Though the Summer Solstice revelers have moved on, that most famous of British neolithic monuments, Stonehenge, remains in the news. First off, somewhat controversial Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) is camping out near Stonehenge, and vows to continue to do so until long-promised improvements to the site are made.
“Demonstrating on behalf of the Council of British Druid Orders, King Arthur Pendragon, has been camping close to the World Heritage site since the Summer Solstice on June 21. Pendragon, 54, is hoping his protests will encourage the Government to remove the fences around the monument, build a tunnel over the A303 and grass over the A344. He said: “That’s what they promised to do but the Government said they couldn’t afford the tunnel. “It’s too commercialised. We want something exactly like Avebury. Those fences have been here since 1978.” … He said: ‘The visitor centre, set up 14 years ago, was supposed to be a temporary building. It’s awful. It is a national disgrace so what I am hoping to do by my protest is embarrass the Government into raising the issue.'”
However, this outrage over the condition of Stonehenge isn’t isolated to Druids and Pagans, and with the Olympics coming to London in 2012, there has been increased pressure to improve the state of England’s heritage sites. One manifestation of this willingness to do something about the state of Stonehenge is an upcoming three month public consultation on the future of the site. Organizers are no doubt hoping that this period of public input will quell criticisms of governmental negligence, and spur renewed action.
“English Heritage is to launch a public consultation to find a new site for its long-planned Stonehenge visitor centre. The news comes more than six months after it scrapped Denton Corker Marshall’s design for a centre. That scheme, which had been granted planning permission in December, was shelved after the government decided not to fund a £500 million A303 tunnel. Heritage Lottery Funding had been conditional upon the tunnel going ahead. Denton Corker Marshall won a competition to design the facility in 2001 after EH had ditched a previous scheme by Edward Cullinan Architects. From July 15, members of the public will be able to offer feedback on EH’s review of the World Heritage Site Management Plan, and proposed environmental improvements to the roads around the monument, as well as possible locations for the new visitor facilities.”
Perhaps the fear of worldwide embarrassment over the care of Stonehenge will do more to motivate renewed care and attention to the monument than any protesting Druid could ever hope to achieve. In the meantime, King Arthur camps, and we wait to see if the government and English Heritage can finally find a long-term solution for the site’s care and maintenance.