Around 14,500 people braved the miserable weather to welcome the dawn at Wiltshire landmark
Thousands of people have marked the summer solstice despite the celebration being one of the wettest in years.

Poor weather could not dampen the spirits of 14,500 people who welcomed the sun at Stonehenge at dawn this morning.

The annual pagan celebration of the sun, on the longest day of the year, centred on the famous prehistoric monument where the event was marked with religious ceremonies.

The solstice annually attracts an eclectic mix and among the druids, revellers and sun worshippers were those just curious to experience the spiritual event at the site on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

English Heritage opened up the stone circle at Stonehenge yesterday evening ready to welcome those making the annual pilgrimage.

Heavy rain overnight reduced the number of people who camped out or arrived early to witness the dawn compared with previous years, which have seen numbers of around 20,000.

The sunrise at 4.52am was welcomed by rain-sodden crowds with a loud cheer and applause despite the sun being blanketed by dark clouds

Through the poor weather, drummers inside the ancient stone circle kept the mood cheerful while new age pagans danced to their rhythm.

Joining revellers this year was a 22ft (6.70m) figure called Ancestor which was moved to the stones ahead of the solstice celebrations.

The steel statue depicts a man with his ‘head thrown back and arms open wide’.

One of the places to have the heaviest rainfall in England Wales overnight was Evershot in Dorset, Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts said.

She said the village had 21.4mm in just six hours – almost half the normal June rainfall of 45mm for London.

Mrs Roberts said the North West was likely to see the heaviest rain in the coming days, with central, south-west and north-east England, as well as north Wales and northern Scotland also getting downpours.

There is also a chance of flooding in the North West tomorrow, she said.

‘The forecast is definitely unsettled for the next few days. The main focus over the next 24 hours is going to be north-west England – that’s where we’re expecting the heaviest rain to be.

‘Further south it could push into north Wales and further north it could push into northern Scotland.’

She added: ‘There is a potential for some large accumulations of very heavy rain and fairly persistent through much of the day tomorrow.’

A spokesman for English Heritage said 14,500 people gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice this year.

He added: ‘Heavy rain during the night meant this was one of the lowest attendances in recent years.

‘However, the rain did stop in time for the sunrise ceremonies and although clouds obscured the sun, loud cheers and applause rang out amongst the ancient stones.

‘There was torrential rain at some points during the evening, but it stopped and although it was cloudy, it didn’t rain for sunrise.

‘It has been the wettest and dare I say the muddiest in recent years.’

Wiltshire Police said the event passed peacefully apart from 20 arrests.

Superintendent Matt Pullen said: ‘Solstice 2012 has been a positive experience for the majority of visitors.

‘As with every year, sadly there was a small minority who were determined to disregard the law. These people were dealt with robustly and there were 20 arrests throughout the night.’

The arrests were for theft, drugs or alcohol-related offences. There were also 101 street cautions for cannabis.

Stonehenge, which is thought to be between 4,000 and 5,000-years-old, has been the site of confrontations between worshippers, other revellers and police officers in the past.

Meanwhile, racegoers at today’s Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot raised umbrellas and wore ponchos, as showers dampened the Berkshire racetrack throughout the day.

A thunder storm was forecast for this afternoon, said Matt Dobson, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association.

‘There will be pretty heavy rain first thing, turning murky and muggy by the late morning. In the afternoon, there is the risk of heavy downpours.

‘If they get unlucky, there could be an absolute cloudburst. By 2pm there could well be thundery conditions.’

Article by the Daily Mail – Click here for some great pics and video: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2162495/Summer-solstice-2012-Stonehenge-soggiest-years-Royal-Ascot-set-washout-too.html

The Stonehenge Tour Company

 

 

 

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