Page last updated at 06:16 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 07:16 UK

Thousands mark summer solstice

Revellers at Stonehenge
The rain failed to put people off

Some 30,000 people celebrated the summer solstice as dawn broke at Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Druids, hippies and sun-worshippers were among those who gathered to watch the sun rise at the ancient stone circle at 0458 BST on the longest day.

Rainy conditions obscured the sunrise but the turnout was still the highest in five years.

Police said the event was peaceful, with 17 arrests overnight for public order offences.

As the dawn broke a cheer went up from revellers who gathered at the Heel stone - a pillar at the edge of the prehistoric monument.

It's all about the feeling you get when the sun bursts through the stone
Stonehenge reveller 'Cathbad'

Unemployed John Tarbuck, 33, from Bude, Cornwall, set up a small tent party next to his car.

"The best thing about Summer Solstice at the 'henge is you get to meet loads of new people," he said.

"All the people here at my tent party, I've never met before."

Another man, dressed in a black hooded top, who gave his name as Cathbad, said: "It's a beautiful experience. It's about celebrating nature, life and what makes the world go round. "It's a little bit too heavily organised, with too much intervention from the establishment, but I'll keep coming back.

"It's all about the feeling you get when the sun bursts through the stone."

A spokeswoman for English Heritage, which runs the 5,000-year-old site, said the last time a turnout of 30,000 was achieved was in 2003.

"It's been very wet and soggy," she said. "Probably a few disappointed people, many streaming out before sunrise because it was so wet and cold.

"I don't think it will discourage people from coming again. Quite a few people come every year and are quite hardy."

The summer solstice alignment with the sun and Stonehenge as it may have looked 3,00 years ago
The remains of Stonehenge lie on a sacred site dating back 5,000 years, predating the Druids
It is believed to have been used as an astronomical calculator, as certain stones align with key dates in the seasons.
At dawn on 21 June - the summer solstice - the central Altar stone aligns with the outer Heel stone and the rising sun.

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In pictures: Stonehenge solstice
21 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
Thousands attend solstice party
21 Jun 07 |  Wiltshire


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