So the government has decided not to go ahead with a contribution to the Stone Henge visitors centre. Obviously there will be howls of anguish but really, who cares? Stone Henge is there and it has a road running past it. If you want to see Stone Henge drive past it. I think there’s a car park there too so you can stop if you want.
But that’s not good enough for some people. They say we need a visitors centre. A visitors centre? Consider what that means. Consider all the other visitors centres you’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. A visitors centre is a themed set of shops and restaurants. It’s a mini shopping mall. If you want to visit a themed shopping mall go to Heathrow Airport but don’t insist that a prehistoric wonder requires an outlet of Star Bucks – it doesn’t.
I imagine that the driving force behind these centres are the retailers who will have captive markets. I notice that the plan is to place the visitors centre around a mile away from the stones and to eradicate the current road running past the stones. Probably there will be some bloody buses or a light railway to take people from the stones tot he centre. The obvious aim is to stop anyone seeing the stones without paying to get into the centre and be lured into the shops selling Stone Henge calenders and druid T-Shirts.
We don’t need this damn commercialism! We don’t need a branch of McDonalds at every tourist attraction. A Human being can live for about three days without water and weeks without food. The aboriginal people of Australia roamed the land and survived on what they found there. The prehistoric people who built Stone Henge had no access to sandwiches in polythene bags or coffee with warning labels or toilets with the constant sound of hand dryers.
You don’t need to buy refreshment. If you want refreshment go to the local mall. If you want to see a prehistoric wonder, get your cagoule on and take a walk over to the stones. Take a thermos flask with you and have a cup of tea while you’re there.
But please let’s not concrete over yet more of the countryside in the name of heritage.