Summer solstice 2021: Police disperse druids at Stonehenge for breaching Covid rules

21 June 2021, 07:11 | Updated: 21 June 2021, 10:05

People inside the stone circle during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
People inside the stone circle during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Police were forced to disperse a large crowd of druids who travelled to Stonehenge for the summer solstice sunrise despite advice not to.

Images from the scene show hundreds of people gathered inside the stone circle and a banner reading "Standing for Stonehenge".

The neolithic Wiltshire monument had been preparing to welcome visitors in person until the Government delayed the easing of coronavirus restrictions into July.

EXPLAINED: When is the summer solstice 2021? Here's why and how it is celebrated

Thousands tuned in on English Heritage's Facebook page and YouTube but technical problems meant a live feed was not available at 4.52am, when the sun rose.

The feed returned around 5am, but the sunrise was obscured as the skies were cloudy.

Apologising for the outage, host Ed Shires said: "I must say we have been disappointed that a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning and that is the reason why we haven't been able to bring you the pictures that we would have liked to have done.

"It is disappointing to see that happen but unfortunately in those kind of situations we have to put the safety of our staff members first and that's why we have had some interruption this morning.

"We have been told by police that people have now been dispersed and the situation is under control."

Police attend as crowds celebrate during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
Police attend as crowds celebrate during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Picture: PA
People make their way past security staff towards the stones
People make their way past security staff towards the stones. Picture: PA

English Heritage did not elaborate on how the attendance of people at the site prevented them from showing a live feed of the sunrise.

Normally, up to 30,000 people would gather to watch the sun rise over the stones on the longest day of the year, but it was a virtual event for the second consecutive year.

Mr Shires added: "I would like to apologise on behalf of myself and the English Heritage team for the difficulties that we have had this morning.

"It hasn't gone according to plan as you might have guessed by now. We've been doing our very best to bring you the kind of content we know that you wanted and we wanted to as well."

People inside the stone circle
People inside the stone circle. Picture: PA
A woman kisses a stone
A woman kisses a stone. Picture: PA

Meanwhile, police closed off an area near Avebury stone circle over fears the restrictions at Stonehenge would lead people to gather there.

Wiltshire Police posted on social media they had closed off access to part of the Ridgeway following the arrival of a large number of vehicles.

On the summer solstice at Stonehenge when skies are clear, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.