Wednesday 19 October 2016

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2016 - Proposed Changes.

English Heritage are worried about increasing numbers of people attending the Winter Solstice -
"Our focus for 2016 is to develop a strategy to manage both the growth in attendance and the parking which will become the plan for Winter Solstice for the foreseeable future.... The increasing numbers attending the Winter Solstice (350 in 2000 to 7000 in 2015) affect your ability to have safe managed open access"
Strangely they claim 7000 for last year in the email but only 5000 on their website... and the number doesn't seem to be growing...

English Heritage:
The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the first day of the winter season. This year around five thousand people gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice."

2012  Attendance: 5000   Peter Carson, Head of Stonehenge at English Heritage said: over 5000 people celebrated the winter solstice at Stonehenge this morning. The weather was particularly fine and the ancient stones were bathed in beautiful winter sunshine.

2013 Attendance: 3500  Kate Davies, who manages Stonehenge for English Heritage, said: "We were delighted to welcome over 3,500 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice.

2014 Attendance: 6400 6,400 people were at Stonehenge this morning to mark the winter solstice.This is twice the number who participated last year - Stonehenge managers say because it is dry, and schools are out for Christmas.
Kate Davies, Stonehenge General Manager, talks more about the enduring appeal of this ancient tradition.

2015  Attendance: 5000  
Around five thousand people gathered at Stonehenge this morning to celebrate the winter solstice. Braving wet and windy weather, visitors marked the arrival of the sun with pagan rituals and celebrations around the monument.

Susie Milbank, one of the visitors attending the celebrations, said: "This is my second winter solstice, and it is fabulous. The atmosphere here is absolutely incredible, and everyone here is so relaxed, peaceful, and happy. It is all very well-humoured".

18/10/2016 - Letter from English Heritage:

Winter Solstice is the second largest gathering for managed open access at
Stonehenge. Since 2000 we have seen attendances grow from 350 to more
than 7000, with over 1200 cars parked on and around site. Our focus for 2016
is to develop a strategy to manage both the growth in attendance and the
parking which will become the plan for Winter Solstice for the foreseeable
Part of our planning process includes consulting with those most affected by
what we do. In addition to working with local residents and landowners to
ensure that disruption to them is minimised, we want to involve those for
whom the solstices at Stonehenge are important.
For us to do this effectively, we ask that you do the following:
1. Please read through this document. We have explained here the
challenges we’re facing and laid out the rough plan that we’ve prepared
for 2016 for you to consider.
2. Please complete the attached questionnaire with your thoughts and
suggestions in response to our proposals.
The feedback you provide will shape our discussions at the Round Table Group meeting on the 3rd November.

We know that change is hard and that the decisions we make have an impact,
but throughout our planning for managed open access for solstice at
Stonehenge you, the members of the Round Table Group, and the groups you
represent remain an absolute priority. You are the groups and individuals for
whom free access began in 2000 and we continue to wholeheartedly support
your right to enter the stones at no charge during periods of open access. This
has not changed.
What has changed, however, or at least increased, are the challenges: some are
financial and some are logistical. Many of these challenges will be best
addressed through collaborative working with our partners - Wiltshire Council
and Wiltshire Police - and with you, members of the Round Table. We have
discussed options with the council and the police, and now we would
appreciate your input. It’s important to note, however that some of the things
outlined here are immovable – we have to work with what we’ve got.
What is affecting our planning:

Increasing attendances
· The increasing numbers attending the Winter Solstice (350 in 2000 to 7000
in 2015) affect your ability to have safe managed open access. That’s the
most important reason why we need to manage the numbers, not to
discourage those people for whom Stonehenge is spiritually important.
· More people mean that greater infrastructure and support is needed in
order to make it safe, and this increases the costs.
· Sadly, greater numbers of people mean damage is more likely in the
monument field itself which is at its most vulnerable during the winter
months. It took the ground over a month to recover from such heavy
footfall during last year’s Winter Solstice.
· We are not able to provide parking for the increasing number of cars that
turn up. Last year there were around 1200 cars: our car park takes 500
cars, there is no sizeable hard-standing for us to rent and turn into an
overflow car park and we cannot hire fields as the winter weather renders
fields unusable.
· As in previous years, the partners will apply for a TTRO on Byway 12.
However as damage and the resulting cost to Wiltshire Council of repairs
have increased significantly in recent years, we cannot depend on the
possibility of providing an area for gathering and parking as we have done in
the past whilst this closure is on. If it is not available, then the pressure on
parking is further increased.
· Last year we parked cars in Larkhill and this caused massive disruption for
local residents. As a result this space is not available for 2016 and is unlikely
to be an option again.

Financial Pressure
All of the organisations who support solstice operate within significant financial
constraints. As public sector bodies Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police are
under tremendous pressure to spend less not more. English Heritage has
recently become a not-for-profit charity where every penny earned (and saved)
is ploughed back into the conservation and preservation of hundreds of historic
and prehistoric sites and monuments in our care. It will in the future be
receiving no outside funding, save what donors voluntarily give it. This is a
formidable financial challenge, and a new one.
Each year managing safe and sustainable open access at Stonehenge for the
solstices and equinoxes costs English Heritage alone over £300, 000. While the
income raised from the parking charge we introduced for the Summer Solstice
made a small contribution to this significant outlay, the pressure remains the
same. And like us none of our partners can afford for the cost of solstice to

What we are proposing:
Because no solution to the increasing numbers and lack of available parking was
going to be easy, we began looking at options a few months ago. We need a
strategy that will serve for at least a few years, and as we cannot depend on the
byway remaining open for parking over the Winter Solstice period, we have
come up with the following as the basis of our parking strategy. As we saw
around 1200 cars parking for Winter Solstice last year, you will see that we are
currently significantly short:
1. Parking in the visitor centre car park. Disabled parking will be in this area
and there will be a disabled bus running, as usual, from the visitor centre.
Including disabled parking, there will be space for 500 vehicles in the
visitor centre car park. We will need to ensure that there is sufficient
lighting and staffing to make the whole of the car park safe.
2. Parking on a small piece of privately-owned hard-standing. This will
provide space for about 300 cars and there will be a park-and-ride bus
service from this parking area to the visitor centre. We will need to turn
this space into a safe car park with lighting and staffing.
3. Salisbury Reds public bus service from Salisbury to Stonehenge.
4. No parking will be allowed on the A344 – this is to maintain the Blue
Route, to ensure the safety of pedestrians who will be using the walkers’
lane, and to maintain the route for the disabled buses.

What we would like from you:
Attached is a questionnaire to help shape your thoughts and provide us with
feedback around parking at Winter Solstice.
This is your opportunity to let us know your thoughts on our proposals and, if
you would like, to make suggestions on how you think we might manage
numbers and how parking for Winter Solstice could work, given the limitations
we have outlined and the financial constrains within which we operate. We
would welcome thoughts on these questions emailed to
discuss all practical suggestions and comments that come in between now and
the end of the month, alongside the next steps, at the 3rd November Round
Table Group meeting.
We look forward to receiving your thoughts and seeing you in November.

Please have a think through these questions, within the context of the
limitations laid out above, and let us have your feedback by 30 October, emailed
to or posted to Lucy Barker,
Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Amesbury, Wilts, SP4 7DE.

Q1: Do you have any suggestions for additional parking locations?
Q2: What do you think we could do to reduce the number of cars coming to
site? We already encourage car-sharing and there is a public bus-service – is
there anything else we haven’t thought of?
Q3: Given the challenges outlined and the financial constraints within which the
charity and our partners operate please use this space to provide comments,
suggestions or feedback that will help us to manage costs whilst still providing
safe, free managed open access for Winter Solstice going forward.
Solstice is changing. We all need to work together to keep it special.
Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback.


  1. I am confused about the ITV report quoted which reported 6,400 attending in 2014 when most press reports put numbers down as 1,500

    1. Don't know, I took the first Google result that had a number, 1,600 sounds a bit low but it is worth into. EH would have the numbers as they get security to use counters as people come in.

    2. Hi _ I've had another look and the photos of 2014 and my memory would suggest a much lower number - nearer the 1500 that the two news resources give. Not sure why there is such a difference.