Stonehenge revellers mark summer solstice

Crowds at Stonehenge on Thursday morning Rain and cloud cover prevented revellers from seeing the sunrise at 04:52 BST

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Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice despite overcast skies.

Cloud cover meant pagans and druids were unable to witness the sunrise following the longest day of the year.

Wiltshire Police said despite the rain it had been a "positive experience" for most revellers.

Officers made 37 arrests for theft, drugs or alcohol-related offences and more than 100 people received cautions for cannabis use or possession.

A further three people were arrested at the stone circles at Avebury, which is about 22 miles (37km) away from Stonehenge.

A spokeswoman said: "As with every year, sadly there was a small minority who were determined to disregard the law. These people were dealt with robustly."

Pagan festivals: Summer Solstice

  • Solstice, or Litha, means a stopping or standing still of the sun
  • The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and is celebrated by thousands of pagans across the world. In the northern hemisphere the Solstice usually falls around 21 June
  • Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago. Recent pagan celebrations at the henge began in the 20th Century
  • On Litha the central Altar stone at Stonehenge aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising sun to the north east

BBC reporter Will Walder said thousands of people had braved the overnight rain to gather at Stonehenge.

"It was wet, misty and muddy but there was an atmosphere that something really special was about to happen.

"People were whistling and cheering and then falling silent before starting again.

"Tambourines and drums were being played but then at 4:52 am people were looking from left to right to try to see the sun and had to resort to watches and mobile phones to mark the moment," he added.

One of the revellers, Dave, said he had been on site since 22:00 BST on Wednesday with his friends.

He said it was the first time he had been to Stonehenge.

"I'm really wet and I'm soaked to the bone but its magical - it's lovely."

English Heritage said the heavy overnight rain meant it was one of the lowest attendances in recent years.

Giant statue at Stonehenge solstice celebrations Police said there had been 33 arrests and more than 100 cautions overnight

"However the rain did stop in time for the sunrise ceremonies and although clouds obscured the sun, loud cheers and applause rang out amongst the ancient stones," a spokesman said.

"There was torrential rain at some points during the evening, but it stopped and although it was cloudy, it didn't rain for sunrise.

"It has been the wettest and dare I say the muddiest in recent years."

A 22ft (6.7m) figure, called Ancestor, was moved to the stones ahead of the solstice celebrations.

The seven tonne steel statue depicts a man with his "head thrown back and arms open wide".

After the solstice it will be dismantled and taken to Salisbury for the Olympic torch event.

As with previous years, there were amnesty bins available outside the event and drugs dogs were at both Stonehenge and Avebury.

Entry to the monument in Wiltshire will be closed until 09:00 BST on Friday.

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