The Telegraph, Guardian, BBC, Salisbury Journal, and Daily Mail all report that Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has been given notice by authorities to vacate his position in front of Stonehenge by May 3rd or face prosecution for trespassing. Pendragon (the Druid formerly know as John Rothwell) has been living in a camper at the edge of the site for the last 10 months protesting issues of access, lack of upkeep, and long-promised improvements.
“[King Arthur Pendragon] believes visitors should be allowed to walk close to the stones and touch them rather than being confined to a visitor centre and a pathway well away from the monument. Pendragon also believes the fence designed to keep visitors out has a damaging impact on the stone circle itself, holding it “in a stranglehold like a snared animal”. Wiltshire county council launched legal proceedings to force Pendragon to move away. Salisbury crown court granted a possession order, in effect giving him until Sunday to pack up and leave. But outside court, bearded Pendragon, who was flanked by supporters in white robes, said he would not be budging.”
Pendragon has already vowed to fight the issue in court and to stay in his camp despite threat of arrest. The Druid leader also claims to have the full support of the Council of British Druid Orders (though it is unknown how much support among modern Druidry that really entails). There are certainly British Pagans who do not support the idea of allowing unfettered access to Stonehenge, especially considering the damges that were inflicted on the site leading up to imposed restrictions in the 1970s. Meanwhile, while Pendragon kept his vigil, British beuracracy continued to slowly trawl forward in finding a solution to Stonehenge’s issues. Specifically the now-published and approved proposal from the Future of Stonehenge Public Consultation.
“Although the Government decided that the A303 road improvements were unaffordable, it has made a commitment in December 2007 to review the Management Plan as the overarching strategic document for the Site, and to complete environmental improvements at Stonehenge, including new visitor facilities, in time for the 2012 Olympics. This work includes examination of the case for closing the A303/ A344 junction to improve the setting of Stonehenge. A new Stonehenge Project Board, chaired by the Ministers for Culture and for Transport, has been set up to oversee this work.”
While Pendragon’s stance may be noble and heroic, it is far more likely that the impending 2012 Olympics will finally spur the government to make the needed improvements in order to avoid international embarrasment over the state of a World Heritage Site. Still, you simply can’t buy the kind of publicity that gets you listed in all the major British newspapers, so I suppose this is something of a PR coup for Pendragon and his followers. Whether anything constructive will come of this limelight remains to be seen, but having raised the stakes it’s jail or go home now.