Summer Solstice Celebrations Looking Likely at Stonehenge

With the green light given for the A303 tunnel at Stonehenge, the lockdown restrictions at winter solstice and EH’s solstice parking fee demands, it’s understandable we haven’t seen a positive message from the pagan high priest, Uther Pendragon for a while. But this week proved different. If Uther used emojis on his social media posts it would be near all smiley faces, but he’s not the type to, so there wasn’t!

Nevertheless, the leader of the warrior and political arm of the modern druid movement, The Loyal Arthurian Warband, reported back from a virtual RT meeting with English Heritage, Police and other interested parties, save Wiltshire Council who Uther noted, “steadfastly refused to attend.”

Assurances about this year’s summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge appear positive. Urther called for “assurances from EH and their partnering ‘authorities’ that there are no plans to restrict access by ticket and/or advance booking, or to take part in any Goverment pilot or other such ‘trial’ that restricts access to ‘all-comers’ due to perceived health issues or certification. And that no pilgrims will be denied entrance, save for those who’s anti social behavior dictates such.”

EH are continuing to make plans and arrangments,” Urther reported, “for the managed open access to go ahead as scheduled for the night of 20th/dawn of the 21st June, subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, due to end by this point.”

On the eve of lockdown last year, English Heritage said, “we know how appealing it is to come to Stonehenge for Winter Solstice, but we are asking everyone to stay safe and to watch the sunset and sunrise online instead. We look forward to welcoming people back for solstice next year.” And with that, and this positive development, we hope things will run smoothly for 2021.


Stonehenge or Bust; Duck n Cuvver Scale the Fence!

The last thing Robert Hardie wants is to be portrayed as villainous, or condoning mass trespass, though he accepts some might interpret breaking over the fence at Stonehenge as such. Chatting to this veteran on the phone this morning, he described the exhilaration and sensation of wellbeing, wandering between Wiltshire’s legendary stone pillars, but expressed he doesn’t wish to encourage others to follow his example, only to raise awareness of his crusade.

Frustration with English Heritage was the prime motive for taking the leap, displayed in his video doing the rounds on social media. But one half of Salisbury folk-rock indie duo, Duck n Cuvver has been fundraising for over three years to be able to shoot the final part of a music video inside the stone circle. “Initially,” he said, “English Heritage said it would cost £750, then they suddenly upped it to £4,500.” I asked Rob if they gave an explanation, a breakdown of what the costs involved to them would be. He replied they hadn’t.

My musing wandered over the occasion two years ago when local reggae band, Brother from Another pulled a publicity stunt recording themselves atop Silbury Hill, to wide criticism, but how The Lost Trades recently played around Avebury stone circle without trouble. Rob and Ian cannot call a compromise though, being the subject of the song, Henge of Stone, is as it says on the tin. As he explained to the Salisbury Journal back in 2019, “This video will make history – singing about Stonehenge in Stonehenge.”

Clearly enthusiastic about covering our ancient local landmarks as song themes, Rob told me he’d written about Avebury too, and how he played them to the solstice crowd there. This part of our conversation ended with him reciting a few verses in song, and expressing the feeling of joy as the crowds sang them back to him.

While he didn’t rule out this was a publicity stunt too, we discussed the necessities of the project. Rather than being a colossal movie production, with the atypical entourage, trailers and crew, all that’s needed is his partner in crime, Ian Lawes, and possibly the accompanying musicians, Chris Lawes, Jamez Williams, Louis Sellers and Paul Loveridge, a cameraman and a few instruments. The mechanics of shooting the footage would be simple, it’s unplugged, being there’s no electricity on site, and Rob explained how mats would be provided to protect the grass. Besides, if EH’s concerns were for the welfare of the site they’d simply say no, surely, not put a price on it.

There’s therefore no justice, in my mind, really, on the exceptionally high price tag. Only to assume English Heritage is out to profit. Contemplating on recent outcries concerning activities around Stonehenge; the solstice parking debacle, closing for winter solstice and of course the tunnel, which we mutually dismissed as ludicrous on the grounds excavating there would obviously turn up some ancient findings and archaeological digs, and protection rights would whack the project way over budget, it feels the quango run agency is not the best method to protect our heritage sites, if the conservative ethos is revenue driven rather than insuring it’s splendour is for all to enjoy and savour. As Rob points out in the film, “Stonehenge belongs to fucking us!”

Ah, story checks out; even English Heritage states similar on their website, if not quite so sweary! “The monument remained in private ownership until 1918 when Cecil Chubb, a local man who had purchased Stonehenge from the Atrobus family at an auction three years previously, gave it to the nation. Thereafter, the duty to conserve the monument fell to the state, today a role performed on its behalf by English Heritage.” It’s basically one extortionate babysitter, calling the shots.

I enjoyed chatting with Rob, even if my plan to record the dialogue backfired due to my poor tech skills! I apologise to him for this improv article.

I’m surprised to not have previously heard of Duck n Cuvver, we tend to get vague coverage of the Salisbury area; something I need to work on. We did rap about our mutual friend, the pianist prodigy, young Will Foulstone, among other things.

The duo are sound as a pound, though, real quality folk rock come indie sound, the song is cracking, proper job. Which is why they’ve supported the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Feeling, and recently performed at the National Armed Forces Day. Ardent about his music, this veteran explained his service inspired the band name, and continued to express his passion for this particular song, something which has been evolving over five years, and it shows. He described it as a “celebration of life,” dedicated to a friend who passed away, from cancer.

Both members of the duo are good, charitable folk, and if Rob did climb the fence at Stonehenge recently, note he lives within the restricted range of it to constitute it being his daily exercise. From our phone call alone, I could tell they’re not the sort to abuse the trust, if it was given to them, to perform at Stonehenge, that’d be a magical moment, and, well, we could do with a magical moment right now. So, if you can help fund their campaign, you’ll find a link to do so here.

I’ll pop the song which is kicking up all the fuss below, and leave with a thanks for the natter, Rob, and I wish you all the best with the crusade; Stonehenge or bust!

    


Solstice, or What-Christians-Macallit?

Summer Solstice is on Friday 21st June and English Heritage provides free Managed Open Access to Stonehenge as usual, under the conditions: no amplified music, no drones, no alcohol, no drugs, no drunken or disorderly behaviour, no camping, no sleeping bags, no large bags, no chairs, fires, Chinese lanterns, fireworks, candles, tea-lights or BBQs, no glass, no sharp or pointed objects, and, of course, no climbing on the stones; something we’ll return to in a bit.

You will be searched, and anything deemed unsuitable will be confiscated, other than that, have fun.

I appreciate this reasoning, our nanny-state concludes you are not to be trusted; you should be immune to this concept by now. Have no concern, they will create common sense for you and write it on a fluorescent signpost.

With workshops and bands, there’s a four-day pay-festival; setting you back £125 to camp per person, £325 for a campervan pitch, or £490 for glamping. Yet through a pastel illustration, its rather deceiving website shows an idyllic festival with the ancient monument just a hedgerow behind. What may be the closest festival to Stonehenge for Solstice, is actually over two and a half miles away in Winterbourne Stoke. That said, I believe they bus it up to the stones in time for sunrise; road closures and traffic jams worked in, I’m hoping.

Cashing in on our desire to recapture ancient ideologies is not exclusive to this festival, English Heritage hides the hiked-up parking charges in small print, on another section of their website, away from the main Conditions of Entry page. Hardly surprising, after last year’s dispute, the opposition headed by the Loyal Arthurian Warband, and as Titular Head and Chosen Chief of what has become known as The Warrior/Political arm of the modern Druid Movement, Uther Pendragon.

Devizine spoke to Arthur last year, when the heat was the parking charges. Seems English Heritage will not compromise, while it costs tourists just a fiver anyother day, on the one day guaranteed to pull a crowd of homegrown visitors, they triple the tax. Deemed a “pay to pray” policy, Arthur persists on this mission. The most bizarre twist in this fiasco is this year’s EH website designers, who’ve decided to use a picture of St George slaying the dragon to advertise. One may appreciate the reasoning for rules, but the reasoning for using Christian symbology to advertise a pagan feast? The only possible explanation I conjure is it’s a veiled satirical stab at Arthur, who declared, he is one dragon they “will not slay.”

The notion they’re suggesting Christianity should convert solstice is so absurd I blocked it from my mind. Yet, I was shocked at what research churned up. Despite the impossibility of Mary, with child, travelling across Israel, and shepherds off -season during winter, Christian websites maintain Jesus was born at Christmas, and that the sun mimics the death and resurrection of him. If the idea the Earth’s solar orbit never occurred until after the birth of Jesus isn’t a hard-enough pill to swallow, they now continue to suggest summer solstice is actually St John the Baptist’s birthday bash.

Justified by the verse of John 3:30, declaring, “he [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease,” this reflects the sun at the summer solstice trailing its forte, while the winter sun gains, it is no new theory, however outlandish.

Is this what’s happening now, I shudder? Are English Heritage supporting the idea that summer solstice be replaced by a Christian celebration, or just condescendingly mocking Arthur? Is the winter solstice (Christmas) and the spring equinox (Easter) not enough for them? The final nail in the coffin for ancient faiths; here, have Beltane too while you’re at it. Perhaps they think, I ponder to myself, that if solstice was Christian no one would attempt to climb the stones, as you’ll never see the congregation of Salisbury Cathedral drunkenly jeering on daredevils halfway up the spire!

It’s what it all boils down to, this ill-conceived stereotype of pagans; those wild and reckless heathens. And, if I’m brutally honest, clambering up an ancient monument that you’re supposed to be worshipping, while bits of crumble beneath your muddy CATs is the only part of the ritual which bothers me. I did ask Arthur how he felt about this in our interview last year, he didn’t get back to me prior to its publication, but did afterwards, and here’s what he had to say:

(There’s) “not nearly as many ‘climbers’ as there were, and this little tale is how and why,” he said. “A few years ago, there was a ‘climber’ and the guy in front of me was yelling ‘get off the bloody stones!’

‘That’s rich coming from you’ I said, ‘you were up there last year!’

To which he spun around and very indignantly said; ‘No I wasn’t, that was the year before.’

In fact, he had been pictured atop of the stones in the Guardian, which is why I made the remark, but think about it; the first year he’s up there, the second he’s not and by the third he’s part of the ‘self-policing’. Like I say, they may come for the wrong reasons, but they return for the right ones.”

So, if the druids strive for an awakening in us, may be the Christians could accept paganism has its place in modern society. The Earth is really what we need to worship after all, in this era of looming ecological doom. Our ancestors could teach us a thing or twenty about conservation.

Radical I know, best we can hope for I guess is a peaceful solstice at our county’s most famous landmark, try our best to ignore just why EH would choose Christian symbolism to represent a pagan feast. The mind boggles; hope they don’t fall off of our flat Earth!

But, as a wiseman once said, for want of a peaceful solstice, try Avebury. The National Trust website has the details for this slighter, more tranquil solstice gathering, and takes a far less religious approach in its design too! The car park will be open from 0900 on Thursday 20 June 2019. Parking here is £7 all day (0930 to 1830 in summer) £4 after 1500. Motorbikes can park for free, but the carpark gets full very quickly. NT advise public transport, which is doable from Devizes, Marlborough and Swindon.

There is no on-road parking in Avebury itself or Beckhampton, West Kennet and Winterbourne Monkton. The villages are patrolled regularly by Traffic Enforcement Officers and if you park illegally you may be fined or even find your vehicle is removed. Silbury Hill car park will also be closed overnight during this period.

The only campsite in Avebury has only space for under 100 tents. It opens at 9am on Thursday 20th and closes and must be cleared by 2pm on Saturday. You can camp for free, but don’t forget to have a valid parking ticket, and no dogs unless they’re assistance dogs. Other official campsites nearby: Postern Hill Caravan & Camping Site, nr Savernake Forest – 0845 130 8224 or 01672 515195 http://www.forestholidays.co.uk Blackland Lakes, Calne. 01249 810 943 http://www.blacklandlakes.co.uk or Bell Caravan Park and Camping, Lydeway nr Devizes, 01380 840 230

Me? Oh, I’ll be working on solstice; I’ll stop to see the sunrise, probably between Lavington and Urchfont somewhere; despite I see it every morning and never grow tired of it. Might even take a tea-light with me, stick that in your pipe and smoke it EH!

 

EH raise price to visit Stonehenge

 

EH announced entry price to Stonehenge is set to rise in April from £16:50 to £19:50 per adult, and from £40:70 to £50:90 for families.

I find myself wondering how much of this is for the upkeep of the monument and how much is pure profit, or to make inadequate new infrastructure alterations, or even, dare I say it, to fund a security company who many have complained about their heavy-handed attics and rude responses to visitors.

It also questions, just how much are people willing to pay to see Wiltshire’s primary internationally renowned wonder, and how these prices, which already seem extreme, affect smaller local businesses relying on tourism?

Already disgruntled with new rules regarding solstice celebrations at the site, and the charges for parking on these scared days, Pagan High Preist, Arthur Uther Pendragon opened a government petition, stating EH are “not fit to manage” Stonehenge.

“Since splitting with Historic England,” the campaign says, “English Heritage has commercialized Stonehenge to the extreme introducing a ‘Pay to Pray’ Policy at Solstices and priced Tourism out of reach for the General Public to whom it was left, and supported unsuitable road improvements in the World Heritage site.”

“They have rejected the advice and concerns of UNESCO, Senior Archaeologists, Historians, Druids, and Environmentalists. This shows they are not fit to manage the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of a World Heritage site.”

Please sign this petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200246

 

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