Weather could not dampen Solstice
Published 21/06/2011 | 11:52
Poor weather could not dampen the spirits of 18,000 people who welcomed the sun at Stonehenge at dawn this morning for the Summer Solstice.
The annual pagan celebration of the sun, on the longest day of the year, centred on the famous prehistoric monument in Wiltshire.
The number of people who camped out overnight or arrived early to witness the dawn was down on previous years because of poor weather and the solstice falling on a weekday.
There was no beautiful sunrise into clear blue skies - heavy overnight rain gave way at around 5am to overcast but dry skies as the sun rose, which was greeted by cheering and applause.
Police said the event had passed off very peacefully, with just 20 arrests.
Druid protester King Arthur Pendragon, who led the event, said it had passed off smoothly. "We didn't get a great sunrise but it was dry," he said. "Everyone seems happy with the result. It is great to see the stones being used in this way, as opposed to the usual manner with tourists being herded around."
Stonehenge, which is between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, has been the site of confrontations between worshippers, other revellers and police officers in some past years.
But Superintendent Gavin Williams, of Wiltshire Police, said the majority of the 18,000 people this year were well-behaved and "came to see the sunrise in the spirit of the event", which was policed in the same way as night spots in the county.
Of the 20 arrests, 11 were for drugs offences and five for public order offences. In addition, 47 drug seizures were made. "Although it was disappointing that some individuals chose to bring drugs with them, they were dealt with robustly," Mr Williams added.
English Heritage, which manages the Stonehenge site, near Amesbury on Salisbury Plain, said the atmosphere had been "peaceful and good natured".