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Winter solstice: When is the shortest day and why are mornings still dark afterwards?

The winter solstice occurs at the moment when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun, giving us the shortest day of the year. (Metro U.K)

solstice-21

Druids celebrating the winter solstice at Stonehenge (Picture: Getty)

It happens at the same moment for everyone around the world. This year, in the UK it’s happening at 10:44 GMT on Wednesday 21st December.

It falls on a different date each time – between 21 and 23 December, thanks to the fact that the 365-day year is actually 365 days, five hours and 45 seconds long.

The solstice occurs around six hours later each year, meaning the date gradually adjusts over time. Each leap year, the date jumps back to December 21 and we begin again.

solstice-aerial.png

The average duration of a year is approximately 365 days five hours 48 minutes and 45 seconds,’ Dr Somak Raychaudhury, Reader in Astrophysics at Birmingham University told the BBC.

‘Even this varies by a few seconds every year, since the Earth’s motion is not just caused by the Sun’s pull of gravity.

‘It is perturbed by the pull of the planets and moons in the Solar System. The relative positions of these change from year to year.’

How much daylight will we get on the shortest day?

On 21 December, the sun will rise in the UK at 8:04am and set at 3:45pm. This gives us just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

Where does the winter solstice come from?

Tracking the sun’s yearly progress dates back to the earliest people on Earth, who knew that its path across the sky, amount of daylight and location of the sunrise and sunset changed according to a regular pattern throughout the year.

Monuments such as Stonehenge in England and Machu Picchu in Peru were built to track the sun’s progress over the course of the year.

The winter solstice was seen as especially important in the past, as people were economically dependent on the seasons, with starvation a common occurrence in the early months of winter.

Is the winter solstice linked to Christmas trees?

Winter solstice customs led to the Christmas tree becoming a major symbol. The Druids used evergreen trees, holly and mistletoe to symbolise everlasting life during their winter solstice rituals.

Centuries before the time of Jesus, cultures brought plants and leaves into their homes when the winter solstice arrived to celebrate the return of life at the start of winter’s decline.

Why are mornings still dark after the solstice?

The mornings remain dark until January due to a formula called the Equation of Time.

The equation explains how solar time, which is measured on sundials, differs from clock time.

Because the Earth’s axis is tilted, and its orbit is the shape of an oval, the two times don’t always match – they can be as much as 16 minutes out of sync.

Solar noon – when the sun is at its highest in the sky – isn’t always the same time as noon according to clock time.

As the Earth moves faster in the part of its orbit where it’s nearest to the sun – which comes after the winter solstice – this increased speed pushes the solar noon back, causing winter sunrise time to stand still for a few days.

In other words, the sunrise is ‘hanging’ during the late December – early January period, making mornings remain darker for a bit longer.

When’s the next solstice?

The summer solstice is on Wednesday 21 June 2017.

The Stonehenge Travel Company based in Salisbury are offering a guided tour with a local expert on the 21st December 2016. Witness the sun setting on the shortest day of the year and hear why Stonehenge is astronomically aligned.  Their exclusive small group Stonehenge Winter Solstice sunset tour departs from Salisbury.

The Stonehenge Experts
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

From Royal Artillery to Salisbury Plain Heritage – first look at Wiltshire’s new tourist attraction

royal-artillary

Architects’ plan for the Salisbury Plain Heritage Centre

With a tank under a huge free-standing roof, and rigid military-like blocks, this is the first view of what a new museum for the Royal Artillery could look like in Wiltshire.

Museum bosses say that the new museum will expand to tell the story of Salisbury Plain’s military history, natural heritage and archaeology, as well as the 300-year history of the Royal Artillery, and will hope for a boost from being just six minutes away from Stonehenge and its million visitors a year.

It was announced two years ago that the present museum, currently called Firepower, would have to move from its home in Woolwich after failing to hit of getting 200,000 visitors a year. A year ago, it was announced that the museum would move to Larkhill, as part of a major movement of troops to the new super-garrison around Larkhill, Bulford and Tidworth, near Amesbury.

Council chiefs here welcomed the move, and the 50 jobs it could create, and now the museum’s bosses have announced the museum will be called the ‘Salisbury Plain Heritage Centre‘, and that they have appointed contractors Arup to build the museum to this futuristic design from architects Purcell.

“The building is designed to capture dramatic views over the gallery spaces,” said a spokesman. “It will look out over 22km of open countryside, just six minutes from the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge. The new museum will complement the unique environment of the Salisbury Plain. The new attraction will secure the future of the collection and contribute to the economic vitality of Wiltshire.

“The next stage of the project is to develop the design for a planning submission in early 2017. Once complete, SPHC will showcase a nationally important collection which tells the 300 year old story of the Gunners – and of the 2.5 million men and women of the regiment– in an interactive manner. This collection will feature alongside exhibits that detail the ecology, archaeology and history of Salisbury Plain.

“Visitors of all ages and backgrounds will be engaged by live interpretation and re-enactments, firing demonstrations, interactive displays and temporary exhibitions. Learning programmes and resources will cater for school groups, academic organisations, families and lifelong learning,” he added.

Arup’s project manager Daniel Birch added: “This really is a team effort. We are working closely with RAML and Purcell to produce a design for the museum that will allow it to sit sympathetically in this unique site of ecological and archaeological importance. We are excited to be part of such a unique project and to help realise this vision.”

Article source: By TristanCork  Western Daily Press

 

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Harry Potter set, Gothic cathedral and an Iron Age village: 10 reasons to visit Wiltshire

THIS beautiful leafy county has more to offer than the historic site of Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument built from gigantic stone slabs around 5000 years ago [GETTY]

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument built from gigantic stone slabs around 5000 years ago [GETTY]

1. Wonder at world-famous Stonehenge. The mysterious, magical stone circle dates back to 3100 BC and now has a revamped visitor’s centre to help bring history to life. english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/Stonehenge

2. Climb the 332 steps to the top of Salisbury Cathedral tower for a great view. Salisbury’s pointy gothic cathedral has the tallest tower in Britain.

3. Meet a real film star. Picturesque Lacock village is a firm favourite with film and TV producers. The village’s historic buildings have starred in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Cranford and in screen in the Harry Potter film, The Half-Blood Prince and Wolfman.

4. Take the family on a day trip to the Iron Age settlement of Old Sarum. Just two miles from Salisbury, it marks the site of the original cathedral and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark on the fort. The gift shop even sells wooden bows and arrow too to take you back in time. english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-sarum

5. Shop in Kate Middleton’s former neighbourhood. Marlborough is where she went to school and the market centre boasts great tea shops and an interesting selection of independent and interesting upmarket shops.

6. Go back in time to see the oldest working steam engines in the world at Crofton Beam Engines where the 200-year-old engines pump water to the highest point of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Marvel at the historic architecture and picnic in the grounds. croftonbeamengines.org/index.html

7. Discover the walled garden or take the kids to learn to climb a tree and be amazed by the world-famous Stourhead gardens which have been stunning visitors since they first opened in the 1740s. nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

8. Enjoy a cruise along the canal at Bradford on Avon. Barge trips leave from the lock, just outside the town centre, all year round. visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/towns-and-villages/bradford-on-avon-and-trowbridge

9. Tuck into pheasant, smoked salmon and traditional desserts of rhubarb or sticky toffee pudding at the recently revamped Methuen Arms in Corsham, just eight miles from Bath.

10. Walk the footpath up to Chernhill Down to come face to face with the giant white horse carved on the edge of the hill. The chalk horse was cut in 1780 and you’ll find it off the A4 just east of the village of Cherhill.

Full article By: Anne Gorringe:  http://www.express.co.uk/travel/shortbreaks/473383/10-things-to-do-in-Wiltshire

Link: www.VisitWiltshire.co.uk

Join us on a guided tour from Salisbury and explore historic Wiltshire

The Stonehenge Travel Company
Mystical Landscape, magical Tours

 

 

Stonehenge: no more going round in circles

After decades of delay, Stonehenge’s new visitor centre finally opens to tourists today. So has it been worth the wait? Simon Calder takes a tour round this gateway to the Neolithic past

Stonehenge 2013

Stonehenge 2013


The ancients might be amused that the problem of “What shall we do with Stonehenge?” has lasted about as long as Neolithic man took to construct England’s emblem in the first place. Conflict between the preservation of this astonishing temple to the sun and the demands of tourists, motorists and the military is as old as the Wiltshire downs. But from this morning, the struggle may be over.

“Standing here now it is hard to describe the feeling of relief, excitement and elation that I feel,” says Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage.

“Here” is the new visitor centre, gateway to the nation’s most significant ancient site. Late Neolithic man bequeathed us the only lintelled prehistoric stone circle in the world – and the lintels are responsible for the allure. While Scotland has more impressive stone circles, at Callanish on Lewis and Brodgar on Orkney, the structure here resembles a series of doors that invites the onlooker to gaze in on the past. But how to make sense of it all? Interpretation for the million-plus annual visitors to Stonehenge has, up to now, been dismal.

Among the many planning outrages that were being perpetrated in the Sixties, Stonehenge escaped relatively lightly. While Euston station was being demolished and Plymouth city centre was being constructed, the 4,500-year-old circle of English “sarsen” stones and Welsh bluestone was given a 1968 upgrade of its own. The quasi-military bunker has served, for 45 years, as a visitor centre in the loosest sense of the term. Hemmed in by car and coach parks, it felt like a suburban muddle rather than a gateway to the past – more Penge than henge. Its doors closed yesterday, thank goodness, and from this morning the site will be treated with more dignity.

The elegant new visitor centre is a post-modern solution to a prehistoric problem. It is the heart of a much-delayed £27m package of improvements designed to rescue the temple complex from centuries of abuse. The director pronounces herself “hugely pleased” with the results. “It’s such a beautiful building that sits so well in the landscape,” says Loraine Knowles.

Were I called upon to sum up the design in three words, they would be “Nordic airport terminal”. Which suggests either that the needle-thin columns soaring to perforated eaves like a deconstructed Rubik’s Cube are a touch adventurous for Wiltshire, or that I have spent too long hanging around Tromso and Turku. The materials, though, are strictly local.

The platform upon which the new tourist temple sits has travelled far less distance than the stones – it is a limestone raft quarried near Salisbury. And the wooden benches in the light, spacious café look as though they may have been purloined from the branch of Wagamama in the same city. But high-spec furnishings are the least you’d expect after paying £14.90 to get in – up from £8 since yesterday.

After experiencing the breathtaking new exhibits on the south side of the terminal – sorry, visitor centre – however, you will probably judge the 86 per cent admission hike to be fair. Expertise, electronics and hard cash have combined to explain the Stonehenge saga eloquently.

Over a few centuries, archaeologists’ understanding of the “what”, “when”, “how” and “why” of Stonehenge has steadily refined – but until the 21st century the notion of “who” has been as opaque as the morning mist.

“In the past 10 years, our understanding of Stonehenge has been revolutionised,” says Simon Thurley.

Today, the visitor gets to stand amid a virtual stone circle at the start of the exhibition area, as projectors play a continuous cycle through the seasons of Stonehenge, catching the rising sun on the summer solstice and the setting sun of midwinter. Then the scale of the sacred engineering is explained: 35-ton lumps of ultra-hard sandstone – known as sarsen – were dragged south from the Marlborough Downs, while smaller slabs of bluestone were fetched from the Preseli Hills in west Wales, 150 miles away.

The building of a temple, initially for cremation ceremonies, was carried out with only the most rudimentary of tools; antlers were a favourite for earthworks.

But what did the builders of Stonehenge look like? English Heritage has commissioned a best guess. A Swedish expert in forensic reconstruction has created a handsome, bearded head from studying a skull found on the site.

The final element of the visitor centre is an area for temporary exhibitions – the first of which is an enchanting account of how Stonehenge has been interpreted over the centuries. Medieval man believed it to be a marvel brought by Merlin from Ireland. The circle was also attributed over the centuries to Romans and Druids, before finally being marked down as the work of good-natured ancient Britons.

The visitor centre is opening just in time for this Saturday’s winter solstice – and not a moment too soon for anyone, such as Dr Thurley, who agrees that the presentation of Stonehenge has been “a national disgrace”. That was the term used by the Public Account Committee 20 years ago. Since then, successive governments have come up with a range of proposals that typically involve doing to the A303 what Neolithic man did to the deceased: bury it in the downland.

The main road between London and the South-West still rumbles above ground, 200 yards south of the stone circle, but at least the A344 has closed. Previously, the short-cut from Amesbury to Warminster tore along the northern flank, but now the two-mile highway is no more. The busy junction with the A303 has been grassed over, a mere 29 years after Lord Montagu, the first chairman of English Heritage, called for its closure.

The former roadway has been put to use to provide access to the stones. Tourists are towed to the periphery aboard the sort of sightseeing shuttle normally found at the seaside.

If you book an early-morning or after-hours tour with English Heritage, you can enjoy a gratifying close-up of ancient Britain. Daytime visitors are kept at much more than arm’s length. But that distant encounter is at last properly poignant. “It allows us to reunite the stones with the grass downland,” says Dr Thurley.

The low roar from the A303 may still be too close for comfort, but no longer is the ancient stone circle trapped in the headlights of progress.

Travel essentials

Getting there

By road, the new visitor centre is a mile north of the A303 on the A360; the postcode is SP3 4DX.

The nearest station is Salisbury, on the London-Exeter and Bristol-Southampton lines. Buses run to Stonehenge.

Getting in

The site opens 9.30am-5pm daily, though over Christmas and the New Year there are some shorter hours and closures; see bit.ly/GoStone. That is also the place to make advance bookings, which English Heritage says will be mandatory from 1 February. The advance adult admission is £13.90, or £14.90 for walk-up arrivals.

Aricle by Simon Calder : http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/stonehenge-no-more-going-round-in-circles-9011327.html

Join us on a private access tour of Stonehenge from Salisbury

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, Wiltshre
The Stonehenge Experts

 

Experience sunset from within the inner circle of Stonehenge. A truly magical experience!

Go beyond the fences in 2014 on our legendary Magical Tour……

What better way to experience the magic and mystery of Stonehenge than with a private viewing at sunset. On our exclusive small group guided tours from Salisbury, visitors will be able to access the historic stone circle, and explore the surrounding area rich in history, myths and legends

“Experiencing the inner circle of Stonehenge at Sunset is a unique and, for many, a magical and moving experience”

Magical Tour Highlights:

  • Experience Stonehenge at Sunset from within the Inner Circle
    Expert local Stonehenge guide and small group guaranteed
    King Arthurs Avalon including Glastonbury Tor, Glastonbury Abbey and Challice Springs                 Walking Tour of Avebury Stone Circle
    Drive through the Warminster Triangle and see mysterious Wiltshire crop Circles
    West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill
    Walk the Stonehenge Avenue
    Learn how to Dowse and here about the many Ley Lines

On this tour we discover the myths and legends of King Arthur, the stories behind this famous British hero. We depart from Salisbury, Wiltshire (approx. 10am) Stonehenge sunset tourand travel through  the spectacular west country of England and travel to the mystical Isle of Avalon, allowing time to walk up Glastonbury Tor for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

We will visit the vibrant, bustling town of Glastonbury to visit the Abbey and Arthur and Guinevere”s grave site. There will be time for lunch among the New Age shops and quirky little boutiques. Then, for the later part of the afternoon we move on to the ancient complex of Avebury, truly a giant among stone circles. The largest collection of Neolithic monuments in England, we spend the final part of the tour being guided around the huge stone rings of Avebury and see the mysterious Silbury Hill, Europe’s tallest prehistoric man made monument.

We end the day by heading back through the ancient Kingdom of Wessex and onwards to Stonehenge visiting and mysterious crop circles on-route. This landscape is peppered with burial chambers and stone circles, each one thousands of years old and rising above all of them on Salisbury Plain is Stonehenge. With 5,000 years of history our expert guide will explain what we now know, and then reveal theories and ideas that still have historians debating right up to today. Astronomical clock, calendar, place of worship, burial site for the elite? You can ponder the theories as you walk amongst the stones and experience sunset from with the inner circle

“A person only has so many great moments in life. You know the kind of moments I’m talking about; the ones where time moves slowly, everything feels amazing, and you walk away with a sense of awe. You will have such moment on our Stonehenge sunset tour.”

Click here to view this tour: http://stonehengetravel.co.uk/sunset-experience-stonehenge-inner-circle.htm

Stonehenge Travel Co, Salisbury

Best attraction Award for Stonehenge

STONEHENGE has been rated as one of the UK’s best tourist attractions by customers of Irish bus tour operator, CIE Tours International.

Karin Gidlund, from CIE Tours International (centre left), hands over the award to Jon Bichener, Stonehenge retail manager (left) and Stonehenge property supervisors Anneka Harris (centre right) and Kevin Barber (right).

Karin Gidlund, from CIE Tours International (centre left), hands over the award to Jon Bichener, Stonehenge retail manager (left) and Stonehenge property supervisors Anneka Harris (centre right) and Kevin Barber (right).

The award acknowledges customer satisfaction of 90 per cent or over, based on feedback from those visiting the ancient stones.

Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge for English Heritage, said: “We are so thrilled to have received this award given our current limited facilities, and therefore it is a real pat on the back for the high standards of service offered by our team to our customers.

With the completion of our new visitor facilities just a few months away we will be able to offer an even better welcome in the future.”

Full story in the Salisbury Journal: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/10631514.Award_for_Stonehenge/

Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury

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