Morning person by default, I get to see the sunrise every morning, ergo I’ll tell you something you all should know anyway; watching it as a live stream on your phone just doesn’t have the same impact. “You’ve got a window, use it, hippy,” seems to be the ethos of regulations set by Wiltshire Council, the National Trust and English Heritage, who’ve ganged up to ruin solstice at Avebury, for the people it means the most to.
Marlborough Tory Councillor Jane Davies republished Wiltshire Council’s statement on her Facebook page, to receive much frustrated and unanswered replies. The Council will close The Ridgeway from Overton Hill to Hackpen Hill to all vehicles from Monday 13th to Thursday 30th June. It will also close Avebury High Street to non-residents through 20th to 22nd June. Solstice is Tuesday 21st.
Park illegally and it will be towed away they threaten, as a way to “ensure people can enjoy the summer solstice safely at Avebury this year.” Yes, with irony on a departed flightpath, that really is their reasoning, reminding folk if they don’t like it the sunrise will be live streamed anyway, so you know where to go.
Let’s look at this logically, if I may, rather than the type of wonky perception of English Heritage, who last week saw nothing inappropriate in abusing Stonehenge as a giant projection screen for images of the Queen. The fact remains, while the National Trust carpark is the only way they’ll make a tidy profit, it simply isn’t big enough, neither will it accept “live-in” vehicles, or has ample disabled parking spaces, and despite this there’s rumours floating it’ll also be closed.
One stage away from bricking the village in, I find myself pondering if they’ve stopped to consider the consequences, or if they really care. Anyone who can read between the fabricated wellbeing and conservational lines will be fully aware this is a calculated attack on our rights to roam, and those who execute that right. Yet it will not only affect them, but the entire community surrounding the stones. Rightfully every farmer will batten down the hatches, close gates and block entrances, because this is necessary arable land and the last thing, they need, is a bunch of hippies hanging about; I get that, but surely, that’s the point of the Ridgeway in the first place, to give them space to camp, without invading private farmland?
This, and the alternatives will set to infuriate residents and passers-by, perpetuating the negative stereotype of the travelling community, as lorry drivers cannot take a well-earned rest in occupied laybys, and neighbouring villages will clutter with parked vehicles; I get that too, but it’s easily avoided if the Ridgeway offered them a temporary stop, as is the practice. Ha, who’d a thought it, (not the pub carpark, don’t make it like I put ideas in your head!) but it feels like Wiltshire Council have an agenda, a kind of abhorrence of the travelling community, when we all thought the Beanfields was consigned to historical articles in the Guardian.
For a further point of aggravation; surely, it’s a burden to the Police too, who’ll have to deal with the frustration these restrictions will cause, and likely face the brunt of the blame? “Appropriately” seems to be a word they bounce around regularly in the notification, as in “this will ensure Solstice celebrations can be managed appropriately,” and “people preparing for the summer solstice should take note of these important restrictions so they can plan celebrations appropriately.” Yet by very definition, in a manner that is suitable or proper in the circumstances, these regulations are perceptibly inappropriate. In other words, we have a polarised vision of how to conduct an ancient festivity, and you are forced to follow it; we don’t want too many people to enjoy themselves and it doesn’t include travellers.
With limited space in the pricey National Trust carpark, feels like the Council and EH want just enough revellers to set the mood for their live stream; the local folk they snub but humour “champagne socialists,” or as I favour to call them; a dying breed of affluent inhabitants with a conscious and basic morals. If lockdown facilitated a culture of watching events online, note, WC, that time is over.
Ha, course you could get the bus, if only the service was adequate. But yeah, Solstice is on a first-come-first-served basis this year, giving locals the upper-hand; This is a local solstice, for local people, there’s no sunrise for you here.
Shoot me after my conclusion, but all this feels akin to the Christianisation of ancient festivals, like you know, Father Christmas was a wiseman following the star, or the Easter bunny’s rabbit holes provided excellent support for crucifixion crosses; the very same ethos which tore down Avebury stone circle in the first place (check your history.) Why not go the full hog and Disneyfy the whole shebang, make solstice sunrise only available as a series on Disney+?
Rather, it’s high time for our county to accept and embrace this alternative form of tourism, provide facilities adequate to the need. Do this under the presumption without aggravation caused by such restrictions will go some way to building a trustworthy bond, because, and here is the rock bottom line; the only trouble that’s EVER happened at Avebury or Stonehenge during Solstice was caused by frustration at such restrictions. Given the right to celebrate, there would be no trouble, there never has been. Make people feel constrained, fraught and segregated, and there’s nowhere else for them to go but exacerbation.
And don’t be giving me this “protecting a world heritage site,” crock-of-shite; when they’re prepared to strip Stonehenge of its world heritage status in order to unlawfully (according to the High Court,) construct a monstrous overpriced tunnel underneath it! Here; take a hint, a row of bushes will do the job of hiding it from non-paying tourists!
There, had my rant, these organisations made their bed, and if this causes issues, they’ve only themselves to blame. You know closing off the byways isn’t going to solve any damage to Avebury, it will only make it worse, I wonder if you care, or if there’s a hidden agenda. Feels like WC are an older sibling, continuously slyly poking their younger brother until he’s forced to lash out, and then calling, “mum, he hit me!” Because it’s not relevant in their lives they want rid of it; I say, get over yourself.
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