2014 has been a momentous year for events to remember the start of the First World War, I have heard people voice their concerns that it has been ‘over done’ – not something that I would agree with, and I can’t imagine how you could over do something to remember something quite so awful…
I had hoped to get over to France this year to visit some of the WW1 sites, we did it as a family a few years ago (2007), it would have been good to do some of the cemeteries and sites that we missed first time around – sadly we didn’t manage it this year, but we have seen some of the amazing events taking place in the UK;
The most impressive of these has been the poppies at the Tower of London, I saw these a month or so a go, and at that time they were probably three-quarters complete and already very impressive. If you have the chance to see them before Remembrance Day I would strongly recommend it – it is quite something.
However the thing that has made the greatest impression upon me this year has been the wooden crosses at Salisbury Cathedral – they were actual grave markers put up during the battles and then at the end of the war brought back by grieving relatives. They represent a tangible link to 100 years ago and consequently are ‘very real’. The photo I took (using a nifty filter on my new camera) is I think with the single red poppy quite powerful…..
This last weekend the wife and I have been on what could be described as a bit of a personal pilgrimage (for me) – we have been to Wiltshire. More accurately we have been down to the area around Salisbury and Stonehenge, this is where I was born (Salisbury, not Stonehenge) so the area has a certain draw for me still. One of the things I was looking forward to from our trip was seeing the new Stonehenge visitors centre (and the ‘improved’ area around Stonehenge itself). I was not disappointed by the new building, it is quite something, and quite ‘out there’ as far as buildings used by English Heritage go. It has some great features and somehow ‘fits in’ to the open landscape that is Salisbury Plain. Stonehenge is without doubt a World Class ‘attraction’ – it is after all a World Heritage site, so it is up there with some fairly impressive competition – The Pyramids at Giza, The Taj Mahal, The Vatican – you get the idea. So I applaud what has been achieved here, the centre is amazing and the improved landscape around the stones created by closing and removing the road past has made it feel much more ‘rural’. However I get the feeling that English Heritage just aren’t used to running such a high profile site. As I have said the building is great, but the staff (who are all dressed in their corporate uniforms) just aren’t enthusiastic – or dare I say it – friendly and polite. Also there is a ‘land train’ that takes you the mile and a half down to the stones themselves. This is very slick and comprises three carriages pulled by a Land-rover, which somehow feels just right for the location. But, although there is a full PA system in the land train it isn’t made use of it to tell the visitors about the site and build the moment before it comes into view (the new visitor centre is well away from the stones). If this was an attraction in the USA the trip there would be used to set the scene, not just to inform you the trip will take 5 to 7 minutes and not to open the windows! Yes there is an audio tour you can take, and the audio visual in the centre really is first class. But for an adult ticket at £14.90, (concession £13.40, child £8.90 and family £38.70) I personally expect just a bit more?
As a Born and bred Wiltshire-man I have an affinity for Stonehenge – I was actually born in Salisbury so can claim a link. Visiting the stones is special, they may only be large monoliths but there is a feeling of something significant there. Obviously the solstice is the big event there – and no I haven’t ever been there for it and I am not a Druid! But when the sun settles between the stones during the Summer Solstice it must look amazing. And this week I discovered that there is an American version – in Manhattan!
They call it “Manhattanhenge”.
The effect occurs twice a year and has become a major event for people to watch and photograph. It doesn’t occur on the solstice due to the alignment of the avenues – but it is still amazing to see.
Last Wednesday night was this summers, the east-west lying streets of the city’s grid system framed the setting sun, creating golden glows New Yorker’s rarely see. During the phenomenon, the Sun appears to be nestled perfectly between the skyscraper corridors, illuminating the north and south sides of the streets – a rare event in the canyons that are Manhattan..
The term Manhattanhenge first appeared in 1996, and has now stuck. I would love to see this and photograph it (although getting a good shot without being run down by the yellow cabs would be a challenge in its self!)
I wonder if in a thousands of years archeologists finding the remains of Manhattan will have theories about the line of the streets being related to sun worship!