Monuments, Ley Lines And a White-Coated Jobsworth

Salisbury Plain

The 1949 page of our old family photo album is confidently captioned ‘Bournemouth’ but neglects any images of the Hampshire Riviera resort. Not to worry. They say that getting there is half of the fun and seven decades ago they were correct – even for the motorist stopping off at one of the most popular tourist attractions in England.

The photographic evidence shows that en route my grandparents stopped off at a near-deserted Stonehenge, then as now on the A303 close to Larkhill and Amesbury on the Salisbury Plain. Larkhill is a garrison town situated approximately 1.5 miles north of the world-famous ancient monument. It’s worth noting that Larkhill is often associated with Hampshire due to its proximity to the county border, but is actually situated within Wiltshire.

Larkhill has a significant military presence and is known for its association with the British Army. It is part of the Salisbury Plain Training Area, which is one of the UK’s most important military training areas. Larkhill has been an important military centre since the First World War when it was used as a Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) base. It has also been used for artillery and other military training. The surrounding area has a rich archaeological heritage, with numerous finds from prehistoric, Roman, and later periods. It is close to Stonehenge and other Neolithic sites, which has made it an area of interest for archaeologists.

Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, Larkhill has been developed to support its military functions. This includes housing for military personnel and their families, training facilities, and other infrastructure. In recent years, archaeological excavations in advance of military housing developments have uncovered significant prehistoric sites, including causewayed enclosures and evidence of Neolithic settlement, which provide further insights into the ancient landscape of Salisbury Plain.

The town has a mix of military and civilian populations, with amenities that cater to both. It has schools, shops, sports facilities, and community centres that serve the needs of the residents.

Larkhill continues to be an important part of the UK’s defence infrastructure, especially for the Royal Artillery, and its proximity to Stonehenge adds to its historical and cultural significance.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Royal Artillery, Larkhill Range.
An AS90 artillery piece on a track, Larkhill Artillery Range,
Andrew Smith
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The reason we linger on Larkhill and neglect the nearby monolith is because my father was to return there. Assuming he was with my grandparents. He might not have been. He is not in the photos and by the late 1940s, as we saw in a previous episode, he was venturing to the Continent with the Scouts. No matter. A decade later my father was in the Army. He was guarded about his service but did tell this tale.

A Royal Engineer, his unit was sent to Salisbury Plain on an exercise. The plan was to put a Bailey Bridge across the grass to span an imaginary river. A mixture of real and imaginary tanks would then make the imaginary crossing. Unfortunately, as soon as my father got out of the truck, a chap in a white jacket armed with a clipboard emerged from a hiding place within a bush. Sapper Worth-Saying was informed he’d just been shot by a sniper. Dead as a doornail. It wasn’t even worth giving the medics an imaginary practice. In the highest military tradition, my father sat in the cold for two days and three nights watching the others fight with the bits.

Meanwhile, back in the family album and a couple of miles away, 1949 had been a good year for Stonehenge – or had it?

Summer Solstice 1949

Although we don’t know exactly when the family photo was taken, contemporary newspapers reported that those who attended the Stonehenge midsummer vigil in 1949 were well rewarded. A large gathering of about 800 had been recorded at the vigil in the small hours of what that year was a Saturday to witness the rising of the sun over the Helc stone. May I allow a breathless contemporary correspondent to set the scene?

‘In some cases an all-night vigil was undertaken in the hope of seeing this remarkable sight, for seldom it is that an uninterrupted view is obtained. But on this occasion, the watchers were rewarded with the finest spectacle for years. As a thrill of expectancy held the multitude almost breathless, the glowing orb rose little by little above the hele stone and its rays swept along the avenue of awed spectators through the middle trilithon and fell upon the Altar stone. Regular visitors say it was the finest sunrise for a generation.’

In proof that the endless media contradictions we experience these days are themselves endless, the Gloucestershire Echo begged to disagree. If not throwing cold water on the festivities then at least douseing them in fog. Beneath the headline ‘Mist Took Over at Stonehenge’ they reported:

‘More than 800 people waited at Stonehenge this morning — the longest day of the year — to see the mid-summer sun-rise spectacle of the first rays of the sun striking the altar stone. Mist, however, prevented half of the spectacle being seen. The sun rose directly behind the Hele stone, but the mist stopped the first rays striking the altar stone.’

Later in the year, further disappointment struck. The November 10th edition of the Hull Daily Mail announced that Stonehenge expert Mr Frank Stevens, an antiquary, archaeologist and author, had died in a nursing home at Salisbury the previous night aged 81. Recognised as an authority on Stonehenge and Old Sarum one feels obliged to report upon his area of speciality.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Family album Stonehenge photo, 1949.
© Always Worth Saying 2023, Going Postal


Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments. Located in Wiltshire it consists of a ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing approximately 25 tons. Stonehenge was constructed in several stages, with the earliest known structure believed to be a circular earthwork henge erected around 3100 BC. The iconic stone structure that we associate with Stonehenge was built in several stages from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

The function of Stonehenge is not entirely clear, with hypotheses ranging from an astronomical observatory, a religious site, a place of healing, to a space for social gatherings or a memorial for the dead. One of the most remarkable aspects of Stonehenge is its alignment with the solstices. The stones are positioned to frame the sunrise at the summer solstice and the sunset at the winter solstice, suggesting that the builders had a sophisticated understanding of the movements of the sun.

The stones can be divided into two main types: the larger sarsens and the smaller bluestones. The sarsens were sourced from nearby Marlborough Downs, while the bluestones are believed to have been transported from the Preseli Hills in Wales, over 150 miles away. Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is legally protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It has become an icon of British cultural identity and prehistoric engineering.

Ongoing research and archaeological excavations continue to provide insights into the construction techniques and the people who built Stonehenge. Recent discoveries have included evidence of nearby settlement areas and burials. Today, Stonehenge is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore the site and the surrounding landscape, which includes numerous other prehistoric monuments. Despite its fame and the extensive study it has undergone, Stonehenge remains enshrouded in mystery, with many of its secrets still buried in the prehistoric past.

Stonehenge in 1949 was a period during which the ancient site was already recognized as a cultural and archaeological treasure, although the management and preservation methods were different from today’s standards. By this time, Stonehenge had been studied for several centuries, and its origins and purpose had been a matter of speculation and research among historians and archaeologists.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Stonehenge from the air in 1906.
Stonehenge, 1906, from a Royal Engineers’ tethered balloon,
2nd Lt Philip Henry Sharpe
Public domain

In the early 20th century, Stonehenge was privately owned by Sir Cecil Chubb, who then gifted it to the British government in 1918. By 1949, the site was under the guardianship of the Ministry of Works, which was responsible for the conservation and care of historical sites across Britain.

Post-World War II, there was a growing public interest in historical sites such as Stonehenge. However, the infrastructure for tourism was not as developed as it is today. The site was more accessible to visitors than it had been in previous centuries, but without the strict regulatory measures that now protect the stones from damage. Visitors in 1949 could walk among the stones and touch them, which is restricted in current times to preserve the monument.

In terms of the archaeological understanding of Stonehenge in 1949, it was a period before the advent of modern dating techniques such as radiocarbon dating, which would later refine the timeline of its construction and usage. Thus, while it was recognized as a prehistoric site, many of its secrets remained locked in its massive stones, awaiting the technological advancements of the later 20th century to be more fully understood.

As for the A303…

The A303 is a major road in southern England, running from Basingstoke in Hampshire to Honiton in Devon. It is a primary route for travellers heading to the South West of England, particularly those going to and from London. The road is approximately 93 miles long and passes through several counties.

The Stonehenge Tunnel is a proposed infrastructure project intended to alleviate traffic congestion around the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The plan is supposed to include constructing a one-mile sixty-chain-long tunnel, with the A303 road that currently passes very close to the Stonehenge monument being rerouted through it.

The aim of the tunnel is to restore the landscape around the prehistoric monument, reduce visual intrusion, decrease noise pollution and improve air quality. Proponents argue that it would also improve the visitor experience and provide a boost to the local economy by easing traffic flow in the region.

However, the project has been the subject of controversy and debate. Archaeologists and other opponents have expressed concerns about the potential damage to the wider archaeological landscape, which is rich in buried Neolithic and Bronze Age remains. They fear that the construction could disturb undiscovered artefacts and harm the integrity of the site. There have been legal challenges, and the planning process has faced numerous hurdles over the years. At the moment the tunnel still hasn’t been built and is the victim of endless legal wrangles.

Not just on the A303…

Stonehenge is believed to be an epicentre of earth-energy, with as many as 14 ley lines converging on the site. Ley lines are straight alignments of powerful energy channels that connect places of ancient and primordial significance across the country. The concept was first introduced by amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins in 1921 when he noticed that ancient sites at various points across the British landscape seemed to be aligned. He proposed that these alignments were ancient trade routes or pathways.

The term ‘ley line’ originates from the term ‘ley’, which Watkins believed was an old English word meaning ‘cleared strip of ground’ or ‘meadow’. His theory was that these lines and their intersection points were significant for navigation and travel in Neolithic times. Since then, ley lines have been embraced by other theories and beliefs, including those in the New Age and metaphysical communities, who often ascribe mystical and spiritual significance to them, suggesting that they mark alignments of the earth’s energies. However, the existence of ley lines as carriers of a mystical energy force is not supported by mainstream science.

Believers suggest a powerful energy is given off by Stonehenge which could be the reason the ancients were able to transport some stones all the way from South Wales. The guff explains that you can experience and track the ley lines of Stonehenge by ‘drowsing’, which one assumes to be a mis-spelling of dowsing, as with sticks. In case you’re tempted to think all of this is tosh, after the Royal Engineers my father embarked on a career in construction during which he swore by dowsing. So do I. Weeks from now when the weather improves you will see me in the back garden with my sticks finding the overgrown hole where the whirly drier goes, as a baffled but impressed Mrs AWS looks on.

One of the ley lines attributed to the route of the A303 is part of St Michael’s triangle. Again according to the guff, a triangle can be drawn from Stonehenge to St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and Mont-San-Michel in Normandy with the distances between the two St Micheals and Stonehenge being equal. Once more, before you mock, I have measured up on Google Maps and that appears to be the case.

In the modern day

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
From the same angle in the modern day
© Google Street View 2023,

In the modern day, also via the miracle of Google, we can line ourselves up with the old photograph. My grandparents were pointing west as their shutter clicked. These days a small wire fence sits before an ancient ditch to keep visitors a distance from the stones. Apart from that, all is similar. One assumes the stone lying flat to be the famous Altar stone. You can have a look around here. If Puffins spot an unfinished Bailey Bridge connecting nowhere to nowhere with an accompanying queue of tanks – imaginary or otherwise – you know who to blame.

© Always Worth Saying 2024