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Quick report from stonehenge solstice 2003

sunshine | 23.06.2003 14:23 | Culture | Free Spaces | London

Stonehenge Solstice 2003

Both thursday and friday evenings saw police towing away dozens of vehicles from the roads surrounding Avebury, and no doubt making a fortune from the huge number of parking tickets given out for causing an obstuction / failure to use parking lights while parked on a road with speed limit over 30mph.

The weather on thursday was pretty awful, but brightened on friday. English Heritage (EH) had decided to open stonehenge on saturday 21st - the day of the solstice, but had only granted permission for free access until saturday midday, despite the solstice occuring later in the evening and the solstice dawn being seen by many as happening sunday morning.

The temporary car parks were to be open at midnight with first access to the stones themselves at 2am. In the end this looked like a bad decision as the whole area became gridlocked in the dark with traffic taking hours to crawl at a snails pace towards the car park. Many people simply abandoned their vehicles by the side of the road and chose to walk towards the stones rather than risk missing dawn, and lots of people gathered in many of the surrounding fields.

The figures from EH put the numbers attending at a record 28-30,000 - and this despite not opening until the early morning. That said the sheer weight of numbers meant that they had to allow people into the stones well ahead of their advertsided time of 2am. Once again the sports stadium floodlights stationed around the field foiled full appreciation on the lightening sky towards dawn, with people again shouting for the lights to be switched off.

A glorious sunrise greeted the thousands of people celebrating and the weather stayed hot and sunny throughout the day. Durning the traditional announcements at the stones the ashes of Spider of Circus Normal who died in March 2003 were enthusiastically scattered by those in the centre of the stones.

The stonehenge field was cleared by around 1.15pm (just over one hour after the given deadline) but this year it was a much calmer affair without the pushing and shoving of previous years, no doubt a result of being able to spend the entire morning at the stones.

I didn't stay around all that long but heard the car park was later cleared as well, and again many cars were towed away that had parked on the surrounding roads. I don't know what happened with the planned accoustic free stonehenge festie protest against opening the stones on the wrong day - but many people headed towards Avebury to celebrate the real astronomical solstice and enjoy another solstice dawn. Others headed south west to a teknival in north Cornwall and a number of other festivals and rave parties in south england (and of course others from wales to scotland etc etc).

Meanwhile in london another great Reclaim The Beach party went ahead celebrating the solstice:
Pics from party:



Hide the following 2 comments

some corporate media articles

23.06.2003 14:28

Solstice revellers watch sunrise - BBC News

Stonehenge's summer solstice goes ahead - BBC News

Thousands witness solstice - Channel4 News

Road to ruins: Plans are afoot to transform Stonehenge in the next few years. John Ezard visits the focus of this weekend's summer solstice - Guardian - Travel,8922,981426,00.html


On the Solstice article

19.07.2003 20:23

I was at Stonehenge for solstice, thought the whole thing was really well organised and the police did a really good job - brilliant, in fact. The only trouble I saw was from some people in vans when the carparks were being cleared (about four hours later than stated) and they were just being dicks and giving the cops an unnecessary hard time. I think your article tends towards the negative - and there were so many positives about the day and the way things were organised and opened up. Definitely a big improvement on twenty years ago!