Ancient Britain: Stonehenge

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The high point of our guided tour of some of Britain's ancient sites has to be Stonehenge. It is so well known, researched and written about that I won't even try to touch it. If you'd like some background there's a wealth of it on the web. Wikipedia has a good gathering of all the information and further links to explore.

Instead I want to talk about the experience. Naturally I felt anticipation and excitement to be there after so many years of dreaming about seeing it. I wondered if it might be spoiled by a ‘tourist trap’ but it was okay, for we quickly passed by the tour buses and ignored the gift and ice cream shops, located some distance from the site. Our excellent tour guide quickly and clearly explained the history and construction in front of the educational display wall in the tunnel way under the road. Then we were on our own, walking up towards the stones. They seemed so small in the distance….

At first we felt the pressure of the busloads of visitors impeding the view, jostling each other to snap photos, giggling girls asking to have photos taken of them in front of the stones (do they even really LOOK at the stones?). Then it thinned out and we were able to spend quite a bit of time looking, contemplating and walking around it. For many minutes I stood alone, silent and breathing deeply and looking deeply. It would have been marvellous to be able to walk up and between the stones and touch them, but we could see some of the graffiti and damage and could understand why not. I just felt so grateful to be there.

My husband took numerous and excellent photos. I trusted him to it for he’s the better photographer when it comes to understanding the finer points of the camera and the light conditions and has very steady hands! If I use any of his photos from this trip in my art work, as I probably will, I’ll have to give him credit by making the works ‘collaborations’! Early morning or evening light might have given us more interesting and dramatic photos but I can’t complain for the weather was good for us – sunny though very windy, the clouds scudding along and providing a stunning canopy over these stones set in the open fields and gentle green slopes with grazing sheep and yellow patches of canola in the distance.

There is a sense of great space physically as well as in the huge span of time and spirits here. I felt awed yet calm as I kept thinking about the immense labours involved in bringing the stones here and erecting them, especially the sarsens. And I kept wondering over the mystery and many theories of why the ancient peoples built these stone circles and other similar sites in many other places. How fortunate we are to still have sites like Stonehenge as a way of reaching back and connecting with mankind’s ancient past.

I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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Other posts about our Ancient Britain Tour:
Salisbury
Old Sarum
Wiltshire Flint
White Horses
Silbury & West Kennet
Avebury

July 10, 2009 in Culture, History, Rock Art & Archaeology, Travel by Marja-Leena