Stonehenge Winter Solstice 21 December 2016
After a busy year of working and building our new home I was very glad to be off to Stonehenge for 10 days over the Winter Solstice and Christmas. It was the first outing for our new home and we were going with our old home and it's new owner, we were also meeting up with good friends. Stonehenge is a beautiful place set in a lovely location and it was a lovely place to relax and unwind after a busy and sometimes stressful year.
Solstice fell midweek on the Wednesday and we arrived on the Saturday late afternoon and found one friend already there with plenty of space around him. We pulled up, got level and put some chairs out to save some spaces for other friends turning up later and on the Monday. Part of byway 12 runs from the A303 to Larkhill creating a mile long stretch of track freely available for anyone to park up on. This byway is known as the Drove and many travellers have stopped by for short and long periods of time over the years.
Someone (I don't think it was English Heritics) had put out black bin liners tied to nearly every other fence post with a sign asking to keep the Drove clean. Well done whoever did that as I saw that the bags were used by some people who had maybe forgotten to bring there own! Having said that there really is no excuse for litter or even needing a bin someone else has provided. Most people who arrive for the gathering do so in a vehicle, the vast majority in a campervan or motorhome type vehicle. Everyone in those vehicles should have a bin and be able to store their rubbish until they get to a bin and even be able people who have walked or cycled must have brought with them in the first place things that then create rubbish when opened or used and so in my opinion everyone can and should be responsible for their own rubbish.
The old road and visitors centre has now been gone a few years, one of the reasons for getting rid of them was to try and restore some of the landscape to how it would have looked 5000 years ago and so more in keeping with the stones. While it is nice that they are gone the fences are still there and you can't help wondering why English Heritics don't at least have a toilet block and litter bin somewhere fairly near. Apparently if you are a paying guest there are toilets you can use at the stones although you have to ask to use them (no doubt begging the security guard that you are desperate and can't make it back to the main toilets at the visitors centre!) Why there are no permanent bins is beyond me as many people who turn up just do not understand the concept of taking litter home. Not only the paying guests but the huge amount of tourists that turn into the Drove in their cars and park for a while, take a walk to as near as they can get and take a few photographs.
The drove stayed litter free over Solstice and Christmas with the majority of people being responsible, a few using the bags provided and some dedicated litter pickers who made sure every scrap of litter was picked up. It also seemed that people were being fairly responsible with going to the toilet, I saw one big turd in the field next to the drove that someone had not thought to bury and another across the A303 down the other part of the byway but other than that I think it stayed fairly clean. Us, we crossed the road and walked down the byway a mile or so and of course we BURIED OUR SHIT!!
The Winter Solstice gathering now attracts a few thousand people most of who turn up sometime during Solstice eve or before sunrise on the day. The travellers tend to be the folk who turn up a few days before and don't leave until a few days after as of course having your home with you is an advantage! There is a whole mixture of people that attend the sunrise celebration. Druids and Pagan, Travellers and Hippies, Punks and Goths are just some of the people there as well as many tourists and journalists.
celebrations started in earnest on Solstice eve and many partied all night. There was some outdoor fires, some music, some drinking and lots of laughs and good vibes. Before sunrise most folk headed to the stones to gather. There wasn't an amazing sunrise due to the cloud cover but people celebrated all the same. There was some ceremonies performed by druids and pagans as well as general merriment before people made their way back to wherever they were going.
In all a very successful Solstice with the lack of litter and great behaviour by all that visited the stones. A very low key police presence although I thought there were far too many security actually patrolling the stones. They really could have stayed well back unless needed I think. Many people left the drove on the Solstice and many more the day after. Christmas was only a few days away and so a lot of people had things to do and people to visit.
Luckily for us we got to spend Christmas Day on the drove away for the typical 'Christmassy' goings on. I don't really celebrate Christmas although am happy to send a few cards and buy a few presents. I refuse to get in any way stresses out by it or spend loads of money on it. As my son is a chef and very busy working we meet up in the new year and my Dad and step-mum are not very vegetarian friendly especially at Christmas so we give there home a miss! Our Christmas dinner was home made pizza followed by Christmas pudding with brandy butter with a good friend to share it with, perfect!
Below are a selection of photographs from the gathering.