Stonehenge – Wednesday 17th April
Strung along the fence marking the border between the car park and the byway are yellow balloons. A party? There’s a small marquee – that’s probably a bit grand – there’s a pop-up gazebo type thing, garlanded with yellow balloons, and trestle tables sheltering beneath bearing refreshments. Of course I have to ask what’s the occasion? – turns out there’s a sponsored cycle on today, a fundraiser for English Heritage and the new visitor centre. Apparently about 35 cyclists are pedalling their way from Reading along the roads and byways.
In this wind, it’s going to be a heroic feat. At least it’s not raining.
Mark and I make our way up to the monument: past the payment booth, the audio guide station and into the tunnel, where we’re confronted by a man holding his mobile device in front of his face and shouting loudly at it. In what tongue? One of the Slavic languages? He’s slightly alarming but puts paid to the myth that men can’t walk and talk at the same time.
A group of soldiers in fatigues banter on the tarmac path. They seem to all come from different places. Different shades of camouflage, different caps and badges. There’s one woman amongst them and she’s making them all laugh. They seem to be having a nice time.
We get a cheery greeting from the custodians and Mark settles to get on with the silverpoint drawing.
“Hello,” an Indian woman says as she walks by. “It’s very vindy.” She’s not wrong. However it felt in the car park, it’s an entirely different force up here.
Visitors walk round clinging to hats, tying in scarves, zipping up jackets.
It’s one of those days when waves of tourists come along, one after another. Coach parties. A clump of one nationality followed by a clump of completely different peoples.
A young boy stops to look at what Mark is doing. He stares for quite some time, just watching the artist, then, he starts looking at the stones, then back to Mark’s drawing. Very slowly, between the looking, he contorts his face so that it becomes a type of strange grimace. I have absolutely no idea what this represents. I just find it funny. Is it a judgement on what he’s seeing? Or has he got wind?
A helicopter, its headlight bright, appears across the top of Fargo Wood and speeds along the Cursus. Because the noise of the wind is ringing so loudly in my ears I barely register the sound of the blades and the engine of the Apache, and it really is going some.
There are signs of spring slowly emerging here, more buds appearing on the trees and bushes in the car park, but it’s not the spring we all want yet.
Leaving the monument field I’m passed by a tour guide holding a Day-Glo flag on a stick above her head, a line of people form a crocodile behind her.
By the audio guide station a man with a clipboard is asking, “Do you have Chinese? Mandarin?” Queuing ready to come through the gates is another coach party.
Out in the car park, bicycles are beginning to line the ballooned fence and a sporting round of applause greets the latest arrivals.