Stonehenge may be the best-known Neolithic monument in Britain but it has never stood in glorious, awe-inspiring isolation. In fact, it is situated within what archaeologists call a ritual landscape, defined by Frances Pryor as a ‘concentration of funerary and ceremonial monuments that were constructed in the Neolithic (4000- 2500 BC) and Early Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC)’.
Anyone visiting the Iron Age hill fort at Old Sarum in Wiltshire is likely to miss the weathered, lichen-speckled monument opposite the entrance, on the other side of the main road into Salisbury. The inscription on this irregular block of stone is very difficult to decipher, not just because of its age but also because of its unusual (perhaps even unique — certainly, I have seen nothing in this style before) lettering.
Bythesea Road is an odd name for a road in the middle of Trowbridge, itself in the middle of Wiltshire and some fifty miles from the Bristol Channel, which is another name for the sea. Another odd thing about Bythesea Road is the building across the road from the Asda, next to the Next, so out of proportion and incongruous that it looks as if a stone rocket is emerging from the roof of a dissenting chapel.
What do we call them, these hybrid, liminal places? ‘Parks’, it seems. ‘Park’ being a word that conjures nothing of their reality, their bounty and their dearth. Solstice Park, an outgrowth by the A303, erupting from the earth between the ancient town of Amesbury and the ritual landscape of Stonehenge, is one such place, part warehouse locus, part service station, part tourist stopover.
On his way back from the 2014 NATO summit at Newport in Wales, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Stonehenge. The president was helicoptered in to Boscombe Down airbase and then motorcaded to the site, where he was given a guided tour by an English heritage curator.