Stonehenge – Friday 29th March
Good Friday and the holiday crowds are out – a considerable amount on the A303. By the new visitor centre, a smart A-frame now contains the word STONEHENGE printed in tall black letters and an arrow pointing up the road. I feel a moment of sadness at the loss of the improvised hand-written sign that preceded it.
I haven’t seen the car park this busy since last summer. Cars are parked along the byway and the overflow field is being opened to accommodate the flood of visitors. Queues of people wait to go through the entrances; up by the stones the walkways are a solid mass of people. It’s cold, but most people seem completely prepared for the season.
Mark sits in front of his trilithon to draw. I’m instantly asked to take a photo by some fellow tourists. Happily I get a photo first time and the sun briefly breaks through the cloud. All along the walkway, people are asking each other to take photos. It’s wonderfully friendly.
“And this is where Lady Di crashed!” says a young American, laughing at his own joke. “Lady who?” a companion asks.
Loads of tourists are obviously not coming in. The path on the road by the chain link fence is heavily peopled. I think the entrance fees have gone up. I’ve witnessed quite a few English families over the past few months balking at the prices and choosing to stay outside.
On a bench on the grass walkway, four ladies, speaking Spanish I think, share some of their food with a couple of jackdaws hovering around them. Suddenly, it’s like a scene from ‘The Birds’ as every jackdaw and rook in the neighbourhood congregates in the air and on the grass around them. They hurriedly pack their plastic bags of food back into their rucksacks.
I see Siobhan marching across the bridge in front of the Heel Stone. She makes a dramatic stop, turns to face the stones with a theatrical sweep of her long woollen cloak and for a moment stands in a shaft of sunlight, her goat head staff glinting in the brightness. It’s as if she’s brought along her own personal follow spot operator.
As I walk past the Heel Stone a tall young man turns in wonder and says, “Is it the energy or something?” In his hands he’s holding two copper dowsing rods. “Come on. Let’s take a picture of Carly doing her energy thing.” Says someone else in the party. It seems there is magic in the air today.
People are jumping and creatively posing for photos. Some visitors are pulling wheelie cases behind them, some carrying rucksacks or baby carriers.
I watch a mother retrieve her baby’s face from a pink hat by swivelling the hat round to its proper place. The baby, very new, looks like a little drunkard riding high on his father’s back.
Another child is picked up for a photo and emits a loud and increasingly piercing scream until his feet are placed back on the ground and he quiets. “ I think he’s just boiled” one of the EH staff quips.
A man with a South African accent asks the custodians, “How did they get the stones across the top?” and is instantly rewarded with an expertly given description of wooden scaffolding and ropes, man power and basic engineering techniques and the final grand flourish of, “Really, we don’t know.”