Record crowd greet solstice at Stonehenge

Record numbers of people descended on Stonehenge this morning to mark the summer solstice.

Despite the sun not making an appearance in an overcast sky, around 36,500 people enjoyed a carnival atmosphere at the ancient stone circle on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

An eccentric mix of Morris dancers, pagans dressed in their traditional robes and musicians playing guitars and drums gathered alongside visitors from across the world.

The good weather and the fact that the solstice fell over a weekend drew in the crowds from around 7pm last night.

As the sun rose at 4.58am a cheer went up from those gathered at the stone circle.

Bleary-eyed revellers wrapped in blankets, ponchos, cloaks and bin liners gathered at Heel Stone, the pillar at the edge of the prehistoric monument, to welcome the sunrise.

English Heritage and Wiltshire police had anticipated the biggest turnout yet and had drafted in extra officers to patrol the site and to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and drugs.

Restrictions were placed on the amount of alcohol people could bring in, with security checks at the main entrance.

But the event was a peaceful one with just 25 arrests overnight for minor public disorder and drug-related offences, a Wiltshire police spokesman said.

Sam Edwards, from Wiltshire police, said: "We are very pleased everything went to plan. The atmosphere has been very good, especially around the stones.

"Most people have been very co-operative with us and very understanding of the reasons for our presence.

"We would not tolerate drugs at all and our approach was to police the event as we would police Salisbury city centre on a Saturday night."

The main route into Stonehenge, the A303, was closed due to volumes of traffic this morning and the car park was full with 6500 cars by 3am.

This year 200 peace stewards and security officers were brought in alongside police.

English Heritage drafted in 100 portable toilets for the event.

Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge, said 31,000 people attended last year's event.

"We were expecting it to be busy this year, but we had ensured that it has been a peaceful and enjoyable solstice," he said.

"The conditions of entry ensured it was a safe event. In the past it is those people who have consumed excess alcohol which caused disorder.

"There has been a great atmosphere and where else would you want to be on midsummer's day?"

Adele Stanton, 27, and partner Simon Banks Van Zyl, 38, brought their children Llywelyn, three, and Gruffydd, 18 months, from Portsmouth.

Miss Stanton said: "I am from South Africa and this is my first visit to Stonehenge so I am quite emotional.

"It's been great, we wanted to bring the children to be a part of it because they are a family event."

Mr Banks Van Zyl said: "I first came in 1991 when it was illegal to be here so I climbed through the fencing, it was a but like the great escape but it was exciting.

"So I never had to queue in traffic before, but the amount of people here makes special, it is a celebration of life, history and going back to our roots."

Musician Nick Wells, 50, from Surrey, was also came to Stonehenge for solstice illegally in the 1980s.

"I've been playing the Gadulka, a 13-string Bulgarian fiddle in the circle, its been magical," he said.

"Everyone has been very peaceful and I am surprised I have not seen any trouble at all.

"It is nice that people can get so close to the stones but to me it is almost sacrilegious to touch them."

An all-night party on a smaller scale took place a few miles from Stonehenge at the Avebury stone circle.

Druid Jim Saunders, 33, from Reading, is a member of the Aes Dana Grove order.

He said: "The significance of Stonehenge on the solstice to me is to do my best to educate as many people as possible in our culture.

"We carried out the Awen ritual in the circle by chanting to raise the energy and ask for peace and healing.

"There were 16 druids here today but only three of us made it into the circle.

"It is nice to see a lot of people here because there is no better place to learn about our culture and history.

"But it is upsetting to see so much litter, and some people can be disrespectful."

He added: "Hopefully from the people we have spoken to today we can plant a seed of knowledge that will grow."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss