Police urge people to stay away from Stonehenge over summer solstice due to coronavirus lockdown

Joe Gamp
·Contributor, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
File photo dated 21/06/19 of the sun rising between the stones and over crowds gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the dawn of the longest day in the UK. English Heritage - which has provided access to the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge since 2000 - has cancelled celebrations due to restrictions on mass gatherings to tackle Covid-19, and will instead stream the solstice online.
Summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have been cancelled due to restrictions on mass gatherings to tackle coronavirus. (PA)

Police have urged people not to visit Stonehenge to celebrate summer solstice in order to maintain coronavirus social distancing guidance.

Thousands of people descend upon the World Heritage Site, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, each year to celebrate the pagan holiday, which involves watching the sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year.

However, due to government guidance on social distancing, the site will not be open during festivities, which run from sunset on 20 June to sunrise on 21 June.

English Heritage - which maintains the ancient landscape and stone circle - says the site will remain temporarily closed until 4 July.

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It coincides with the date the government is expected to roll out phase three of its road map out of lockdown in England.

At present, large scale public events are banned from taking place until further notice.

Instead, those looking to celebrate summer solstice can watch the proceedings through a live stream provided by English Heritage.

Superintendent Phil Staynings of Wiltshire Police said in a statement: "We fully support the decision by English Heritage not to allow managed open access to Stonehenge for this year's summer solstice. This is in line with other large-scale, public events across the country.

"At this time public safety and public health have to be the primary concerns and the decision of English Heritage is based on the current Government guidance as we continue the national effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"We appreciate some people might be disappointed with this decision but it is important that we all continue to keep each other safe and adhere to the latest Government guidance.”

A sign warns of a road closure on the route to the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge in southern England, on April 26, 2020, closed during the national lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's health ministry on Saturday said 813 more people had died after testing positive for COVID-19 in hospital, taking the death toll to 20,319. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign warns of a road closure on the route to the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge. (Getty Images)

He warned that police officers will patrol the site and the nearby town of Avebury, plus local communities in the area.

"Officers will maintain a presence in the areas of both Stonehenge and Avebury in support of both English Heritage and the National Trust. In addition, there will be a visible presence in local communities to reassure those who may be concerned.

"We would urge those interested in celebrating the summer solstice this year to please join in the celebrations via the English Heritage livestream."

Stonehenge will reopen in July, but will only sell timed tickets in advance and will reducing visitor numbers to maintain social distancing requirements.

FILE - In this June 21, 2019, file photo, the sun rises as thousands of revelers gather at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, near Salisbury, England. The coronavirus pandemic has scuttled summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, a highlight of the year for thousands of British pagans, druids and assorted revelers. English Heritage, which looks after the ancient stone circle, says restrictions on public events to slow the spread of the virus make it impossible to hold the event. It said it had decided to cancel the gathering “after much deliberation and in consultation with our partners in the police and the emergency services, the druid and pagan community and others.” (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi, File)
The coronavirus pandemic has scuttled summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, a highlight of the year for thousands of people. (AP)

“Although things might be a little different when you visit, you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring the places where history really happened. And you’ll still be given a warm and safe welcome by our friendly – if socially distant – staff and volunteers,’ a statement reads.

Stonehenge is estimated to have been built around 3,000 BC- but its origins remain a mystery.

Experts believe that Stonehenge may have been put together using a series of slots and holes, that has been compared to how Lego sets are built.

In 2019, scientists claimed Stonehenge was built by the ancestors of immigrants who came to Britain from across the Mediterranean.

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