Stonehenge – Thursday 30th August
Driving up the A360 to Airman’s Corner the view is altering. The road seems to continue beyond the T-junction at the end. There is a new road being cut into the earth. An orange digger flashes the name PENNY as its arm lifts and swings with buckets of soil.
It’s a massive building project. The site is active, large and getting larger. There’ll be a new roundabout here in the next few months, and buildings where there were only fields – a new Stonehenge visitor centre. I wonder what they’re going to do for shelters and loos up by the monument field? It’s a long walk to Airman’s Corner.
The car park is full of coaches. Seems like it’s a cruise day.
In the tunnel up to the stones, a woman pushes a largish man in a wheelchair. A female friend grabs a handle and together they heave up the slope. A man asks them in German if they need help, but no thanks, these ladies mean business. The stones are surrounded by cruisers and among them a group of shaven headed men, East Asian, dressed in deep red robes. Buddhist monks perhaps? One stands in front of the stones while another photographs him on a smart phone.
The skies are humming with helicopters and planes, and there’s quite a lot of noise coming from vehicles in the car park, impatient coach drivers. Poor cruise passengers; they really are pushed or dragged around Stonehenge – In, Round and Out.
Mark is revisiting one of his studies from earlier in the week, a pen and ink drawing. The cruise flow is interesting – it goes in waves! Loads of people in front of the stones, then a dribble of people trickling past the stones. At least there will be moments of clear space when Mark can see details of the Sarsens.
A woman arrives with her small son to have a look at the artist. “Don’t touch anything” she says, and then starts taking photos. Eventually she says, “I hope you don’t mind’. “No, it’s okay,” says Mark. “It’s really very good. Very, very good.” She says. “I’m just getting a free copy”. Absolutely shameless. One of the perks of her entrance fee?
One of the EH staff suddenly rushes along the tarmac path. A man has stepped over the guide rope and is settling on his stomach to take a photo in the protected area nearest the stone circle. He obviously clocks her approaching, gets up, steps back onto the walkway and hurries off. This is a large, grown-up man, and he’s almost running away from one of the more petite women on the team here. It really is quite amusing. She gets him though, and he’s all ignorance and apologies in his manner. He could be an eleven-year-old boy.
A man with a white beard stands over Mark’s shoulder and videos him. He looks pleased with the results.
A family unfurl a picnic blanket in the wind, all four of them wrestling it down then pinning it to the ground by sitting on it. They get out their lunch as the gusts grow stronger.
A man in a kilt, red anorak and tartan tam o’shanter cap stands on the tarmac and photographs Stonehenge. Mark and I guess that he must have recently visited Scotland, but probably doesn’t live there. Maybe his ancestors did? But who know? He could dress like this all the time.
We hear some distant singing. It seems to be coming from the byway. Several vehicles are parked up along it now the film unit has gone. And now some drums, all aimed in this direction.
A children’s activity leaflet wheels past me on the wind and blows under the guide rope, swiftly followed by an agile father who hurdles the rope, scoops up the paper and quick as a flash, he’s back over.
In the distance there are guns. The trainees are busy on manoeuvres. A tank rattles loudly along the road behind the Heel Stone and a helicopter flies directly across the stones and over the byway.
The woman with the goat head staff is here again today. I’ve not seen her for ages. Today she’s wearing a tight garland of green in her long red hair and a long black cloak over a flowing white dress. Fabulous!
A crow lands on crow perch, dipping and wobbling as he attempts to keep his balance, but quickly defeated, he takes to the wing and off and away from Stonehenge.
The Sheople continue to be blown along the walkway.