December 2010

> walk to Lidbury Camp, led by former County Archaeologist Roy Canham.

Lidbury Camp, on the downs above the River Avon between Enford and Upavon, is an Iron Age hillfort first excavated by William Cunnington in the early 19th century and again by Maud and Ben Cunnington in 1914 (see article in WANHM Vol 40 (1917), pp12-36). William Cunnington discovered eleven Iron Age storage pits in close proximity and recorded the presence of two ‘British’ villages close by, while Maud Cunnington found Romano-British pottery overlying the Iron Age remains. An undated linear ditch and bank run nearby. Finds from Maud Cunnington’s excavation are in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.

Roy has an unrivalled knowledge of the archaeology of the county, and was largely responsible for persuading the MOD to introduce measures to protect the archaeology on their land against damage from military training. conditions on the Salisbury Plain downland are unpredictable and can change quickly at this time of year. Please come prepared with waterproof clothing and suitable footwear. The walk will be about 3 miles.

Please indicate pick-up point when booking.
Depart: : Pewsey (Bouverie Hall car park) – 1.15pm; Devizes (Station Road car park) – 2.00pm;
Upavon (Antelope Inn) – 2.25pm.
Enford at about 4.45pm 

* Tel: 01380 727369 (10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday)

Stonehenge Tour Guide


Our friends at the Stonehenge Tour Company have just announced their 2011 Summer Solstice Tour. See itinerary below. Works out cheaper and far less hassle if you are travelling from London. See link at bottom of page.  Needless to say there are limited spaces on this tour – a rare opportunity!

STONEHENGE SUMMER SOLTICE ‘EXCLUSIVE’ TOUR – JUNE 21st 2011 After the huge success of our tours in previous years we are delighted to announce our 2011 departure.

Each year on the 21st June visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge overnight to mark the summer solstice and to see the sunrise above the stones. At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast.

“A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity!”

Each year on the 21st June visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge overnight to mark the summer solstice and to see the sunrise above the stones. At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast.

The Summer Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time to be there. It’s an ad hoc celebration that brings together England’s New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, tourists, travelers and party people – 1000′s of them!

For many the impulse to arrive at Stonehenge in time for the Solstice is a little like all those people drawn to the strange rock in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s akin to a spiritual experience. Anyone who has witnessed the crowd become silent as the sky begins to brighten can attest to that. You will enjoy 3 – 4 hours within the circle at sunset on June 20th or sunrise on June 21st. The small group (16 people) nature of this tour means you can have a real personal experience.

They are offering two departure options for this special tour:
Depart central London at 5pm June 20th. Mini Coach Travel to Stonehenge with guide and spend 3 – 4 hours inside the circle and witness the sun setting, Druid Ceremony and festivities. Back to London at 1am

Depart central London at 1am June 21st. Mini Coach Travel to Stonehenge with guide and spend 3 – 4 hours in side the circle and witness the sun rising, Druid Ceremony and festivities. Back to London at 8am

This is not like our traditional guided ‘Private Access’ tour. Although this tour is guided it does not visit other attractions and is not everyone’s cup of tea, however those who do participate will never forget it and will surely ‘tell the tale’ for many years to come…… Please take the time to view our images / video of previous ‘Solstice Tours’.

For those of you who have not visited this sacred site, we should mention that the complex is roped off. Visitors observe the stones from a distance and are not permitted within the temple complex……….our ‘Summer Solstice’ tours allow you to be amongst the stones and to actually touch them.
N.B. With this exception English Heritage do not allow any other ‘private access’ tours between 16th June and 1st July

English Heritage provides Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice and works closely with agencies, and people from all sectors of the community, in order to create a peaceful occasion – ensuring an event that can be safely enjoyed by all and protects Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments.

Due to the nature of this ‘special access’ tour and the strict entry conditions that English Heritage impose please register your interest for this tour on the form (see link) and we will contact you with booking details and terms and conditions. This is on a first come first serve’ basis.

Stonehenge Tour Guide

>Snow and ice failed to stop people visiting Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the winter solstice.

More than 2,000 people gathered at the stones which were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow.
As well as the traditional druid and pagan ceremonies, a spontaneous snowball fight erupted as people enjoyed the cold weather.

The winter morning mist obscured the actual sunrise which took place just after 0800 GMT.

Among the Druids, hippies and sun worshippers were those just curious to experience the spiritual event at the site, on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire.
‘Peaceful atmosphere’
Serving soldier of 15 years Lance Corporal Paul Thomas, who fought in Iraq, was “knighted” with a sword by senior druid King Arthur Pendragon.
Formerly known as John Rothwell, King Arthur changed his name by deed poll.

He also performed a handfasting – a pagan marriage ceremony – inside the stones.

The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21, but this year the druid and pagan community marked the first day of winter on 22 December because the modern calendar of 365 days a year – with an extra day every four years – does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.

During the winter solstice the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.
Peter Carson of English Heritage said: “Despite the cold weather, over 2,000 people attended and it was a cheerful and peaceful atmosphere.
“Stonehenge looked spectacular in the snow and it was a great way for people to start their festive season.”
Mr Carson said this year saw an increase in families joining the celebration as well as the number of people coming from overseas.
“The popularity of the winter solstice has grown over the years as more is known about Stonehenge and the winter solstice and the whole celebration has grown in popularity,” he said.

A good time was had by all……………………

External links:

Stonehenge Tour Guide


A South African grandmother has spent R300, 000 to publish her book, which she believes proves that Stonehenge in the UK was a prehistoric calendar

Booysen, 66, said this week she examined various ancient structures to prove her theory, including the Chichen Itza Pyramid in Mexico and the world’s largest stone circle, The Great Circle at Avebury, in Wiltshire, England.

Booysen said the physical make-up of the various structures, whether the number of steps or the placement of rocks, all added up to 365, representing the number of days in a year.
Archeologists believe Stonehenge was built in three stages but, over the millenniums, the original structure suffered damage as a result of bad weather and pillaging.
Experts have theorised that Stonehenge, about 150km west of London, may be a calendar, a burial ground or a temple.
Booysen has long been fascinated by stone monuments.
“I love a mystery. I’ve always had an interest in Stonehenge and, for my 50th birthday, my husband sent me to England and I finally saw it. Booysen joined a ‘special access’ tour with the Stonehenge Tour Company
“It was wonderful. I just knew that it must have some significance. Why would those people drag those stones all the way there?”
Booysen said her interest in a book on Stonehenge peaked after watching a documentary in June 2006 in which it was reconstructed from polystyrene.
She said she hoped her book, available via her website as an e-book, would appeal to academics and those interested in Stonehenge.
She said the book was very technical and contained calculations and diagrams to explain her theory.
“I’d like people to understand that the people who built this monument were absolutely brilliant. It’s not just a pile of rocks.”

Stonehenge Tour Guide

>In August 2008 HeritageAction wrote on The Modern Antiquarian that-

In the current edition of British Archaeology there is a two page article by Mike Pitts entitled The Stonehenge Olympics. The first page of the article contains a review of recent plans to improve the visitor facilities at Stonehenge and the second page is a summary of English Heritage’s latest Public Consultation initiative (see for details). Mike Pitts makes an interesting point when he says –

“The government announced it was scraping the approved roads scheme on the grounds of cost last December. The day before, the DCMS said it was to give Tate Modern £50m towards its gallery extension, a gesture, it was hoped, that would ensure its opening in time for the Olympics. Now that seems unlikely, as fundraising gets tough, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota is happy to say that his extension may not be ready till 2014.”
Note the word ‘happy’. Why is Serota happy? Couldn’t be could it that it gives the Tate the necessary time to get the extension right?

I’ve never been happy with tying in new visitor facilities at Stonehenge with the Olympic deadline of 2012 – it seems an impossible objective to achieve in only four years. English Heritage are expected to have their plans in for government scrutiny by the end of this year. The proposals then have to be approved by the government, and planning permission then has to be granted for the preferred site. Each of the sites proposed for the new facilities contain, or are close to, sites of archaeological importance; are these sites to be hurriedly excavated just to meet the government’s deadline for the 2012 Olympics?
Along with billions of other people I watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on television yesterday; pretty impressive, lots of people enjoying themselves – and why not. I couldn’t help thinking however that it was more than a bit ‘staged’ for world approval. While the Chinese authorities were claiming that this was a ‘green’ Olympics (hmm…) and the unfolding digital scroll showed the progress of the Olympic torch around the world, it somehow managed to omit displaying any of the ‘obstacles’ the torch had encountered along the way. This is nothing more than a selective interpretation of the truth.
What I’m getting at here is that the ongoing shenanigans at Stonehenge seem to have a similar, not to say uncomfortable, feel to them – re: the ‘manipulation’ of public approval. One idea after another for new Stonehenge visitor facilities, tossed out at the obscene expense of the British taxpayer, has achieved nothing to date. Nothing, that is, until now when reputations and personalities are coming under the national and international spotlight of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Stonehenge, perhaps our most important and iconic Neolithic monument, deserves a great deal more than the passing whim of the present (indeed of any) government, let alone the fleeting reputations of those in the political and sporting worlds. It certainly deserves far more than the timeframe dictated by the big Olympic party scheduled for 2012. Let’s take a leaf out of Nicholas Serota’s book and say we’d be happy not to have anything ready for Stonehenge for the Olympics in four years time, but what we will eventually have will be something which Stonehenge, and the people of Britain, deserve and can be rightfully proud of.
It gives me no pleasure to say, “I told you so” but if you read Mike Pitts blog here – that’s what it’s come to. Mike Pitts writes –
“Also in November English Heritage, having lost the £10m promised by the previous government for the proposed new visitor centre, regained it from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hopefully now EH will be able to raise the rest of the money it needs: but Stonehenge won’t be ready for the 2012 Olympics, the politicians’ original claim, and instead if all goes well, at that time Stonehenge will be a bit of a building site.”

So, now that the Olympic pressure is off let’s do two things without further delay:

1) Secure finances for first class improvements at Stonehenge.

2) As there is no Olympic deadline to meet anymore let’s get it right. Right being the immediate closure of the A344. Right being a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing Visitor Centre. Right being a practical, and also an aesthetically pleasing, transport system from the Visitor Centre to the Monument.
There can be no more excuses and no more delays – the time has come this time to really get it Right!

Stonehenge Tour Guide

>Walk Among The Stones At Stonehenge Without The Crowds

When you visit Stonehenge during public hours you have to keep behind a small rope fence about two foot off the ground. For most people this is perfectly adequate.

For those who are really, really interested in Stonehenge it is possible to go beyond the rope fence and walk among the stones.
These visits are called Special Access visits and take place outside public opening hours. This is the only time you will be able to walk amongst the stones at Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Special Access Visits – Key Facts– Special Access visits are available most but not all months of the year, (no visits in October and November and are not available on around the midsummer’s day).

– Demand for tickets far exceeds supply, dates are often sold out months in advance. Do not expect to get tickets without ordering well in advance.
– Special access visits take place at quite unsociable hours, commonly between 05:30 and 08:00 in the morning and after 18:30 in the evening.
– Factor in that its almost 2 hours traveling time between London hotels and Stonehenge and you can see such a visit entails a very early start or late finish for those based In London.
– There are no audio guides available and the gift shop and catering outlet are also closed. Only the toilets are open. There is nobody there to tell you anything about Stonehenge and no information is provided – though you can preorder a glossy guide book on ordering your tickets. On morning visits you can wait a little until Stonehenge opens for the public when the gift shop, refreshment kiosk are open and audio guides become available.  Otherwise buy them before – see below
 – The only people there apart from a maximum of 26 Special Access ticket holders are a few security guards who will not provide any information about Stonehenge. They are just there to make sure you get up to no mischief.

Scheduled Special Access Tours From London and Salisbury

A couple of tour companies in London offer tours that include Special Access. This overcomes the logistical problems of getting to Stonehenge early morning or evening when there is no public transport to Stonehenge.

However, its still a very early start or a late return to London and these companies cannot get enough tickets for their needs. As a result dates are very sporadic. Most days there will not be a tour running and they will normally sell out well in advance on those days the tour runs – don’t leave it until you arrive in London or you will be disappointed.
The Stonehenge Tour Company have by far the best reputaion and were the original operator to offer this itinerary.  You could try local companies HisTouries UK Tours or Salisbury Guided Tours who opearte bespoke private guided tours.  Needless to say the big group coach companies offer similar tours; Premium Tours, Golden Tours and Evan Evans and you can book discounted tickets here;

IMPORTANT:  The Stonehenge English Heritage shop is closed during these private access visits and you will not be able to purchase guide books or souvenirs so you are wise to buy before.  Needless to say if you do some research before it will certainly enhace your visit, I have listed the the most popular guide books etc below.

>A total lunar eclipse will take place on December 20/21, 2010 Sadly it will not be visible oin Britain? It will be visible after midnight Eastern Standard Time on December 21 in North and South America. The beginning of the total eclipse will be visible from northern Europe just before sunrise. The end of the total eclipse will be visible rising at sunset for Japan and northeastern Asia, it also appears very visible to the Philippines just after sunset (as in Partial lunar eclipse). It will be the first total lunar eclipse in nearly 3 years, the last being on February 20, 2008.

 It is also called the Christmas lunar eclipse.

External links:

Stonehenge Guide

>It might seem far too early to mention this but it’s a fair bet all the available places will be snapped up very quickly. There is to be an evening walk to Stonehenge led by David Dawson, Director of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, on 8th June 2011 and a second one on 13th July.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to inspect (but no touching) and photograph (for non-commercial purposes) the stones closely, and see the inscriptions, including the famous ‘daggers’ believed to date from prehistoric times. Wander at will inside the circle and enjoy the landscape. ”
But we were rather struck by this request on the Museum’s website:

“Note – please do not touch or climb on the stones, picnic or play music whilst in the monument”

…since halfway between 8th June and 13th July comes the summer solstice when, as everyone knows, a large number of people have been allowed to ignore all four of those matters year after year. So we have a couple of dozen ultra-respectful paying customers acting one way, thousands of non-paying revellers acting in the opposite way then back to paying ones acting in the first way, all in the space of five weeks! BOTH sets of behaviour can’t be right, surely?

It’s very confusing. Which IS the right way to act at the stones? Or, much more pertinently, which way should those who are in charge of an event at the stones ensure people act? Is the strict version just something the Wiltshire Heritage Museum has formulated? Or was it imposed on them by English Heritage as a condition of them being allowed to take people there? And what would happen if a percentage of the Museum’s customers defied the Museum’s rules and climbed on the stones on 8th June? Would EH give them one more chance and tell them that if they failed to control all their paying customers and protect the monument a second time on 13th July they shouldn’t come back next year? Or would they accept an excuse from the Museum, year after year after year, “we do always ask people to behave, honest, but it’s definitely not our fault if they don’t….“
See also here – the only way out of the dilemma that we can think of, and a way of saving EH lots of money as well.

External links: – Stonehenge Walking Tours

Stonehenge Tour Guide