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Stonehenge has always been a huge tourist attraction for the English countryside. But after the recent winter solstice, officials feel it may be time for some extra measures to curb some potential bad behaviour at the Neolithic historical site.
Because of raucous events in December, those wanting to celebrate at Stonehenge when enjoying a holiday in Salisbury may face a ban on alcohol and additional parking charges for the solstice celebrations in 2016.
Large crowds descend on the site in June and December for the summer and winter solstices. Last June, there were more than 23,000 people on hand to take part in the event. It is illegal to damage the monument but large crowds, and concerns about rubbish, leave the stones vulnerable to damage or vandalism, according to the site management company.
“Over the past few years, we have had lots of feedback from those attending the solstice celebrations, from families with young children to those for whom the stones holds a special spiritual significance,” said Kate Davies, manager of the site for English Heritage. “Having reflected on what they are telling us, we are now proposing two changes which will help us to better look after those attending and the monument itself.”
Davies told the BBC that an alcohol ban would “help everyone to have a better experience of solstice”. The organisation said it will also be meeting with its parking management team to see if increased parking charges at the solstice celebrations are also appropriate.
But senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said English Heritage was “looking for confrontation”. He said the parking charge was essentially a fee for taking part in a religious ceremony and said he will fight the alcohol ban.
“It's a celebration – not to be sanitised. It does not matter how they dress it up, we will not Pay to Pray,” he said. “This isn't just about money, it's about sanitising the event. How long before it's ticket only and book on-line like their [English Heritage] regular daily access?”
In 2014, the site broke its previous attendance records with over 500,000 visitors during the year. The ancient site – and all its mystery – is synonymous with the south of England and brings along international recognition. Thanks in part to Stonehenge, the area is well-known for drawing people to premier cottage holiday destinations like the nearby New Forest, Dorset coast, and Wiltshire countryside.
Image Credit: Ann Wuyts (flickr.com)