The works are far from over, but the visitor centre is starting to bed in, there is less bare mud about and on a wet sky windy spring day it was possible to experience a bit of the Stonehenge we will be learning to know in future. It feels good.
I was there for a press view of what English Heritage grandly calls its “external gallery”, the near complete group of imagined neolithic houses round the back of the visitor centre. Whether or not they are in the least bit neolithic (wheat ears dangling from the thatch look suspicious), the houses are fun and I imagine will be popular with visitors, especially kids. Until newly planted trees grow up to obscure them, they make a nice earthy, rounded contrast to Denton Corker Marshall’s ephemeral linearity.
We walked to the stones with Heather Sebire as guide – the first time I have ever walked that bit of road (at previous solstice events, we went from the car park in the visitor centre field across the grass). Approaching Stonehenge like this really does change the way you see the landscape and experience the stones. There are so many new information panels that you don’t wander far without coming across one. You see more, you pass more time, you smell and hear more. A typical visit to Stonehenge looks less and less likely to be the old pit stop. It will take a lot of adjustment.