As you may know, snow is a rarity in South Africa, so I was upset that I missed the snow that came after my visit to Yorkshire. We just had either rain or ice and nothing in between. However, having given up on that possibility, I went off to visit Alexandra and her family in South Devon, deciding to take a detour via Stonehenge and go along the coast as far as possible, since I was heading south already. As I left Nailsworth, it started sleeting, and I thought that I would miss the snow again as I was heading out.
Anyway, after a long and winding journey I finally came to Amesbury, the town before Stonehenge, and knew that the main road, the A303, went past it. I just wanted to experience seeing it in its strange, at- the- side- of- a- busy road setting. Not quite knowing exactly where it was, and expecting a sweet little English town nearby, as with Avebury, I was amazed to see a huge modern industrial park contrarily called Solstice Park with all the Mac donalds, KFC, Holiday Inns and Toby Carveries. The modern form of Stonehenge? Where you go with your family for a feast.
Well I stopped and was amazed to see that the roads were also named after everything Stonehengey like Equinox road. However between the great big ugly buildings there were two interesting sculptures. One is the Ancestor sculpture made of metal 24m high of an ancestral man on his knees apparently greeting the sunrise. Created by Michelle Topps and Andy Rawlings. He looks out of place here in front of a modern building, and to me he seems to be pleading with the Gods with his back to the modern world. He has apparently been moved to the Glastonbury festival and to the solstice festival and Stonehenge but he seems lost and in the wrong place here.
The other sculpture, also hidden by signs and bushes is a helicopter that has been transformed into a dragonfly by Charlotte Moreton and some aeronautical engineering apprentices. Apparently there is another sculpture of a red kite by her, but with all the advertising signs, I could not find it.
Anyway, I succumbed to a cheap breakfast where you can eat as much as you like for R80, and watched some rather obese young men loading their plates with bacon, I drove on to Stonehenge. The traffic was very slow, luckily, not because everyone was looking at stonehenge, but more because the road thinned out from dual carriageway to single lane. However, I could watch at my leisure, as you are not allowed to stop on the road, and must enter through the main entrance. It is amazing to see this odd huge pile of stones. You simply cannot ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
So I went to the visitor centre, as I had read Bill Bryson’s very funny take on it, where he saw it as the modern equivalent of Stonehenge. Although I thought that Solstice park was the modern equivalent.
And yes, it certainly was strange..you almost didn’t need to go to the monument itself. It was in a huge warehouse trying to look artistic.
Outside were depictions of the houses that people lived in at the time, which were essentially rondawels..in fact not different at all! Apparently rondavels have been re-invented a number of times in different parts of the world, and at different times, but I cant actually believe that, as they are so similar as to be identical. When did Australopithecus Afra arrive in Britain? Or maybe it was much later? Like in 3000 BC when Stonehenge was established, where ancestor worship..so much part of Africa was also here. Where the stones of Stonehenge look so much like Cape Sandstone. Lots of questions. perhaps the people were black and not white? In the centre they had made a model of a resident near stonehenge, and he was very white..a bit like the reconstruction of Jesus as a European when he was quite middle-Eastern.
They also had a model of the stones and how they believed they were moved from 30 miles away. All possible, but I prefer to believe the improbable.
The weather was icy, and I considered walking about 500m to the monument. (you couldn’t see it from the visitor center). They had buses that could take you at a price of R300! Instead I wandered around the visitor centre where people ate breakfast and drank coffee.
They had a central circular room with the stones projected onto the walls as if they were complete and you were in the centre. The projection changed to different seasons and different times so that you got a sense of what it would be like to be there at that time.
However, there were so many tourists taking photos and posing that you could not find that sense. I will have to come back during the summer solstice when it is free to go to the monument and a little bit warmer. Instead I bought the T-shirt for R300, which said Stonehenge est. 3000 BC. So, I’ve been there, done that, but mainly got the T-shirt! (Its for you, Byron).