Their destination not chained off for a few days, Druids flocked by the thousand to Stonehenge and Avebury this week (June 21) to celebrate the Summer Solstice at dawn. Believed to be the sites of an ancient sun-worshipping culture by some, both Stonehenge — a world renown archaeological site — and Avebury — the perhaps more remarkable site of a small town completely surrounded by ancient stones — are always popular on solstice days. Stonehenge was kindly unchained for the event, giving people the chance to touch the stones and experience them close up.
Revellers celebrated dawn on the longest day of the year by dressing up in the ancient druidic costume of horned helmets and furry cloaks, and beating out rhythms on ceremonial drums. The scene is generally chaotic, but local police were praised for their tactful use of bicycle patrol and traffic coordination. Organisers of the event and National Trust members, who are responsible for most of England’s historical sites, were understandably concerned about vehicles at both sites but the day went off smoothly with only a handful of arrests.
Gretchen Rawlins, District Councillor for the area, is protesting the use of a nearby parking lot as a campground for travellers to the sites. She has said that it is up to the National Trust to provide adequate space for the thousands of people who visit annually. Certainly this is an issue that needs addressing, but the visitors didn’t seem to mind pitching tents on pavement, so long as they had a good view.
In true English style, there was a grey start to the day, but the cloud cover saw fit to dissipate just in time for the sun to rise and shine through the 4000-year-old pillars of Stonehenge. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!
Solstice dawns in peace; Lewis Cowen. Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, June 22.