Stonehenge – Monday 1st April
Truth be told, we wake up and are not overly keen to be Stonehenge tourists today. It’s grey, it’s cold, this season has been relentless and the temptation just to stay in and under the duvet is very appealing. But we don’t.
We get to the A303 and it’s a solid line of barely moving traffic. Luckily we know a cut through. Unfortunately, that is also busy. When we reach the traffic lights at the crossroads by the new visitor centre, the queue of cars is long. It gives us the chance to see the building site from this angle. Across a field of fresh ploughed earth sits a collection of blue, white and beige containers, a village of rectangular units, bare soil and exposed chalk. I know this is temporary but the sight doesn’t lift our mood. It interrupts nature and what used to be an expansive view of Wiltshire landscape.
When we get to Stonehenge there’s a queue on the road to get in. Temporary staff in hi-viz jackets stop each individual vehicle on the way in and charge them to park up if they’re not members of English Heritage or the National Trust. It’s chaos. Traffic converges from both sides; the byways are lined with cars whose occupants don’t want to pay to walk in the landscape.
As we drive into a newly vacated parking space, a man walking a three legged greyhound walks past.
“Just you be quiet”, a father says sternly to a small son. Yes, the holiday spirit is upon us.
A siren blares out as an emergency vehicle speeds along the road.
Today Mark has brought with him a pen and ink study he did before Christmas, in a time when the temperatures were a little friendlier. He’s been using his many studies as reference for larger graphite works he’s building up in his studio, and this view is one he needs to remind himself of. It means sitting along the chain link fence at the point where the exit path is at its narrowest. He unfolds his stool and gets on with some detail work on the drawing.
“Oh look now. There’s someone painting,” says a man to his family.
People stop and look from both inside the fence and from outside the fence. They take photos from the path and through the wire. On the whole it’s a grab and go affair. Just one man lingers for quite some time before rustling in his coat to find a small camera. He turns it on and takes a couple of shots of the artist then drops to his knees to take more. “Thank you,” he says to Mark as he stands and goes.
Across the circle I can see Siobhan with her goat headed staff standing and chatting on the tarmac path. The farmer drives into the meadow with the sheep and tosses forks full of hay onto the grass. The sheep line up and chomp.
“I’m surprised you can feel your fingers,” a man says cheerily as he walks past me. Frankly, I can’t. My writing is appalling.
I watch a group of three young Indian men posing for photos. One removes his jacket and hoodie to stand in a short-sleeved striped polo shirt. He brushes his hair back with his fingers then stands with his arms crossed chest height and pouts. I think he’s channelling Michael Jackson in his ‘Bad’ phase. Three poses in and he’s freezing. He scrambles to replace his hoodie then takes the smart phone from his friend while he in turn removes outer layers and poses in the freezing wind.
The people keep coming…