Wiltshire

Coronavirus: Stonehenge spring equinox cancelled

Stonehenge
Image caption English Heritage has closed Stonehenge until 1 May

People wanting to watch the sunrise to mark the first day of spring have been told not to travel to Stonehenge.

Hundreds were expected to descend on the ancient monument on Friday to celebrate the spring or vernal equinox.

But English Heritage, which manages the site, has cancelled the event and closed Stonehenge until 1 May following government advice on coronavirus.

Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said it would be "irresponsible to go against" the decision.

Open access to the stones is normally given by English Heritage from first light but it has closed all its "staffed historic sites" and asked people not to travel to Stonehenge.

"Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of all visitors, volunteers and staff, and we hope you can understand why we have taken this unprecedented step," it said.

"We appreciate this is a very important time for druids, pagans and other spiritual people and hope you will still be able to celebrate the spring equinox in your own special way."

English Heritage said it would "continue to plan for the summer solstice in the hope it will still take place".

Image copyright Paulina Kuczynska
Image caption The ancient stone circle is opened for the spring equinox as well as the winter and summer solstice

The name equinox means "equal night" in Latin. The spring equinox is when the day and night are almost equal in length.

Mr Pendragon, who performs the sunrise ceremony, said the druids vow involved forming a circle and holding hands and it would be "pretty irresponsible to encourage people to hold hands".

"We get thousands of people from all over England and the world and I'm trying to discourage them from making the journey to Stonehenge," he said.

"But I will most certainly celebrate in some fashion, even if it's on my own.

"We will celebrate with nature somewhere and will encourage others to do the same."

Traditional celebrations on May morning in Oxford have also been cancelled.

Oxford City Council and Magdalen College said they had "regrettably" made the decision but were following government advice on mass gatherings.

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