TV historian Sir Tony Robinson this week bestowed a unique honour on Salisbury based Stonehenge Operations Manager, James Rodliff, for playing his part in keeping the UK’s heritage alive all year round, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the form of a night-time installation, Stonehenge was lit up with the faces of eight individuals who, with the help of National Lottery funding, are supporting heritage projects across the UK.

The historic takeover is the first time the 5,000-year-old sarsen stones have been dedicated to individual members of the public. A video projection of Sir Tony acted to first illuminate the historic stones and introduce the momentous display.

English Heritage’s James, 35, worked with a small team throughout lockdown to ensure the care and conservation of the 5,000 year-old monument. “In operations we live for the extraordinary and love a challenge, and this has certainly been a big one! Throughout the first lockdown, there wasn’t really any time at any point to really step back and take stock of it, you were just going from one thing to the next.

The prehistoric monument was able to reopen following the first lockdown in the summer, with the emotion of the occasion clear for all to see.

“There were actually a few tears, which shows how important the site is to people,” explained James. “To be able to open up to the public safely and have people coming back on site – especially people who hadn’t left their house for a long time or hadn’t seen loved ones for a long time – was magical.

“Initially, the closing of the site and having to lock the gates was horrible.

“Although at first we thought it was going to be a couple of weeks, we then had that dawning realisation that this wasn’t going to be the case.

“The first few days of being open again were very uplifting.

“I was relieved because I’d put a lot of work into plans. Normally there’s a lot of people to bounce ideas off, but during lockdown there just wasn’t that opportunity.”

Stonehenge was forced to shut down once again for the second national lockdown but is set to reopen on December 3 with additional safety measures in store.

With lockdowns and travel restrictions becoming the new normal, green spaces and historic sites have played an increasingly pivotal role in people’s lives.  The homage comes as the results of a new National Lottery research reveal that 72% of adults say outdoor spaces have had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing this year with 43% saying that heritage sites make them feel more relaxed and less anxious in difficult times, and half (49%) saying heritage sites make them proud of their local area.

Tivyside Advertiser: The 5,000-year-old sarsen stones of Stonehenge have been illuminated with images of unsung heritage champions from across the UK, who with the help of National Lottery funding, have kept heritage accessible during the pandemic and beyondThe 5,000-year-old sarsen stones of Stonehenge have been illuminated with images of unsung heritage champions from across the UK, who with the help of National Lottery funding, have kept heritage accessible during the pandemic and beyond

Heritage sites across the UK are being supported by the National Lottery through the COVID-19 pandemic with some of the £30m raised each week for good causes by National Lottery players.

Sir Tony Robinson said: “I love the fact that Stonehenge is being lit up as a tribute to some of the country’s key project workers and volunteers, letting the public know about the hard work they’ve been doing to keep our heritage accessible to everyone using National Lottery funding.

“Without the graft and tireless effort of these wonderful people, our much-loved heritage would be more at risk than ever this year.”

Ros Kerslake CBE, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The National Lottery is playing a crucial role in supporting heritage sites and projects during the crisis, but it’s the important role of that the thousands of amazing individuals, some of which we are celebrating and honouring today, that keep these places going and make our visits memorable.”