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Thousands mark summer solstice sunrise at Stonehenge

About 10,000 people gathered at the historic site for sunrise on the longest day of the year.

The sun rises between the stones and over crowds at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)
The sun rises between the stones and over crowds at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

Thousands of people have greeted the sun with cheers as it rose over Stonehenge for summer solstice.

Those who observed the spectacle at the neolithic Wiltshire monument encountered a chilly morning accompanied by clear skies as the sun glinted over the horizon at 4.52am.

Kate Logan, English Heritage’s director of Stonehenge, said it was “one of the highlights of the year” at the popular site.

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A woman performs yoga at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

“There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere throughout, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”

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People watch the sun rise at the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Stonehenge is a monument built on the alignment of the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

English Heritage used the occasion to launch its new live feed of of the sky above the ancient monument, which globally shares the journey of the stars and the moon from within the stone circle.

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The sun marks the summer solstice as it rises above a farmhouse near Honley in West Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock said she hoped the feed inspires “people all over the world to go outside, and look up”.

Summer solstice takes place as one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun and the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, ensuring the longest period of daylight for year.

Police arrested four people at Stonehenge and a fifth was detained in Avebury.

A 25-year-old man from Warminster was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving; a 15-year-old girl from Bulford was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly; a 44-year-old man from Salisbury was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure and a 19-year-old man from the Isle of Wight was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

In Avebury, a 45-year-old man from Great Somerford was arrested on suspicion of common assault.

They all remain in custody.

Superintendent Dave Minty said: “We were pleased with how summer solstice went once again this year.

“It passed peacefully with just one arrest at Avebury and four at Stonehenge, including one person on suspicion of drink-driving.

“Overnight, we deployed a force drone at Stonehenge several times to help keep an eye on the estimated 10,000-strong crowd.

“We got some really good footage and by using a live feed to the control room it made it easier for us to place officers and security officers around the site where they may be needed.”

PA

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