Rolling to the Stones 2007 8.30pm 20th June
21.05.07 by Buffalo Bill
Stonehenge is a megalithic monument which stands at the centre of a bowl on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. It was constructed a long time before the birth of Christ, out of huge bits of rock that bronze age man somehow managed to transport from Wales. Not only were the builders able to achieve a feat that would confound most overnight courier companies, but they also cunningly sited the upright stones to align with the phases of the moon and the sun.
In the Bronze Age world, the equinoxes, when night and day are equally long, and the solstices, which mark the longest day and night, were of particular importance. No-one is quite sure why, although there are lots of theories, some of which can be found here.
What is certain is that the site, although of considerable archaeological interest, was neglected by the authorities in the 20th Century. Evidence of this is the building of the A344 road, which connects Amesbury to the Lavingtons. This road runs so close to the monument that one of the stones is virtually a bollard on it. The A303, the main artery connecting London to the South West, runs less than 100m from the monument.
Neglected by the authorities, that is, until the arrival of the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1972. Growing from a handful of Wallys in 72 to over 60 000 revellers in 1984, the Festival became an embarrassment to the authorities, and following the passing of the Public Order Act in 1985, and the declaration of an ‘exclusion zone’ around Stonehenge on the Solstice, the Hampshire and Wiltshire Constabularies confronted the ‘threat’ of the so-called New Age Travellers in a series of clashes. These included the Battle of the Beanfield, and ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Free Festival movement, the impounding and disposal of the vehicles, and in some cases, the destruction of pets and the placing of some of the travellers’ children in care.
Some of the travellers fled the country, and are now found in Southern Europe, some re-joined ‘main-stream’ society and others turned to alcohol, becoming the ‘Brew Crew’ crusties that were part of the furniture of late 80s/early 90s ‘pay’ festivals.
What’s this got to do with messengers, you frazzled old hippy?
But the story has a sort of happy ending. Starting in 2001, the police re-opened the Stones on the Solstices, permitting free access to the circle for the duration of the night before the Summer Solstice Sunrise. In 2003 the London messenger community decided to institute an annual pilgrimage to the Stones, leaving at sunset with the intention of riding through the shortest night and beating the Sun to the Stones.
Of the 4 editions so far, success has only has only been achieved on 2 occasions. This year, under the leadership of Dazzler, the throng will be assembling at 8.30pm on Wednesday 20th at Speaker’s Corner. This allows 9 hours to pedal the 90 miles. Bring gears, lights, food, water and clothes that will keep you warm in the hours before dawn. Everyone is welcome, messenger or not.
There are regular trains back from Pewsey and Grateley, which are roughly 10 miles from the Stones. I myself may be accompanied by a lady-friend, in which case I will be taking a shorter route.
If either Dazz or myself work out how to use the ped-o-map-o-goggle-thing, we will post a map somewhere or other.