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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Stonehenge open for solstice
The atmosphere was happy as the sun came up
More than 16,000 people gathered at Stonehenge on Friday morning for a peaceful celebration of the summer solstice.

The dawn, despite being hidden by a thick cloud, was greeted by the assembled crowds with gongs, drums, whistles and whoops.

The revellers came from all over, new age travellers, druids, hare-krishnas, who all celebrated the solstice in their own manner amid a cloud of smoke and incense haze.

'Wonderful atmosphere'

Police said although some people flouted the rules and tried to climb the stones, there was a "good atmosphere at the site.

Drink and drugs were much in evidence, but at the end of the event there were only 11 arrests.

English Heritage Stonehenge director Clews Everard said: "There's been a really wonderful atmosphere and everyone seems to have been having a good time.

"It's good to see so many people of all different ages, classes, types and creeds enjoying themselves."

The site was opened at 2000BST on Thursday and had closed by 0700BST.

As the sun came up the assembled Kings Drums group banged out the beat, not unlike a Brazilian samba.


There's a very bizarre mix of people here, witches and druids with knives drinking out of silver goblets

Dean Feebry, spectator

The England football fans were also in evidence - some revellers brought St George flags to wave.

Chemist Dean Feebry, 27, from Staines said: "There's a very bizarre mix of people here, witches and druids with knives drinking out of silver goblets.

But it's good, it's quite a spiritual place."

Jen Bodimer, 24, from Canada, said: "It's pretty strange, not what I imagined, but it's pretty amazing."

Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said he was pleased to welcome people to Stonehenge for the solstice.

"This builds on the considerable success of the celebrations in 2000 and 2001."

Sun breaks through the stones
The stones are aligned with the solstice sunrise

The 15-year ban on solstice celebrations at the site was lifted in 2000.

The sacred Wiltshire stones were protected by a four-mile exclusion order during the summer solstice from the 1980s, following a series of public order problems.

During the year, paying visitors are prevented from going up to the stones themselves, unless special arrangements are made.

The Wiltshire stones are all that remain of a sequence of monuments on the site between about 3000 and 1600 BC.

Each was circular and aligned with the rising of the sun at the midsummer solstice - the longest day of the year.

The purpose of the stones themselves is still shrouded in mystery although druids regard them as living temple.

Some historians say it was built by a sun-worshipping culture; others that it aligns with the sunrise because its banks were part of a huge astronomical calendar.


Click here to go to BBC Wiltshire

Talking PointFORUM
Ask a druid
Quiz Terry Dobney on summer solstice
See also:

20 Jun 00 | UK
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