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Stonehenge - summer solstice celebrations / winter solstice / equinox dawn gatherings & other issues

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  1. A lot depends on the implementation of the permissive route (i.e. the public right of way along the grassed over A344). If this actually happens, then the remaining northern stock boundary fence (which demarcates monument field) might be removed as part of the process? However, there is a lot of doubt on this matter and the fence may well remain in place for the foreseeable future? This brings up the issue of the gate. EH/NT would no doubt be hesitant but, it could be done. A discreet gate (or simple piece of roll back fence) could operated by security for an hour or so after sunrise and the druid ceremony. It could also be ‘exit only’ which would work.

    EH’s solstice time lapse (highlights) video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qsFbwZ-uKY  received over 13,500 views in a week after uploading. This proves it was a success. However, BBC Radio Wiltshire broadcast part of their early morning breakfast show from the stones and the hosts interviewed staff & attendees alike and described the sunrise (whether cloudy or sunny!). The broadcast is always informative, good natured and interspersed with records such as ‘Here Comes the Sun’. It would be good if EH liaised with Radio Wilts. and produced something together? The interviews are always interesting, how far have people travelled, are they wearing anything special and what do they make of the occasion etc. All this can be then watched at home – thus providing a positive overview of the event.

  2. More information is gleaned each year about how to take the summer solstice forward. The alcohol ban / car parking charges continued and English Heritage filmed some of the event and placed the footage online for the first time. Security issues also meant an appearance of armed guards. The crowd of 13,000 who watched the sunrise  was slightly up from the 2016 attendance due to a range of factors, such as the good weather and people travelling onto the Glastonbury Festival. Overall the event passed off fairly peacefully apart from the usual handful of arrests, mainly for drug offences.

    The event however, is a continuing process of evolution.  The ongoing issue about overcrowding in the centre of the circle is yet to be resolved and a gate still hasn’t appeared in the old A344 northern stock boundary fence. The whole point of closing and grassing over the A344 was to open up the Stonehenge landscape, not leave the fence in place without any immediate plan for its removal. Not being able to walk up and down the Avenue is a real detriment to the solstice experience and does little to discourage overcrowding within the centre of the circle. The Avenue needs to be reconnected with the stones in order to provide the space for a more authentic gathering. This could be achieved by placing a small gate in the fence or by simply just having a small roll-back section of fencing which would be manned by security guards for an hour or so at sunrise. This would help spread attendees out over a wider area for the benefit of all concerned.

    The live stream was a success, but English Heritage (EH) need to work in conjunction with BBC Wiltshire to produce a short supporting film with interviews with attendees and provide a closer view of the sunrise itself with the use of a thermographic camera. BBC Wilts. Broadcast a radio programme from the stones each year and their live segment really needs to be combined with what EH attempted to do. This would provide a better focus for those watching at home.

    What EH & the NT also need to do is start listening to the serious concerns about the A303 tunnel and its associated portals and surface dual carriageway roads within the WHS. The tunnel won’t just solve problems, it would create a whole set of new ones which we would be stuck with forever!