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Summer Solstice At Stonehenge Coincides With Strawberry Moon As Thousands Gather In Celebration

Sleeping bags and pets were also banned.

21/06/2016 09:24 | Updated 21 June 2016

Thousands of people attended Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge overnight to mark the longest day of the year.

English heritage said that around 12,000 people visited the historic Wiltshire site to witness the sunrise at 4.52am - only around half the 25,000 expected and the 23,000 who attended last year, according to the Press Association.

A spokesman told the BBC that the lower attendance was caused by the event falling on a weekday and not because of an alcohol and drugs ban. Sleeping bags and pets were not allowed at the site.

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    People gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to see in the new dawn after this year's Summer Solstice.
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    A poi performer spins light balls as people gather.
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    Dawn begins to break at Stonehenge in Wiltshire during this year's Summer Solstice.
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    The Sun rises through the stones.
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    Solstice attendees capture photos of the sun as it rises.
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    Members of the public take part in a yoga class.
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    ice
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    lisbury
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    Drummers play in front of Stonehenge.
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    Members of the public touch the Heel stone as they see in the new dawn.
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    Druids at the event.
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    Memebers fo the public make their way back to the car park.

Wiltshire Police said that the event was "safe and peaceful" with attendees celebrating in a "positive, friendly atmosphere".

The force said a 24-year-old man arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and a 33-year-old woman from Burford was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. One man was also given a fixed penalty notice for a drug offence.

The event also coincided with a Strawberry Moon, a full moon which marks the start of the strawberry season.

It's the first time a Strawberry Moon has coincided with the Summer Solstice for almost 50 years.

The Summer Solstice is often considered to mark the start of summer.

The reason we get long summer days is because the Earth’s axis is tilted towards the sun. During winter the opposite is true, which is why we get shorter days. 

The Solstice has links to many ancient cultural practices. Although it varies between cultures it has been celebrated as being symbolic of fertility and harvest.

Up to 400 people marked the solstice at Avebury, where there were no arrests.

Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago. Recent pagan celebrations at the site began in the 20th century.

More than a million people flock to Stonehenge every year, with thousands attending ceremonies to mark the solstices in summer and winter.

Superintendent Mark Sellers said: "The policing operation this year focused on protecting the monument and environment by maintaining the integrity of the road network, minimising any impact on local communities and ultimately supporting English Heritage to ensure a safe and peaceful event for all.

"With an event of this size and nature, a large amount of traffic is inevitable but our forward planning with Wiltshire Council, security staff and stewards, the Highways Agency and English Heritage meant that any issues were dealt with effectively.

"These changes for Solstice 2016 have proved a great success, with people celebrating at Stonehenge in a positive, friendly atmosphere as they waited for the sunrise."

The generally clear whether was in marked contrast to the heavy rain across much of the UK yesterday.

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