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Heritage and Historic Landscapes are good for you!

Here’s our latest Press Release, created by Jessica Trethowan, Stonehenge PR Manager.

Heritage and Historic Landscapes are good for you!

Photo by Yvette Staelens

“Human Henge: Historic landscapes and mental health at Stonehenge”

  • Ground-breaking project about archaeology, mental health and creativity
  • Cultural therapy through a number of journeys across the Stonehenge World Heritage Site into the world-famous stone circle.

Human Henge is a collaborative project run by the Restoration Trust in partnership with Richmond Fellowship, English Heritage and Bournemouth University with support from the National Trust and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

The project draws on ideas that Stonehenge was once a place of healing and explores the relationship between people, place and the past. It examines whether a creative exploration of historic landscapes can help people with mental health conditions.

Through a programme of participant-led activities, 32 local people living with mental health problems and on low incomes, come together for fun, therapeutic adventures, with experts, carers and support workers in this remarkable and inspiring ancient landscape.

Laura Drysdale, Director of the Restoration Trust says, “We hope that Human Henge will get people doing things they’ve never contemplated before, from star spotting on the cursus, to chanting poetry inside the stone circle, to presenting at conferences, curating an exhibition or publishing a book. That’s the whole Human Henge journey.”

Participant Andria Walton says, “Human Henge is a personal journey of healing for me. I live with emotional health issues, and I feel very comfortable and accepted with this group. It’s meaningful to learn about our ancient cultures, it’s exhilarating being in the open air, it blows away the cobwebs. It’s rejuvenating and revitalising.”

The group is accompanied by curators and artists, archaeologist Professor Tim Darvill, and musician and creative facilitator Yvette Staelens, as they explore the monuments, features and layers of meaning in the Stonehenge landscape, enabled through the participation of English Heritage and the National Trust. Each series of journeys end with a ceremony inside the Stone Circle, collaborating with musician Chartwell Dutiro at Winter Solstice or Spring Equinox. The final activity is devised by the participants in response to their individual and shared experiences on their journey.

Professor Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University said “Human Henge has really opened up new ways of looking at the Stonehenge Landscape and thinking about the way people might have used it and experienced it in the past. By spending time at a selection of the sites around Stonehenge it becomes possible to think about the landscape, the skyscape, and the monuments themselves. We can look at how their form structured the way people approached them and moved around them. Materials such as stone and clay come to life in your hands as you think about their uses and meanings, while sounds help the imagination travel back in time to the world of the early farmers.”

Speaking of one of their journeys in the landscape, one participant said “It was a day of connections, connecting to new people, a new landscape and maybe in some small way our ancestors.”

Another added, “This week was reflective. It was about connecting on a personal level with the landscape by listening to the birds and the wind, feeling the cold, sitting in the grass and being surrounded by these amazing burial monuments.”

“The experience felt completely natural and restorative. Perhaps we were connecting to something beyond us. The stones towering over you remind you of your smallness in this big world, and yet bring you together as part of a wider history with our ancestors.”

Martin Allfrey, Senior Curator of Collections, English Heritage said “We all know that visiting historic sites and engaging with artefacts from the past can be inspiring and fun but we’ve never tried to measure the benefits that historic places can provide for people suffering from mental health issues. We are really pleased that Stonehenge is the focus for this groundbreaking project, which brings together expert researchers from Bournemouth University and local people in Wiltshire. We hope that not only will the project add to the quality of life of those taking part but we also want to share the results widely, promoting a much greater understanding of the health and well-being benefits of engaging with historic places”.

The Human Henge project runs until June 2018. Findings and further questions will be explored and shared through activities, focus groups, exhibitions and conferences.


Notes to editors

  1. Human Henge enables 32 local people living on low income with mental health problems plus carers and volunteers to experience Stonehenge with expert guidance. They create an epic poem and ceremony that affirms the abiding connection between people, place and the past.
  2. Human Henge engages disadvantaged people living in Wiltshire in a therapeutic sensory experience of the World Heritage Site.
  3. Human Henge is a partnership with English Heritage, Richmond Fellowship and Bournemouth University supported by the National Trust and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. The project is also part funded by Wiltshire Council Amesbury Area Board and English Heritage.
  4. About the Restoration Trust: We help people with mental health problems engage with art, culture and heritage; we call it culture therapy. Our life-enhancing projects are partnershipsbetween arts and heritage organisations and organisations that support people with mental health conditions. We research the evidence of what works for wellbeing, and we spread the word about what we do.
  5. Exhibitions at Amesbury Library, Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology and Bournemouth University, and proposed presentations at Theoretical Archaeology Group conference 2017, Culture, Health and Wellbeing international conference 2017 and an international Archaeology and Wellbeing conference 2018 share learning with the public and professionals.
  6. About the Heritage Lottery Fund: From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players’ money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.
  7. For further information, images and interviews, please contact
    Laura Drysdale, Director of The Restoration Trust on mobile 07740 844883 and email

Session 5. Cursus night walk

We met at Woodhenge at 7pm on a chill night, with the night sky partly clouded but stars still visible. Danny had planispheres which you rotate so they show what the night sky will look like at any time of the year, so we looked at them in the bus headlights.  Back in the Richmond Fellowship bus to Larkhill, and then in the dark we walked to the east end of the Cursus. Tim explained the mystery of the sun rising and setting, then rising again back in the east, and how it was explained by the idea that the sun travelled beneath the disc of the earth in the waters beneath. We looked at an image of the Nebra Sky Disc, discovered in Switzerland in 2002, a bronze age description of the night sky. It was found with twin daggers, and there are stories of twins which reflect star twins in the sky and twins accompanying the sun on its underwater journey.

Danny used a laser pointer to show the Pleiades, visible as a loose cluster of stars, and we were a loose cluster of people, wondering how they would have looked more than five thousand years ago. Tim’s ipad was loaded with a astronomical map of the sky as it would have been in 3500 BC, when the Cursus was in use. We couldnt use the big telescope Danny had brought as it was too cloudy.

On one horizon the A303 was a ribbon of white and red light. Someone said it looked like the movement of blood around the body, and you could hear it well. Tim pointed out the distant cleft in the wood, which was 3km away and marked the end of the Cursus. People didn’t stop here and there is little archaeology, they moved from one end of the Cursus to the other, processing.

Then we walked, in the darkness, as the cloud cover grew denser and the stars were less evident. We could not see the milky way, and the air was colder. We gathered at a point before returning, back up the Cursus and then into the bus, back to Woodhenge – and off.

Session 4, Singing and learning with the ancestors

Blog and photos by Jessie Swinburne

This week we connected with the ancestors, through furthering our knowledge from the expertise of Professor Tim Darvill, and through embracing the beautiful, enchanting singing and music of Chartwell. This week was a time to listen, reflect and connect. We walked up to the Cuckoo Stone, and were surprised by Chartwell, in full traditional dress, playing music and singing.

We sat and listened to Chartwell and Tim. It felt a bit like a dream at times, as we thought about our pasts and the ancestry that links us all. Staring at the beautiful bright blue skies, as cliched as that is, made me smile and like the ancestors were some how trying to connect with us.

At 11 am we were silent and reflected on the sacrifices of the men who fought wars that have protected us and allow us to be here and live though our own journeys, whatever they might be…. it was especially memorable for me, being from a military background, as we are sat on the land that is shared with the military, who train hard and still sacrifice themselves for the protection of the country.  This was a nice link to hearing about Zimbabwe and the traditions and beliefs of Chartwell…, who as it turns out is named after a building that Winston Churchill is linked to.. .an odd connection again maybe…






OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe discussed the rocks and I hope a few people felt they had their questions answered, or perhaps more questions were formed that will fuel their energy and engagement with the project. Thanks to everyone, I think the group were at ease this week, and focus for the creative output was generated and I look forward to getting involved in the next week…… as well as wondering about the exciting night walk!!!


Here are some more of Jessie’s beautiful photos























Session 3 Woodland Walk 4th November 2016

Words and photos by Jessica Swinburne

Today we ventured out into the gloomy, soggy not so inspiring weather, but still determined to see, explore and learn about the landscape, ancestors and perhaps about ourselves too….

Lots of rainy looking trees, still their vitality really shone through, rain glistening lusciously, off their leafs..  as a group we stood under the trees and took the luscious beauty in.

We sang and came together in spirit as well as landscape, just as the leafs were falling all around us we sang too “Leafs are falling… autumn winds are calling…”

It felt like the weather didn’t really matter at that point, what was important was that we embraced the moment, we came together and sang together, and shared the fresh air the trees so givingly share with us….Speaking with people it was great to hear that they had shared this moment, that they may have felt bleak this morning but that the walking, the woodland and the singing had raised their mood.

We went on a wood scavenge and shared knowledge about wood, it’s properties, and things that our ancestors might have used wood for. It’s fascinating to think how we have progressed, yet how clever and resourceful our ancestors may have been.

We used the willow we had stripped from the woodland, to hypothesise its uses in previous times, while playing with it making circles, or trying to make musical instruments even! It was energising to be playful with the willow, and embrace silliness, bending it, and sword fighting….

A factual and playful week embracing the rain, and coming together through singing, learning and curiosity about our ancestors. It felt great to be out whatever the weather, connecting with one another.


Session 2. Cursus, barrow, cemetery

Rebecca Williams tells the story in words, Jessica Swinburne does it in pictures.

This week we explored more of the landscape around Stonehenge by looking at barrows. Barrows are burial mounds where the body was placed underneath with grave goods. To start with we handled replicas of some of the objects that have been found inside barrows; these included a bronze axe head, a bronze dagger, gold hair clips and beaker pottery. This led the group to really think about who these people were that were being buried in the barrows. What did these grave goods mean to them? Where had they travelled from? And why was this landscape such a spiritually important place?

We were then given maps and headed out to do some barrow hunting. Our task was to figure out which barrow is which and where they are located. We stood on top of the largest barrow named the Monarch of the Plain. Standing on this barrow with its higher vantage point gave a new perspective to the countryside and the elements we were in. The wind was blowing quite fiercely and although there were breaks in the cloud where the sun shone, it was a cold autumn day. We celebrated this connection to the weather and the changing of the season in a way that maybe our ancestors would have done by singing. The groups’ singing must be improving as this week we did a three part round.

After this we moved towards more barrows and here we caught a glimpse of Stonehenge in the distance. After standing on top of the Monarch of the Plain we began to discuss the barrows as a spiritual place for the dead and should we have stood on one. Questions were discussed such as is doing this disrespectful or are we bringing modern day perceptions of death and burial to ancient monuments? We decided that this time we would not walk on the barrow but sit beside it. Here we took part in a guided meditation session where we had to imagine ourselves walking and meeting somebody. From feedback afterwards it was clear that the barrows inspired many different ideas and feelings in the group with everyone having their own unique experience

This week the session was a lot quieter and more reflective. Everyone was chatting, open and willing to share but it felt more of an individual experience. It was about connecting on a personal level with the landscape by listening to the birds and the wind, feeling the cold, sitting in the grass and being surrounded by these amazing burial monuments.

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Session 1 21 Sept 2016 Stonehenge Education Room/Woodhenge and Durrington Walls

Human Henge started with a group of people who came together for different motives. Some were hoping Human Henge would inspire their creativity, others wanted to connect with the archaeology and history of the landscape, some people wanted to be outside in the countryside and others just wanted to be out. There were strangers, colleagues, acquaintances and friends but one thing we all had in common was uncertainty. This is a project doing new things with new partnerships and finding its way as it goes. No one knew what to expect and yet within an hour we had all found out our names, where we were born and what our creative passions were. We even tried, with reluctance from some, a bit of singing together!

When bundled into the mini bus to take us to a mystery location everyone was laughing, joking and sharing stories – it felt more like a reunion than a first meeting. Our location was Wood Henge and Durrington Walls. We were left to explore contemplating the unanswerable question, why did these ancient people build monuments like Woodhenge and Stonehenge? We also spent a lot of time trying to decipher maps of the old and modern landscape. For most of the visit I was convinced Stonehenge was the opposite side to where it was.


We walked up and around the site of the former settlement Durrington Walls. This felt a spiritual and contemplative place that led to many discussions about what it must have been like to live at that time. We will never know exactly but for me being at Durrington Walls was quite a physical experience. We came together to walk in the footsteps of these ancestors, to feel the wind as they had and to stand in a landscape that meant something special to them.


The most memorable part of the day for me was touching the Cuckoo stone, a small part of a Sarsen stone that stands near Woodhenge. One theory is that this part fell off of a Sarsen as it was being brought to Stonehenge but my favourite suggestion was that maybe it was a way marking showing those who came to Durrington Walls and on pilgrimage to Stonehenge that they were nearly there. After months of volunteering at Stonehenge and not being able to touch the Stones I finally got in a way to do just that. The Sarsen stone felt smooth and polished but also solid and unyielding.


The main thing that stood out for me from the first day of the Human Henge project was the openness and warmth with which all the participants, organisers and volunteers treated each other and the project. Listening to each other’s personal stories, experiences and ideas and really coming together. It was a day of connections, connecting to new people, a new landscape and maybe in some small way our ancestors. I can’t wait to see what happens at the end of the ten weeks and the creative outcome of these new connections.


Rebecca Williams

Human Henge launch at Stonehenge on Friday 7th October

Human Henge got off to a terrific start with our launch at Stonehenge on Friday evening. It followed a useful Mental Health Awareness training session for staff and volunteers led by Sally Scott of the Richmond Fellowship.
Sara Lunt, our Chair, kicked off a round of introductions to the project in the Education Room, where we were welcomed by Kate Davies, Stonehenge General Manager. Bolstered by refreshments contributed by a Stonehenge volunteer (thank you!), we then visited the Neolithic Houses, where volunteers were keeping the kindling fires alight, and the exhibition.
Now we look forward to welcoming participants who will be visiting the Visitor Centre next Friday, in preparation for the first session on Friday 21st October.
Thank you to everyone who came along, to our fantastic Project Board members, and to Stonehenge staff and volunteers!

Spire FM published a good article about Human Henge which you can see here.

The Human Henge team l – r: Katherine Snell, Stonehenge Education Officer; Martin Allfrey, English Heritage Senior Curator South West; Dr Toby Sutcliffe, AWP Wiltshire Clinical Director; Daniel O’Donoghue, Richmond Fellowship Locality Manager; Chartwell Dutiro, musician and creative facilitator; Yvette Staelens, coordinator; Professor Tim Darvill, Director of the Centre for Archaeology Bournemouth University, Dr Sara Lunt, Chair of the Project Board; Colin Caldow, AWP Patient Public Invovlement lead on HH; Laura Drysdale, Project Manager. Missing is Dr VAnessa Heaslip, Principal Lecturer Health and Clinical Sciences Bournemouth University.


Kate Davies, Stonehenge General Manager, welcoming us to Stonehenge with Sara.  Tim Darvill, describing the therapeutic potential of historic landscapes. Martin Allfrey with Sara.








At the Neolithic Houses, inside with Stonehenge volunteers keeping the fires alight, Councillor Ian West and Katherine. Chartwell with Vanessa and Jessica Swinburne, HH volunteer and BU OT Student.


Martin, Dave – Stonehenge Volunteer, Dr Nick Snashall National Trust archaeologist at Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, Katherine and Laura.


Human Henge is a new project about archaeology, mental health and creativity. Run by the Restoration Trust in partnership with Richmond Fellowship, English Heritage and Bournemouth University, it will be interesting, adventurous, safe and fun.

Human Henge project - Stonehenge view


The Restoration Trust helps people with mental health conditions engage with art and heritage – we call it Culture Therapy. Find out more about us at


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