Photo by Thomas Sheridan
The breaking story of the proposed tunneling of the A303 road - so as to remove it visually from the overall Stonehenge landscape - has understandably inflamed many people's passions and stirred up strong emotions. Sensationalist headlines such as this have not helped matters either.
This entire story is upsetting to me on several levels. Firstly, I think putting the A303 underground is, in general, a good idea, but the tunnel would need to be twice as long as the current plan put forward, and with the approaches changed so as not to impact upon any celestial alignments of great importance such as the Solstice sunrise.
Removing the A303 from the surrounding vista would help recapture something of the wider Stonehenge "sacred landscape" from a visual perspective. I have always found the sight and noise from passing traffic on the present A303 road to be annoying. Maybe to the coach party tourist with their experience lost behind the electronic narration of their headphones it matters not, but to the rest of us who wish for something more from the full sensory experience of Stonehenge beyond adding it to our 'bucket list', the sight and sound of Tesco trucks whizzing by is obnoxious for people like me.
What really concerns me is that the magic of Stonehenge could be made toxic by a protracted, high-profile legal battle. Especially if public protests descend into police clashes and other intense pathological spectacles which take place in sight of this incredible place. Having been one of the decreasing number of people who has been allowed access into the interior of the monument, on a brisk morning when as the sun was rising over Salisbury Plain, I can assure all that Stonehenge is very much still a magical place in every aspect to this day. However, a hugely publicized 'Battle' for Stonehenge' may well seriously impact upon this loss of magic to a far greater degree than any tunnel boring machine moving deep underground off in the distance.
This is precisely what happened here in Ireland with the M3 motorway and the Hill of Tara controversy. It essentially politicized the location. Made it a magnet for all kinds of sinister nationalism by Sinn Fein and other types.
Today, you can't even see the completed M3 motorway from atop the Hill of Tara without actively looking for it. The environmental impact study was more or less correct. The motorway is hidden behind woodlands and natural rises in the landscape.
However, the Sinn Fein flag waving types are still there defiling the sacred landscape with their IRA tattoos, Glasgow Celtic shirts and gold crucifixes. Anti social behaviour such as 'knacker drinking' and various crimes are common at Tara during the summer months now. The atmosphere is one of intimidation. These anti-social elements would have never known that Tara even existed unless they were drawn, as toxic familiars of darker forces, to the location due to the massive political and media controversy caused by the motorway project.
Tara was destroyed not by the road, but by the media sensationalism and something special was lost. With this proposed tunnel development at Stonehenge, cool heads and pragmatism is what's needed. Or you'll get EDL types arriving with crucifixes and union flags as well as every other kind of protesting tourist poisoning the magic of the place. It would be better in that case that nothing at all is done at Stonehenge.