The quote about it not being possible to have an emotional experience at Stonehenge anymore came from a book by Peter Wright called ‘Mendip Rambles’; he’s really saying that whatever conditions of entry there are to big national monuments, the most fun and meaningful places are sometimes those that we stumble across ourselves – odd corners, little clues, curious shapes in the landscape: “deep in the quiet countryside, some insignificant or secretive relic can rock you”. He goes on to say “the loss of any of these places diminishes us, for they [like folk-songs] are our folk-memory”.
Anyway it’s a lovely old-school, completely personal book of walks (pub. Ex Libris Press, 1989), with excellent, funny writing, bubbling with enthusiasm (though not terribly good maps). You get the idea that Mr Wright would be a brilliant walking companion. Here’s an extract:
“…On your left, opposite the white house, is a stile – don’t hesitate – climb over it. Now a steady rise alongside the wood, over a stile, and continue alongside the fence; notice the old boundary of thorn trees – they are what gnarled means! Another stile! Up and ever onwards, keenly observing in the stream-bank how you no longer walk on grey limestone, but crunched-up Old Red Sandstone. Just one more stile, to find yourself on a clear, if muddy, track. Here is where the sheep and the goats separate; the fainthearted or weary may turn right, to totter desultorily towards the two radio masts; those with high-fibre characters will go left, through the wooden gate to march sturdily up the obvious track which leads to the top, the summit of Black Down, the highest point of the Mendips, 325 metres; 1068 feet.
The triangulation column is set on a tumulus, the only green one among many heather-clad, I wonder why? If the number on the column is not S1516, you’re somewhere else. Don’t panic, just take the opportunity to think of eight gramophone records… Oh look, there’s Chew Valley Lake, and the Quantocks, the Pen Hill mast – grand views from here. There is heather, and I have seen grouse here…”