Summer Solstice crowds flock to Stonehenge after Covid shutdown | Stonehenge

A flowingly robed Druid played a waltz on bagpipes in the dappled shade of a tree while a band of pilgrims rested on the grass making wreaths of summer flowers.

Three Buddhist monks strolled around while a group of men took off their T-shirts in the hot sun and drank lager, promising to keep the party going until the sun went down and went down get up again.

After two long years of Covid restrictions, the great stone circle of Stonehenge reopened for summer solstice celebrations on Monday, prompting pagans, healers, nature lovers and revelers to return to the plain in their thousands of Salisbury.

Druid Chris Park: “It’s so nice to be back and feel part of this incredible landscape again.” Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

“It’s very exciting,” said Chris Park, the piper druid. “For the past two years, we have not been able to access the stones for the summer solstice. It’s so nice to be back and feel part of this incredible landscape again.

Park was helping lead a group of pilgrims who had brought water from holy springs across the UK for a ceremony at a location near the circle where humans are known to have camped 4,000 years ago. They would then head for the stones before sunset at 9:28 p.m. Monday and sunrise at 4:49 a.m. Tuesday.

One of the pilgrims, Angela Harding, Bedfordshire’s chief librarian, said she loved being back in Wiltshire. “We have pilgrimages all over the country, and it’s always wonderful to meet, but it’s very special here this year. We’ll sing songs, we’ll listen to bagpipes, we’ll have fun,” he said. she stated.

Activity at Stonehenge Camping and Glamping Site
Activity at Stonehenge Camping and Glamping Site. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

When the Covid lockdowns and restrictions hit in 2020, the summer solstice stone circle free entry was one of the most high-profile events that got cancelled. In 2021, people were again asked to stay away, although some defied the request and jumped fences to watch the sunrise from the circle. This year, English Heritage’s “managed free access” was back, and the charity and the police expected 10,000 people to attend.

“We’ve been planning for this moment for two years,” said Jennifer Davies, English Heritage’s Historic Properties Manager at Stonehenge. “Some people are desperate to get back, while others may still not be ready to be in a crowd on Salisbury Plain.”

A live broadcast of the sunset and sunrise at Stonehenge was organized for those who preferred to see it from afar.

Sarah and Debs
Sarah, priestess of the goddess (right), with her friend Debs. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

At the Stonehenge camping and glamping site, there was a kind and gentle atmosphere as people who hadn’t seen each other since June 2019 caught up with each other. “We’re creating our own little world here,” said Solstice veteran Dan Twocrows. “You meet all kinds, including people who have gone away with the fairies – and people who know where the fairies come from.”

Sarah, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, who described herself as a goddess priestess, said: “It’s good to be back to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It’s a special place with a special and loving atmosphere.”

Debs, a healer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, carried two badger skulls and a container of herbs. She said Covid had left many people “fractured”, but believed this journey was for many a chance to recover, find peace and healing.

Anete near her tent
Anete at the summer solstice festival. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Some were at Stonehenge for the first time, including Anete, who is originally from Latvia but now lives in Burnley and was traveling with her husband and two children, aged four and five. “The solstice is very important in Latvia, so we wanted to see how it was here,” she said.

A group of men in their twenties and thirties were happily drinking beer in the sun. They, too, turned out to be Solstice regulars. “We like the vibe, we like the variety of people,” said Chris Richards, a carer from Wolverhampton.

The return of solstice celebrations is good news for local towns and villages. Most hotels and guest houses had ‘No vacancy’ signs, while pubs and cafes in the nearest town, Amesbury, were doing good business.

Chris Richards and Friends
Chris Richards (right) with friends. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

There were a few gripes. People camping in vans on the Drove, a track near the circle, were grassed and miles of traffic cones blocked shoulders and rest areas.

Arthur Pendragon, a druid who considers himself the current incarnation of the former and future king, refused to pay the parking fees at the stone circle and headed by bus rather than motorbike.

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“It pays to pray. It’s not right,” he said. “And it shouldn’t have been closed in 2020 and 21. If you can’t social distance from Salisbury Plain, where can you?” But he accepted it was a time of joyful celebration rather than complaining. “It’s good to be back,” he said.

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Edward L. Robinett