Several years ago, I read the novel, “Salisbury”, by Edmund Rutherford, and since then visiting Stonehenge had always been on my bucket list. This past summer I was able to realize that dream as we traveled to England to see Stonehenge and a lot more of the country of England.
In the meantime, while I awaited our trip of a lifetime, I was able to enjoy Stonehenge on a smaller scale, right here in my own hometown. And I have been back since our trip with a newer understanding and appreciation of both Stonehenges (not sure what the plural of Stonehenge should be!)
Our Stonehenge in, Rolla, MO, sits among modern buildings.
My hometown Stonehenge, constructed on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology, is a half scale partial reconstruction of the original in England. Its ring has a diameter of fifty feet with 29 1/2 sarsen stones that surround a horseshoe of five trilithons. Sunrise and sunset can be seen through these trilithons, which one depends on the season of the year.
Sunrise through the southeast trilithon at Stonehenge MST
There are two features that have been added to our Stonehenge that are not part of Stonehenge in England. One is the addition of an analemma, a figure 8 carved in stones that lie behind the south facing trilithon. Each day at noon, the sun, if is it shining, casts a light through a small opening in the trilithon onto the figure 8 which corresponds to that day’s date.
The analemma behind the south facing trilithon
The second feature of the Stonehenge MST that is not found on the original is the Polaris Window found on the north facing trilithon. On a clear night, a visitor will be able to observe the location of the North Star through this window.
The Polaris Window in the north facing trilithon.
I was so excited about seeing the original, the authentic Stonehenge, and it did not disappoint. Stonehenge lies out in the English countryside, and the trip there was all by itself, a real treat.
Sometimes, when you travel to a site you have looked forward to seeing for a very long time, you find you are somewhat disappointed…you have, after all, seen that place many times, depicted in many formats, and now here it is, and it is just as you had seen it pictured so often. This was not true of Stonehenge.
Of course I had seen pictures of Stonehenge many times, from many angles, but it is not the same as seeing it up close and realizing that men, not machines, were responsible for its construction. I understood that even before the bus took our group out to the site. There is a huge stone on rollers at the bus platform. It is hard to fathom how any group of men could have moved a stone weighing somewhere in the area of 40 tons to another spot, let alone then standing it on its end!
A sarsen stone on rollers…the method used to move the stones that became part of Stonehenge.
And then you finally arrive at Stonehenge. I will leave you to discover the specifics of its physical properties and the purposes for its construction with your own research. My intent in this post is to express its impact, its meaning to me as I walked on the path around it.
Stonehenge is a magical, and for me, a very mystical place. I was struck by its size, and by the sheer strength and intense work its construction must have entailed. I was amazed at the mathematical understanding of the planners and the builders, who were able, in 2300 B.C., to put up a structure of such magnitude. I was intrigued by the religious significance of Stonehenge, and the religious beliefs of the people who gathered at this important site. And it was so old, and still so solid, so substantial, so permanent.
There is a stone a bit away from Stonehenge, called the Heel Stone. It is believed that this half buried stone, may have been there before any building began, indeed it may have been the reason the builders chose this particular spot to build Stonehenge. It is over the Heel Stone that you will see the rising midsummer sun.
The Heel Stone at Stonehenge
And then you see them, the gatekeepers of Stonehenge, the rooks.
Rooks are fairly large black birds, and they are everywhere around the Stonehenge structure. They do not appear to be afraid of people, and often seem to be staring down the visitors at the site. They nest in the sarsens of Stonehenge, and they were an experience I had not expected.
A rook “standing guard” atop the Heel Stone.
Rooks flying off a trilithon at Stonehenge.
Another unexpected treat on our visit was the reconstructed neolithic buildings at the visitor center. The small village gave us all a look into the lives of the people who lived in the area, and who would have gathered at Stonehenge.
the reconstruction of a small visit depicting life in the time of Stonehenge.
Inside a village hut
Items that would have been used by the people of Stonehange.
Stonehenge is a marvelous place, and our little Stonehenge here in Rolla is also worth a visit!
While we were in England, I insisted that we have afternoon tea. All the family looked at me as if I was crazy…I absolutely do not like tea! But if you are in England, well…I was introduced to really good black tea at Harrod’s, and ever since I have enjoyed tea very much. Apparently I don’t like the tea here in the states, in a tea bag…my daughter calls me a “tea snob”.
I purchased a small cookbook, “Tea Fit For A Queen” written in association with the Historic Royal Palaces. In it I found a wonderful recipe for shortbread that goes perfectly with my afternoon tea. I have changed all the recipe amounts to the measures we use here in the United States. Enjoy!
- 1 stick + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 c. caster sugar, plus extra for dusting*
- 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 c. ground almonds
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, and lightly grease an 8″ round pan.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium low speed until light and creamy.
- Sift in the flour and cornstarch, then add the ground almonds to the bowl.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture on low speed.
- Press the mixture evenly into the greased pan.
- Press a knife edge or fork along the round edge to make a pattern on the shortbread, then score into eight wedges and prick all over with a fork.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and score the shortbread again.
- Continue baking for 30-40 minutes or until golden around the edges.
- Dust with additional sugar. Cool in pan.
This shortbread can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container.
*Caster sugar is very finely granulated sugar. It is not easily found in the United States, but you can make your own caster sugar by pulsing regular granulated sugar until it appears sand like. Do not pulse too far, or you will end up with confectioner’s sugar!