Monday, 21 December 2009

Happy Solstice 2009


Winter Solstice is today, Dec. 21, 2009, the day when the Earth tilts farthest away from the sun. It's the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin "sun stands still" and celebrations of the solstice pre-date Christmas. Stonehenge in England is the site of solstice festivals, apparently dating back some 4,500 years ago, when the site was in its proper cultural context. Some experts now believe that Stonehenge was the site of an ancient barbecue and midwinter celebration that culminated on the Winter Solstice, which also marks the beginning of longer days. From today's Guardian: "Recent analysis of the cattle and pig bones from the era found in the area suggests the cattle used were walked hundreds of miles to be slaughtered for the solstice celebrations – from the west country or west Wales."

And from English Heritage: "The monument we see today still inspires awe and admiration. Stonehenge attracts some 800,000 visitors a year and on the summer Solstice, thousands of people gather to watch the sunrise. Although thousands of years older than the Druids, the stone circle witnessed many druidic ceremonies, especially during the 19th century."

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Stonehenge bones may be evidence of winter solstice feasts


Sheffield University archaeologists believe enigmatic prehistoric monument was used for ritual banquets on special occasions.

Some 4,500 years ago, as the solstice sun rose on Stonehenge, it is very likely that a midwinter feast would already have been roasting on the cooking fires.

Experts believe that huge midwinter feasts were held in that period at the site and a startling picture is now emerging of just how far cattle were moved for the banquet. Recent analysis of the cattle and pig bones from the era found in the area suggests the cattle used were walked hundreds of miles to be slaughtered for the solstice celebrations – from the west country or west Wales.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield and his team have just won a grant of £800,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to answer some of the riddles about the enigmatic prehistoric monument.

The grant is to fund Feeding Stonehenge, his follow-up research on the wealth of material, including animal bones, pottery and plant remains, which they found in recent excavations at Durrington Walls, a few miles from the stone circle – a site which Parker Pearson believes key to understanding why Stonehenge was built and how it was used.

His team fully excavated some huts but located the foundations of scores more, the largest neolothic settlement in Britain. To his joy it was a prehistoric tip, "the filthiest site known in Britain", as he dubbed it.

"I've always thought when we admire monuments like Stonehenge, not enough attention has been given to who made the sandwiches and the cups of tea for the builders," said Parker Pearson.

"The logistics of the operation were extraordinary. Not just food for hundreds of people but antler picks, hide ropes, all the infrastructure needed to supply the materials and supplies needed. Where did they get all this food from? This is what we hope to discover."

Stonehenge was begun almost 5,000 years ago with a ditch and earth bank, and developed over 1,000 years, with the circle of bluestones brought from the Preseli hills in west Wales, and the double decker bus sized sarsen stones.

It was too early for the Phoenicians, the Romans or the largely mythical Celtic druids. The Anglo Saxons believed Stonehenge was the work of a race of lost giants, and a 12th-century historian explained that Merlin flew the huge stones from Ireland.

It has been explained as a place of druidic sacrifice, a stone computer, a place of witchcraft and magic, a tomb, a temple or a solar calendar. It is aligned on both the summer and winter solstice, crucial dates which told prehistoric farmers that the time of harvest was coming, or the shortest day of winter past.

Although not all archaeologists agree – Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill have dubbed Stonehenge the stone age Lourdes, a place of healing by the magic bluestones – Parker Pearson believes it was a place of the dead, while Durrington Walls, with its wooden henge, was the place of its living builders, and the generations who came to feast, and carry out rituals for their dead, moving from Durrington to the nearby river and on by the great processional avenue to Stonehenge.

He found no evidence that Durrington was permanently inhabited or farmed, and the first tests on the pig and cattle bones support his theory that it was a place where people gathered for short periods on special occasions.

The pigs were evidently slaughtered at mid-winter, and he expects the cattle bones to back this. What the sample already tested shows is that they were slaughtered immediately after arrival, after travelling immense distances.

"We are going to know so much about the lives of the people who built Stonehenge," Parker Pearson said, "how they lived, what they ate, where they came from."

Monday, 14 December 2009

Stonehenge Special Access Dates 2010


"A Unique Experience!"


For those of you who have not visited this sacred site, I should mention that the complex is roped off. Visitors observe the stones from a distance and are not permitted within the temple complex..........special access tours allow you to be amongst the stones and to actually touch them. A guide will bring to life its many myths, legends and rich and fascinating history. All tours depart from central London and Salisbury. This truly is the best way to experience Stonehenge!

There are a number of companies offering this service (some better than others) and I will post their available dates and contact details on this blog first. Remember some tour operators only take small groups and demand is high, many filling up months before - you have been warned, book early!

Simply bookmark this page or 'follow' this blog and I will post all Stonehenge 'inner circle' tour dates in advance with details on how to book and get a discount.............

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Best of the stones: The ancient structures at Stonehenge are truly rocks of ages


Simon Calder from the Independant newspaper took a Stonehenge 'inner circle' tour recently - here are his comments:

You know Stonehenge, of course: a haunting silhouette from the past that stands gaunt and defiant on the chalky grassland of Wiltshire, just where the busy A303 and A344 meet. This inspirational stone circle, a triumph of the human spirit, was bequeathed millennia ago. It is now protected by English Heritage and forms part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.


Last year, almost 900,000 visitors stepped from their cars and coaches to get closer to the neolithic wonder. An enriching experience, set to become better still when a new visitor centre opens next year. It is tantalising, though, to be so close to the stones, yet unable to wander through them and wonder at the forces that brought them here. Since 1978, they have been off-limits because of worries about vandalism and erosion caused by rising visitor numbers.

How much more rewarding it would be to be able to walk unfettered beyond the "velvet rope" that keeps visitors at bay. Well, an average of 1,000 people a month are lucky enough to get up close for a personal experience of the stone circle. On a range of days throughout the year, people who book ahead can get access to the heart of the site, in groups no larger than 26.

I signed up for the last such tour in September – which is why at dawn on Monday, I could be seen cycling north from Salisbury station in order to make the appointment of 8am sharp.

A brief history of Stonehenge, I mused as I huffed and puffed, is an impossible task. Suffice it to say that around 5,000 years ago, a circular ditch and mound was created. The site's initial purpose seems to have been as a cremation cemetery. Perhaps half a millennium later, around 2500BC, standing stones were introduced – including the massive slabs topped by lintels that give Stonehenge its popular profile.

By the time the Romans arrived, the site had long lost its ceremonial significance – and spent most of the Christian era being regarded as about as much use as a pile of old stones. Yet in a remarkable early 20th-century conservation effort, a campaign succeeded in preserving the site, removing latter-day buildings and saving the signature site for the nation.

The 21st-century explorer needs the Ordnance Survey Landranger map 184, "Salisbury & The Plain". The place names provide a mix of excitement (Old Sarum, Druid's Lodge, Longbarrow Cross Roads) and foreboding (Breakheart Bottom). A gothic font pops up a lot, highlighting a remarkable density of earthworks created by ancient Britons as gifts from the living to the dead.

Stonehenge is just one element in an elaborate network of ceremonial sites scattered across Wiltshire, but it is by far the most prominent. When first they appear on the horizon, the raw reality of the stones makes you gasp – especially if you happen to be on a bike: Stonehenge is about 300 feet above sea level.

Everyone else on my tour had the good sense to arrive by coach: a company called Premium Tours has a regular day-trip schedule from London, which also includes Laycock and Bath. With a moment of trepidation, I stepped past the "No admittance" sign and on to the soft, springy grass, unwittingly triggering a faint mist of dew.

Like latter-day pilgrims, we followed the tour leader, Jason Ridgley, to the "altar stone" at the centre of the circle. Up close, you are overwhelmed by the scale of the construction: blocks of hard sandstone from 25 to 50 tons, quarried from the Marlborough Downs and dragged by weight of numbers and sheer determination around 4,000 years ago, to form a circle of 30 massive stones. They were topped, thanks to primitive but effective inventiveness, with huge lintels. Many of them have fallen, but here in the centre of the circle you can easily envisage its completeness.

The brute physical achievement is matched by remarkable sophistication about the workings of the cosmos. The stones appear to have been aligned so that at dawn on the summer solstice, the sun rises directly in the line from the "heel stone", set beyond the circle close to the road, and the altar stone.

"It's my favourite tour," says Jason, who conducts a wide range of trips. "Everyone has planned their visit months in advance, and is psyched up for something they have waited their whole lives to see."

The noise from the traffic seems to evaporate with the dew, with the silence broken only by the staccato of shutters. You feel strangely awed, reverential even, at being in the heart of such a profoundly mystical monument. Some places in Mayan Mexico and Guatemala feel like this, but they are tougher to reach, and much younger.

Time to take in the detail: the lichen in the tones of autumn that clings to the stone, bestowing texture and colour on sandstone worn pale by the elements. Early tourists painstakingly and shamefully carved their initials on one of the tallest stones, which – just below the waist-high messages – also bears ancient carvings of axe-heads.

The smaller slabs of bluestone within the circle are remarkable more for their provenance than their scale: the Preseli Hills in Wales, about 200 miles away – or, possibly, brought closer by glaciers. The more we know about Stonehenge, the more there is to know.

"It's exactly as I thought it would be," said David Gray from Manitoba in Canada, as we reluctantly walked back to the 21st century. Is that that a good thing, I wondered?

"Yes, it's a very good thing," he replied.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Stonehenge is closed over Christmas!


Beware..........
Many London 'unscrupulous' coach tour operators are offfering tours to Stonehenge on Christmas Day. English Heritage CLOSE the site during the festive period and you will NOT be able to enter the site. The visitor centre is closed and you will be forced to view Stonehenge from a distance beyond the fences - dont go on Christmas day, you will be dissapointed! You have been warned...............

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Winter Solstice Event at Stonehenge - 5000 years of Astronomy at Stonehenge


To mark the end of the International Year of Astronomy, Stonehenge, with its 5,000 year long astronomical connection, is hosting a series of celebrations in December. The attractions include a free public astronomy exhibition, as well as the opportunity for Stonehenge visitors to ask the experts on the relationship between the sky and the ancient stone circle.

From 16th December to 3rd January 2010 visitors can enjoy a stunning exhibition - 'From the Earth to the Universe', which features incredible images of objects across the Universe- from stars to planets to nebulae and galaxies, all created using telescopes.

In the run up to the Winter Solstice, from 16th to 19th December leading specialists - both archaeologists and professional astronomers will be on hand to answer any questions you might have.

For further information on the International Year of Astronomy, Royal Astronomical Society and celebratory events at Stonehenge visit the event's website.


Free talks and tours by leading archaeologists and astronomers


An opportunity to view the sunset itself


See the night sky from the stones (advance bookings only)


“From Earth to the Universe” exhibition


It is well known that there is a connection between Stonehenge and sunrise and sunset on the longest and shortest days of the year. To celebrate this connection between the stones and the sky, in the International Year of Astronomy 2009, a special event has been organised by the Royal Astronomical Society together with English Heritage.

Visit the website - Click here

Stonehenge Tours


I frequently get requests from tourists wishing to visit Stonehenge requesting who to travel with - here we go..............

The best way to visit Stonehenge is on a guided sightseeing tour. The majority of visitors are from overseas and do not have their own transport, therfore the best way to see Stonehenge is on a scheduled tour. Most tours depart from central London and usually include other destinations i.e Windsor Castle, Bath, Salisbury, The Cotswolds - not all in the same day I hasten to add. This is because Stoneheneg is almost 2 hours from London and the tour operators tend to do a circular tour taking in other tourist attractions. I have listed the options below:

1.Stonehenge, Salisbury and Bath Day Trip from London
2.Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London
3.Small Group Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London
4.London to Stonehenge Shuttle Bus & Independent Day Trip
5.Late-morning Departure to Stonehenge and Roman Baths
6.Private Viewing of Stonehenge including Bath and Lacock
7.Two-Day Trip: Stonehenge and Bath Overnight

Sadly not all operators offer a great experience. I am familiar with the good and the bad and have provided a link to a Stonehenge tour website that has managed to negotiate special discounts and only use the best companies and approved guides. The advantage of booking through them is that you get 'real time' availability and instant booking confirmation.
Stonehenge is the most visited attraction in Britain and by far the most popular tour so booking well in advance is essential, especialy if you are tring to join a 'Stonehenge special access' tour where there are very limited dates.

Click here to view all the Stonehenege Tours avaialble - enjoy and good luck!

Should you prefer a more personal experience and would like to visit Avebury Stone circle, Old Sarum, buriel mounds, Silbury Hill and even some crop circles please contact me for a private tour - I'm not greedy and a garantee a truly memorable day.

Was Jesus taught by the Druids ?



As a book of record the New Testament doesn't do too well on the early life of Jesus Christ.

The large holes may explain why so many outlandish theories have been able to build up about what the Son of God got up to as a boy.

But among those myths most perpetuated is that he visited Britain


Now a film has sought to add flesh to the fable by claiming it's perfectly plausible the Messiah made an educational trip to Glastonbury.

And Did Those Feet explores the idea that Jesus accompanied his supposed uncle, Joseph of Arimathaea, on a business trip to the tin mines of the South-West.

Whilst there, it is claimed he took the opportunity to further his maths by studying under druids.

Unsurprisingly, the documentary stops short of concluding the visit did take place, noting 'Jesus's shoe has not turned up'. However, the makers insist that while the visit is unproven, it is possible.

The theory is that he arrived by sea, following established trading routes, before visiting several places in the West Country.

In the film, Dr Gordon Strachan, a Church of Scotland minister, says it is plausible Jesus came to further his education. The country is thought to have been at the forefront of learning 2,000 years ago, with mathematics particularly strong.

Ted Harrison, the film's director, said: 'If somebody was wanting to learn about the spirituality and thinking not just of the Jews but also the classical and Greek world he would have to come to Britain, which was the centre of learning at the time.

'Jesus was a young man curious to find out about all sorts of things.

'We know there is a huge gap in the life of Jesus between when he was born and when his ministry started.

'He would have come to learn what was being taught about astronomy and geometry which was being taught at "universities" run by druids at the time.'

Mr Harrison, a former BBC religious affairs correspondent, says Jesus may just have been a boy when he left the Middle East for England.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Great British Heritage Pass


If you plan to visit Stonehenge and other English Heritage sites buying a Heritage Pass will save time and money -

Combine great value and great sightseeing with the Great British Heritage Pass. Giving you free entry to nearly 600 attractions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the multi-day heritage pass takes you on an amazing journey through Britain's rich cultural heritage.

Britain has a vibrant history, and scores of brilliantly preserved stately homes, palaces, castles, gardens and famous monuments to visit. Plan your visit using the Great British Heritage Pass and the free 40-page guidebook you'll receive  and save money along the way.

With the Great British Heritage Pass you'll have FREE ENTRY to nearly 600 attractions, including:

•Stonehenge
•Edinburgh Castle
•Palace of Holyroodhouse
•Roman Baths
•Shakespeare's Birthplace
•Leeds Castle
•St. Paul's Cathedral
•Royal Albert Hall
•Anne Hathaway's Cottage
•Stirling Castle
•Cardiff Castle
•Caernarfon Castle
•Tintern Abbey

Additional information

The Great British Heritage Pass

Inclusions:
•FREE 40 page Guidebook
•FREE Map of Great Britain
•The Great British Heritage Pass
•FREE entry to over 600 attractions

If you wish to purchase a pass the cheapest place to buy one is at this link - click here

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2009 - 8.09am 21st December



This year, the Solstice sunrise is on the morning of Monday the 21st December. Sunrise itself is around 08.09 a.m. (exact times will be posted nearer to the event). open the site to the public from 07.30 a.m. for a couple of hours.
when I do get the times I will post them on the main page.


I will be there again to see the sunrise ( one day it will be visible I am sure) and get up close to the wonderful stones and celebrate the shortest day of the year with the normal mixture of interesting and lovely people. Needless to say I will be posting lots of images 'live' from the centre! Watch this space...............

Saturday, 5 December 2009

English Heritage forced to pulp its aptly titled Ghastly Book Of Stonehenge over crass errors



Stonehenge: The guide, meant for children, is riddled with mistakes

The Government body responsible for maintaining the nation's historic monuments has been forced to withdraw a children's guide to Stonehenge because it was littered with factual errors.
The book, called The Ghastly Book Of Stonehenge, has become a laughing stock among archaeologists because of its many blunders.
English Heritage, which receives £129million a year in Government funding, has recalled 4,500 copies of the £3 book and now plans to pulp them.

A spokeswoman said last night that an 'incorrect proof' – an earlier, unedited version of the book – had been sent to the printers.
The schoolboy errors include a passage in which the Bronze Age was mistakenly placed before the Stone Age, and an Ice Age mammoth was used to illustrate a chart showing Iron Age to medieval times.
Mammoths finally became extinct around 1700BC – almost 1,000 years before the Iron Age began in Britain.
An entry about 5th Century king Aurelius Ambrosius – believed to be the historical basis for King Arthur – mistakenly called him Aureole Ambrosias, a spelling error that appears to have been copied from the internet.
One paragraph states that Bronze Age bluestones, which archaeologists believe were transported to the site in Wiltshire from Wales, arrived in around 2550BC, while 'about 200 to 300 years' later, 'New Stone Age people added some much bigger stones'.
Grammatical errors are also rife, including examples such as 'Prehistoric carvings of daggers and axes on the stones is discovered by a photographer'

Distances and directions on maps are often wrong or contradictory with the stone circle at Avebury said to be 'about 20km' from Stonehenge in the text while on the fold-out map it's 46km.
Page references are often wrong and anyone who wanted to find the entry about Merlin and Aurelius Ambrosius would be directed to Page 30, when it's actually six pages later on.
The mistakes in the book, by children's author Tracey Turner, were spotted by a reader of British Archaeology magazine, which lampooned the errors in its latest edition.
Editor Mike Pitts said: 'I couldn't believe it. It was supposed to be written in a style that makes it accessible to children but the result was a catalogue of errors too many to list, so I thought it our duty to publish the story.
'Not only that but the book was written in a style that really pokes fun at the people of the past in a condescending way and I think that devalues and demeans what happened at Stonehenge.
'There's even a silly reference to a site at Robin Hood's Ball near Stonehenge as being "a prehistoric nightclub".
'King Aurelius Ambrosius is a central mythical figure in the story of Stonehenge who is said to have told Merlin to build the Henge on the site of a great and bloody battle but to spell his name wrong so that he becomes King Nipples Rice Pudding just takes the biscuit.'
An English Heritage spokeswoman said last night: 'The Ghastly Book of Stonehenge was withdrawn as soon as it became apparent an incorrect proof containing a number of factual errors had gone to print.
'The Ghastly series was conceived in 2005 as part of a wider strategy to improve family learning at our sites.
'However, over the past couple of years, publishing at English Heritage has undergone quite a radical rethink and we are unlikely to be printing books such as these again.
'We will instead focus on providing free, downloadable resources to support teachers and families visiting our website.
'We have also completely reviewed our editorial procedures to ensure that such a mistake doesn't happen again.'

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

'Bring your own barbecues' were popular at Stonehenge 5,000 years ago


Stonehenge was a popular area for feasting in the Neolithic period

Stonehenge attracts thousands of Druids, tourists and music festival revellers from far afield each year. Now a new analysis of ancient animal teeth has revealed it was a popular feasting area as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Stone-age people drove cattle across the country to 'bring-your-own' beef barbecues near Stonehenge, the tests revealed.
The analysis of the teeth found at Durrington Walls, a 5,000-year-old village, showed the animals had come from at least 60 miles away.


Dr Jane Evans from the British Geological Survey said the discovery showed a number of feasts were held at the Stonehenge site.

She added that people travelled from as far away as Wales to get there but brought their own food rather than shopping for beef locally.

'People are coming from considerable distances and dispersion in order to have feasts,' Dr Evans said.

'People were bringing their food supplies to this site. There wasn't a farming community that supplied travellers with local beef. It was a case of bringing your own beef barbecue.'
The discovery was made by analysis of different types of a chemical element called strontium found in the soil and absorbed through food into animal and human teeth.
Different types or isotopes of strontium are found in soils of different geological make-up, and the nearest match to those found in the cattle teeth are in Wales, Dr Evans said at the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool.
The Stone Age Neolithic site is a massive circular earthwork close to Stonehenge that was used from around 3,000 BC to 2,500 BC, until around the time the stones at Stonehenge were put in place in the Bronze Age.
An archaeological dig at the site in the 1960s revealed a circular timber structure and a vast collection of animal bones.

Dr Evans added the discovery shed light on communications and movement in the Neolithic period, and showed the already-known relationship between the Stonehenge area and Wales stretched back into the Stone Age.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Heavy rock music: Stonehenge was a 'neolithic rave venue'



The mysterious Stonehenge was a dance arena for ancient revellers listening to 'trance-style' music, according to one professor who is an expert in sound.

Stonehenge has baffled archaeologists who have argued for decades over the stone circle's 5,000-year history - but now academic Dr Rupert Till believes he has solved the riddle by suggesting it may have been used for ancient raves.
Part-time DJ Dr Till, an expert in acoustics and music technology at Huddersfield University, believes the standing stones of Stonehenge had the ideal acoustics to amplify a 'repetitive trance rhythm' not dissimilar to some kinds of modern trance music.

Stonehenge would have had strange acoustic effects thousands of years ago


The original Stonehenge probably had a 'very pleasant, almost concert-like acoustic' that our ancestors slowly perfected over many generations. Because Stonehenge itself is partially collapsed, Dr Till, used a computer model to conduct experiments in sound.
The most exciting discoveries came when he and colleague Dr Bruno Fazenda visited a full-size concrete replica of Stonehenge, which was built as a war memorial by American road builder Sam Hill at Maryhill in Washington state.
He said: 'We were able to get some interesting results when we visited the replica by using computer-based acoustic analysis software, a 3D soundfield microphone, a dodecahedronic (12-faced) speaker, and a huge bass speaker.
'We have also been able to reproduce the sound of someone speaking or clapping in Stonehenge 5,000 years ago.

'The most interesting thing is we managed to get the whole space (at Maryhill) to resonate, almost like a wine glass will ring if you run a finger round it.

'While that was happening a simple drum beat sounded incredibly dramatic. The space had real character; it felt that we had gone somewhere special.'

Building on previous research, Dr Till believes ancient Britons had a good ear for sounds and shaped the stones to create the best acoustics.

He went on: 'Other archaeologists' research shows that Stonehenge has a specific acoustic design. The stones are all curved and reflect the sound perfectly. The lintels are also curved. They must have noticed that when they placed a stone in a particular place it would have sounded different.'
Dr Till recently spoke to academics at Bristol University about Stonehenge rituals and a research network is being set up to look closer at Neolithic sites.

'There are two main theories about what Stonehenge was used for,' he says.

'One is that it was a healing space, the other that it was a place of the dead.
'Both of these imply ritual activity, but very little is actually known about the way people sang, danced or performed rituals there because these things left no trace in the archaeological record.

'However, our research shows that there are particular spots in the site that produce unusual particular acoustic effects, intimating that perhaps a priest or a shaman may have stood there, leading the ritual.

'This kind of ritual may also have been for healing, so this acoustic study may tie the two main competing theories about Stonehenge together.'
The data is still being analysed, but it is clear that Stonehenge did have a 'very unusual sound' says Dr Till.

'By simulating this sound we can hope to understand more about English culture from 5,000 years ago, and perhaps better understand both our ancestors and our culture today.'

Stonehenge tops list of Britain's 'seven wonders'


Stonehenge has been voted as the UK’s top wonder in a new list of the country's unmissable attractions.

The ancient site beat competition from other notable UK landmarks including Snowdonia and Edinburgh Castle to top the survey of the 'Seven Wonders of Britain'.
The poll, by holiday firm cottages4you, asked 1,000 holidaymakers what made a great British break.
It found that as a nation we are lovers of Britain’s natural beauty as we shun modern-made attractions for natural and historic sights, with prehistoric monument Stonehenge topping the list.

The survey also found that while a third of 18-24-year-olds said fish and chips on the pier was the most memorable British holiday activity, over 35-year-olds were wowed by the UK's countryside and scenery.

Apart from Stonehenge, the list includes Hadrian’s Wall, the White Cliffs of Dover, Loch Ness and Cheddar Gorge.

There are so many fantastic places to visit in the UK from mountains and beaches to historic monuments and stately homes, I’m sure those taking their first UK holiday for a few years will be spoilt for choice.’
Yet despite the British love affair with holidaying at home (60 per cent have already taken one break in the UK this year) we are still not so adventurous when it comes to exploring our green and pleasant land - London and the Lake District were voted as the most popular destinations

The 'Seven Wonders of Britain' are:
Stonehenge
Hadrian's Wall
The White Cliffs of Dover
Loch Ness
Snowdonia
Edinburgh Castle
Cheddar Gorge

Friday, 27 November 2009

New Stonehenge Tour - The Stonehenge Express



A new tour has been launched by the sightseeing coach tour company Evan Evans, based in London. Itinerary as follows;
Afternoon Express Coach Service from London to Stonehenge, including admission into Stonehenge.


Included Highlights•Express Service to Stonehenge by luxury Motor-coach
•Entrance to Stonehenge included
•Information Fact Sheet and Audio Guide
•Extended Visit


The great and ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is one of the great wonders of the world and has been awarded World Heritage Status. Why it was built is a mystery, it has been a pagan place of worship, an astronomical clock and a Bronze age burial ground. Its origins date back almost 5,000 years. Decide for yourself while you discover this unique monument.

Board our luxury coach for a direct Express service to Stonehenge. On arrival our driver will take you onto the site, where you can enjoy the stones at your leisure with a fascinating audio-guide tour, in the language of your choice.

Languages on the Audio Guide: English, Italian, Swedish, Russian, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, French, Dutch.


DAYS OF OPERATION


Days of operation: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Tour Starts: 12.15pm, The Original Tour Visitors Centre, Trafalgar Square
Tour Finishes: 6.30 pm

Adults: £29.00 Children (3-16): £26.00
Seniors (60+)/Students (with ID): £28.00

To book this tour - click here

Heritage Lottery Boost for new Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given its funding green light to English
Heritage’s proposals to improve the setting and visitor facilities of Stonehenge, it
was announced today (19th November).
The HLF first-round pass* means that English Heritage can now progress to the
second stage of the HLF application process. As part of the process, English
Heritage has up to two years to finalise its proposals for the £4.95m of HLF support
that they are seeking for their £27.5m project.
Stonehenge receives over 40,000 education visitors every year from both the UK and
around the world. The existing visitor facilities at Stonehenge have no provision for
education and interpretation, with all education activities currently being conducted
outdoors.
A new, multi-functional education area at the proposed new visitor centre at Airman’s
Corner will provide space and facilities for school groups. Community groups and
family activities will also be catered for.
A new, dedicated exhibition and interpretation space will also, for the first time,
provide a much needed introduction to Stonehenge, helping visitors to better
understand the monument and its setting.
Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Project Director at English Heritage, said: “This is
fantastic news. We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund supports the

project. The project has immense potential for education and training, as well as at
last providing a visitor experience fitting for the country’s most famous monument.”
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Stonehenge is
one of the UK's most important archaeological landmarks and a place that has
intrigued and delighted people for thousands of years. The Heritage Lottery Fund's
initial support for these plans to better protect and present the site reflects our
strong belief that Stonehenge is an iconic part of our heritage."

Notes to Editors:
*A first-round pass means the project meets the HLF criteria for funding and they believe
it has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application
was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement
of outline proposals.
However, a first-round pass does not guarantee the applicant will receive a grant as the
second-round application will still be in competition for funding, and no money is set aside
at this stage. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years
to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains
and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in,
learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural
environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has
supported more than 28,800 projects, allocating over £4.3billion across the UK.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Stonehenge Special Access Tours - Go beyond the fences!



The best way to visit Stonehenge is to go after hours (with special permission from the English Heritage) These special access tours are only provided by one company (see below) If you want a scheduled sightseeeing tour from London check this company out (The Stoneheneg Tour Company)
However, should you require a private tour of Stonehenge 'beyond the fences' please do not hesitate to contact me -

2009 / 2010 Stonehenge Inner Circle Tours- Including the City of Bath and Lacock Village -
Go beyond the fences!

We have arranged with English Heritage for you to experience a unique guided visit to this ancient sacred site - beyond the fences and after the crowds have gone home. Walk amongst the stones and experience the magical atmosphere within the inner circle.

Highlights:

Private viewing of Stonehenge at sunset or sunrise
Enter the stone circle and touch the stones
Visit Lacock, a delightful Saxon village
See where Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were filmed
Meal stop in a 13th century inn (food/drinks not included)
Visit Bath - free time to shop and explore
Entrance to the Roman Baths and Pump Room included




"A Unique Experience!"

For those of you who have not visited this sacred site, we should mention that the complex is roped off. Visitors observe the stones from a distance and are not permitted within the temple complex..........our special access tours allow you to be amongst the stones and to actually touch them. Your guide will bring to life its many myths, legends and rich and fascinating history. All tours depart central London at 6.00am and return mid-day leaving you time to make the most of your stay in London.

The Tour:

After your pick-up directly from or near to your hotel, we drive to Bath to visit the Roman Baths and Pump Room. In the late afternoon we visit Lacock for an early evening supper in a 13th century inn, before driving to Stonehenge. As the sun begins to set, we enter the stone circle (which is normally roped off to the public) for a unique private viewing. The most dramatic and atmospheric way of visiting Stonehenge.

On selected days the tour operates in reverse, beginning with a private viewing of Stonehenge before it opens to the public in the morning, so we see the stones in the eerie morning light. This is followed by our visits to Lacock and Bath.

STONEHENGE - PRIVATE VIEWING AT SUNSET AND TOUCH THE STONES
Built nearly 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is the most popular prehistoric monument in the world. Most visitors to the site are not allowed direct access to the stones. With Premium Tours you get that access, with a private viewing of the mysterious monoliths. We will enter the stone circle itself and stand beside the mighty Sarsen rocks towering above us. Our guide will explain the history of this ancient site, pointing out the altar, slaughter and heel stones, above which the sun rises dramatically on the summer solstice. There will be time to enjoy the peace, away from the crowds, as we experience Stonehenge at its most mystical and atmospheric best. Not to be missed!

LACOCK

Lacock is a little known, picturesque village dating back to the Saxon era. Many of the beautiful buildings originally formed part of an extensive monastic complex and are now owned by The National Trust. So pretty is the village that it has provided the setting for many movies and television dramas including Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice and more recently Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. We will take a delightful walk before we enjoy an early evening supper* (or breakfast for morning tours*) in The George, a vintage English pub built in 1361.
*food/drink not included

BATH
Bath, a world heritage site, is a beautiful Georgian city with delightful crescents, terraces and architecture. There will be plenty of time to visit Bath Abbey, or to shop and explore. Your guide will also conduct an optional walking tour to show you where Charles Dickens lived and worked as a young man, and a give you a chance to sample some delicious cheeses fresh from the local dairy farms. Then we will enter the magnificent Roman Baths, where over one million litres of boiling water still burst free from the hot springs everyday.

The Stonehenge Tour Company - click here

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

THEORIES ON WHY THE ANCIENTS BUILT STONEHENGE:


Thought I'd share this Stonehenge Joke with you........


It was an early attempt to precisely map positions of stars and planets to facilitate better horoscope writing.


A few people drank too many cups of espresso one morning, had to work it off.


It was a technological innovation from a people way ahead of their time, as explained by the little-known inscription: "Someday we will be able to use this to receive something called 'satellite TV' for free."

And if you have time, read further.............

Stonehenge, Merlin, and gallows humour
Stories that `explain' Stonehenge have been told since the Middle Ages.

People have tried to explain Stonehenge for centuries - certainly since the Middle Ages. The monument probably takes its name from Old English stan hengen - `the stone hanging (- places)', suggesting it could perhaps have been an Anglo-Saxon execution site. But no excavation there has located one of those pathetic, contorted burials that so graphically illustrate early medieval royal control (see BA, February). Although Domesday Book shows that Stonehenge was on a royal estate, it was not the meeting-place of the local hundred court. Nor is it close to a boundary, and although roads went close by, it was not at a crossroads. So it was probably not an Anglo-Saxon `killing-place'; but people who saw in the stone trilithons a similarity to the two-post and crossbeam gallows typical of the period may have given the monument its macabre name - England's first example of gallows humour?

Any joke was lost on Henry of Huntingdon, the author of the work in which Stonehenge is first recorded, for the early copies of his book spelt it stanenges, perhaps because he took the name from an h-dropping Wiltshire native. The section of his History of the English that mentions Stonehenge was issued c. 1130, and it is quite likely that Henry had seen Stonehenge, for he gives an eye-witness account: `stones of remarkable size are raised up like gates, in such a way that gates seem to be placed on top of gates' - a graphic description of how the lintels of the outer sarsen circle are overtopped by the central trilithons.

Henry regarded the monument as one of England's marvels: `no-one can work out how the stones were so skilfully lifted up to such a height, or why they were erected there'. He was soon to be given an explanation, however. Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain of c 1136 claimed that Merlin had the stones brought from Ireland and re-erected, using his `wondrous art' at the behest of his British patron. Twelfth century writers understood patronage, and their Histories reflected contemporary tensions by offering legitimisation variously to Normans, English, or Welsh.

Henry accepted Geoffrey's story, but many others since have not, doubting the existence of the `old book' that he claimed was his main source. He must have had some source other than Henry, however, as he put the `h' in his spelling of Stonehenge. But what he says about the monument does not suggest that he had ever seen it; he seems to have thought it a single ring, and makes no mention of the lintel-stones. If he had known the area better, he would not have described Amesbury, beside the Avon, as a mons (`mountain').

If Geoffrey did not know the area, how much trust can be placed in his stories about the stones being moved? The archaeologist Stuart Piggott argued that the story of the transfer of the stones was a folk-memory of the bluestones being brought from Wales. Folklore scholars say that these stories were common-place, and that Geoffrey could have heard them told about other stone rows and circles, and done a bit of transferring of his own.

Stories to `explain' landscape features were probably told often enough; `the tendency of fiction to gather round places and place-names', as the historian Patrick Sims-Williams wrote in a study of their use (or uselessness) in understanding the Anglo-Saxon settlement. One area for which much has been claimed is Uffington, where the long barrow Wayland's Smithy is recorded in a 10th century charter, and where other names around the White Horse, such as the Ring Pit, may seek to locate the exploits of Wayland, the mythical smith. Barrows, recognised as ancient burial places, were particularly likely to acquire heroic names. But in general the boundary marks in Anglo-Saxon charters are boringly prosaic. The circuit of an estate close to Stonehenge went `from the Avon to the old camp ditch . . . to the track . . . to the boundary that Wulfsige laid down', recognising previous use of the land with its reference to an Iron Age or Roman enclosure but not giving it a fabulous origin. Ownership rights are stressed by the reference to Wulfsige. Heroes, giants and gods are allowed an occasional place, but overall the landscape is viewed as parcels of property.

Local people may have told stories about Stonehenge, but the monument's name does not suggest anything but some grim tale about an execution - or it may just be a nickname. It can only be said that, from archaeological evidence, medieval people seem not in fact to have used the place at all. It was what Henry of Huntingdon said, a marvel, but it had no role to play in the medieval landscape of managed, demarcated downland, where the king's sheep grazed under the watchful eyes of their shepherds.

One of these shepherds may have spoken to Henry of Huntingdon. When Henry asked for an explanation of the monument, the shepherd did not reply with a story about Merlin and the rest, but gave the answer that summed up local knowledge and has not changed since - `I don't know.'

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Interactive 360° panoramic of Stonehenge

Superb interactive 'full screen' panoramic image of Stonehenge.

Take a spin from within the famous stone circle. This stunning panoramic was created on a beautiful crisp morning, just days before the Timewatch dig. Best viewed full-screen, link below.

Drag the picture with the mouse or use the cursor keys to rotate the view - use Shift and Control to zoom in and out.

Can you spot the magical bluestones, transported 250km from Wales by our Neolithic ancestors? Professors Darvill and Wainwright believe they hold the key to unlocking one of archaeology's biggest mysteries - the purpose of Stonehenge.

Click here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/stonehenge/panorama.shtml

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Stonehenge Tour



Just completed a great tour of Stonehenge with a fantastic group of travellers (see image) We did a special access tour - beyond the fences after the crowds have gone home (the best way by far) Today we did my classic itinerary, see below.
Anyone eklse want to join me ? sightseeing@o2.co.uk

Visit the beautiful medieval city of Salisbury and explore the magnificent Cathedral crowned with the tallest spire in Britain and built by medieval craftsmen over 750 years ago. See one of the few surviving original texts of the Magna Carta and wander around the picturesque streets of this ancient market town.

Afterwards,we visit Old Sarum Castle (Old Salisbury), one of Britain's earliest settlements. First occupied over 5000 years ago, its been occupied and defended in turn by the Romans, Saxons and Normans and it was the site of the original city and cathedral. Explore the ruins of this once thriving city in their ancient and beautiful setting, and enjoy spectacular views over the sweeping landscape of Salisbury Plain.
A highlight of the day is a hearty lunch in a cosy country pub nestling in the beautiful Woodford Valley. Maybe sample the local ales before continuing our scenic drive to the awe - inspiring prehistoric monument of Stonehenge - Click here for /2009 Special Access Dates. Hear about the many myths, legends and mysteries of this World Heritage Site, built over 5000 years ago, and take time to reflect upon its powerful, mysterious presence. As we meander through the the countryside to Avebury, we pass famous white horses carved into the chalk hillsides and picturesque, tucked away villages. We explore the mysterious phenomena of crop circles and take a closer look at any which may be in the area (seasonal). Avebury, the largest stone circle in Britain and the product of over 500 years of effort by Neolithic man. Enjoy a walking tour of this ancient site and try your hand at the ancient art of dowsing. Prepare to be amazed !There's also time to explore the
charming village of Avebury with its thatched cottages, antiques and village church - and maybe enjoy a cream tea.We also see Silbury Hill, Europe's largest prehistoric man-made monument yet forever a mystery, before returning back to the present - London.



A truly legendary day out in the ancient Kingdom of Wessex !

I operate private tours all year round - please contact me if you want a 'proper' tour of Stonehenge.

New Druid Book Published: The Druids: A Comparative Study of Indo-European Pagan Practice


This is not an advert! (search online to buy a copy - Lulu.com or Amazon will sell it. I have just finished this book and can highly recommend it.
Even though the ancient Druids would seem as much an enigma today as they have ever been, this book very much sets the record straight. By firmly placing the Druids within the ancient Celtic socio-religious framework to which they so evidently belonged and, further, by comparing the pagan practices of the Celts with the other inhabitants of ancient Indo-Europe, much light is shed on the curious practices of this ancient priesthood.
This is very much a book of comparisons. By studying the pagan practices found elsewhere in ancient Europe, such as those of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Persia and Germany, we find that in many respects the Druids were not that original but shared a common heritage, that of their Indo-European forebears. This book therefore is just as much about the ancient Indo-Europeans, formerly known as the Aryans, as it is about the Druids and the other inhabitants of pagan Europe.
The approach taken in this book reveals to us the true significance of the mighty oak of the Druids, the meaning of the elaborate ceremony of the cutting of the mistletoe detailed by Pliny, and even the original meaning of the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece.
Also revealed in this book are the mythological origins of the custom of the contention to become Rex Nemorensis at Aricia in ancient Italy, the original meaning of the swastika, and the identity of the legendary Soma plant of the Vedas.

Monday, 16 November 2009

[FIRST LOOK] This blog can reveal the first official pictures of Denton Corker Marshall’s (DCM) new £20 million Stonehenge visitor centre in Wiltshire




The designs were unveiled as a planning application for the visitor centre on the Airman’s Corner plot – along with an application to close the A344 that runs next to the Stones – was made to Wiltshire Council.

The scheme features a perforated undulating canopy, supported by a forest of thin columns, which sits ‘lightly in the landscape above a pair of self-contained pods’ on a limestone pavement. The transparent, glazed box will house a shop and a café while the other solid ‘pod’ - clad in locally sourced chestnut wood - will be home to the exhibition space (click here to see early sketches).


DCM landed the contest to design the new facility back in February – effectively for a second time following the demise of its original £65 million proposals in 2007 – seeing off Bennetts Associates and Edward Cullinan Architects in the process.

Stephen Quinlan, director of architects’ Denton Corker Marshall, said: ‘Designing a visitor centre at a site of such importance is both a major challenge and a serious responsibility. Our proposal, above all, seeks not to compromise the solidity and timelessness of the Stones, but to satisfy the brief with a design which is universally accessible, environmentally sensitive, and at the same time appears almost transitory in nature.

He added: ‘If once back at home, a visitor can remember their visit to the stones but can’t remember the visitor centre they passed through on the way, we will be happy.


‘The biggest challenge has been the centre’s setting on open grassland. There is nowhere to hide unlike the previous scheme which was camouflaged.’

Speaking to the AJ, Quinlan admitted the practice, which has a six-strong team working on the scheme, almost didn’t enter the second contest. However the London-based director decided to have another crack partly to counter accusations of ‘sour grapes’ following the demise of the practice’s original, sub-terranean proposals [on a different plot to the North East of the Stones].

The long-running visitor centre project has been rumbling since 1986 and is set to be funded by English Heritage (EH), Highways Agency, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Transport and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

EH told the AJ that it had factored in the possibility of a public enquiry into its timescale but still hopes the centre will be open in time for London’s Olympic Games in 2012. The total budget for the scheme, including roadworks, is £27.5 million.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The protection of Stonehenge - 1927. Historical news



Discovered this old image of Stonehenge in my archive and had to share it with you. I also managed to find this very old article about saving Stonehenge.

An appeal

This is the text of the historic appeal launched by the Stonehenge Protection Committee and the National Trust in the 1920s to save Stonehenge. Please note that this is not an ongoing appeal. The Stonehenge Alliance will be very pleased to hear from you if you'd like to make a donation towards their current campaign to protect the monument. Click here for more details.

Note: We have added the bold emphasis to draw attention to inconsistencies between the National Trust's highly commendable attitude 80 years ago and the British government's determination to bulldoze a road through the World Heritage Site today. We have added the strike through emphasis to stop people accidentally donating money by mistake.



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OVER £14,000 has been raised in three months for the Protection of Stonehenge. More is urgently needed.

In the first week of August 1927 the following letter appeared in the leading London and provincial newspapers. The signature of Mr. Lloyd George, who was travelling, arrived after the letter had been published:

SIR,

A Stonehenge Protection Committee has been formed, the object of which is indicated by its title. We desire earnestly to support its appeal to the public for funds.

It is now nine years since Sir Cecil Chubb made the nation the magnificent present of the Stonehenge circle itself; and the great stones are safely in the charge of the Commissioners of Works. The land of the Plain around them, however, is still private property. So long as it remains in private hands, there is an obvious danger that the setting of Stonehenge may be ruined and the stones dwarfed by the erection of unsightly buildings on the Plain.

Any visitor to Stonehenge may at this moment form a notion as to what, if steps are not at once taken, may happen to the Stonehenge section of the Plain. During the war the military authorities found it necessary to erect an aerodrome and rows of huts very near the circle. These have reverted to the owner of the land, but they are still standing. In recent months an enterprising restaurateur has built a bungalow, the Stonehenge Cafe, within hail of the stones, though happily just out of sight of them. The conditions of modern transport make it extremely likely that this structure, if no preven- tive measures be adopted, will be the first of many, and that the monoliths will in time be surrounded by all the accessories of a popular holiday resort. The Stonehenge ring, as every British child has learnt to picture it from his earliest years, will no longer exist.

The solitude of Stonehenge should be restored, and precautions taken to ensure that our posterity will see it against the sky in the lonely majesty before which our ancestors have stood in awe throughout all our recorded history.

We are glad to be able to state that options have just been secured for the purchase of an area of the Plain which includes the whole of what may be called "the Stonehenge sky-line." Should the purchases be effected, the Air Force buildings will be removed, further building will be prevented, and the valuable archeological remains of the site permanently protected from the plough.

The land purchased will be placed under the guardianship of the National Trust; and part at least of the revenues derived from rents for grazing, etc., will it is hoped, be available for the further protection of the archaeological treasures and amenities of Salisbury Plain.

The total area under consideration is 1,444 acres; the sum aimed at is about £35,000. The sum is small compared with several amounts recently raised for the preservation of great national monuments; and here we have a monument unique in its fame and significance. A substantial beginning has already been made; and a first sub- scription. list is appended to this letter. The need is urgent. Projects are already in existence which would involve extensive building and the laying of water mains; and one important option to purchase expires at the end of August. Cheques should be made out to the National Trust (Stonehenge Fund), and crossed Barclay�s Bank, and sent to the Secretary, 7 Buckingham Palace Gardens, S.W.1.

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY BALDWIN
J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
CRAWFORD & BALCARRES (President of the Society of Antiquaries)
GREY OF FALLODON (Vice-President of the National Trust)
RADNOR (Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire)

As a result of this appeal, and the enthusiastic labour of a Committee including representatives of the National Trust, the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, the Society of Antiquaries, acting with the cordial approval of the Office of Works, half the area in question is already secure. The position may be briefly explained.

THE THREE PLOTS

Short options were, in August, secured by the Committee on three plots which include areas Of 389 acres, 404 acres, and 650 acres respectively.


PLOT A

This plot is that to the south and south-east of the stones, which has for years been defaced by the derelict aerodromes and hutments. The cost of this was £8,000. The money was secured before the end of October. PLOT A IS SECURE IN THE NATIONAL POSSESSION FOR EVER, AND THE DEMOLITION OF THE BUILDINGS HAS ALREADY BEGUN.


PLOT B

This part of the Stonehenge area lies towards Amesbury, and the threat of building from that quarter is serious. The purchase price is £8,ooo. OWING TO A NOBLE DONATION OF £5,000 BY AN ANONYMOUS LADY WHO HAD ALREADY SUBSCRIBED £1,000, AND A TIMELY GIFT OF £500 FROM THE GOLDSMITHS� COMPANY, THE PURCHASE OF THIS PLOT HAS ALSO BEEN COMPLETED.


PLOT C

There remains, therefore, the third plot: 650 acres to the north of the Devizes Road. This tract, which includes the southward-facing road frontage immediately opposite the stones, is in obvious and immediate danger of building, and the price asked is £16,000. UNLESS IT IS SAVED THE WHOLE WORK OF THE COMMITTEE AND THE SUBSCRIBERS WILL HAVE BEEN IN VAIN) AND STONEHENGE WILL HAVE A SOLITUDE TO THE SOUTH AND A STREET TO THE NORTH.


THE HEART OF ENGLAND

That the leaders of all political parties should unite in appealing for such a cause is not surprising. Salisbury Plain is the greatest of our archeological sites, and Stonehenge, a mysterious legacy from the dim beginnings of our civilization many centuries before the Romans came, is the heart of the Plain. Causes-and good causes- are appealed for every day, and it is evident that not everything worth "saving" can be "saved." But we have not two Stonehenges, and our generation will be vilified by all posterity if we allow the surroundings of this monument, the frontispiece to English history, to be ruined beyond repair.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

New Stonehenge Find Reveals Religious Significance


LONDON — The discovery of a small prehistoric circle of stones near Stonehenge may confirm the theory that the mysterious monument in southwest England was part of a massive funeral complex built around a river, researchers said Tuesday.

The new find shows that the second stone circle — dubbed "Bluehenge" because it was built with bluestones — once stood next to the River Avon about 1.75 miles from Stonehenge, one of Britain's best loved and least understood landmarks.

The find last month could help prove that the Avon linked a "domain of the dead" — made up of Stonehenge and Bluehenge — with an upstream "domain of the living" known as Durrington Wells, a monument where extensive signs of feasting and other human activity were found, said Professor Julian Thomas, co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.

Project director Mike Parker Pearson said it is possible that Bluehenge was the starting point of a processional walk that began at the river and ended at Stonehenge, the site of a large prehistoric cemetery.

"Not many people know that Stonehenge was Britain's largest burial ground at that time," he said. "Maybe the bluestone circle is where people were cremated before their ashes were buried at Stonehenge itself."

There were very few signs of human life found around Stonehenge and Bluehenge, researchers said, lending credence to the idea that it was used as a funeral site, especially since there were signs that many human beings were cremated there.

A five-university team has been excavating the greater Stonehenge site since 2003 in a bid to unravel its meaning and use.

"This find certainly confirms the idea we've put forward that the river is of fundamental importance and links everything," Thomas said. "Everything is related to the river. That suggests that even before Neolithic time it may have had spiritual or religious significance. This find enhances the idea that all the monuments in this landscape are linked in various ways."

Researchers did not find the actual stones used to mark the smaller circle found by the river, but they did find holes left behind when the stones were removed.

The scientists believe the massive stones used for Bluehenge were dragged from the Welsh mountains roughly 150 miles away. There were clear indications that the gigantic stones from the Bluehenge site were later removed whole for use in the construction of Stonehenge, Thomas said.

They hope to use radiocarbon dating techniques to better pinpoint construction dates.

Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a favorite with visitors from throughout the world and has become popular with Druids, neo-Pagans and New Agers who attach mystical significance to the strangely-shaped circle of stones, but there remains great debate about the actual purpose of the structure.

Rare excavation work at the actual Stonehenge site was begun last year in a coordinated effort to unearth materials that could be used to establish a firm date for when the first set of bluestones was put in place there.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Druids’ delight at Stonehenge car ban


AFTER nearly three decades of disputes over cost and conservation, Stonehenge is to be freed from the traffic-clogged main road slicing through its historic setting.

Under a scheme to be put to planners tomorrow by English Heritage, which manages the 5,000-year-old monument, a 1.3-mile stretch of the A344 will be closed and a new visitors’ centre and car park will be built. The £28m plan is a scaled-down version of a £600m project to build a road tunnel.

Motorists may be saddened by the prospect of losing a free close-up view of a national icon. Conservationists, however, have long been angry about the failure to remove the polluting eyesore from the archeologically rich landscape around Stonehenge. The area has been designated a world heritage site by Unesco, which has expressed concern about its shabby surroundings.

English Heritage, the quango responsible for state-owned historic sites, hopes the simplified plan will be agreed by Wiltshire county council early next year. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport wants the project completed in time to receive visitors for the 2012 Olympics.

Related Links
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Record crowds at Stonehenge for summer solstice
Under the scheme, funded by English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Highways Agency and the government, the closed section of the A344 will be grassed over and the visitors’ centre built 1½ miles west of the monument, at a site known as Airman’s Corner. Regular shuttles will take visitors to the monument. Through traffic will be diverted via the A303.

The single-storey centre, in glass and wood, is one of the most contentious parts of the project. English Heritage describes it as “sensitive to its ancient surroundings and having the lightest possible touch on the landscape”, but some critics, having seen mock-ups, have been harsh in their reaction.

Paul Sample, a local councillor and former mayor of Salisbury, has called it “cheap and nasty”, while Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald, a lawyer and member of the Unesco world heritage committee, likened it to “a derelict aircraft hangar”.

At present, most visitors — up to 900,000 a year — come to Stonehenge by car or coach and stop only a few hundred yards away in an unsightly parking area beside the A344. They then walk through an underpass to the monument.

The submission for planning comes as archeologists announced this weekend that they have discovered a mini-Stonehenge, a mile from the main site. The monument has been called Bluehenge after the 27 Welsh blue stones — made of Preseli dotted dolerite — which once formed it. Despite the 5,000-year age of the henge, all that is now left are the holes where the monoliths comprising the circle once stood.

Bluehenge, uncovered over the summer by Sheffield University archeologists, is at one end of the avenue connecting Stonehenge to the River Avon. It is thought it was built about the same time as Stonehenge with stones that would have been dragged 200 miles from the Preseli mountains in Wales. The find is already challenging conventional wisdom about how Stonehenge was built — and what it was used for. The two circles stood together for hundreds of years before Bluehenge was dismantled. Researchers believe its stones were used to enlarge Stonehenge during one of a number of redevelopments.

Professor Tim Darvill, a Stonehenge expert at Bournemouth University, said: “This adds to the richness of the story of Stonehenge. We thought we knew it all, but over the past few years we have discovered that something as familiar as Stonehenge is still a challenge to explore and understand. It wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t more circles.”

Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge - keep up the good work!


I was up at Stonehenge yesterday and had the pleasure of meeting Arthur Pendragon. If you intend to vist the site please make sure you stop and support his cause. He has got 1000's of signatures (from 60 different religions).
You can always emasil your comments directly to him - see below.
For those unfamiliar with his cause please read the blog below:
Keep up the good work Arthur, if pnly this country had more people like hime this would be a better place!

THE "grave robbers", sorry archaeologists, have been back this summer, theorising and arguing over the whys and wherefores of Stonehenge, and our televisions focus on how marvellous the ancients were who created it.

But what of it now?

Well, after spending £37 million and taking 11 years over public consultation and inquiry, our Government, like a petulant child, ignored all the findings and dismissed with the stroke of a pen all plans for road improvements in and around Stonehenge and forced English Heritage, the Government's own watchdog looking after our national monuments, to begin anew with plans and public consultations.

You may be forgiven for a feeling of deja vu, for we have indeed been here before.

It has been described as "a step in the right direction…" by Robert Key, the Conservative MP for Salisbury. But I say it is a step backwards... back to square one.

The current situation all-round is a rip-off. The tourists are being ripped off, as the current visitor centre is a national disgrace.

What is supposed to be a World Heritage Site is served by temporary toilets and a prefab visitor centre that was temporary when it was built 40 years ago.

The locals are being ripped off, too. They are not getting their road improvements.

And anyone who thinks of Stonehenge as a sacred temple is being ripped off. Divorced from the sacred landscape, this once proud and majestic temple sits like a snared animal amid the tacky trappings of the 21st century.

So what now? More rounds of talking shops and the inevitable "gravy train" of jobs for the boys, with English Heritage doing all it can to turn Stonehenge into a third-rate theme park with a visitor centre, cafe and all the other franchises and marketing practices that this entails.

Perhaps it is time to return to the true spirit of the place.

Scholars will argue over who built it and when, whether it was the proto-Druids or members of a very different faith. But one thing remains certain. It was people of great faith who erected the mighty stones.

The logistics of such an operation, the transporting of the stones over such great distances, through the many domains of different tribal chieftains and peoples, would have needed enormous diplomatic skills and co-operation.

The fact that it is still a place of reverence to certain beliefs shows an unequalled continuity of faith in what was once and still could be the Isle of the Mighty.

Stonehenge was never a centre of commerce but of spirituality.

The need for a visitor centre has been brought about in recent times by the way English Heritage has marketed it so aggressively both at home and abroad.

Many people will remember when Stonehenge meant little more than a few ancient stones standing in the middle of Salisbury Plain. It should have been left like that.

In recent times, it has changed from a place of spirit to a place of confrontation over freedom of access for religious observances at the solstices and equinoxes.


AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE STONEHENGE PICKET

Campaigning for the return of our ancestors remains

Lammas 2009

A big thank you to all those who have bought a badge to support the new Stonehenge Picket, and the Arch Druids of Avebury, Cotswold and Glastonbury for their support.

And a big thank you to the members of the following Pagan and Druid Groups for signing our petition:

- The Druid Order - London

- Dobunni Grove - (Bristol) OBOD

- The Cotswold Order of Druids

- The Washington Witches - USA

- S.W.O.R.D - Avebury

- The Circle of Pagans - Liverpool

And a Huge thank you to all the members of other faiths that have signed our petition. “All Hail the irregulars, who back our cause from the following Faiths.”


Agnostic

Anglican

Atheist

Asatru

Baptist

Buddhist

Catholic

Celtic Christian

Church of England

Church of Latterday Saints

Christian

Druid

Eastern Orthodox

Earth Centred

Eclectic

Episcopal

Evangelical

Goddess

Hari Krishna

Herbalist

Hermetic

Hindu

Islam

Jewish

Jedi

Kabala

Lutheran

Methodist

Muslim

Nilest

Non-denominational

None

Oglala

Orthodox

Pagan

Pantheist

Pentecostal

Presbyterian

Protestant

Quaker

Roman Catholic

Scientologist

Sikh

Southern Baptist

Spiritualist

Taoist

Unitarian

Wiccan

Witch

Zoroastrian

Many thanks to one and all and may your Gods look favourably upon you…..

Arthur attended a podcast interview at Sheffield University in October 2009 to answer questions for archaeological students

WHO BUILT IT?

Stonehenge is the ultimate expression of the Spiritual, Artistic, Cultural and Technical understanding of the Peoples and Cultures that collaborated on its building.

Scholars can argue whether these were the ancient Hyperborean's, the people later to become known as the Picts, the Welsh and indigenous ancient Britons, Pre Celtic Proto-Druids. Latter Bronze / Early Iron, Beaker Age people.

But to us they are simply the Ancestors. The very Giants (Metaphorically speaking) on whose shoulders we sit. The founders of our nation. Who by their exploits put the Might in this once green and pleasant land. The isle of the Mighty.

WHY DID THEY BUILD IT?

Based on what must have been, hundreds of years of observations, Stonehenge's Primary function was that of a great Solar clock. A means to map out direction and seasonal cycles. A devise to tell with some certainty when to plant, when your very survival was dependent on getting it right.

Later alignments and refinements where incorporated over hundreds of years and it became a gathering point and a place of worship. A place to celebrate the full round of life and to honour the dead.

It was built to map out, and to stand the test, of time. Early mans compass and watch, interpreted by the 'Priest Caste', the Wise, from which we get the word Wizard.

A place of Magic to map out also the 'turning of the wheel' and the renewal of the Sun and the cycle of death and rebirth.

A Temple and Testament to our Ancestors ingenuity, Philosophy and enduring belief structure. A belief structure shared by many practicing Pagans and Druids to this very day…

WHEN WAS IT BUILT?

Carbon dating places the building of Stonehenge between four and a half and four thousand years ago, a time of a harsh climatic downturn.

A time of great change, a time when agriculture was in its infancy, a time necessitating the accurate marking and keeping of time ,made possible from the observations of the relationship between the sacred land, and Earth mother and the 'Gods' of the Heavens and the Sky.

It must be remembered that Stonehenge was not built overnight and was the culmination of hundreds (if not thousands) of years of observations.

The final 'build' of the final 'Phase' of Stonehenge could have been as long ago as four thousand years ago, but who is to say it was ever completed or what the future holds for this once proud and majestic Temple.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON IN THE REGION?

People from North, South, East and West had been building special places, a great variety of which survive in Wiltshire to this day, marking this as a very significant place within an island littered with the special and the sacred.

Clearly the Ancestors were able to solve complex problems, create amazing designs and execute them in Stone with great precision using simple tools.

They could only achieve this by managing people and resources effectively and co-operating with others not only on a local level but sometimes between people hundreds of miles apart.

The simple logistics, (even with tacit support only) of the 'tribes' to bring the stone over such great distances would need an amount of co-operation between what would normally be seen as 'warring factions' and would be seem to show either a hierarchy hitherto unknown or lost in the mists of time, or a strength of purpose and unity the likes of which we may only imagine…..

WHAT IS THE THEORETICAL BASIS FOR YOUR INTERPRETATION?

Our sources are more widely inclusive than that of any single scientific discipline. We follow developments in Archaeology, Anthropology, Climate Science etc, all of which contribute greatly to the evidence pool.

In addition to these sources we are accepting of the concept that some ideas from the period of the Stonehenge Ancestors may have survived the transition into the Iron-age and beyond. So we study the folk-lore and legends and the Legal systems of Britain and Ireland to gain greater insight into the values and beliefs, some of which may reflect earlier traditions…..

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SITE NOW?

To us Stonehenge is a living, working Temple. A place of pilgrimage for many people of many different faiths and belief structures from across the world. A place to this day to mark the seasons and celebrate the Longest, Shortest and the Equal days at Solstice and Equinox. A place of great reverence and a place of Worship

A Cathedral in fact. One bereft of the 'Saints Bones' it was founded on 'The Guardians' taken from Aubrey Hole Seven

When they are returned it will be like re-consecrating the cathedral, albeit a Cathedral in need of some repair but a Cathedral and living, working Temple nonetheless …….

WHO SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO IT?

Pilgrims, visitors, tourists, in short the General Public.

The people of Britain especially believe it is their 'right' to walk among the stones as they do at nearby Avebury - also in the World Heritage Site.

Free and Open access must be the goal.

You cannot wrap it in cotton wool in the name of preservation nor should you preserve it circa 1950's. It is a living, working Temple and should be treated as such.

WHAT SHOULD THE FUTURE BE?

We support the Principle of Archaeology and further excavations taking place at Stonehenge and other similar sites and have no desire to stop this study. In fact, we have a good relationship with several of the Leading Archaeologists currently investigating Stonehenge and the surrounding Sacred Landscape and look forward to their discoveries

A serious clash of Cultures comes however with the retention of the Ancient Dead by the scientific community.

Currently we are campaigning for the return of the Ancient Human Remains, taken from Aubrey Hole Seven. The scientific community wishing to retain them for re-testing. We on the other hand wishing them to be re-buried. It is a matter of common decency, Let those we lay to rest, stay at rest as we see it.

One supported by members of all the major faiths and those who have no faith at all. The A-Z of religion signing our petition everyone from Anglican to Zoroastrian.

We don't view Archaeologists as 'Grave Robbers' so long as they don't behave like them ……

WHAT CONSERVATION PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?

Stonehenge should not be seen in isolation nor viewed as it is now. Likened to a snared animal with ropes, electric and barbed wire fences around it.

It should be accessed 'on foot' and viewed in context with the sacred landscape. Roads and visitors facilities should be at a discreet distance.

Long term I personally can see no better legacy to leave to our future generations yet to come that to rebuild it, to its one true and former glory.

Re-erect the stones (and put the roof on) and by that I mean replace the Lintels

A great visionary project for a once Great and Mighty Nation …..

Friday, 6 November 2009

American tourist killed trying to view the Stones

The quicker they do something about the Stonehenge visitor experience the better - lives are put at danger every day at Stonehenge. At least put a zebra crossing there. Condolences to the womans family.
Sorry, I cant always post good news?

AN American woman on holiday in the UK has died after being hit by a car crossing the road near Stonehenge.

The woman, who has not been named, was crossing the A344 at Stonehenge at 7.12pm yesterday when she was hit by a green Toyota RAV4, which was travelling from Amesbury towards Shrewton.

She sustained multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at Salisbury District Hospital.

The road was closed for several hours while police carried out their investigation

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bluestonehenge: Stonehenge's little sister



Archaeologists have discovered Stonehenge's little sister, dubbed Bluestonehenge, just 2.8km away on the west bank of the River Avon.

The site, once made up of 25 blue Preseli stones - hence it's nickname - was constructed about 5,000 years ago. According to archaeologists from the Stonehenge Riverside Project, Bluestonehenge linked the 'domain of the dead' to that of the living at Durrington Walls further upstream, with the River Avon being the vital link between the two.

Archaeologists believe the stones represented the end of the Avenue that marked the funerary processional route from the River Avon to Stonehenge: no pottery, animal bones, food residues or flint tools associated with domestic life have been found at Bluestonehenge.

Director of the project, Professor Mike Parker Pearson from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, said: "It could be that Bluestonehenge was where the dead began their final journey to Stonehenge - Britain's largest burial ground at that time. Maybe the bluestone circle is where people were cremated before their ashes were buried at Stonehenge itself."

The stones at Bluestonehenge were dragged 150 miles from the Welsh mountains and set in a circle measuring 10m in diameter and surrounded by a ditch with an external bank - the henge. The outer henge was built c.2400 BC but arrowheads found in the stone circle suggest the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier. It appears the stones were removed sometime during the Neolithic era, and some were then used up the road at Stonehenge when it underwent a major rebuild c.2500 BC. Archaeologists know that after this date Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones and 83 local, sarsen stones so maybe some of the stones now standing at the centre of Stonehenge once stood on the banks of the River Avon. Tests to obtain radiocarbon dates from pickaxes made from deer antlers found at Bluestonehenge will give a more accurate picture of the sequence of events.
Dr Josh Pollard, co-director from the University of Bristol explained: "The newly discovered circle and henge should be considered an integral part of Stonehenge rather than a separate monument, and it offers tremendous insight into the history of its famous neighbour. Its landscape location demonstrates once again the importance of the River Avon in Neolithic funerary rites and ceremonies."

Prof. Julian Thomas, co-director, added: "The implications of this discovery are immense. It is compelling evidence that this stretch of the River Avon was central to the religious lives of the people who built Stonehenge. Old theories about Stonehenge that do not explain the evident significance of the river will have to be re-thought."

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Mystery of Stonehenge solved following discovery of 5000-year-old planning application


A clear out at Salisbury District Council’s Planning Office has uncovered a long lost Neolithic document, which experts say, ‘finally explains the purpose of Stonehenge’. After weeks of careful study by a team of Oxford University archaeologists – where the fragile deer hide document had be taken for radio carbon dating and translation – it was revealed today that the document is in fact a 5000-year-old failed planning application for the Stonehenge site.

Contrary to the widely accepted theory that Stonehenge was a place of pagan worship, which had been designed and built to act as some sort of giant celestial calendar – instead, the document details the henge’s intended use – that of a vast covered market place. Dr Amy Bogaard, lecturer in Neolithic and Bronze Age Archaeology at Oxford, explained, ‘Stonehenge was to be a place where local merchants and tradesmen could gather, in order to peddle their wares and services to the thousands of Bronze Age tribes people who occupied Salisbury Plain at the time’. The document includes a plan, which shows that originally 600 stalls were to be constructed over a 200 acre site that would have also boasted ample grazing for 3500 Oxen and cart. ‘Stonehenge was essentially going to be the world’s first out of town shopping centre,’ said Dr. Bogaard.

‘This is an amazing find that not only answers all of the questions we had regarding what Stonehenge was for and why it was built, but also gives us a fantastic insight into the day-to-day life of Bronze Age Britons, their beliefs, their values and their culture,’ Dr. Bogaard continued. ‘For example, we now know that Druidism is not a pagan religion at all. ‘Druids’ was actually the brand name of a chain of prehistoric pharmacists, the forerunner of their modern day counterpart ‘Boots’,’ she concluded.

The document also reveals that the developers of Stonehenge never actually completed construction of the market, as their planning application was turned down by the ‘Local Council of Elders’. The application was refused on the grounds that the planners had, ‘serious concerns over increased Oxen traffic’, ‘did not think that the developers use of imported Welsh stone was sympathetic to, or in keeping with, local architecture’ and felt that, ‘the construction of such a high rise building would detract from the natural beauty and innate flatness of the surrounding plain.’

Commenting on his department’s historically important discovery, the Chief Planning Officer for Salisbury District Council, Mr. Ken Dawson, said: ‘I’m just so thrilled that, although in a small way, my office has helped to solve the age old mystery of Stonehenge. In fact, I’m so proud that it almost feels a shame to have to bulldoze the site. UNESCO World Heritage Site or not, it’s still in breach of the planning laws.’

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A Virtual Stonehenge Landscape

This short film shows the landscape around Stonehenge as recorded by LIDAR survey (airborne 3D scanning). Millions of measurements were taken across the landscape, and here they have been turned into a 'solid' computer model to show how well the archaeology is recorded by this method.

Prehistoric burial mounds (barrows), the great Cursus (a 2km Neolithic monument), the Bronze Age Avenue which links Stonehenge to the River Avon, and other henges such as Woodhenge and Durrington Walls are all clearly visible.

Click here