Stonehenge – Wednesday 14th November
Driving past Airman’s Corner and the site for the new visitor centre, it seems remarkable that everything looks so ordered. The heavy machinery used for ground works has been cleared and the site now has a tarmac road, the shells of two new buildings, bits of fencing and largely, neat grassy landscaped areas. There is still a cluster of porta-cabins, a car park for site headquarters and some organised piles of materials but it’s all happened very efficiently.
The roads however are chaotic. Major works going on to widen, re-direct and relocate roundabouts. We might have to find a new way of getting here.
On the way through the Stonehenge turnstiles we are harangued, along with everyone else, by one of the local crows, sitting atop one of the signposts shouting in his husky, urgent voice at some volume. One of the EH staff emerges from a staff room with a paper bag. “You sound like you’re being murdered”, she says to the crow, “for goodness sake!” and gives him some food. The crow shuts up.
The sheep have gone from the field by the car park and are now grazing on the land up at the monument field outside of the visitor guide rope. The sun shines through the cloud and suddenly the picture is a pastoral idyll. It’s a photo opp not to be missed.
Mark is sitting on the tarmac path drawing one of the large trilithons. It’s the closest tourists can get to the stones now that the grass walkway has been moved back for the winter months. He’s drawing with sliverpoint again. It’s a favoured medium of his for close-up detail, but it’s not as photogenic as the more highly contrasting pen and ink work. Not for a tourist photographer with a camera in automatic anyhow…
The air is booming with aircraft engines, but the cloud cover is camouflaging the planes. It’s a strange sensation. A helicopter flies by, lower than the clouds and in complete view. But still, the other noise persists.
A Chinese girl sets up her little camera on the end of the bench I’m sitting on. She trots perkily across to the guide rope and stands with her arms above her head, palms together, and beams.
People are doing the usual jumping photos and pushing the stones photos, but it’s quite relaxed up here today.
The green landscape is dotted with coppers and deep reds as autumn has its day.
I spot a sign several feet behind the guide rope, ‘ Warning – Electric Fence’. That’s why the sheep are being so well behaved! But it’s quite an inconspicuous fence, not something that impinges on the landscape.
Another din, and a tank with an orange flashing light tears along the A303.
I watch a jackdaw sitting on a sheep’s head carefully picking about its ears. The sheep obligingly stands still and allows itself to be groomed.
A couple of men, 30s, walk along the inside of the chain link fence but not on the official walkway, they’re on the meadow area with the sheep. One of the EH staff goes to meet them and I hear them say they’re looking for the way in. I’m trying to work out how they’ve got to where they are. I have to admit to a sneaking admiration if they’ve actually climbed over the chain link fence in broad daylight.
I’m suddenly aware that I’m home to a multitude of tiny spiders. They seem to be busy spinning webs across my camera, in my bag and up and down the details of my wax-proof coat.
Maybe I could do with the services of a grooming jackdaw.