It’s Midsummer today, or Litha in the old calendar, the point where the great wheel of the year turns towards winter once more, the nights gradually growing shorter until Yule, the great festival of Light. On a hot day such as this one the thought of winter is almost welcome, to be honest.
Today is also one of two points during the year when the sun’s rising is marked at Stonehenge, the famous stone monument in Wiltshire. On Midsummer morning the sunrise aligns perfectly with the Heel Stone, and crowds gather to watch the spectacle, one of the few times in the year that people are allowed within the ancient circle of stone.
I have yet to mark Midsummer or Midwinter at Stonehenge, but it is on my list to do so. There is something about the tumbled grey stones, still standing proud upon Salisbury Plain, that tugs at me. The mystery surrounding their use, the precision with which they mark the turning of the year and have done so for millennia, and the astonishing fact that many of the massive stones came from miles away in Wales, brought to the site using technology that still remains undefined, despite efforts to replicate the feat.
I visited Stonehenge most recently in March, on a cool sunny day. Once again the stones remained inscrutable, their message like a song almost heard, dancing on the edge of sound. The light changed the shapes and shadows, and up above a small plane swooped and wheeled, coming so low that concerned staff came out to monitor its progress, worried it might perhaps crash into the stones. But it disappeared after a while, buzzing away across the plains, above the old barrows and hidden earthworks to destinations unknown.
I also visited the brand new visitor centre, set back some way so it is not visible from the monument. It is a vast improvement on the old centre. Shuttle buses take visitors to a point closer to the stones, the road that used to run past them on one side now closed except to walkers, meaning we reached the stones on foot as was done originally. The new centre is very well done, with some excellent interactive exhibits and artifacts excavated at the site – it kept the gorgeous girl busy for quite some time! There were also some replica Bronze Age roundhouses outside, the plaster walls and thatched roofs against a blue sky somehow timeless, and as though they could have been anywhere in the world.
I have wandered to Stonehenge before, and no doubt will do so again – a place holding such magic is worth more than one visit. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you again next time!
PS I LOVE this! Nothing like a Spinal Tap reference to make the day complete 🙂
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.
A perfect post for tbe solstice. I was disappointed by my visit to Stonehenge, not by the the stones themselves but by the experience we were forced into. The grotty tacky tawdry old visitor centre… I’ve yet to see the new one… and the guards in black not allowing anyone to dare step off the path and attempt to touch or even view the stones up close, and the acres of ugly metal fence 6ft high enclosing the site. That would have been less than 10 years ago. I hope its not like that now. I always thought they could learn a lot by how Newgrange is managed over here.
Thanks, Ali – it seemed appropriate for today. And the site is much improved from when you visited, though you still can’t enter the stone circle = I suppose too many people over the years causing damage, which is a shame. I remember visitin in the seventies and being able to wander through the circle, people lying all over the stones. But now there is a simple rope barrier, quite low, and a pathway set around the stones (counter-clockwise), so you can take them in without obstruction. And the new visitor centre is fantastic, as well as being out of sight of the monument, so you get that feeling of how, perhaps, it once was. I’ve not been to Newgrange – must go one day. I did go to another burial site up in Sligo that was very impressive though 🙂
Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.
Thank you for sharing! 🙂
Wonderful post with lovely impressions, Helen.
Happy Solstice to you!
Thanks so much, Dina – Happy Solstice to you too! xx
Love your shots! When I visited Stonehenge I marveled at the stones but found myself strangely more fascinated with the sheer amount of livestock poop in the fields surrounding the wonder. Is nothing sacred?
Happy Summer to you!
Avebury is the same – you have to watch where you step there too. Maybe it’s something to do with the stones? Or maybe sheep just poop a lot 😀
Thanks for taking me along. Great photos, Helen. Happy Solstice. (BTW – I’m reviewing your book on my blog on Friday. Stop by and feel free to respond to any comments you want to.)
Thanks, Diana, Happy Solstice to you too! And thank you so much for the review and for your kind support – it’s very much appreciated. I’ll definitely pop by on Friday (if not before) 🙂 xx
I read this the other day but couldn’t comment at the time. Such a beautiful post. I absolutely LOVE it there. I haven’t seen the new visitor’s center but the rest…it’s just what it is. It’s Stonehenge. I know a lot of people who have been to “that pile of rocks” but I never get tired of being there. The atmosphere is… Something you can’t really describe. Happy Solstice to you, Helen. Thanks for sharing these photos. ❤ (Props for the Spinal Tap reference.) 😉
Happy Solstice to you too, Sarah, and thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed the pose. Yes, Stonehenge is one of those places I could visit a hundred times and not get tired of. You must go and see the visitor centre one day if you can, it’s fantastic, so well done in the way the British do these things. x
I will. I hope to get back there sometime very soon… 🙂
Sometime next June…? 😉
That’s what I’m hoping… 😉
I’ve been to stonehenge too – so sad that we’re not allowed to get up close any more I’d have done anything to walk among them. I understand why though, but still. 😦
Yes, I remember visiting as a child and being able to walk among the stones. Sadly no longer, as you say, though, like you, I understand why. Still a place of power though…
Pingback: The Old Year Ends… | Journey To Ambeth