Summer solstice crowds flock back to Stonehenge after Covid hiatus

A druid in flowing robes played a waltz on the bagpipes in the dappled shade of a tree as a band of pilgrims rested on the grass making crowns of summer flowers.

Three Buddhist monks strolled past while a group of men took off their T-shirts in the warm sunshine and drank lager, promising to carry on partying until the sun sets and rises 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 party-goers to head back to Salisbury Plain in their thousands.

“It’s very exciting,” said Chris Park, the bagpipe-playing druid. “For the last two years we haven’t been able to get to the stones for the summer solstice. It’s so lovely to be back and feel part of this amazing landscape again.”

Park was helping lead a group of pilgrims who had brought water from sacred springs all over the UK for a ceremony at a spot near the circle where humans are known to have camped 4,000 数年前. They were then heading to the stones ahead of sunset at 9.28pm on Monday and sunrise at 4.49am on Tuesday.

One of the pilgrims, Angela Harding, a head librarian from Bedfordshire, said she was loving being back in Wiltshire. “We have pilgrimages all over the country, and it’s always wonderful to meet up, but it feels extra special here this year. We’ll sing songs, we’ll listen to the bagpipes, we’ll enjoy ourselves," 彼女は言いました.

When Covid lockdowns and restrictions hit in 2020, the free access right to the stone circle at summer solstice was one of the high-profile events that was cancelled. に 2021, people were again asked to stay away, though some defied the request and hopped fences to witness the sunrise from the circle. This year English Heritage’s “managed open access” was back on, and the charity and police planned for 10,000 to attend.

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

A livestream of the sunset and sunrise at Stonehenge was organised for those who preferred to view it from afar.

At the Stonehenge camping and glamping site, there was a kind, gentle atmosphere as people who had not seen each other since June 2019 caught up. “We create our own little world here,” said Dan Twocrows, a solstice veteran. “You meet all sorts, including people who are away with the fairies – and people who know where the fairies come from.”

サラ, from Trowbridge, ウィルトシャー, who described herself as a priestess of the goddess, 前記: “It’s good to be back to link up with old friends and make new ones. This is a special place with a special, loving atmosphere.”

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

Some were at Stonehenge for the first time, including Anete, who is originally from Latvia but now lives in Burnley and was travelling with her husband and two children, aged four and five. “Solstice is very big in Latvia, so we wanted to see what it was like here," 彼女は言いました.

A group of men in their 20s and 30s were happily drinking beer in the sunshine. They too turned out to be solstice regulars. “We love the vibe, we love the variety of people,” said Chris Richards, a carer from Wolverhampton.

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

There were some gripes. People who camp in vans on the Drove, a track close to the circle, were turfed off, and miles of traffic cones blocked verges and laybys.

Arthur Pendragon, a druid who considers himself the current incarnation of the once and future king, refused to pay the parking charge at the stone circle and headed up by bus rather than on his motorcycle.

“It’s pay to pray. That’s not right," 彼は言った. “And it shouldn’t have been closed in 2020 そして 21. If you can’t socially distance on Salisbury Plain, where can you?” But he accepted this was a time for joyous celebration rather than complaining. そして、彼らはオフです," 彼は言った.

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