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The new Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre will contain a 32 ft landscape wall designed to give people an impression of what it’s like to stand inside the circle. Some have opposed the idea saying only the real thing is acceptable. It’s tempting to say “please explain exactly how you would deliver that ideal, given the huge numbers involved” as there seem to be only two ways it could be done …

1. Tell most visitors to go away. That way, the numbers arriving at the stones would be reduced to a trickle and the few who go in would be free to wander amongst the stones or have picnics there and enjoy a truly relaxed and tranquil experience, just like in the good old days. Or …

2. Write down (in triplicate, with detailed costings appended) how one million people** a year (20,000 a day some days) can be safely and efficiently accommodated inside the stones. (For guidance, the cost of doing it for a single day at summer solstice is astronomical).

Isn’t it time though to accept that “Free and Open Access for All” is completely unachievable? The interior of Stonehenge isn’t like the Tardis, it’s about the size covered by the dome of St Paul’s and some days  two thousand people an hour might arrive. There just isn’t room to fit them into 600 square feet of available space (and even if there was the “experience” would be pretty dire, a bit like like a permanent solstice). Truth is, demand has come to vastly exceed supply so the only answer is some form of rationing. Maybe a new and more realistic slogan is needed for the new, crowded Stonehenge: “fair rations for all”?

Let's go back to the good old days. So simple!

The good old days: five people (not 2,500) enjoying a quiet hour at the stones!

** Update 4 April 2013:
It seems that one million visitors a year is out of date. According to EH attendance is “expected to rise to 1.25m by 2016/17“, increasing whatever validity the above article has by 25%!


April 2013

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