Towards the end of October 2013 a friend of mine, Colin and myself took to the road to tour some of Dorset and the surrounding area. We were planning on visiting various ancient sites in that particular part of the country, beginning with Stonehenge. We camped the first night at Stonehenge camp-site, arriving late on we had to get our heads down. The next morning we were up early, before dawn to get to Stones so I could take photos. After packing up our gear we moved north to Avebury, with its Stone Circle and chalk horses that adorn the hills of that area. From there we moved south to Salisbury Cathedral and on to the New Forest, with its wild ponies. We ending up at Lulworth cove on the south coast of Dorset, with its Durdle Door. On the way home we dropped in to Glastonbury to take in the site and have lunch and a pint. These are some of the sights that inspired me on that trip.
In the September of 2011, I headed up to the Highlands to wild camp and hike in the wilderness there. After a week on the mainland at the Cape wrath I caught the ferry and headed over to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I caught the bus out to Callanish, a small village on the west side of Lewis with the intention of viewing the stone circles situated there. Callanish is a very ancient site and is said to date back to nearly 3000 BC. There is one main stone monument which is actually in the shape of a cross – and is said to align with the cycles of the moon rather than those of the sun as in the case of Stonehenge. It is generally understood that this is because the community that lived there at the time it was constructed was a fishing community rather than arable. There are also two other smaller stone circles that lie just a short distance from the main megalithic structure.
I got out to the stones around two O’clock in the afternoon and had a good look around. My aim was to camp on the site but around sunset the site got busy with photographers. So instead I opted to camp a short distance away at an old ruined house on the side of a loch. This was a strange place full of pigeons that kept flying out from the rafters momentarily. I pitched my one man Bivvy tent and the next day in strong rain made my way back to Stornoway on the bus then catching the ferry to the mainland the following day.
In 2007 armed with my new digital camera (Canon EOS 400d), I set off one autumn evening with my dad to drive the 27 miles, from Dorset where my parents live into Wiltshire. This was not only an excuse to try out my new camera but I felt the start of the adventure I had envisaged for many years. It was appropriate then that we were driving towards Stonehenge. The concept of photographing sites of the sacred and the holy had an obvious beginning with Stonehenge. Stonehenge is synonymous with mystery and in particular the unravelling of the unknown. No one is quite sure of the purpose that it served although many apply theories. Yet there seems no way of ever knowing. What a mystery then not like some abstract Loch Ness monster sighting but something tangible and yet beyond our understanding. This is almost what they built it for in a sense I believe; the nature of monument – to stand up against the passage of time, in order to say that what they believed in was strong enough to last and should be remembered. What ever drove them to build such a thing was ultimately tied up with their success as a people and the focus of their belief and that it has lasted the test of time.
We arrived at Stonehenge in the late afternoon, and except for a few remaining visitors the place was almost empty. The sun was low at that point, the day had been mostly clear but there were streaks of cloud painted across the sky. This was my first visit to Stonehenge and initially I was taken a back by the size of the stones. It really is an impressive place if you have not been. We walked around the stones somewhat soberly; which seemed fitting. I actually remember the feeling that I had, a sense of power and yet a peace at the same time. I remember thinking and coming up with my own theory about the function of this stone circle – I felt it had to have been used in a ceremonial practice associated with the celebration of life and death in some form or other and imagined that would meant human or at least animal sacrifice. Today I think people would rather shy away from believing in the more barbaric practices of early man and would want to forget that civilisation is built on such a thing. The world has not always been lit with electricity and in these darker times there would have needed to be a far greater dependence on nature and being in relationship with the earth. The seasons no longer present much of a challenge but in past times the darkness of the winter months surely would have been a very cold and inhospitable place for our ancestors. They would have drawn on every possible resource at their disposal to survive and make it through those months. So a megalith of these proportions, must have been built on sure faith; and the driving force that erected it in a sense is the same today as it ever was.
We finished our tour of the stone circle and were ushered out by security, the last to leave. We drove away in silence and for myself at least, touched by the experience.