Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Photograph by S.W Ellis

Stonehenge

Wiltshire

www.english-heritage.org.uk

A very nice piece of henge-work this – all those huge pieces of rock which were dragged halfway across the country with nothing more than a few sticks and brutal repercussions for anyone who questioned what on earth it was all for.

It’s no surprise that people from all over the world flock to see this memoir of just how much time Neolithic man had on his hands for DIY and standing rocks on their ends. For anyone who has been there, it is also no surprise to know that the most common visitor’s reaction is: ‘Is that it then? Seriously? Bollocks, we should have gone to Bath after all. Oh, stop nagging.’

The thing is, there is a gap – a yawning chasm, really – between an amazing effort and amazing results. You can spend your lifetime building, dismantling and then rebuilding a twice-life-size model of Chairman Mao out of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit but at the end of the day, all you are left with is a massive piece of chewing gum. In the case of Stonehenge, you are left with 20-odd long rocks, some standing on top of the others, other just lazing about doing nothing. The latter group are known as ‘teenage’ stones.

The whole thing took more than 1,500 years to construct, although the builders had said it would be three weeks at the outside. First they dithered for 200 years because it looked like rain, and then the materials turned up 400 years late because they had to come from the other depot, and by that time they had to leave for another project they had booked on the early Triassic period land mass of Pangea. Well, we’ve all had little building projects that overran.

Yes, the Druids had a right bunch of cowboys in to do the work by the looks of things. They should have had a word with Neolithic Krypto-Religious Construction Project Trading Standards (‘Hello, Trading Standards, can I help you? It’s what? Oh not another bloody henge, we’ve had three complaints about henges this Bronze Age already. I’ll be honest with you, mate, I’ve got henges coming out of me ears. They never bloody work.’)

No one really knows what the stone circle was for, although one thing is for certain: whoever built it was very keen on ditches.

But somehow, for people lacking direction in their lives it truly is a spiritual experience to walk around the rope around the stone circle. Many hear the stones speaking to them. Usually they say: ‘You have wasted your morning.’

Still, at least the site’s owner, English Heritage, makes everyone change into druidic robes upon arrival and insists you take part in the Ceremony of the Four Winds in order to get into the spirit of things.

Ha ha! Only joking – that would be mental.

But it’s definitely the place to be if you are into big static rocks, some vertical, others more horizontal.

Or you could just look at it all in a book.

In fact, luckily, you don’t need to tramp through the muddy field that holds the rocks in order to be close enough to throw stuff at them like most bored visiting children. You can do that from the comfort of your car since the busy A303 and the furiously busy A344 intersect within spitting distance of the stones, providing a lively sonic backdrop to the scene. This ensures that you will never get bored by any of that dull silence which could distract you from getting in touch with your inner pagan. Or alien or Thetan or whatever other intergalactic species you believe had nothing better to do with their tractor beams than stand a bunch of rocks upright in a field near Salisbury.

Above all, Stonehenge is a place steeped in mystery, raising deep questions, such as: ‘Is Inspector Morse on TV tonight?’ ‘Shall we leave?’ and ‘What’s the quickest route to Bristol?’