The wildness of Stonehenge

Its a place embedded in the national consciousness. Even if you’ve never been to Stonehenge you know what it looks like from school or seeing it on the telly and are probably aware of its special place in the story of these islands. Its likely that you know quite a bit about the back story of the stones and the amazing feat of engineering to get them to where they’ve been resting for thousands of years.

Seen from afar or as you pass by on the A303 they look quite small. In a moment they’ve gone as you head east or west. And yet these stones have been standing there as the landscape has changed beyond recognition with a fundamental change in the way that we live and work the land during there history.

Visiting Stonehenge for the first time – properly, on foot – you begin to get a real sense of their place in the landscape. They are part of a rich and very old tradition of ancient Britons.

There is always a danger of modern life or modernity overwhelming icons such as Stonehenge (and this is a place that really does deserve this phrase); slightly taking them for granted or forgetting how important they are to the history of the people who once roamed and worked the land.

It’s a place for me of contrasts: a place of wildness, windswept landscapes against a juxtaposition of somewhere where people constantly visit. You can feel real connection to the hundreds of generations that have come before us.

Perhaps less well-known is the richness of the wildlife that calls the countryside around the stones home. Much of this land if cared for by the National Trust. Work to restore grasslands over the last decade has begun to pay dividends, adding to the intensity of the Stonehenge experience.

Poppies and wildflowers greeted my first immersion in the landscape of ancient Britain. The place seemed to be awash with skylarks filling the air with their poetic melodies, climbing and descending above the gently swaying grassland.

As the sun overcame the thin clouds the atmosphere changed. This is a place where shadows can envelope the landscape and there is no hiding from the elements, what-ever the season. This brings a ruggedness of wilder places without the summits but equally awe-inspiring.

With the warmth of the June day butterflies began to come out and play buoyed by the rays of sunshine. Adonis blue, brimstones, possibly even a dark-green fritillary. One field seemed to be awash with adonis blue on the wing and taking a breather.

The more we walked the happier and more connected to Stonehenge I became. You can only get the real story of Stonehenge by walking through the wider landscape – soaking up the sounds, the changing of the light, the nature that calls this place home.

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