A trip to Stonehenge Photos by Sarah Bush
Solstices "occur twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is most oriented toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to reach its northernmost and southernmost extremes. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, its apparent movement north or south comes to a standstill." (Wikipedia)
The summer and winter solstices at Stonehenge are the the only two times a year when the public can wander freely right inside the stones. Although the police presence is huge it's pretty much one huge party with drumming, dancing and stick waving in the centre and more sober meditation on the outside.
In the 80s Stonehenge was used as a location to put on free festivals in combination with the summer solstice. By 1984 the free, entirely unlicensed and un-policed event was attracting an estimated 30,000 people. 1985 was a year that changed all this, though - with a massive show of strength by the British authorities - determined to stamp out the new alternative culture associated with the burgeoning free festival scene and the new-age travelers.
This culminated in a pitched battle between police and travelers for entry to Stonehenge on the night of the summer solstice in 1985, now known as the Battle of the Beanfield. There are arguements to this day over what exactly happened but there are reports - by the few journalists who were present - of the police attacking traveller families, pregnant women and smashing the vans which were their homes.
The winter solstice is still quite edgy and attended mainly by travelers, but the summer solstice is more tourist friendly and better attended. Here are some photos of TLU's trip out to the Stonehenge for the summer solstice... it was a rainy night and a very cloudy sunrise but worth staying up for a chance to see the stones up close and meet the weird and wonderful people who came to party and pay their respects.