Stonehenge - Article for Mock Exam Questions on “Nonfiction select and comprehend”
Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, close to A303, Salisbury and Amesbury, is one of the most mystical and mysterious sites in the UK. It is essentially a series of rocks designed in a circle, but this does nothing to describe what you will see and feel when you visit the site. Or, should I say, when you visit close to the site. Litter and erosion by tourist footfall have led to the site being roped off. You cannot walk around the stones themselves, but only view it from around 100 yards away. The only time you can sit amongst the stones themselves is during the solstice.
But, why visit a bunch of old stones gathered in a circle? First, there is the mystery of how the ancient site was established. The stones are huge – and they were erected 5000 years ago – without the help of cranes. So, mystery number one. Second, no one fully knows why it was erected. There are theories about why it was built – mostly related to pagan worship of the sun – but no one really knows. It has even been the topic of a Doctor Who episode and given over to the aliens. The likelihood is that it was some prehistoric monument of some kind – but this only adds to the mystery and the spirituality of the site.
The best way to experience the site is to visit on the eve of the summer solstice and spend the night with the pagan worshippers who fill the site to celebrate the rising of the sun. The sun rises and is sited within one of the major stone arches for a time and many believe that this was done by design. If you don’t believe the religious significance, you can’t help but be moved by the sense of community and spirituality at this moment. It is a crowded site and you need to get there early – but the moment when the sun rises is special – a moment of strange serenity and silence.
The stones themselves are not the only feature of interest in the area. There are also other historic sites and areas of natural significance. There is King Barrow Ridge – which is a Bronze Age burial mound. It is the place of some of the most ancient beech trees in the UK. It is the site of the Green Woodpecker and some rare butterflies.
There is also the beauty of the Durrington Walls. There is a theory that the builders of the stone circle lived in the area within these walls. Then, there is The Avenue – a bank-and-ditch earthwork that is more than 3 miles long. It is thought to have been the route taken during ceremonies at the stone circle – but some believe this avenue predates even Stonehenge itself.
If you want to know more about the area – the history and the nature – there is also a visitors’ centre, which will guide you through all you need to know. This is also a great place to park, if you are looking to go on an extended walk amongst the beautiful environment.