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Published: October 17th 2011
Leaving Roystone Grange
John was chasing chickens around while I tried to get laundry completed and packed.
We must say good bye to The Old Farm House at Roystone Grange. The stay here has been wonderful and we will really miss this peaceful, beautiful house and the gorgeous landscape. We clean up, pack, and make our 10 AM departure goal. I try to give a pat to the three legged, one eyed cat that the owners have taken under care, but he evades me: I sense he has trust issues.
Into the Blue Astra we pack ourselves and our belongings and with SAT-NAV and Atlas on the alert, we head diagonally from the Midlands to the south west corner of England and Wiltshire County. Today is our day to see Avebury and for me to give John a little surprise I have planned.
Of course the drive takes longer than we had anticipated and we arrive with only a few hours to tour The Avebury Monuments. After wandering about for a bit, we decide to take the offered tour, which, by the way, includes a lottery ticket for 10, 000 pounds. Well sure, what a deal! Our guide, Patrick, is a hale and hearty 78 year old who has walked from Avebury to
Back into The Astra
Oh, we miss our Irish Opal. But we are glad that this little car is much narrower.
Stonehenge- a 26 mile trek- in one day no less! A little side note here: all over England and Ireland you see older folks out walking if not actually hiking, and these are people in this country who, with the same infirmities, would be in walkers or in assisted living. It is inspiring and makes me reaffirm my vow to walk several miles every day. I want to grow up to be just like them.
When Caitlin and I visited Avebury last year we rented an audio tour that was very mystical: this will not be the case with Patrick. He is charming and funny, but he is just giving us the known facts spiced up with a few speculations. First of all, we all have Alexander Keiller, the 1930’s marmalade millionaire to thank for saving Avebury. Of the original 98 stones, only 27 remain and this is because Keiller bought part of the town of Avebury and with meticulous dedication restored some of the buried stones to their original positions. Where evidence has shown that stones are missing, he erected concrete plinths. Thus, today, we can catch a glimpse of Avebury's Neolithic structure, although the landscape has changed
What You Never Want to See in England
It never ceases to amaze us how English drivers navigate these roads.
significantly. It is estimated that there were many more trees and that the bank and ditch that was created was much more impressive in depth and the sheer drop of the sides. Over time the landscape has thinned and mellowed into gentle swells. The sarsen stones were knocked down-probably by building great fires to crack the stones-to clear fields for plowing and to use as building material. Viewed by the church as pagan symbols, Christian influence was brought to destroy the stones, however to do so, some of the stones were buried, which ironically preserved them from destruction.
As in other sites we have visited, there is no known reason to have built these circles with their ditches, henges, and coves. In some of these, there have been found human and animal remains; at Avebury only the ancient skeleton of a small child has been uncovered. Some believe that the circles are calendars that align with the sun, moon, stars, and the seasons. Some believe this to be a place of burial that was excavated and deserted. Everyone believes that Avebury was a powerful ceremonial site and a place considered sacred. Whatever the reason, our early ancestors had powerful
Patrick Our Tour Guide and The 100 Ton Stone
Patrick gave us a more factual than mystical hour tour of the site.
motivation to dig these deep ditches with shovels made the shoulder blades of cows and other implements made of stone and wood. 200 years later they began building Silbury Hill, a once-conical mound now seen in the distance from Avebury as a plateau.
The years between 2600 and 2400 BC were a time of great building activity. Silbury Hill, a massive undertaking of creating a great mound of turf and soil then capped with chalk to reach 115 feet tall, 90 feet across, and 1500 feet around the base, is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe. During the same time period, the sarsen stones at Avebury were being lifted into standing position, and Stonehenge was being created.
There is so much to see in this area that you could literally time travel 6,000 years in a day by planning to visit Windmill Hill, West Kennet long barrow, Avebury, a Romano British settlement on the A-4 motorway, the Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area occupied by the church, visitors center and museums, and the Manor House. Whew! Well, we didn’t make it all 6000 years, but we did make a visit to the Anglo Saxon era, probably around AD 1000,
Without an aerial view it is difficult to capture the enormity of the two circles
Church of St. James. Although photos were not appropriate, we did take a photo of the entry with its carvings so much like those we had seen at The Rock of Cashel in Ireland. We left the church through the burial ground out into the beautiful little town and out to the car park-once an Anglo-Saxon settlement dating from about 700 AD, and get ready to maneuver our way to Salisbury.
BUT FIRST! Here comes the surprise that I have stored up for John. We are going to do a quick drive-by of Stonehenge (we plan to visit tomorrow.) This is so he can have the pleasure of seeing one of the world’s great monuments emerge-right before his eyes— and right between two highways. But alas, we have blundered our way into miserable traffic and I am thinking we will just have to call it a day, when suddenly, “Look, John!” “What?” “What is straight ahead of you?” “What?.....Is that Stonehenge?” Yes, it is Stonehenge and as beautiful as I recall it was. So a quick turnabout in the car park and a promise to return, very, very early, tomorrow, and John agrees that that moment was worth all
Holes for Prying and Levering
These so-called primitive people had figured out the engineering for standing massive stones in an upright and stable position.
the horrible traffic and bad directions.
Now we get to play bumper cars into Salisbury, but finally arrive into the open and welcoming arms of Veronica, the best innkeeper ever who cannot do enough for you, at Webster’s B&B. She has pushed together two beds to make a ginormous king bed, and opened the windows because England is going through a heat wave and there is no air conditioning. Our trip to Avebury has made us hot and sweaty, so after a change of clothes, we are off to the New Inn for something cool (cold is hard to come by in England) in their beautiful, shady, and ever-so-calm, outdoor garden. We sit as the sun starts to fade in a 600 - 700 year old inn that shares a wall with The Salisbury Cathedral….Life is very, very good. Following up with dinner at The Lemon Tree- as good as I remember from last year- a quiet walk over cobblestones to Salisbury Cathedral as twilight draws to a close and back “home” to Webster’s B&B for a great night's sleep: I can't think of a better way to spend a day.
It’s a big day tomorrow—Stonehenge !
The Circle and the Ditch
Time has mellowed the contours of the ditch. Excavations give its original depth as 30 feet with sheer sides.
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