thinking about archaeology

The other night at Stonehenge

Like summer solstice but with gentility – the Stonehenge Fire Garden. The stones close and personal and erratically wrapped in flames and paraffin smells in the growing darkness, thousands of people politely queuing, one man making gentle electronic music surrounded by a quiet crowd, a comfortable friendly gathering with no manic focus and no camera-hunger fancy dress artists being chased by the press. Soft, arty French eccentricity from La Compagnie Carabosse (I think someone at the Express got the wrong end of the stick when they sent their online gardening editor to report on it). And it didn’t even rain.

There should have been three nights, but tonight – the last – Salisbury International Arts Festival stopped it: “With heavy hearts, we regret that tonight’s Fire Garden at Stonehenge is cancelled due to the torrential rain and high winds forecast. After discussion with our Health and Safety advisors and the Wiltshire Police, we have decided that the exceptional weather conditions forecast for this evening mean that we cannot guarantee a safe event for audience and artists.”

Earlier this morning, the sun rose in a miraculously clear sky for Michael Johnson to parade the Olympic torch for journalists, accompanied by local athlete Amelia Clifford. Good little video at the Telegraph, and a good report at ITV.

And funnily enough English Heritage chose now to make an official announcement about the start of construction at the visitor centre, when Vinci Construction UK yesterday took possession of the site at Airman’s Corner.

Airman’s Corner last year

Airman’s Corner next year

And to conclude with something just weird… I’m sure the kids from Greentrees Primary School in Salisbury had a great time, but exactly what did English Heritage think it was doing?

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4 responses

  1. Dan H.

    Mike,
    I think that the designers of the new visitors’ centre are missing a trick here, one which the Newgrange visitors’ centre has down to a fine art: concealing the centre in the landscape.

    The problem here is cars, and specifically the shinyness of them. This tends to give flashes of light from reflected sunlight; this gives the game away and spoils the views from Stonehenge. The problem can be aleviated by planting a decent hedge along the edge of the carpark (which also solves the problem of fencing and lasts a very long time) and planting smallish trees throughout the carpark.

    What you end up with is a shady carpark which isn’t all that visible from a long distance, and with a decent hawthorn hedge at the Stonehenge-facing side ought to blend in with the conifer plantation to the rear quite well.

    A similar trick might also be a good idea along the length of the A303 that borders Stonehenge, especially if you plant the hedge on top of a bank; this would also stop drivers rubbernecking at the monument, which might reduce the accident rates on this peculiarly nasty section of road.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  2. mikepitts

    The site of the new facilities is invisible from Stonehenge – there is a ridge between the two of 110–120m above OD; the new facilities will be at around 100–105m OD, and the other side of the ridge Stonehenge is down at the same height. There is a separate coach park which, in the two images above, will be behind the belt of trees and will be screened on the other side by new planting.

    July 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  3. “Earlier this morning, the sun rose in a miraculously clear sky for Michael Jordan to parade the Olympic torch…”

    Olympic torch: Michael Johnson takes flame to Stonehenge
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18802568

    G-D

    August 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    • mikepitts

      hmmm, thanks, corrected!

      September 24, 2012 at 9:11 am

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