Stonehenge – Friday 23rd November
Lunchtime. We arrive at Stonehenge and grab a coffee and a sandwich from the little booth they call the café and sit on a bench up by the stone circle to picnic. It’s November; obviously we’re the only picnic-ers on site. We’re gawped at as we sit and munch, and we gawp straight back.
I’m really enjoying the autumn visits to Stonehenge. The light is wonderful; the tourists seem quite relaxed; the colours of nature are spectacular, though to be honest, the storms of this last week have emptied the trees of most of their leaves but still, it’s lovely to be here.
Mark is concentrating on his silverpoint drawing of the large trilithon. It’s a slow process but one he’s enjoying. This is a portrait rather than a group shot.
I am covered in tiny spiders; it’s amazing how many there are here. I keep having to blow them off my notebook and shake them from my hat. How do they get there?
The visitors here are in small groups, couples, friends, families. I’ve heard Spanish, German and Japanese so far. A group of three go by. “YE-ES!” shouts one of the women with an audio guide to her ear, “Witches! Have you got there yet?” “Yes!” shouts her friend and punches the air. The three of them laugh.
The walkways are completely open again today. People can circle the stones.
Across the field I can see Siobhan, her red hair bright against the black of her cloak. She’s chatting to a group of visitors.
The crows and jackdaws flit about the sarsens, the sheep are busy eating the meadow.
“There’s a theory that they brought the stones by water,” an English woman tells her guest, “But still they had no machinery,” says her companion in a thick Spanish accent. “How did they do it?” “I don’t know,” says the English woman, “that’s why it’s one of the great mysteries of the world.”
There’s a coach in. A clump of visitors arrives on the tarmac walkway, smiley people.
A little girl wearing a purple anorak and a pink woolly hat twirls the audio guide vigorously around her neck. It swings violently from its orange cord, clearing a space around her. Her mother forces her to sit on a bench with her sister while she takes a photo, with the queue of traffic on the A303 as the background.
A helicopter flies along the Cursus, the blades beating against the noise of the road.
“But what do they do?” asks a little boy walking past. “Who? The modern day Druids?” says his mum, then there’s a wave of Spanish conversation and I miss her answer.
It’s quite interesting watching Mark on the tarmac walkway. He’s not being bothered too much by keen photographers. Maybe he’s slightly camouflaged by the stones. They’re close to the path where he’s sitting; perhaps they pull focus. They are after all the things people have paid to see.
A Chinook rumbles across the sky and a couple of men follow it with their small compact camera.
“Did you hear him talking about the sheep?” an American woman says. “There are more sheep here than people!”
Gunfire echoes across the plain. It could be military, it could be farmers, it could be sportsmen. It is the shooting season. I spot a single deer racing across the ploughed field parallel to the A303 and have a sudden wave of anxiety. It shouldn’t be near all that traffic.
Now I see four figures with flags, white and Day-Glo orange, on the fields across the road. That’s what the noise is. Hunters.