Ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list.

30 11 2019

For people across the world- Stonehenge is a must see location, it’s majesty as well as it’s mystery has made it a mainstay on everyone’s bucket list. 

Stonehenge sunset

However, here lies the problem. Is Stonehenge merely a pretty collection of stones which need only be sited to be ticked off the list? There is no doubt that the site itself, taken as it is, is fulfilling. However- the occasion of ticking such a magnificent and ancient spectacle off a list of things to do on this earth before you die, should be done properly. The site and the whole surrounding area deserve more than tentative voyeurism. To truly ‘tick off’ Stonehenge, one must engage with its history its myths and crucially observe the entire  surrounding area which is a veritable tapestry of Neolithic history. A tapestry which considered in its entirety enriches the ultimate site to see- Stonehenge itself. 

I want to take you on a preliminary journey around Neolithic Wiltshire’s most fascinating sites- all a walking distance from the stones, which an expert guide can take you on for a holistic experience- Weaving together the history and myth of this most beautiful landscape.

On ground level-  you and the stones in front of you, it is hard to appreciate anything else. However, imagine you could fly straight up in the air and take a birds eye view- looking down on the ancient henge and its famous stones- so they are a wonderful miniature series of concentric circles…

…then go higher and take in more and more of the landscape and you’ll notice the ground is littered with meaningful scars- tell tale signs that the entire area surrounding Stonehenge has been heaving with meaning for 5,000 years. 

Luckily the wonder of the modern day means we needn’t defy gravity to appreciate the Neolithic saturation of the landscape- a simple satellite picture reveals all the key location you need to visit.

stonehenge-map

Durrington Walls 

Starting 2 miles east of the stones with Durrington walls. This was once a Neolithic settlement and may have even been the largest village in Northern Europe sometime between 2800-2100 B.C.

Woodhenge 

Heading immediately south from Durrington walls we soon will encounter Woodhenge, the elemental antithesis of Stonehenge itself. Sadly, due to the nature of wood,  the former structure has long since rotted away. This ancient site may well have been lost forever if it wasn’t for aerial photographs which revealed dark spots in wheat crops. These dark spots signalled the former post holes of large wooden posts which formed the ancient structure. Today the post holes have been filled with concrete to partially recreate the previous composition of woodhenge. It represents a magnificent symbiosis of past and present, modern techniques ensuring the survival of ancient monuments and their memory and preserve the heritage of Wiltshire .

The Cursus

Around 4000 years ago from our aerial view the Cursus would have been a bright white scar across the land, thanks to wiltshires famously chalky ground. In the Neolithic period the cursus was a 3k avenue cut into the earth for an unknown purpose.

The cursus is so named because the famous antiquarian William Stuckley and the Cursus’ discoverer- imagined roman chariots riding along its length (cursus meaning race course in Latin). Although the earth is no longer dredged along the cursus it still makes a fascinating route to wander along and to ponder, with its purpose still not totally understood

The Cursus group

At the west end of the cursus you might expect to get a good view of the Stonehenge- however your view is blocked. Instead you  are met with the curious view of a ridge of land, topped with a barrow; a Neolithic burial mound. Between the west end of the Cursus and Stonehenge itself lie the ‘Cursus Group’ an assortment of sixteen  of these Neolithic round barrows. The land literally bulges with history at this point- on top of the ridge you can see the land ripple with various barrows as you survey it- before your eyes are drawn magnetically to the stones themselves. But before you reach them it is fascinating to hear the tales of the barrows, how they had once concealed pottery, weaponry and even jewels for thousands of years.

Beyond tales of treasures it is edifying for those who wander the mounds to ponder their ancient logic- for there certainly appears to be a system- but it is yet to be determined. 

Stonehenge Avenue

Heading East from the swollen turf of the Cursus barrows you will intersect the penultimate Neolithic wonder of our imaginary tour. Like the Cursus, Stonehenge Avenue is an ancient Avenue, stretching for 3 kilometres. And like the cursus Stonehenge Avenue would have been an brilliant white scar on the earth- an alabaster pathway connecting Stonehenge with the river Avon. 

Today the avenue is still recognisable, If a slightly more furtive path then it once was but is nonetheless the pathway to the enigmatic stones, linking up with the henge as though drawn on by a higher being.

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Photo taken by Stonehenge Dronescapes. Visit their Facebook Page for more amazing photos of Stonehenge and Wiltshire.

Stonehenge Stone Circle

At last you reach the stones themselves. The colossal upright sarsen stones, rendering you minuscule in comparison- whilst the horizontal blue stones, quarried from South Wales, add the real dimension of wonder to this wonder of the world. The stones are the crowning sight to this antiquarian tour of Wiltshire’s Neolithic sights. 

Words can hardly to this magnificent structure justice and it really must be beheld to be appreciated. What is certain is that the truest appreciation of this cultural icon is ascertained through a thorough engagement with its surroundings- appreciating the wider history and indeed mystery of the land and truly attempting to cast your mind back to the remote past; ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list in the process.

Relevant Stonehenge Links:
English Heritage – Interactive Maps of the Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge Guided Tours – The Stonehenge Touring Experts – click here
National Trust – The Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge – Neolithic / Bronze Age Henge and Stone Circle. Click here
Salisbury and Stonehenge Guided Tours – The local megalithic tour operator – click here
Stonehenge Dronescapesclick here

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Get hands on with history at Stonehenge and help to move a 4-ton stone, similar to those used to build the stone circle. 12th – 16th April 2019

9 04 2019

MOVING AND RAISING A STONE: Friday 12th April – Tuesday 16th April 2019

Get hands on with history at Stonehenge and help to move a 4-ton stone, similar to those used to build the stone circle.  Using a hand-built sledge, and under expert supervision, visitors can experience for themselves just what it might have felt like to be involved in building Stonehenge.

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Using a hand-built sledge, and under expert supervision, visitors can experience for themselves just what it might have felt like to be involved in building Stonehenge

The experiment will run twice a day and lasts for approximately 45 minutes. It involves pulling the 4-ton stone on a hand-built sledge across a range of surfaces and around some obstacles to understand whether rollers, halved timbers or grass provides the most efficient surface and whether a sledge allows greater control of the stone.

On the final day of the experiment, Tuesday 16th April, English Heritage will attempt to move and then raise the stone into an upright position using an a-frame (and a lot of muscle power)!

All visitors are welcome to join in however, it is not recommended for people with back, arm, shoulder or knee injuries or pregnant women. Children must be supervised at all times by an adult.

English Heritage is hosting a full programme of events over the Easter holidays, giving visitors the opportunity to explore an element of prehistory that most interests them. The events are designed for all ages and reveal that our prehistoric ancestors were organised and skilled craftsman, using sophisticated techniques to craft natural materials and fibres into tools and essential everyday items, as well as luxury objects such as jewellery and grave goods.

Visit the English Heritage website for details on this and other events happening over the Easter holidays

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Hundreds of pagans and druids descend on Stonehenge to celebrate the 2019 Spring (Vernal) Equinox.

21 03 2019

Visitors headed to the famous 5,000-year-old stone circle in Wiltshire in the dark to ensure they got to see the sun rise. And they made the most of one of only four public annual events that allows people to get so close to the stones.


Big event: The equinox happens twice a year around March 20th and September 22nd, between the summer and winter solstices. On the equinox, day and night are nearly equal because the sun appears to rise before its centre is at the horizon

WHY CAN PAGANS AND DRUIDS GET SO CLOSE TO THE STONES FOR THE EQUINOX?

The famous Stonehenge circle is normally roped off to the public, but special access is granted four times a year.

This is only on the mornings of the summer solstice, winter solstice, spring equinox and autumn equinox.

English Heritage has ‘managed open access’, meaning the public can stand among the stones on these days.

Anyone can turn up on the day to get close to the stones, but people are asked not to touch or climb on them.

Organisers also have a ban on bringing glass bottles or pets onto the site and on playing amplified music.

Today Stonehenge was opened at 5.45am when it was deemed light enough to safely allow people into the field.

Visitors began to leave at 8.30am and then the area was opened to the paying public as normal at 9.30am

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English Heritage is hosting a Gun Salute at Stonehenge on 11th November to mark 100 years since the signing of the Armistice. #RemembranceDay2018

9 11 2018

Sunday 11th November 2018 will mark 100 years since the signing of the Armistice and will bring to a close a series of 100 year anniversaries of the major events of World War One. To commemorate this historic event, English Heritage is hosting a Gun Salute at Stonehenge.

1st-stone

The guns will fall silent before the 11th hour and a bugler will sound The Last Post, a two-minute silence will be observed and The Final Retreat played.

Stonehenge stood at the heart of the world’s largest military training camp during the First World War, with 180,000 men stationed there at any one time, coming from across the Commonwealth to prepare for battle.

Remembrance holds a central place in the UK’s annual calendar of events and offers the opportunity for the nation to offer its respect for the sacrifice made by its Armed Forces over the years.

1000hrs           The saluting troop form up

1049hrs           Guns fire

1059hrs           The Last Post

1100hrs           Two-minute silence

1102hrs           The Final Retreat

Visit the English Heritage website for full details

Links:
Find out more about Stonehenge and the Great War at our centenary lecture by Martyn Barber
How Stonehenge site became the world’s largest military training camp – click here

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Stonehenge Events and News: Open days, talks, exhibitions, guided walks and family activities taking place at the World Heritage Site.

17 10 2018

There is always something happening around the Stonehenge World Heritage Site with events such as open days, family activities, lectures and guided tours for both adults and families. Please check the websites below to see what Stonehenge current events are available to book.

Stonehenge news

English Heritage Stonehenge 
Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. Visit their Stonehenge Events page for exhibition news, special events and exclusive ‘members only’ events.  They also publish posts on their news blog.

National Trust’s Stonehenge Landscape
A World Heritage Site for its  ancient ceremonial landscape of archaeological and wildlife interest. Visit their events page

Amesbury History Centre 
The Amesbury History Centre is the place to visit to find out all you need to know about the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Britain.

Wiltshire Museum 
Award-winning Museum display – Gold from the Time of Stonehenge. Britain’s best Bronze Age archaeology collection. Visit their events page

Salisbury Museum 
The Salisbury Museum. Showcasing the medieval Cathedral town of Salisbury and the ancient wonders of Stonehenge. Visit their events page

Visit Wiltshire
Click here to find out all you need when visiting Stonehenge Wiltshire!…Easily search Attractions, Events and Accommodation suitable for your needs!…FREE MAPS & GUIDES!

Wessex Archaeology
Wessex Archaeology is proud to have had a long history of work at Stonehenge and to have played a leading role in their research, management and investigation.  Visit their news blog

Stonehenge Guided Tours
The longest established Stonehenge tour operator run daily Stonehenge Tours from London and offer exclusive inner circle access tours allowing you to walk amongst  the monument at sunrise or sunset.

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
The Stonehenge Travel Company are based in nearby Salisbury and operate private guided tours of Stonehenge.  They are recognised as the local megalithic experts.

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Stonehenge Autumn Equinox Open Access Arrangements: 23rd September 2018

22 09 2018

English Heritage are expected to offer a short period of access, from  first light or safe enough to enter the monument field (approximately 06.30am) until 08:30am on the 23rd September this year.

The Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
The 2018 Autumn Equinox is September 23rd at 02.54am GMT
Sunrise will be 6.55am

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Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

What is the Equinox?

The equinox is when day and night are actually the same length. It happens several days before the spring equinox, and a few days after the autumn one.

The reason day and night are only almost equal on the equinox is because the sun looks like a disk in the sky, so the top half rises above the horizon before the centre, according to the Met Office.

The Earth’s atmosphere also refracts the sunlight, so it seems to rise before its centre reaches the horizon. This causes the sun to provide more daylight than many people might expect, offering 12 hours and 10 minutes on the equinox.

The word ‘equinox’ itself actually mean ‘equal’ (equi) and ‘night’ (nox).

Respecting the Stones
The conditions of entry for the Managed Open Access.  Click here

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Loop in the Landscape Workshop. Stonehenge Event 13th / 20th May.

3 05 2017

Take your imagination for a walk in this outdoor writing workshop in the Stonehenge Landscape. Working with award-winning poet Holly Corfield Carr, you will explore the ancient contours and hidden corners of the World Heritage Site, learning how to use field writing techniques and observational excercises to draw inspiration from even the smallest rock. (13th and 20th May at 2pm £5)

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This event is generously supported by the National Trust and English Heritage and tickets include parking, refreshments, access to Stonehenge and a return journey to the Visitor Centre on a shuttle bus.

All ages and writing experience welcome. We are keen to meet local residents from Amesbury and Salisbury and the surrounding areas, as well as National Trust and English Heritage members.

Participants will have the chance to have their writing published as part of loop, a book of poems, photographs and walking routes celebrating life in the landscape around Stonehenge and Amesbury, the UK’s longest continuously-occupied settlement. For more information, please visit loop.org.uk.

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Please be advised that the workshop will take place on the move and we will be walking at a gentle pace across 4km of uneven ground so please wear suitable footwear, clothing and sunscreen if appropriate. There will be regular breaks for writing and sitting on chairs which will be provided and the workshop will end with refreshments in the Neolithic Huts at the Visitor Centre.

More details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/loop-in-the-landscape-tickets-33924131992

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