I would see it in the distance, close enough for it to look interesting but not close enough to appreciate the scale and incongruity. I would have been about six years old the first time. We were on our way to Salisbury, Saturday morning shopping trip.
“What’s all those big stones for Dad?”
“Ancient Britons put them there .”
“What are they for?”
“No one knows.”
“Can we go and see them?”
“Not today. We’re going shopping today.”
I asked a a couple more times on later trips but invariably our schedule was prefixed and immutable. I lost interest, we moved two hundred miles north, the tantalising glimpses soon tucked away in a dusty corner of my mind.
My father being a military man meant we moved every two or three years and at the age of fourteen I was excited to be told we were moving back to the area. I’d recently seen a TV program explaining that the stones had been transported an immense distance, thousands of years ago. Their purpose was probably religious and astrological. These explanations seemed both wondrous and implausible. The alternatives of magic or aliens seemed equally possible and more appealing to a young teenager. I stated my urgent need to visit the stones and managed to infect my parents to a small degree with excitement at the prospect.
I wish we had a record of the visit! At the time it was a minor excursion, to my parents anyway. No thought of digging out the Kodak Brownie, what with the cost of film and developing. That was only for special occasions.
It must have been Spring. A sunny morning, cool, crisp air but warm in the sunshine on an almost windless day. We arrived in my father’s rusty old Jag, a sparsely gravelled strip along the side of the road provided parking. Before getting out of the car I was impressed, intimidated, intensely curious. There was a rickety fence separating us from the grassy slope leading up to the stones.
“We’ve got to pay!” said my father indignantly, “One and sixpence each!” For a moment I was dismayed, then noticed my father smiling.
The entrance was marked with a tired looking wooden shed with a fold down front. A very old man, at least sixty I thought, sat behind a selection of key chains, pencils, booklets and the like.
“Two adults and a child please,” requested my father pleasantly. Horrified I noticed the child price of sixpence up to the age of twelve on the chalk board. I tried to look small. And younger. The very old man smiled at my father and winked at me while he unrolled and tore off the requested tickets.
Dashing ahead, up the slope, I was impatient to be amongst the stones at last. I slowed to a respectful walk as I passed between two massive monoliths. The true scale was now revealed. I felt insignificant in both stature and time. These huge boulders had been dragged hundreds of miles and erected here by stone age man. How was that remotely possible without modern technology? The events and history that these stones had witnessed… Already thousands of years old when the Romans arrived, and that was thousands of years ago. I walked among them as the stone age men and Romans had done. I touched them, ignored the “Please don’t climb on the stones” sign, climbed on them. They emanated a brooding antiquity. They had presence. I was fascinated and enchanted by them. And that’s something that’s stayed with me to this day.
I was working on something that needed me to do a fair bit of delicate wood shaping. I’d got myself suitably tooled up for the project and it was quite a satisfying experience. So. I decided to carve Stonehenge out of a surplus six foot plank of wood.
I felt my skills were more artisan than artistic, perhaps inadequate for the accurate 3D depiction I had in mind. To enable a more predictable outcome I downloaded a 3D model of Stonehenge into Sketchup, a 3D design program. Using this I was able to play around with the viewpoint and then create a grey scale image. From this I printed a suitably proportioned copy to paste to the plank of wood. It was the 3D carving equivalent of a colouring book and crayons.
Carved, sanded, stained, waxed, polished. Back illuminated with LED strip. It’s quite striking and seems to impress visitors who marvel at my artistic ability. What a fraud I am! Just a colouring book artist.