Bronze Age vision of a 20th century man: Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, wants to transform Stonehenge into a purer, prehistoric experience. Oliver Gillie reports

DAWN at Stonehenge, and as the first rays of sun began to show on the horizon Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, paced about restlessly. Stonehenge is his responsibility and he has a vision of how the site could be transformed to provide a purer experience devoid of the 20th century clutter that spoils it.

Mr Stevens was re-enacting an ancient ritual, the observation of sunrise. And, as it was in ancient times, he was also present as a supplicant - seeking approval for a vision. The early Bronze Age men who farmed the Wiltshire fields almost certainly used Stonehenge for such purposes, seeking to determine the right time of year for the planting of crops and blessings for the harvest.

It was 4am and the stones appeared as silhouettes against the eastern sky. A light mist lay in the folds of land so that trees on the horizon appeared to hang in the air. But there was no enduring peace to contemplate this ancient landscape. A convoy of three large petrol tankers with bright headlights blasted their way down the A303, disturbing the unique magic of the place.

'I want people to be able to walk again among the stones and feel the excitement of it all,' Mr Stevens said. 'With the present arrangements they have to walk on a dreadful tarmac path and are held back by a rope. We want to change all that, but the first step is to get rid of the roads.'

The Department of Transport has been oblivious to the importance of Stonehenge as a national and international monument. It developed a plan to expand the A303, which runs within a few hundred yards of the site, into a four-lane highway. But the Department reckoned without Mr Stevens, who admits that he shouts at people, including ministers of the Crown, when they seem not to be listening.

'I don't shout very often but Stonehenge is just too valuable to be destroyed by a road plan. I told the Department of Transport that there was no way they would get their plans through,' Mr Stevens said. 'The Department of Transport has never encountered opposition like this before. We are their statutory advisers so they cannot just ignore us.

'The department is prepared to build a small tunnel but it would do nothing to protect Stonehenge from traffic. They have also suggested an alternative route but it would pass through other ancient sites which are scattered all over the land arround Stonehenge and we don't want that.'

As Mr Stevens spoke the sky became lighter and ancient barrows, the burial places of prehistoric noblemen, could be seen among the trees on the horizon. Then a brighter pink light fell through the cloud illuminating some more barrows scattered in fields nearby, and suddenly it was as if the surrounding plain was peopled with ghosts.

'I want the public to be able to see it like this,' Mr Stevens said, as he lent against one of the trilathons, huge stones in the centre of the monument that were dragged from quarries 25 miles away. 'The problems could be overcome by a long tunnel which would go under the whole site.

'We could then get rid of the roads and create a vast prehistoric park. People would be able to walk to Stonehenge across fields, if they wanted, or along the original avenue which was probably used for processions by Bronze Age people.'

A tunnel some six miles long through the chalk under Stonehenge would not be technically difficult to build but the cost of doing it, about pounds 250m, has forced the Department of Transport to think of alternatives.

'The department originally told us that a route further north was impossible for security reasons. It would pass too close to Larkhill garrison. Now the department has conceded that such a route would be possible and only two problems remain.

'At the east end the proposed route passes close to the Army's married quarters and particularly close to the brigadier's house. At the other end it would pass close to an ammunition dump. Neither of these problems are insuperable.'

Few people visit the barrows or explore the ancient landscape arround the stones because fences and traffic make it extremely difficult. Mr Stevens dreams of expanding the present 1,500 acres owned by the National Trust and English Heritage into a prehistoric park of some 3,000 acres which would incorporate all the surrounding antiquities, making the area into a valley of the kings.

The sun burst out from behind the cloud and as it did so the heel stone, which marks the rising sun, cast a long shadow on the altar stone behind us. It seemed possible that ancient gods had given their blessing to Mr Stevens's imaginative plan.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor