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People going to Stonehenge for solstice ‘disappointing’, says English Heritage

·3-min read

Watch: Hundreds gather at Glastonbury Tor to celebrate summer solstice

English Heritage has said it is “disappointing” that hundreds of people disregarded advice not to travel to Stonehenge to mark the Summer Solstice.

More than 200,000 people from around the world tuned in to a live-stream of the ancient monument, which was officially closed to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the live feed was paused around sunrise, at 4.52am, after a number of people climbed over a fence to gain access to the site.

Video from the scene showed around 100 people inside the stone circle and a banner reading “Standing for Stonehenge”.

Those who tuned in to English Heritage’s social media pages saw pre-recorded footage of the stones before the live feed returned at around 5am, showing largely cloudy skies.

Nichola Tasker, director for Stonehenge at English Heritage, said: “It was a mild morning and a rather cloudy sunrise but we could tell from the online comments that people were enjoying the virtual solstice beaming into their homes from Stonehenge.

“It was very heartening to see so many people from around the world wishing each other a happy solstice.

“We can’t wait to welcome everyone back in person next year.”

A woman kisses a stone during Summer Solstice
A woman kisses a stone during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

The organisation was preparing to welcome visitors in person to Stonehenge until the UK Government delayed the easing of lockdown restrictions in England for four weeks.

Normally, more than 10,000 gather to watch the sun rise over the stones on the longest day of the year.

English Heritage said the “difficult decision” was made to cancel planned celebrations following the Government’s delay and discussions with Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police.

This meant the organisation held a virtual event for the second consecutive year.

Security guards watch the crowds celebrate
Security guards watch the crowds celebrate (Ben Birchall/PA)

A spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, a small number of people disregarded our request to not travel to Stonehenge for the summer solstice and entered the site.

“They were there for a short time before dispersing, and this did interrupt – for a short period – the live-stream.

“The Covid-19 restrictions were extended for a reason and it was disappointing to see – during a pandemic – people act in a way that put themselves, our staff and the police at risk.”

On the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge when skies are clear, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

People inside the stone-circle
People inside the stone circle (Ben Birchall/PA)

Separately, police closed off an area near Avebury stone circle due to fears that the restrictions at Stonehenge would lead people to gather there instead.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said the force appreciated that the closure of Stonehenge would have been “disappointing” to many.

“We appreciate the co-operation of so many of you who helped Solstice 2021 pass peacefully,” he said.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who heeded the advice and changed their plans accordingly – many of you opting to watch the occasion live-streamed on English Heritage’s social media channels.

“While we also had to take the difficult decision to close part of the Ridgeway near Avebury for public safety, the solstice weekend was peaceful, with only a minor incursion into the stone circle at Stonehenge in the early hours of this morning, which was handled in a positive manner.”

One woman, in her 50s, was arrested close to Avebury on suspicion of drunk and disorderly behaviour but has since been released with no further action taken, the police spokesman added.

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