General Letter ~ June 2017 ~ Summer Solstice

Dear Friends,
Here we are in the middle of June just before we reach the Summer Solstice on 21 June, the longest day of the year when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer.

We are told that we can expect the sun to rise at 4:43 am and sunset will be at 9:21 pm which means there will be a total of 16 hours and 38 minutes of sunlight whilst the sun will be highest in the sky at 1:02 pm.

Solstice comes from two Latin words – 'sol', meaning Sun, and 'sistere', meaning to come to a stop or stand still, translating to ‘sun standing still’.

It is a joyful time of year when the crops are growing in the fields providing food for the winter months.

Entrance to Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, is open free of charge (English Heritage introduced parking charges) for the annual gathering of Druids and travellers from all over the world who want to welcome the rising sun as it breaks over the horizon in all its magnificent (weather permitting!) at this sacred time of year.

If you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, facing north-east through the entrance towards a rough hewn stone outside the circle – known as the Heel Stone – you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone (small stone in the distance showing between two giant megaliths).

Since I last wrote we seemed to have a plethora of circles appearing almost daily (until suddenly a gap until a few days ago on the 16 June). After the beautiful one below Milk Hill, the next ones to appear were on 28th May at Summer Lane, Nr Broad Hinton, Wiltshire. There were three circles in all; all different shapes and sizes - two in one field and a star shaped one in the adjacent field over the hedge.

The tracery work on the larger circular one is very fine, consisting of four concentric rings with a combination of larger and smaller floral patterns interlacing the concentric circles.

If you look closely at the circles (15 medium sized ones and 60 smaller ones) in the star shaped event, you will see that there are no connecting lines between any of them. This is a good sign as walking between the crop leaves a visible trail indicating possible human or animal evidence or involvement.

Following close it their heels on the 30th of May came the beautiful and complex six-petaled floral pattern at Fonthill Down, Nr. Chicklade, Wiltshire. These wonderful pictures were taken by Mat Stainton, who most generously allowed me to use them.

Not to be left out a small and delightfully modest single ringed circle with a flattened circle appeared at the Sanctuary on the 3rd of June not far from Avebury.

The very next day, a circle with 3 sets of six circles of diminishing size came to rest a Woolstone Hill, Nr Ashbury, Oxfordshire.

Woolstone Hill is part of an ancient landscape and lying close by you will find the oldest of our chalk White Horses, the Uffington White Horse; to me it resembles a Henry Moore sculpture. It has clearly changed over the years and there is some debate about it's original shape; could it have started life as a dragon? Close by we have Wayland's Smithy which is an atmospheric historic site about a mile's walk along the Ridgeway from the Uffington White Horse. It has a Neolithic chambered long barrow, once believed to have been the home of Wayland, the Saxon god of metal working.

The last story I am going to relate is about a most charming family, cardiologist Mark, his lovely wife and perinatologist, Karen and their two wonderful children Gabriel (16) and Anna (12). They had written to me in November 2016 saying that they would very much like me to take their family on a private tour round the circles etc. in the summer 2017. After lots of correspondence, it was planned that I would take them round any available crop circles, and if there weren’t any we could visit we would go round the ancient sacred stone sites in the area such as Avebury stone complex, West Kennet Long Barrow (the oldest), Silbury Hill etc. I planned a helicopter flight (requiring two helicopters to take us all) to fly over the circles and ancient sites. To finish the day I was really lucky to obtain a private entry evening visit to Stonehenge. It all sounded wonderful and we met at Silbury Hill car park - but - the weather decided otherwise. Such are the perils of living on an island — the weather is mercurial. It was raining when we met and it rained consistently ALL DAY. Were they daunted - not one little bit! They were as gallant as any knights of old. Visiting a crop circle was the top of Gabriel’s list so we started off by walking up the grass track to circle below the Milk White Horse at Alton Barnes, Wiltshire. We could see the circle quite clearly as we walked towards along the path and marks in the field where people had trampled over the crop to reach it. Having visited it previously on the day it first appeared, I knew the entry point into the field which would lead directly down a tramline into the circle, thereby not damaging the crop at all. Into the field we went and not only was the circle no longer visible, the landscape had somehow changed due to the recent incessant rain and heavy winds which had caused considerable wind damage knocking the crop flat where I thought the entry tramline should be. However, I decided we should walk further along the vertical tramline and we entered a horizontal tramline only to find it was the wrong one. Undaunted we tried another—another wild goose chase.

As you can image by that time we were all soaking wet having taken on the water from the heavily water laden barley seed heads as we walked down the tramlines. In addition, the plants had closed together and whereas the tram line was still there beneath our feet, we had to ease our way through the crop which was so high that it came to Anna’s neck - 'would anyone like to capitulate?', I asked. Not a bit of it, the whole family were game to last and such was the joy when we finally found it, having caused no damage on the way (except to ourselves), it made our sterling efforts all worthwhile. Anna had said she was freezing but by the time we had walked back to the cars, she said 'I am fine; I can’t feel my body at all now!' What a marvellous child, she will go far in life. 'A possible out of body experience', I joked!!!

We had booked to have lunch close by but it was quite obvious that we couldn’t possibly continue soaked to the skin as we all were wearing heavily wet clothes, so we drove back to Silbury Hill to collect my car before continuing to the hotel in Salisbury where the Alkire’s were staying. As I took my Wellington boots off, at least a pint of water poured out of each of them!!! Who would like to come on a private tour with me next year???!!!

Photograph by Karen Alkire

Karen very kindly lent me a change of clothes. Oh the joy of being warm and dry again! Our never diminished spirits rose higher during lunch only to be dashed as news came from our plot that flying was out of the question due to the very gusty high winds and wet weather.

Close by was Old Sarum. Still completely unfazed we went in and wandered around the old ruins — IT WAS STILL RAINING!!!

We are told that Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England. Located on a hill about 2 miles (3 km) north of modern Salisbury near the A345, the settlement appears in some of the earliest records in the country. It is an English Heritage property and is open to the public.

The great monoliths of Stonehenge and Avebury were erected nearby and indications of prehistoric settlement have been discovered from as early as 3000 BC. An Iron Age hillfort was erected around 400 BC, controlling the intersection of two native trade paths and the Hampshire Avon. The site continued to be occupied during the Roman period, when the paths became roads. The Saxons took the British fort in the 6th century and later used it as a stronghold against marauding Vikings. The Normans constructed a motte and bailey castle, a stone curtain wall, and a great cathedral. A royal palace was built within the castle for King Henry I and was subsequently used by Plantagenet monarchs. This heyday of the settlement lasted for around 300 years until disputes between the Wiltshire sheriff and the Salisbury bishop finally led to the removal of the church into the nearby plain. As New Salisbury grew up around the construction site for the new cathedral in the early 13th century, the buildings of Old Sarum were dismantled for stone and the old town dwindled. Its long-neglected castle was abandoned by Edward II in 1322 and sold by Henry VIII in 1514.

Although the settlement was effectively uninhabited, its landowners continued to have parliamentary representation into the 19th century, making it the most notorious of the rotten boroughs that existed before the Reform Act of 1832. Most famously, Old Sarum served as a pocket borough of the Pitt family.

Steadily becoming wet again we drove to Stonehenge Visitors Centre and visited the really excellent exhibition and also had the luxury of a cup of warm tea or coffee in large café. At the appointed time we went to the stones by coach and guess what — it was STILL RAINING and our second set of clothes were as wet through as the first!

Never once was there a moan or grumble of any sort and if there were a medal for 'Croppie' endurance and gallantry, they would all have received one with my blessings. What a joy and how I hugged them for their marvellous spirit and wonderful good humour. They are truly an inspirational family!

However, you will be glad to hear that this story DOES have a happy ending as the next day the rain had been banished and the sun shone, allowing us to fly over the circles and Avebury, AND I was able to return Karen’s clothes, now dry!

We parted the greatest of friends and will definitely keep in touch.

Just a reminder to say that all the places for the 25th July crop circle tour and 3rd August are both full apart from cancellations BUT there are places available for the private entry evening tour at Stonehenge that day. I will be closing booking for that on the 24 June.

If you are interested in sharing a helicopter flight with me, I will add you to my list. I have to warn you that it is often at very short notice. Please send me your landline and mobile telephone numbers and where you live. It a really wonderful and magical experience.

I send you love and very best wishes

If you feel able please donate to enable me to continue my work.

P.S. I have just returned from flying to Target Wood, Nr Badbury Rings, Dorset with great friends who were so excited to be up in the air sharing the helicopter with me. We flew back via Stonehenge. It was a marvellously warm evening and I didn’t even need a jacket. Inside the helicopter at about a height of 1000 feet (303m), it was still 25 degrees! This formation has been likened to the Sephirothic Tree, the Six-pointed Star, the Unicursal hexagram.


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