Jim Rayner of website www.stonehengepilgrim.org.uk and the author of ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge’ shares his thoughts on how, where and when the solstice should be celebrated at Stonehenge.
Stonehenge – Opening up monument field and restoring the sun gap
English Heritage (EH) and the National Trust (NT) have promised to open up monument field and reconnect Stonehenge with The Avenue by finally removing the old A344 northern stock boundary fence. Yet, no further details about exactly when this is going to happen have been released. EH may well argue that this is because the newly seeded grass areas (along the line of the old road and old visitor centre car park) need further time to establish. EH may also state that the fences need to remain whilst any changes to the shuttle bus turning circle are being constructed (the planning decision is due in mid-July 2016). For further details about this and the ‘permissible route’ for walkers and cyclists along the line of the old A344 please see www.sarsen.org . and in particular http://www.sarsen.org/2016/05/summer-2016-planned-improvement-to.html. If this proves too difficult, then new line of access could be established around the edge of the current fences to the east and along the line of the long abandoned track way running across the avenue.
The creation of a larger monument field is integral to developing the summer and winter solstices celebrations as more ‘authentic gatherings’. During the summer solstice celebrations people are especially bunched-up against the old A344 fence and the centre of the circle is overcrowded. The best view of Stonehenge is from the avenue and this location is paramount to witnessing the midwinter sunset and possibly the midsummer shadow cast by the Heel Stone right into the heart of the monument. It would also help if EH and the NT started negotiations with Ministry of Defence about removing a small section of mainly coniferous trees on the horizon in order to recreate a ‘sun gap’ for the summer solstice sunrise. This and the removal of the old A344 fence would provide the extra space needed and a visual focal point for managed open access to develop in a more positive direction for all concerned.