Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2017: Crowds gather on the longest (and hottest) day of the year

21 06 2017

About 13,000 people watched the sunrise at Stonehenge on Wednesday morning, on the longest day of the year.

The sun rose at the historic monument in Wiltshire at 04:52 BST.

English Heritage opens the site up every year for the solstice, giving people a rare chance to get up close to the monument.

sunrisest

Read this story on the BBC Wiltshire website

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Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. From Past to Present.

4 06 2017

Although there was historically a Summer Fayre at Stonehenge held on traditional midsummer’s day of the 24th of June, it was only comparatively recently that the association between Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice Sunrise was realised.

Before Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the summer solstice had slipped out of sync with the old Julian calendar by 11 days. This meant that the Sun didn’t appear to rise from the Heelstone on 24th June. People somehow knew that they should be at Stonehenge on “midsummer’s day”, but the reason had long been forgotten.

Indeed, it was only in 1771 that the first link between the Heelstone and the Summer Solstice Sunrise was mentioned by Dr. John Smith, even though William Stukeley had identified that the Avenue lead off towards the solstice sunrise point some 30 years earlier. Smith churlishly didn’t even acknowledge Stukeley’s work in his book.

These days, of course, everyone knows about it.

Heelstone SunriseFrom about 3pm on the 20th June, Stonehenge closes to regular visitors in order for preparations to begin for the largest mass pilgrimage to a solar temple in modern times.

Up to 40,000 people begin arriving across the landscape on foot, or by car and coach to the fields by the Visitor Centre (parking charges are £5 per motorbike, £15 per car, live-in vehicle or minibus up to 19 seats, £100 per coach with coach-space pre-booking essential, and there is no discount for disabled badge holders) in advance of the monument being reopened at 7pm.

This is the one time in the year when anyone can spend the night inside the stone circle, and it gets crowded very quickly with travellers, drummers, pagans, druids, cosplay wizards and faeries, as well as more “ordinary” folk. Alcohol has been banned in recent years but evidence is obvious of prior indulgence in that and other recreational substances amongst the revellers. This “managed open access” has the feeling of a massive outdoor party rather than a respectful observance but most people seem to have a good time.

The locals tend to come for the evening on the 20th before escaping ahead of full nightfall, and the atmosphere is more family-friendly between 7pm and sunset around 9.30pm.

Solstice Eve

Ahead of sunset a number of groups tend to perform “all welcome” ceremonies in the centre of the circle, including the modern Druids usually led by Archdruid Rollo Maughling, King Arthur Pendragon or Merlin of England.

As night falls the entire field around the monument fills up and people gather in groups on and under blankets (no sleeping bags permitted) and while away the hours until the much-anticipated solstice dawn on the 21st.

A number of concession stands near the field entrance serve up tea, coffee and a variety of food to keep everyone warm, and there are first aiders, security marshalls, volunteer peace stewards and a low-key police presence to ensure everyone’s safety. Portaloos are installed all around the site as well as lighting gantries which are gradually dimmed as dawn approaches. Bags are security checked at the entrances to the field to intercept glass bottles or other dangerous items, and no animals are allowed apart from the drugs sniffer dogs on the gate.

27737207471_09f324ace6_z

The “managed open access” at summer solstice has been in place since 2000 and I have attended all bar two of them. In 15 years, I’ve seen a clear solstice sunrise only twice – so if you plan to come, be prepared for a cloudy morning with no sight of the Sun.

Bring waterproofs and wear many layers – it can be unexpectedly cold at 2am in the middle of a field in Wiltshire, and it frequently rains (on occasion very, very heavily) overnight. Umbrellas are forbidden but a black plastic binbag makes an acceptable, if unfashionable, substitute.

Dawn occurs at 4.52 BST, but the Sun is always a few minutes late because the trees on the horizon to the northeast delay its appearance. As the centre of the circle is by now absolutely rammed solid, the Druid ceremony usually takes place by the Heelstone after sunrise.

The monument field has to be cleared by 8am so that the site can be tidied up and put back to normal in time for it to re-open to regular visitors by about 3pm on the 21st.

The attendees drift away back towards the car park and peace, of a sort, descends.

Crowds leaving

Now the real work begins for the on-site Historic Property Stewards who care for the monument all year round, and the army of temporary contractors.

The grass in the centre of the circle is “groomed” with rakes having been trampled flat by thousands of feet for 13 hours and the whole area of the monument within the henge bank and ditch perimeter is litter-picked on hands and knees. Lost property is gathered together in case the owners come back for it – though how anyone can forget a baby buggy is hard to imagine.

The visitor barrier ropes are re-installed around the circle, the interpretation panels are re-erected, the bench seats on the path are returned and the overnight infrastructure is taken away, along with several tons of rubbish. Sprinklers are deployed to revivify the turf.

The Stonehenge Summer Solstice experience is unlike any other – for some people it’s a lifetime’s ambition, for others it’s an excuse for a party.

For Stonehenge, this year will be something like the 4,517th time it’s seen people gather at this turning point in the seasonal round – it must have some stories to tell, and Stone 28 is probably the one to tell them – you just have to listen closely.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice or Equinox celebrations you can join an organised tour and save all the hassle.  Use a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company and Solstice Events offer small group Solstice tours using only local expert guides.

Relevant links:
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Open Access Arrangements.
Respecting the Stones
English Heritage Conditions of Entry
The Salisbury Reds special solstice shuttle service
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Tours and transport from London
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Tours from Bath

Follow @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @VisitStonehenge @HighwaysEngland and @Wiltshirepolice for #summersolstice updates on the night.

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

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Vernal (Spring) Equinox at Stonehenge.

25 02 2017

The Spring Equinox in 2017 falls on March 20th and occurs at 10:28am GMT. The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°. Everywhere on Earth has a day and night of almost equal length and it marks the beginning of the northern spring season.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge. Copyright

There is considerable debate in the archaeoastronomy community as to whether the Equinox had any special meaning for the builders of Stonehenge. They had no accurate clocks by which they could determine when the day and night were almost exactly equal and discovering the mid-point between the Winter and Summer solstice can be done in a couple of obvious ways.

You can count the days and divide by two. Or you can mark the summer and winter sunrise positions along the horizon and divide that line into two equal parts. These two methods give different results.

For example, counting the days between Winter Solstice 2016 (December 21st) and Summer Solstice 2017 (June 21st) gives 182 days. Half of that is 91, meaning the midpoint would fall on March 22nd 2017 – two days after the actual Equinox.

north_season

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

 

Using the “divide the horizon” approach causes an additional problem – at the Solstices do you mark the first gleam of the Sun appearing, the point when half of it is above the horizon or when it has fully risen and the full orb is standing exactly on the horizon?

The difference in position between using “first gleam” and “full orb” is about 1.5° because the Sun rises at an angle. As a result the halfway position could be 0.75° different depending on your choice and that is one and a half times the width of the Sun’s disc, potentially putting your Equinox out by a day or so.

In any event, there is no alignment through Stonehenge for the Equinox and what’s more there isn’t even a clear sightline directly through the monument that runs true East-West towards the Equinox sunrise position, in the way that there are clear sightlines for the Solstice sunrises and sunsets.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice photo of an equinox sunrise when it’s clear, because you can.

equinox-sunrise

English Heritage Charitable Trust allows everyone in to the centre of the monument for the Spring Equinox sunrise, in the same way that they do for the Autumn Equinox and the two Solstices, through their “Managed Open Access” events. It’s one of only four occasions in the year when open access is allowed.

It’s worth checking with their customer services department (0370 333 1181) a week or so ahead because sometimes they set the actual day of the open access to be different to the day when the Equinox occurs.

Equinox open accesses attract fewer people than the Solstices – in the several hundreds rather than tens of thousands – and there are modern Druid ceremonies which are held in the circle around dawn, so if you prefer a quieter experience then attending an Equinox is a good choice.

If you do visit Stonehenge on the Equinox please respect the special terms of entry and read this blog: ‘Respecting the Stones’

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice or Equinox celebrations you can join a specialist organised small group tour.  Use a only 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. Solstice Events offer small group sunrise tours using only local expert guides.

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.

frosty-sunrise-henge

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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Solar Astronomy at Stonehenge

4 11 2016

Most people are aware that Stonehenge is somehow aligned to the annual movements of the Sun.

Each year thousands of pilgrims, druids and party-goers gather in celebration, hoping to Stonehenge Avenue.jpgwitness the most famous of these – the Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 21st.

At this time of year, as seen from the centre of the monument, the Sun rises in the same direction as the centre-line of the Avenue – the ancient processional approach to Stonehenge – towards the northeast.

The Stonehenge Avenue alignment was first pointed out by William Stukeley in 1740.

Even though almost everyone believes the Heel Stone was put up by the builders to exactly mark the summer solstice sunrise position, this can’t be true because it stands off to the right hand side of the alignment.

Today the Sun seems to rise out of the top of the Heel Stone due to the modern trees that are on the horizon.

heel-stone-sunrise

Walking up the Avenue they would have seen the Sun setting exactly into the middle of the stones between the uprights of the tallest trilithon in the southwest. We can still experience this today, even though only one upright of that trilithon – Stone 56, the tallest stone on the site – remains in place.

There’s a secondary alignment too – from Winter Solstice Sunrise to Summer Solstice Sunset.

This was first described by Prof. Gordon Freeman in 1997 and it makes use of a “notch” in the edge of Stone 58 of the western trilithon to give a clear sightline across the stone circle.

Viewed through this notch, Winter Solstice Sunrise is seen over Coneybury Hill to the southeast…

winter-solstice-sunrise

If they weren’t there, sunrise would be almost a Sun’s width to the left – and 4,500 years ago the Sun would have risen a whole degree further over to the left.

Even though the Heel Stone wasn’t intended as the solstice sunrise marker, the sight is still magnificent – when the weather cooperates.

Along the same alignment, but exactly in the opposite direction, lies the Winter Solstice Sunset point.

… and Summer Solstice Sunset is seen over Fargo Wood to the northwest.

What’s remarkable about these alignments through the circle is that they intersect over the centre of the Altar Stone (shown as Stone 80 in the plan below). The Altar Stone is not perpendicular to the main alignment but is offset so that it lies exactly along the secondary one.

image description

The intersection angle of 80° between summer and winter solstice sunrises at this latitude is echoed in the large gold lozenge discovered in 1808 when the Bronze Age “shamanic” burial from Bush Barrow, just south of Stonehenge, was excavated.

The intersection angle of 80° between summer and winter solstice sunrises at this latitude is echoed in the large gold lozenge discovered in 1808 when the Bronze Age “shamanic” burial from Bush Barrow, just south of Stonehenge, was excavated.bush-barrow-lozenge
Some see this as coincidence. Others believe the lozenge shows that the knowledge of this important astronomical angle was passed down the generations for at least 600 years.

The lozenge and the other astonishing Bush Barrow finds are on display at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

There are Stonehenge lunar alignments too, but that will be the subject of a different article.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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2016 Stonehenge Summer Solstice Information

17 06 2016

Once upon a time (until 1977, actually) it was possible to turn up and wander around the world-famous prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, touching ancient stones and experiencing wonderment at being in such an atmospheric place, often alone. Not any more – all those hands were contributing to erosion and today’s multitudinous visitors may look but not touch.

druids-equinox

Stonehenge began as a circular ditch and earth bank constructed around 3100 BC, with the standing stone circle erected some nine centuries later. Research suggests that Stonehenge marked an important burial site, but this prosaic explanation is not accepted by everyone.  The purpose of Stonehenge has long been passionately debated with diverse theories mooted – these include religious ritual, astronomical observation and assorted complex and often outlandish supernatural notions. Was it really a landing site for space travellers? Probably not.

Whatever the truth, the place retains an aura of mystery. It was the site of the
Stonehenge Free Festival
1972 and 1984, when revellers gathered to celebrate alternative culture at the summer solstice. That laid-back era came to end in 1985 when the police did battle with ‘New Agers’ bent on reaching Stonehenge after the festival was banned.

Guardians English Heritage relented in 1999, and those who wish to experience the summer solstice in the company of like-minded people are now permitted to do so. Many thousands who gather to do just that invariably experience powerful emotion at the moment when the sun rises over the mystical circle on solstice morning, and find themselves amidst all sorts of alternative believers like neo-pagans and druids in fantastic garb who are conducting esoteric ceremonies. It’s a magical moment, but reality soon intrudes – the site must be cleared by 08.00 so Stonehenge can revert to lucrative ‘tourist business as usual’. (content extracted from 501 Must-be-there Events (501 Series) by David Brown and Arthur Findlay)

English Heritage are pleased to welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate this year’s Summer Solstice. This is the 17th year that English Heritage has provided access to the stones and are looking forward to a peaceful and sober celebration.

MONDAY 20th JUNE
Access to monument field – 7pm
Sunset – 9:26pm
TUESDAY 21st JUNE
Sunrise – 4:52am
Monument field closes – 8am

 Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
    • SOLSTICE CAR PARK OPENS 19.00 hours (7pm) 20 June (see new charges)
    • ACCESS TO STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD 19.00 hours (7pm) 20 June
    • LAST ADMISSION TO SOLSTICE CAR PARK 06.00 hours (6am) 21 June – or earlier if full
    • STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD CLOSES 08.00 hours (8am) 21 June
    • SOLSTICE CAR PARK TO BE VACATED 12.00 hours (12 Noon) 21 Jun

“We strongly advise anyone planning to come to Stonehenge for solstice to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Salisbury is easily accessible by train and the local Salisbury Reds bus company will be running a special service from Salisbury to Stonehenge through Saturday night and into the next day. Solstice Events are offering their usual transport from Bath and Stonehenge Guided Tours are offering their popular annual tour / transfer from London.

 

Bus service information: including timetables and costs can be found on Salisbury Reds website.
Train service information: trains run regularly to Salisbury from London, Bristol, Bath and Southampton. Train times, tickets and further information for your train journey can be found at:
South West Trains
South West Trains
Tel: 0845 6000 650
Great Western Railways
Great Western
Tel: 0845 7000 125
National Rail Enquiries
National Rail Enquiries
Tel: 0845 7484 950

Follow @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @HighwaysEngland @Wiltshirepolice and @VistWiltshire for #summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE BROADCAST

The Stonehege News Blog
Respect the Stones and each other!
Follow the Solstice News on Twitter: @St0nehenge  and Facebook

 

 

 





When is the Stonehenge summer solstice 2016? Everything you need to know including times and rituals

28 05 2016

Here’s everything you need to know about the longest day of the year and traditions surrounding the summer solstice

Midsummer-Solstice-celebrations-at-Stonehenge

Party time: Druids, pagans and revellers take part in a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge

Every year, around this time, we start talking about the summer solstice.

Mostly it’s because it’s the longest day of the year, and there’s a very British pessimism that says the days will immediately start to shorten into winter from now on.

But there’s also the shenanigans at Stonehenge, general celebrations and a pause to celebrate the summer.

But what does it all mean?

What is it?

It’s generally understood to mark the middle of summer – even though some of us may feel like we haven’t really had the first half yet in the UK.

Technically, it’s when the tilt of Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun, and that’s why we get the most daylight of the year.

In the winter solstice, we’re tilted furthest away from the sun, hence shorter hours of daylight and the shortest day.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Read more: New Stonehenge alignment theory proved right as monument’s tallest stone points at solstice sunset

When is it?

In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes place between June 20 and 22. This year it’s on Monday, June 20.

As it happens twice annually, the winter solstice in the UK is between December 20 and 22.

In London on the summer solstice, the sun will rise at 04:43 and set at 21:21.

Near Stonehenge in Salisbury, sunrise will be at 04:52 and sunset will occur at 21:26.

Why Stonehenge?

The midsummer solstice is being celebrated at Stonehenge on Saturday into Sunday and at the Avebury stone circle from Friday until Monday.

Thousands flock to the English Heritage site for the solstice in a tradition which has its roots in pagan times, when Midsummer Day was considered to have power.

Of those who attend, many are druids, but some are tourists.

This year it’s falling on a weekend for the first time in more than a decade and is expected to draw much larger crowds.

The way that the stones are positioned is said to be aligned with sunrises on the two annual solstices.

Read more: Stonehenge attracts thousands as Pagans mark longest day of the year with celebration

Although not much is known about its formation, those facts are thought to be involved with whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to its construction.

The monument field at Stonehenge is open from 19:00 on Monday 20 June to 08:00 on Tuesday 21 June. Admission is free, but parking fees apply.

The Solstice Car Park opens at 7pm on 20th June with last admissions at 6am (or when full, if earlier) on 21st June. The car park will close at 12 noon on 21st June.

Visitors, including sunrise-worshipping Druids for whom it is a religious occasion, are encouraged to use public transport or arrange to car share.

How else do people celebrate it?

It’s not just for the arch-druids in Wiltshire – there are celebrations worldwide among lots of different cultures.

The holidays, festivals and rituals do tend to have themes of religion or fertility.

Read more: ‘Fridgehenge’ pranksters mark summer solstice with homage to Stonehenge – made out of white goods

In Latvia there’s Jāņi, when women wear wreaths on their heads. Estonia has Jaanipäev or St John’s Day, which marks a change in the farming year.

Wianki happens in Poland, with roots in a pagan religious event, and Kupala Night happens in Russia and Ukraine, where people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith.

Are the days going to be shorter now?

They will of course get shorter between now and the winter solstice on December 21, but don’t worry, we’re not talking early dark nights quite yet.

Read more: Stonehenge and Statue of Liberty ‘in direct and immediate danger’ from climate change

Article Source: Kirstie McCrum ,  (Daily Mirror)

Stonehenge Summmer Solscice Open Access

“We strongly advise anyone planning to come to Stonehenge for solstice to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Salisbury is easily accessible by train and the local Salisbury Reds bus company will be running a special service from Salisbury to Stonehenge through Saturday night and into the next day. Solstice Events are offering their usual transport from Bath and Stonehenge guided tours are offering their small group tour from London.

Follow  @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @HighwaysEngland and @Wiltshirepolice for#summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE BROADCAST

The Stonehenge News Blog

 

 

 








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