Thursday, 13 March 2014

Between some rocks and a hard place.

From The Western Daily Press:

A plan to build thousands of new homes for soldiers returning from Germany could have to be changed – because they will be built on the horizon where the sun rises on summer solstice at Stonehenge.

The Ministry of Defence said they were ‘aware of the issues’ and were organising a meeting with experts on the stones.

Last night there were growing calls for the particular site, on a 100-year-old airfield at Larkhill in Wiltshire, to be discounted from the plans to house 4,000 soldiers and their families returning from bases in Germany.

Yes of course, it would be cultural vandalism to actually block the sunrise, but we can safely assume that Homeys in that area would violently oppose any new homes being built within miles of anywhere. But in principle, why not build a lot more homes a respectful distance away from Stonehenge?

A good counter-example springs to mind here:

What is so pleasantly surprising about Rome is that ancient Roman structures are dotted among what is otherwise a perfectly normal large European/Mediterranean city. And it must be nice to live in a flat or work in an office from which you can see the Pantheon, the Colosseum or whatever charming little jumble of excavated ruins happens to be just off a busy roundabout.

These things were built in the centre of their civilisation, just as Stonehenge was. The Roman ruins are still in the centre and you'll happily interrupt your journey to spend ten minutes having a nose round, but Stonehenge is just a sorry little bunch of rocks a few hundred yards off the A303. Some motorists might make an impromptu break and go and have a look but most drive straight past.

My delight at seeing these random bits of old Roman stonework (which might all be faked, I'm no archaeologist) were in no way diminished by the fact that thousands of people pass them every hour of the day; even if Stonehenge (which in turn was re-assembled during the 19th and 20th centuries on the basis of good guesswork) ended up in the middle of a large park in the middle of a medium sized town, people would still visit it, wouldn't they? In fact, probably more people would visit it.


Logan Boettcher said...

"And it must be nice to live in a flat or work in an office from which you can see the Parthenon..."

Only with a very strong telescope Mark LOL. I believe you mean the Pantheon.

DBC Reed said...

The Parthenon/Acropolis is not that out of the way. A mate going to get cigarettes before breakfast noticed this bunch of interesting looking ruins above the street out hotel was in (in Athens) and sauntered up to look round. The Parthenon has been rebuilt a few times: the present restoration is supposed to be quite drastic.

Mark Wadsworth said...

LB, oops, I have amended.

DBC, that's another good example.

H said...

On holiday in Sicily, I thought it most charming that the ancient temple dedicated to Athena still survives, in part, now incorporated into the Cathedral, but plainly visible from the street (

The Stigler said...


For a pleasant trip out, Avebury is better than Stonehenge because it's got a village attached to it with shops, a pub, cafes etc. Also, you can walk right up to the stones.

Mark Wadsworth said...

H, that's another nice example.

TS, I thought you'd agree when I wrote the post. Going by the photos online, part of the village is actually in the middle of the stone circle.

Graeme said...

Stonehenge is an integral part of the Heritage Industry. It is fenced off from the road. You cannot go nearer than 100 yards from the stones. A new "improved" visitor centre has been built even further from the stones than the former visitor centre, so to get anywhere close to the actual stones, you have to take a bus trip where you are deluged with speculative commentary to the effect that no one knows anything about Stonehenge apart from the fact that some unknown people built it at some time in the distant past for unknown reasons. And you have to pay through the nose for that instead of just being allowed to stroll by yourself in the landscape. This has to be the ultimate in rent-seeking.

DBC Reed said...

I remember when you parked on the road and wandered round Stonehenge before using the refreshment facility which was a tea bar in a caravan.Then the place became the residence of a hippy colony called the Wallies under their charismatic leader Wally.They did not enhance "the visitor experience."

Graeme said...

but DBCR, now it is a 2 hour experience...the tea is horrendously expensive as are the souvenirs...and we still know nothing about the place

Bayard said...

Mark, it's just off the A303, not the A30. I know, because I've just driven past it and I was pleased to spot a couple walking across the field to view the stones in the setting sun without paying.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, ta, I have updated.

Oh bugger, I Googled that one to check and got the wrong answer as well the Pantheon/Parthenon mix up.