Stonehenge – Friday 7th September
Directly in front of us at the top of the A360 at Airman’s Cross, there are four men in white hard-hats and yellow hi-viz vests standing in a trench. Their waists are at road height, their torsos above. Huge banks of white chalk earth are piled up along the trench, extending straight ahead. The whole site for the new visitors centre, both sides of the road, is jangling with mechanical activity.
Up in the monument field a contingent from the Philippines Paralympic team is visiting Stonehenge today. Quite a big party of people wearing the London 2012 logo, and a variety of wheelchairs and crutches and people being guided, all beaming with joy at being here by this mysterious ancient monument, and in the English countryside, and being together. It’s sunny and breezy and very pleasant. We have arrived in a moment of calm.
Mark is braving it by sitting at the top of the tarmac walkway, just onto the grass. It means that every visitor comes close, which is alright if they just look and pass by, but proves more challenging when people want to stop and chat. At present, it’s not too busy. If it stays like this, he’ll be able to work in a concentrated manner.
The tiny spiders are in abundance today. I sit on the grass and they’re upon me – little brown dots scampering around my shirt and notebook.
The woman with the goat headed staff is here. She seems to be doing her own ritual rather than interacting with visitors today. I watch her as she walks along the temporary western walkway, stopping every few paces to place her staff on the ground towards the stones, then standing for a few moments of contemplation or meditation before continuing the pattern as she walks round.
A little girl is sitting with her parents on the grass near to me. “Is she a witch?” asks the little girl. (Today the woman with the staff is wearing a long black cloak with a purple hood. She’s wonderfully dramatic.) “Is she a witch?” the little girl asks again. Her mother explains that the woman is someone who believes that Stonehenge has special powers. Lots of people do. And it doesn’t mean that she’s a witch, she’s here because she believes this is a special place. Then her father points out that the moon is in the sky and it’s the middle of the day! It’s a very sweet conversation and the little girl, her toddler brother and parents, lounge on the grass and just enjoy hanging out.
There’s another swell of visitors along the tarmac path and Mark is suddenly surrounded. The woman with the goat head staff has been stopped by some people and is deep in conversation.
Over the A303, dust clouds blow across the field as a green combine harvester cuts swathes into one of the last remaining crops.
A picnic-ing family four sit to my right. “So when was this built?” “Long before Christ, that’s for sure.” “Really?” “It’s a lot smaller than I thought it would be.” “ Well, I’m hacked off about them asking for money!”
But actually, they seem quite content, chilling out, grazing on their picnic and chatting in the gentle sunshine.
The Stonehenge hare runs across to the ditch and disappears into it just to the right of Mark. A couple of ladies to my left spot him.
“That’s a most unusual sight!” says one of them. “That’s a hare. With the black ears. You don’t see them often. Most unusual”.