Thursday, December 19, 2013

Visiting Stonehenge

Things bubble in your mind when you come back from a journey, was it that terrible M25 with its long queue to the Dartford Tunnel inching its way slowly, or the rain clouds that chased us back from Stonehenge.  But the visit was memorable, the new Visitor Centre a classic work of art in the sodden grey landscape of the Stonehenge Downs.
Arriving just before 9.30 and waiting at the gate to be let in, police, security men, and of course the press were there in full force, in fact the car park already looked full from a distance.  The reason it was so full was of course everyone from English Heritage must have been there to, smartly dressed in their new brown anoraks, they welcomed everyone and chatted away; to say that everyone was on a high is probably true. 
The great day had finally arrived, years of discussion, costing much more than the £27 million bill for the centre, and of course the great tunnel under the A303 discussed endlessly but which never materialised.  Denton Corker, the architects had created something unusual in the visitor centre, and many people will find fault, the clever thing about it though is that the roof is built angling at both ends so that it disappears, so that you only seem to be looking at the two end tips, it covers both buildings below. There is an overhanging bit of the roof punched out like lace, very pretty.
We got on to the land train, there will have to more after seeing the coaches pile in later on and the queues grow, the train consists of a jeep and three trailers, seating about 15 people per trailer, though next year 'timed appointments' seem to be the answer. The turning space allotted to them seems small,  but there was an old Salisbury bus there as well, useful for disabled people with wheelchairs.
We walked the last few hundred yards to the stones, there is still of course the remains of the old visitor centre being taken to pieces, and the camper vans (hippy) lining the drove way, legally of course but it is a bit sad to see them clutter the landscape.
Clockwise round the stones, the crows reigning supreme in the blocked off area, as they have done for centuries, the stones their domain.  Stonehenge has a powerful message as a temple and though the theories and books will be written ad infinitum in fact we should just marvel at the elegance and grandeur of these sarsens and bluestones.  Someone was ringing a Tibetan singing pot at the Heelstone, Australians accents behind us and we had travelled down with a Chinese lady, who worked at Cambridge and spoke perfect English.  It is well to remember that Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site and therefore the world comes to visit the stones.
Another quick memory, as we drank our coffee in the restaurant, Julian Richards walked through, and me slightly struck fanwise asked if I could take a photo, which I did.  We had a long conversation with him, he has been round Stonehenge for 30 years or more, so the opening of the new VC, and especially the destruction of the old centre is a great day for posterity.

The Visitor Centre

This is another protest that did not seem to take place, think it was the campers by the stones wanting 'free access'


Protest by Druids

The Land train

Display inside the exhibition 

Julian Richard - archaeologist

I could not quite understand this interpretation, it seems that there is a double trilithon of bluestones

The grass needs to grow

He is one of the problems


  1. I'm glad you got there, but judging by the weather, the Old Gods weren't very happy about the new Visitor Centre!!! All sorts of folk about, but how lovely to meet and talk with Julian Richards. He comes across as such a lovely chap on tv. Some of the tv archaeologists get a bit snooty and Tam says that Tony Robinson is obnoxious! (I should have puyt tv presenters too.)

    Lovely report. I look forward to us getting there ourselves next year.

    1. Hi Jennie, Really enjoyed the visit, the weather did not really start to fall apart till late in the morning. We stayed at the Travel Lodge on the Countess Roundabout, which had recently been refurbished and was cheap, plus of course a ten minute walk into Amesbury. Was so excited about meeting Julian Richards he has such a gentle manner on TV, not like Tony Robinson, who seems to storm towards the camera ready to tell you off.

  2. Very interesting. We drive past Stonehenge every month when we visit old friends and family, but have not stopped to go inside yet. A special trip is in order I think.

    1. Hi Kath, that A303 road is a bit scary but you are lucky to see it every month.
      Entrance fee has gone up, and come February next year you will have to ring them up and make an appointment, though I think everything is in a state of flux at the moment, more people working there and the need to experiment with the land train ;)