Marja-Leena Rathje
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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

Marja-Leena | 10/07/2009 | 14 comments
themes: Culture, History, Rock Art & Archaeology, Travel


14 comments

You are making me homesick:)

hhb, Stonehenge is very familiar to you, is it? It's an amazing place, and I will always remember it. I can understand that it would be extra special for you.

How refreshing to see such a well written blog, very evocative of the setting and landscape.

It is quite a place, despite the noisy roads nearby. I'm glad that you were able to catch an atmosphere despite people being around.

I find that there are still quite a few places which have a special stillness about them, although my own personal preference for stones and henges leans towards Avebury. I really enjoy going there early or late enough to avoid most people. Somehow the layout makes the experience feel less formal. But Stonehenge is certainly awe-inspiring.

I assume that you have read Rosemary Hill's book. I look forward to seeing what you do with your husband's photos of the stones.

The pictures are amazing. I really admire your ability to tune out the distractions of people, buses, major road, etc., and meditate on the ancient connections evoked by those fantastic stones. They are so big. I imagine the process of getting them there and building that circle and can only wonder.

I find Avebury is less magnificent, but more friendly. It's pleasant to see the sheep grazing near the stones.

Wonderful! You and your husband have both managed to convey beautifully the "huge span of time and spirits" in and around this place. The colors playing on the stones are intriguing. This is the sort of place I would like to experience in sunny and rainy weather and in each season (listen to greedy me!) I would consider myself fortunate to be able to travel there just once and I am so glad you were there, Marja-Leena, which is sort of like the next best thing because I feel that you notice and look at many of the things I think I would. Kiitos!

AJ, thank you! And I was very intrigued to discover that you are the author of a book on Stonehenge! I'm so pleased to learn about it and shall explore your excellent website in more depth in the days ahead and look out for the book.

Olga, apparently it was not as busy as it often is so we were lucky! I agree that it would have been even calmer earlier or later in the day. If there is a next time, we'll try travel on our own and arrange to get on the site off hours so we could walk in and around the stones for the best experience and even better photos!

I know many people prefer Avebury and I thought of that when we visited it but I must say I still preferred Stonehenge. I'll be writing about Avebury later and explain why. And no, I haven't read or heard of Rosemary Hill's book. Thanks for another wonderful book suggestion, so many on my library wish list come from you!

Anne, thanks, tuning out the distractions in this case worked out alright because the crowds thinned away, not always so in other places on our trip so I'm grateful for that! I agree about Avebury. So you've been to both, I think?

Rouchswalwe, I feel very fortunate that I was finally able to see it though I'd love to see it again in different seasons and weather and times of day - I'm greedy too! But we don't often take these big trips and there are so many other places to see, sigh. You should try to get there if that's your dream, photos are only second best, but thanks so much for your kind words.

Oh, how wonderful for you to go to Stonehenge! With your love of stone and their ancient life. I went there some 25 years ago and honestly can't remember much - I think we were still jet-lagged, and we didn't have much time. Hope you get back for another trip to enjoy your favorites from this "survey" trip!

Leslee, you know me well. I'm sorry your visit to Stonehenge wasn't memorable but perhaps you too will get over there again.

I looked at the beautiful pictures then read your post and the comments made so far and was surprised nobody yet has mentioned the convergence of ancient ley lines at Stonehenge. It's situated at the centre of alignment of at least 14 ley lines, making Stonehenge a powerful energy vortex.

The whole ley line or natural energy line thing is an interesting subject. Apparently, our ancient ancestors were very familiar with power places and the natural power lines that encircle the world. Churches like Winchester Cathedral were built on the sites of henges in a deliberate effort to tap into their power. The Pyramids in Egypt are another example of a strong convergence where rituals of healing and magic were performed.

You may or may not believe in such things but it's an interesting phenomenon to investigate. When you consider your deep experience, and the fact you entered the site with awe and respect, you were welcomed spiritually to Stonehenge. Nice.

Susan, I've read a bit about that and I agree it's quite fascinating. I just don't have enough knowledge to talk about it but I really appreciate your bringing this up! I don't doubt that there is a great deal of energy and power here and other such places. I believe the ancient peoples had a great deal more knowledge than we sometimes give them credit for, not just astronomy, engineering, architecture but also the spiritual. There is a reason why so many of us are drawn to these places.

Have you looked at commentor AJ's website? Anthony Johnson is an archaeologist and author of a fascinating book! I'm just exploring the site and I think you might find it quite interesting too. I imagine that you've been to Stonehenge, Susan?

It is some time since I visited Stonehenge. When I did, I didn't notice the curious expression on the face that seems to be growing out of the stone in picture 4. But then perhaps my eye was not trained by your example to look for textures in stone as you do with your camera and your prints.

Wonderful to catch up with your tour. I went to Stonehenge when I was tiny and you could still climb on the stones; perhaps in a way it's better now you can't, people are perhaps more respectful when kept at arm's length.

I especially loved the flints; I grew up in flinty, chalky country, and it's especially nostalgic.

Joe, I'm pleased you noticed the face and the textures on the stones! I think it just takes a little time and the luck of the light to spot these, and a good eye behind the camera too.

Lucy, the image of children climbing on the stones is pleasant to me. It's the vandals that upset. The country is beautiful, pastoral and full of deep deep history. You were blessed to have grown up there. Brittany is like that too, isn't it?