones, no touching them, no smoking – but apart from that you’re free to wander around and properly appreciate both the enormity of the large sarsen blocks, the elegance of the bluestone pillars and the ingenuity of the builders who created the monument over 4,500 years ago.

If you have the chance, by far the best way to see Stonehenge is through a Stone Circle Access visit.  

Stonehenge Guided Tours pioneered these Stonehenge access tours and offer frequent scheduled coach tours at sunrise and sunset. They can often arrange private custom inner circle tours with expert guides.  The Stonehenge Travel Company are based in nearby Salisbury and are considered the local Stonehenge experts.
Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Winter Solstice Celebrations at Stonehenge: 21st December 2016

1 12 2016

English Heritage will once again welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Sunrise is just after 8am on Wednesday 21st December and 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.

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

DATE AND TIMINGS
WEDNESDAY 21st DECEMBER 2016
MONUMENT FIELD OPENS: 07.45am (approximately, depending on light levels)
MONUMENT FIELD CLOSES: 10am

Please note, access to Stonehenge for Winter Solstice is free. Parking charges apply.

GETTING HERE:

Parking for Winter Solstice is very limited and we cannot guarantee that you will be able to park near to Stonehenge. If you are planning to travel by car, wherever you park there may be a 30 minute walk to the Monument. We strongly recommend car sharing or using public transport.

Car Sharing – Request or offer a lift to Solstice at Stonehenge

Travel by busSalisbury Reds buses will be running from 06:30 from Salisbury (New Canal, Stop U and Salisbury Rail Station). Check timetable.

Blue Badge Parking – Blue badge parking is in the visitor centre car park and permits must be booked in advance. There is accessible transport to the monument field from the visitor centre beginning at approximately 6.30am. Permits available from Solstice.Stonehenge@english-heritage.org.uk

Parking and parking charges Limited parking is available in the winter solstice car parks, which will open at 5.30am on the 21st December.

As you approach Stonehenge, there will be signs to direct you to the car park – please ensure that you follow these. Please do not arrive early as there is no waiting on the roads in the area and you will be moved on.

Parking may involve a shuttle journey to the visitor centre and wherever you park there may be a 30 minute walk.

  • Cars, private hire minibuses and live-in vehicles £5
  • Motorbikes £2
  • Commercial coaches £50

The car parking charge is designed to encourage people to car share and will help the charity offset  the costs of providing additional staffing and lighting in the car parks.

Please note, car parking charges apply to all users of the Winter Solstice car parks, including Blue Badge holders, and members of English Heritage and National Trust.

Motorists have access to a park and ride shuttle from the off-site solstice car parking to the visitor centre. A shuttle will also be provided between the visitor centre and Stonehenge, however visitors are asked to note that disabled people have priority on this bus and should therefore be prepared for a 30 minute walk, in low light, from parking areas to the monument.

We cannot guarantee entry to the car parks and recommend coming by public transport as cars will be turned away when the car parks are full.

CONDITIONS OF ENTRY

Access to Stonehenge for solstice is subject to the Conditions of Entry – please read these before deciding whether to attend.

COME PREPARED

Stonehenge is in a field on Salisbury Plain and the weather in December will be cold and may be wet and windy. Even if it isn’t raining, the ground will be wet from the dew. There may also be frost.

Please be prepared for a 30 minute walk (in low light or darkness), from the bus drop off and from parking areas to the monument. You are strongly advised to wear warm and waterproof clothing and footwear and bring a torch with you.

Toilets at the Monument Field will only be available once the access period begins. There are no catering facilities in the monument field, however the café at the visitor centre is open for hot drinks and breakfast rolls from 6am.

Please note that there are no other amenities or facilities available to visitors until the Monument Field opens.

Please visit the official English Heritage website for full details.

Solstice Events are offering their usual small group Winter Solstice guided tour from London and Bath, ideal if you do not have your own transport and want to learn more about the history and  mystery of Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. Visit their website to book.

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Stonehenge: Up close. English Heritage Members Event. February 2017

26 11 2016

Gain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts.

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Start the tour with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge accompanied by our expert. Followed by a light breakfast we will then visit key archaeology sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus and learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigative work that has taken place in recent years.

A light breakfast is included. This event has been graded as moderate as there will be plenty of walking over uneven ground. Please dress for the weather as there is no shelter on site. Sturdy footwear is a must, as is a torch.

15th February 2017 (7.30am – 12.30pm) £45 per person

This is an English Heritage ‘Members only’ event.  Please visit their website for more details

HOW TO BOOK
Tickets are available now by calling English Heritage direct on 0370 333 1183.

The Stonehenge News Blog





Experience Sunrise at Stonehenge 2nd March. #Periscope Drone Live Stream

28 02 2016

LIVE! Catch the sunrise at Stonehenge. With Dan Snow #Dronehenge #Periscope.

Stonehenge is a magical place to be, steeped in mystery and History. We’re delighted that English Heritage have given us special access to film from this ancient stone circle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Live on March 2nd from 6 am. The sunrise is at 6:50 am GMT.

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How do we let people, a lot of people, know about a very special live event that is only happening online without a massive marketing budget? How can live streaming compete with the mass of distractions out there? There’s no TV schedule. No billboards. No iPlayer for this sort of thing.
Live streaming is special; Periscope is special because the audience is there with you. People ask Dan Snow, “Why do you Periscope? The audience isn’t massive…it doesn’t pay anything. What’s the point?”
If you haven’t watched one of Dan’s ‘scopes’ you haven’t experienced the tangible excitement ‘live’ brings to the show. It’s more than a show. From under the bow of the Mary Rose – where they installed wifi especially, to the extraordinary views at Gallipoli, scrambling through the underbrush in Harfleur in the search of Henry V’s battlements, to the cacophony on an airborne Lancaster bomber -one use in infamous Dam Buster raid.Dan Snow takes you to places other broadcasts cannot reach. 
Armed with just his iPhone and a respectable 4G signal, Dan is liberated from the traditional film crew and all that goes with that. Periscope is the app that’s made this possible – in just under a year Dan Snow has filmed almost 100 ‘scopes’ from all over the world, to a global audience.
Dan Snow is the resident ‘history guy’ for the BBC’s ‘The One Show’.
When we heard Periscope had teamed up with action camera company:GoPro we got excited. We could now ‘hand-off’ to an external camera wirelessly – our synapses began to fire.
What could Dan do with an external camera that would enhance the form? We’d seen GoPros – these matchbox-sized cameras with a high fidelity camera – strapped to skiers helmets, screwed to BMX bikes, and stuck on surfboards. What could Dan do to create stunning visuals, to enhance the story, and where should he take it?
“It’s got to be a drone, and it’s got to be Stonehenge,” said Dan, without missing a beat.
After a month of phone calls, planning, testing, tinfoil, and tech-wizardry, we’re ready. And with help from Periscope – we’re delighted that Dan will be able to do something during the live stream that would have been impossible to do otherwise! You’ll have to wait and see!
Tinfoil? Yep! The limitations of wifi range between the iPhone and the GoPro, signal frequencies of the drone (don’t cross the streams!), we’ve learned some expensive lessons. Falling down 7 times and getting up 8. After all the planning and testing we’re ready.
Stonehenge is a magical place to be, steeped in mystery and History. We’re delighted that English Heritage have given us special access to film from this ancient stone circle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Live on March 2nd from 6 am. The sunrise is at 6:50 am GMT.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
We hope you will join us on the ‘scope’. We would love it if you’d help us spread the word by joining this Thunderclap! Thank you!
Follow Dan Snow on Twitter
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Follow Stonehenge on Periscope (includes live broadcast of 2016 Summer Solstice Celebrations)
Follow Visit Stonehenge on Persiscope. 
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Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access 2014

15 11 2014

English Heritage will once again welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Sunrise is just after 8am on Monday 22nd December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely. Conditions of entry will be posted shortly.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Please be aware that parking is very limited and there is a thirty minute walk, in low light, from the parking areas to the monument.

Why 22nd December?

Many people – not least diary manufacturers – believe that the Winter Solstice always falls on 21st December. But the celebration of the winter solstice at Stonehenge is not fixed to a specific calendar date – this is because of a mismatch between the calendar year and solar year. (The actual time of the Winter Solstice this year is on December 21st at 23:03 GMT)

The solstice is traditionally celebrated at the sunrise closest to the time when the sun is stationary before beginning its transit to the north or south. This year this occurs late on 21 December, hence the winter solstice celebrations take place at sunrise on 22nd December.

Conditions of entry

Further information and the conditions of entry for the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge will be posted here a month in advance of 22nd December.**

Do not climb or stand on any of the stones – this includes the stones that have fallen. This is in the interest of personal safety, the protection of this special site and respect for those attending. As well as putting the stones themselves at risk,
climbing on them can damage the delicate lichens.

If do not have your own transport and are travelling from London then Solstice UK Events are offering their usual transport option with an expert guide.

**Stonehenge is a world renowned historic Monument and seen by many as a sacred site – please respect it and please respect each other!

The new Stonehenge visitor centre is well worth a visit and opens at 9.30am. Visit the English Heritage website
Directions to Stonehenge
Download the free English Heritage Stonehenge Audio Guide here
English Heritage Winter Solstice Link

Merlin at Stonehenge
Follow Twitter@st0nehenge for Solstice updates
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