Richard White

explorations in place and time

Ironies of Stonehenge

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Second visit since the new visitors centre.

It wasn’t raining. With warm summer sun the wind tunnel effect was reduced and we flowed through the invisible turnstyle intent on walking to the stones. Already a small queue developing for the land train. No invitation to walk at the gate and no signage.

Back onto the road where many summers ago I had roared on once stopping to see and touch. Picnics of the imagination. Even the cats eyes are still there. But the road is closed and for that at least we gave thanks. On the official map strange icons only made sense to those of us who had been before or knew about the landownership patterns and rivalry between the different organisations. Some overarching branding consistency but it seemed that for each the other is an absence not to be mentioned. NT signs blank EH signs and vice versa. And a farmer waiting for the right price, perhaps.

So we walked. Two of the first that summers morning crossing the silent road and imagining a route out along the Cursus to meet the Avenue and thus approach the stones on a route we imagined as ancient and appropriate. Swallows swooped low feeding and buzzing a predatory hawk. The sun already high but not so warm and a cool wind behind us we followed the line of the Cursus. Talking myths and imaging the land as it once might have been.

At last we dropped down out of the wind into that warm sensual hollow below the stones out of which The Avenue rises. The sheep were using the interpretation panel for shade. Two lost lambs reconnected with their mothers. Big baas and bleats.

Finding the cambered edges of the path and imagining it wintry and we climbed. This was the way to arrive.

wide

A greenhaze on the horizon turned into a curtain.

keep out

And as we got closer two lines of fences and a strip of sand. Olympic games or that about to be footprinted sand at the Berlin Wall in Wings of Desire. A designation of territory, where once there was a road…on top of the road there is a beach!

no unauthorised

Personally sandy beaches offer only fear of grit in my teeth and the deadly vision of greyblack exposed dead egg flesh as hard boiled shell is picked away. Here where we once came for picnics and ate such eggs the beach has followed.

Inside crowds queued to the photo vantage points. A clumsy selfie or an attempt to capture the stones in the palm of a subject’s hand. Zombie visitors with headsets on. Off the bus and onto the bus. Next stop Jane Austen’s Bath. Filleted history.

By the fence another guardian of the site sat with stick and dog and we shared our sadness at the continued loss of the site, the lack of space for any other interpretation that the spectacle. Powerful expressions of powerlessness.The dog looked up at me hopefully wanting a stick thrown. I declined. We walked round to the edge on the Permissive Path to an indeterminate space …building site, old road, bus stop, entrance zone…we wondered if one day walkers would get in free and but the road transport paid….or the virtual turnstile is still to come…?

path

 

We walked out up the grit track towards Normanton Downs but the traffic on the A303 a 60 mile an hour traffic jam pushed us back. We turned to see other walkers on the skyline following a desire path to the site of the old vistors centre. Without map or signage none were heading towards that sensual hollow where the old path turned.

One day that old tunnel will be excavated and the eggshells of picnics long ago will not be found. The memories of our times embedded here have been erased for the coach party fast turnaround.

building site

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Author: rswpost

Exploring connections between landscape, place and people. on foot and online. Working collaboratively and harnessing the participatory potential of social media.

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