I’ve wanted to visit Stonehenge for quite some time, though that want hasn’t been enough of a motivation to actually leave London to see it. Since I still have Gunter, and aren’t starting work again until March, I decided to take Gunter for a quick trip to see some of the places that I didn’t get to go during the Euro Road Trip.
I was truly amazed to find out that it’s possible to free-camp in a motorhome right next to Stonehenge. So, that became the plan – spend the night in the presence of these giant Neolithic stones, and then wake to experience it again at sunrise.
Half of the plan exceeded my expectations – the other half fell short of them. I couldn’t believe that I had arrived to a perfectly clear sky, having left London with dreary skies and patches of rain. From the access road, it’s possible to enter some of the adjacent farmland to get a closer look at the stone circle. The downside of the clear skies was the near zero temperatures freezing my fingers well before I’d had the opportunity to get close enough for a photograph. I’ll admit, it was only so close I could get without breaking the rules. I skipped over a single barbed-wire fence and stood on an access road that gave me a slightly clearer view. There was still one more fence between myself and the stone circle, so I felt like I hadn’t really trespassed. As I was photographing it, doing my best to keep the feeling in my fingers, I noticed that there appeared to be someone walking around inside the stone circles. I thought I was seeing things, but eventually I could clearly make someone out. My first thoughts were that someone had skipped over the fence and was having a closer look. I wanted to also get closer, and soon I was joined by two people with insanely bright torches.
It turned out that the person walking inside was security, as were the two others that had come out to check on me. I was initially told off for jumping the fence, but once they saw that I was just there taking photos, and had no intention of getting closer (I mean, I had certainly wanted to get closer), they just told me to wrap it up and return to Gunter.
It was a full moon (the Super Blue Blood Moon, to be precise), and there was plenty of light available. If I had of been more patient (or prepared), it would have made for an incredible time-lapse opportunity – or even some great star trails. But after a few photos, and with numb fingers I returned to the warmth of Gunter.
So, seeing Stonehenge under a full moon had been a most excellent success – the sunrise was more-or-less the opposite. I purposely slept with the curtains up, easily waking before the near 8AM sunrise. However, I woke to nothing more than dark grey skies and flat light and returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag. It felt quite luxurious to be able to (just) see Stonehenge from the comfort of my bed.
While it had been amazing to see it last night under the full moon, I wasn’t quite satisfied with how far away I’d been, and wished to get up closer. Even though I was parked right by Stonehenge, it wasn’t possible to enter from here, and instead had to drive several kilometers to the Welcome Centre to buy a £17.50 ticket, and then catch the shuttle bus back to enter Stonehenge. It seemed a little ridiculous, but I can imagine that it could become quite busy during the summer months – it was busy enough on a random winter weekday at 10AM!
Bonus – there was an interesting museum at the welcome centre, including history of the site, and some recreations of Neolithic houses. It was really interesting to see the progression of the site, from what were thought to have been wooden stumps, through the addition of stones, and the eventual decay and loss of many of the stones from the site. There was also large displays of the various finds from excavations of the area.
It was possible to get out of the shuttle bus midway and walk the rest of journey. There were still signs of large earthworks here, with enormous barrows that stretched down towards Stonehenge.
The winds had whipped up and cleared the skies from the miserable views this morning. I was now nearly re-united with Gunter, but with ticket in my hand, I was able to enter the Stonehenge site. The crowds were getting thicker, but there was still plenty of space for comfort.
Here is where I get a little dismayed. There is an official pathway that circumnavigates the stone circle, however, at its closest approach it is still some 20-30m away – and at its furthest, nearly 100m. I was closer than I had been last night, but not that much closer. It was hard to decide if it had been worth paying the entrance fee.
One benefit of paying to enter the site officially is the ability to walk a full 360-degree path around the site. This gave the ability to see it from all angles, as it actually appeared quite differently from different aspects.
Even though it wasn’t possible to get right up close to the stones, I was still much, much closer than looking from the neighbouring paddock. The stones were large, but not overwhelmingly so. It was unjust and unfair, however I couldn’t help feel a tiny pang of disappointment at the size. Sure, 7m and however many tens of thousands of kilograms are just phenomenal to think of for people at this era in history, however, in the flesh, they don’t seem that enormous. Maybe it would if standing right at the base?
For all the talk of disappointment, it was truly incredible to see this iconic sight with my own eyes. It’s hard not to imagine this area throughout the eons of time, with all the mysticism surrounding the site and orientation of the stones. It would be incredible to experience one of the solstices here – however, after experiencing the ‘sunrise’ this morning, as well as countless other mornings here in the UK, I’m quite sure it’d be a gamble!