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)

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel