Stonehenge Winter Solstice ban criticised by senior druid

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
King Arthur Pendragon said he will still observe the sunrise "as close as legally possible" to the stones

English Heritage is "using the Covid crisis as an excuse" not to allow people to celebrate the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, a senior druid has said.

King Arthur Pendragon said the ancient stone circle "should be open as other places of worship are".

English Heritage maintains it cannot host the usual celebrations at the prehistoric monument on 21 December due to safety concerns.

The sunrise at the stones will be live-streamed this year instead.

For pagans, the Winter Solstice is an important event as it welcomes the new sun. It is also the day of the year with the least sunlight.

'Very frustrated'

The event usually attracts crowds of up to 5,000 people, and English Heritage said it took the decision in the interest of public health following advice from Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police.

However Mr Pendragon argued: "You can't get more Covid secure than you can in the middle of the field."

He said he will still observe the sunrise "as close as legally possible" to the stones from adjacent land.

"It is very frustrating that English Heritage are using the Covid crisis as an excuse not to open Stonehenge," he said.

"English Heritage will not allow us into Stonehenge and they haven't all year.

"My argument is it should be open as other places of worship are like temples, mosques, churches and synagogues.

"Because if you can't be socially distanced in a field in Salisbury Plain, where can you?"

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The sunrise at Stonehenge will be streamed live on English Heritage's social media channels this year

An English Heritage spokesperson said: "Our plan to live-stream the Winter Solstice - a spiritually significant time for many - is supported by representatives of the pagan and druid groups with whom we work.

"Although disappointed that they cannot attend in person, the community respects the fact that the pandemic and its safety restrictions are exceptional circumstances."

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