Not every sight we take in on this London adventure will have a landscape rich with Penelope Hobhouse cottage beds or trees and houses hundreds of years old–not sure why but it seems my husband has a few venues he wishes to see in his few free days before work calls him back.
We board our bus (called a coach on this side of the pond) early in the cool morning air for the 2-1/2 hour ride to the English Heritage site of Stonehenge. It seems to take remarkably long to get from our central London hotel to the point where the city meets the countryside. From there it is open road with only broad, flat fields to the right and left. Rolled hay, sheep and cattle dot the fields which are so green they almost look painted.
Stonehenge, also a Unesco World Heritage site, is an ancient temple aligned on the movements of the sun. The stones were raised 4,500 years ago by sophisticated prehistoric people. I was amazed to learn that archeologists believe that there is just as much stone deep in the ground as we see above ground and that much of the site remains unexamined for burial remains.
There is a pathway to follow all the way around the stones and an excellent audio guide giving you historical and cultural information at designated spots. Access to the site is somewhat controlled by holding back groups to not overcrowd the perimeter at any one time. Visitors are remarkably quiet and respectful as they view the stones. The stones and their story inspire quiet reflection and awe at the feat it was to get them there. The gray sky and strong breezes intensify the spiritual nature of the site.
English Heritage and the National Trust’s (managing the surrounding landscape) restoration and transformation of the site from earlier ‘improvements’ return a sense of context and dignity to this marvel of human endeavor, leaving Stonehenge surrounded only by grass and reunited with its ancient temple approach called the Avenue.
Note to my fellow Fresno gardeners–I can’t help but believe that if we had these marvelous stones in our midst that we might lay them on their sides, bring in a mature olive tree to plant behind them and just scrape the ground around them raw with a hula hoe. What do you think?