Interlude ~ Saving the ‘best’?

So, while we should have been on a workshop and holiday, I was stuck in that limbo between the medics telling me it ‘looks like cancer’ and them doing something about it. I was determined that, before the doors closed on adventure, at least for a while, we would have at least one more. And it needed to be a good one.

We had revisited Rollright, paid our respects at Churchill’s grave, nodded to half a dozen White Horses and spent some time with the great stones of Avebury. There was really only one thing left that we could do… at least at this end of the country. And, even then, it would be pushing it for me to drive the distance.

We had to go to Stonehenge.

As a child and young woman, before the barriers and management rolled in, roping off the stones to protect them from further damage, I had spent a lot of time with them, getting to know the feel of them and wandering amongst their strange presence.  Since before the building of the henge and circles, before the barrows,  it would seem that humankind has held this place sacred, as not only settlements but burials have been found here dating back a full ten thousand years. We had passed the site several times now on our travels, each time considering that we ‘ought’ to visit the stones, as Stuart has seen them only from a distance… and each time deciding that we just could not do it.

The stones, seen from the road in high summer, seem like some magical creature with its wings clipped and caged in a zoo, visitors are funnelled around the outside of the circle at a safe and respectful distance. There are crowds. Noise… hubbub. On the one occasion I had taken friends there who are sensitive, it had ended in grief and tears… the atmosphere is wrong. No matter how carefully the authorities site their visitor centre, how lightly they appear to touch the landscape, the simple fact that around a million and a half people come to visit this one stone circle, every single year, cannot help but leave its psychic mark.

But this year, there had been the COVID lockdown. The site had been closed for month. There had been less travel, fewer visitors… time for the stones to take a deep breath and recuperate… There had to be something good to come from the social distancing measures.

And, given the circumstances, this might well be not only our best chance but also our last to visit the most iconic stone circle in the world. It had to be done.

But, we would still be kept at a distance from the stones… behind the barriers… walking around them in frustrated circles… and you really need to be within the circle. Having known it myself in earlier times, I wanted to be able to share that experience… because it changes everything.

I booked our timed tickets… and could not believe that I was lucky enough to be able to book, for that day, when it is usually fully booked months, sometimes years in advance, as part of a handful of people who would be allowed beyond the barriers, within the stones, after hours. A wholly unexpected birthday gift would, ‘coincidentally’ cover the cost. As compensation for missing both the Scottish weekend and our holiday, it was as much as we could do… and all fell into place so neatly…

And yet,  I still pulled up at the visitor centre filled with trepidation. It had been a long time since I had last visited Stonehenge, up close and personal… What impact has the new centre had on the landscape? It looked quite discrete to be fair, at least now when it was empty of visitors…

What protective measures would be in place and would we really be able to get a feel for the stones in the way I remembered? Our ever-present robin seemed to laugh at my fears as we waited for the bus that would take us across the monument fields. We could only wait and see…

47 thoughts on “Interlude ~ Saving the ‘best’?

  1. Oh Sue, how wonderful 🙂 The powers that be certainly made sure everything fell into place for you… And I can’t wait to hear how you felt when you got inside the circle, and what the experience was like – what a gift!

    I remember being inside the circle as a child (in the 70s when it was allowed), and seeing people lying across the stones and even then feeling like it was the wrong thing to do, that they shouldn’t be sprawling all over them. I hadn’t realised it was possible to still go inside them now. Another thing to add to the list 🙂

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  2. I can’t wait for the next installmest, Sue. And to be able to go onside the circle… , I haven’t been back since they fenced it off. With crowds and fences it wouldn’t be the same as it was last time I visited.

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  3. I drove past in July – and discovered the visitor centre hidden to the north-ish, as I turned up that road to… Devizes, probably. The previous time I’d driven past was in 2005 to go to a friend’s wedding. I’m sure none of the visitor centre was there then, but I noticed the old car park had moved. Like you, I remember from the old days, probably 1973, going in, but I was already post-teen 🙂 I didn’t go back once it was roped off.
    But… after hours inside trips??
    Must check those out, now it’s less than an hour from me 🙂
    I remember seeing a painstakingly detailed scale model at, possibly, the Science Museum in the 1990s, with accompanying information about some research. Even that model was powerful. Nobody else was giving it much time, of course.
    Take in that strength and use it, Sue xxxx

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    1. It was such a gift, Jemima, to be able to have the whole area almost to ourselves… and to feel the presence of the place reasserting itself in th silence.
      The visitor centre is actually very well done, even though it is probably more of a holding area in busy times. There are a series of scale models well worth studying too. xx

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  4. We went there recently, but pre Covid. I think I most enjoyed the walk from the visitor centre across the fields, avoiding the tourist bus, approaching the shapes in the distance as earlier people must have.

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  5. I’ve watched a few shows that relate what it may have been like. And how the site was perhaps still opened restrictively for some Druid practices. There is so much unknown. May the magic help to heal and comfort you.

    Continued good wishes for healing and recovery. Jules

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  6. A friend was driving me from Winchester to Bournemouth two years ago and I looked out the window to see cows in a field with some interesting stones in the distance and I said, that is such a cool scene. He said, “That’s Stonehenge.” It was magical, even from a distance. I had been to visit in 1989 and was glad I did, but the ropes and the crowds took away the magic for me. This unexpected sighting meant so much more. I was so amazed I forgot to take a picture. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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    1. Sadly, there are plans afoot to take that particular view away from us… building the infamous tunnel that will hide that sight and, at the same time, irrevocably destroy a huge amount of archaeology…

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  7. We visited there before the barriers went up, touched the stones and visited each one – an awesome experience. I have followed with great interest all the research since that time – there’s been so much that only enhances the story!

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    1. No touching the stones these days… though I too spent time with each one of them. Wehae learned so much over the past few decades… still somuch to learn… and I wonder how much we will lose if the new tunnel goes ahead?

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