Published: January 17th 2012January 15th 2012
Older than Stonehenge, and with larger rings...
On Sunday, we decided to get out of the city and see some of the countryside of Western England. At the last minute, we found the most cost effective way to do so was by taking a tour (Anderson Tours). We got picked up in London early in the morning by the company, and as it turned out, there were only 3 people (including us) on the tour. It was a nice tour because the guide explained everything to us on the bus and then we got off to explore on our own for a few hours. So it was a nice quiet day.
Our first stop was at Avebury, a village known for being surrounded by the largest stone circle in the world. This is a much less touristy site than Stonehenge, and we could go up to the stones and touch them all we wanted. The stones are not as big as Stonehenge, and many of them are missing, but you can definitely see the 3 large circles that the town lies within.The town itself is really cute, and the surrounding countryside was just beautiful. The purpose of these rocks, just like Stonehenge, is a mystery.
we went to Stonehenge. We were amazed that Stonehenge is just out in the middle of a field, with a busy highway going by. We always pictured it to be bigger, but have heard in the past from people that it is much smaller, so we were already prepared for the size. It is still quite amazing. It was a bright and sunny day, so it didn't look as mysterious as it could look in fog, but it really makes you wonder what exactly did go on at that site, and what was it's purpose. I think it's hard for us as humans to accept that there is something that we know so little about. In addition, there are two types of stone present at Stonehenge - one that is local and another one that is present in the mountains 240 miles away. Why did they bring these stones from so far away, was there some special purpose for them? And how did they know they were there, and why did they bring it to this particular site? Sounds like a lot of work for something that has no purpose.... Anyways, these are amazing questions that we cannot answer. The
only thing that we can somewhat understand is that it was possibly used as a calendar, where the light comes through and hits the centre stone at noon on the summer solstice, and each month the light travels between different pillars.
Next we travelled through the countryside to the less known town of Glastonbury. We first stopped at these gardens called the Chalice Well Gardens, which were cute but not worth a trip (we can see little gardens anywhere!). The legend behind this is that there's a hill just behind the gardens where it is said that the holy grail was buried beneath. When it was buried, a drop of Jesus' blood was still in it and it got into the water system. The water in the chalice well is red (actually from the iron that is in the spring), but it is thought to be red from Jesus' blood, so pilgrims come here from all over the world to drink the water. We were not moved enough by the story to voluntarily drink the red water.
The town of Glastonbury itself has medieval routes, but it's most known for the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey, and inside
is what they believe is the tomb of the Legendary King Arthur and Gwenivere. The Glastonbury Abbey was built around 1184 AD after the previous abbey was burnt. During the reign of King Henry VII (around the 1500s), he decided to do away with the Catholic churches in England, and to establish the Church of England, of which he would be the Head. Under his rule, all Catholic institutions were to convert to the Church of England. The Glastonbury Abbott, Richard Whyting, resisted the conversion. As a result, the King sent his men to Glastonbury to destroy the abbey, smash all the windows and take all the money and valuables of the church. The Abbott was then executed for not following the King's orders. The abbey lay abandoned for a few hundred years, so people took stones from what was left of site for their own buildings. Thus, today, there are only a few walls left of the abbey, and green grass grows within it. It's such a sad story, as you can imagine how the people went there to worship saw their building destroyed.
The rest of the town has a hippy feel to it. Many medieval buildings
which now house magic potion stores, and others that you wouldn't normally find in a city. Glastonbury is known for a large music festival held every year... apparently all the big pop bands have been there. After exploring a bit, we bought a few pastries from the bakery, called Burns the Bread (actually named after the owner, Robert Burns) and then we started the 3 hour drive back to London. Phew, what a jam packed day!
Things that we learned today:
1) We can speak Celtic. Watch us count to four in Celtic: eenie, meenie, miney, mo. How do you say seven in Celtic? Tiger. (Catch a tiger by the toe! Okay, so that is a joke, but that is really how you count to four!)
2) Ever wonder where the saying "It's raining cats and dogs" comes from? Neither had we, but it is an odd one. Turns out, it comes from England. Back in the day, it was common to have a thatched roof. It was also common to have a fairly low house. In the sun, the thatch gets quite warm, and it was common for cats and dogs to climb up
Great shot of the English country side. Nice to get out of the city for a change!
on the roof to lay on the warm thatch. But, as you know, the weather changes quickly in England... if it happened to change quickly, sometimes the cats and dogs would still be on the roof when it started to pour. The roof would get very slippery when it rained hard, and the cats and dogs would fall off... This is where the saying comes from. It rains so hard that the cats and dogs slipped off the roof - hence, it is raining cats and dogs!
3) How about the term eaves dropping? Turns out, this also relates to thatched roofs. Thatched roofs have a large overhang. So, when it started to rain, people would seek shelter under the overhanging part of the roof. The overhanging part of the roof is called the eave. Sometimes, these shelter seekers would be near a window and overhear conversations going on inside the house. Hence the term, eaves dropping as referring to people that are snooping!
4) Remember the nursery rhyme: Little jack horner sat in the corner, eating a Christmas pie, he stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said, "What a good boy am I."
Lot's of Rocks... Basically, the whole town is inside the stone circle
The historical meaning comes from Jack Horner, who was the assistant to the Abbott of Glastonbury. He was to bring a secret pie to the King in order to butter him up so that he wouldn't come after the abbey. The pie just consisted of a crust, and inside there were the deeds to 6 properties. On his way to London to give the pie to the king, Jack Horner had a stroke of genious - the King would never know if one of the deeds was missing (and the King and Abbott would never meet, so the King would never know the difference). So he stuck in his thumb and pulled out one of the deeds. Just by chance, Horner happened to pull out the best deed of the bunch - i.e. he pulled out a 'plum' one! Jack then gave the pie to the King, and he attacked anyways. A few decades later, Queen Elizabeth I found out the story about Jack Horner screwing over the Crown, but she found it amusing and granted permission for the Horner family to keep the property. They still live there to this day (well, the descendants to Jack Horner do anyways!)
There are more photos below