Friday – I started my 91 mile journey to my accommodation at Travelodge Amesbury/Stonehenge late in the afternoon. Sat Nav (hated gadget, but necessary evil) set to avoid motorways, I enjoyed a wonderful ‘A’ road trip though country villages, with houses to die for – shame I’m such a social, city girl I could never actually cope with the isolation of living in one of these quaint little places!
I arrived at the hotel early evening, a comfortable, clean room – just as you’d expect from a Travelodge, no fancy extras, just the basics, what you need, nothing more… can’t complain 😉 I settled in and began reading – my only company for the evening, and what better company than a good book!? Hope I didn’t disturb any neighbours laughing out loud! I was reading ‘Friends like these‘ by Danny Wallace (comedian, you may have seen him on TV, he also writes a very funny column for the free mens magazine Shortlist – which I love!). The story is basically about Danny turning 30 and panicking about growing up, so he decides to find his old school friends most of whom he has had no contact with in over 15 years – whereas most of us would attempt this move via Facebook, Danny’s approach is far more interesting! Anyway, I’m about half way through now (200 odd pages in 2 evenings…) and can’t wait to see how he gets on with the rest of his journey of self-rediscovery. It brings back so many memories of my own childhood, as it quickly became clear I turned 30 around the same time as Danny (and had a similar panic!) so much of the stuff he talks about from the 80’s really speaks to me as the same things played a big part in my own childhood!
But the book isn’t what I’m supposed to be writing about! This is meant to be about my trip to Avebury and Stonehenge!
Saturday Morning – A 20 mile drive along ‘A’ roads again to Avebury, where I would meet up with my good friend and her husband to enjoy the sights 😀 Avebury is a gorgeous little village built within a Stone Circle, and the only one with a church inside the circle! The Stones are amazing, so many of them, and where stones are missing there are smaller, angular, carved marker stones (like the one you can see in the picture below) so you can still make out the original pattern.
We walked round the whole circle and down the ‘Avenue’ leading away from the village. There are many theories about why the stones were placed and I won’t go into them as you can read about them in so many places! All I know is we will never actually know the truth as there’s no-one alive from 6000 years ago to tell us!! But what ever your belief or opinion, it is a beautiful and fascinating sight! The stones are pockmarked from erosion and covered in a multitude of different species of lichen, which in itself is very intriguing! The bonus of Avebury is that it is completely free to stroll around all the Stones and village, there are some English Heritage buildings you can also access free if you are a member (or at not very reasonable costs if you are not!) We walked for about an hour down the Avenue and across a field to view Silbury Hill – a man-made chalk mound – with as many speculations to its purpose as the stones themselves!
We returned to the village for a cuppa in the Red Lion – which seems a reasonable little public house, the menu looked like most pub menus, but we didn’t actually eat there, so I can’t say more… We then drove round to get a better view of Silbury Hill and had a picnic at its foot before another stroll across fields to visit West Kennet Long Barrow – a (supposed) burial site, meticulously constructed of similar stones to the main attraction, there are many similar barrows across Wiltshire forming large and small mounds across the countryside.
The strangest part of the trip was the visitor shop – which was in the rear of the (still in use) church within the stone circle – it felt weird shopping in a religious building!? Back to the car…
Saturday Afternoon – heading back to the travel-lodge and beyond we were finally heading for the main attraction – Stonehenge. Driving along it was a good job we weren’t going fast because when I first saw the site I was genuinely in awe, I actually went ‘Wow’ and ‘Ohh my god’ honestly it is almost impossible to describe the emotion and feelings that captured me as it came into view, my eyes even filled with tears! – the sheer volume of people walking around the outside, the magnificence of the view, everything about it! I literally had to slow down and pull myself together quickly as I was driving! For those of you who are skeptical or thinking ‘it’s just a bunch of stones’ I defy you to NOT have some kind of reaction if you ever drive past yourself!! and if you don’t then you really aren’t a very interesting person (sorry, no offense intended!). Despite having seen so many images of Stonehenge on the TV, in books, online etc etc NOTHING compares with actually seeing it for real! I was getting impatient on the long drive round to get in (the main access road was closed so there was a diversion in place, grrr). I couldn’t wait to get up close, but that would have to wait a while longer as it was only just after 2pm and we had purchased ‘Special Access’ which meant we could actually go within the inner circle – access is restricted and you have to pay for privileged access outside normal opening hours. We decided to do the ‘typical’ tourist bit and go round the ‘permitted’ access area while we were waiting (and also go in the visitor shop for souvenirs as it would be closed for our later private visit).
Wandering around with the crowds just made me all the more anxious for the time to pass quickly so we could get right in there! Finally 4.30pm arrived and we could go in amongst the stones and get a really good, up close look at them and it was the best thing ever! How do you even begin to describe it, there are no words!! We took pictures from every angle, examined the lichen and ‘graffiti’ – words, names carved into the stones many, many years ago.
There were some guys there with ‘laser’ camera equipment, who explained they were taking detailed 3D images of the stones for archaeological examination. They no longer use invasive procedures (such as digs) to examine the history of the site in order to preserve the site as much as possible – many of the fallen stones are a result of past ‘digs’ and examinations of the site, which is a terrible shame. And while you may think they would have enough images by now, technology is advancing all the time so they can always get better and better images than previous ones! In the end I ran out of space on my memory card and had to stop taking pictures 😦 which was even more of a shame when the funniest moment of the weekend occurred! My friend was stepping back to take a picture and consequently entered in to the longest ‘falling over’ I have had the pleasure to laugh at… she accidentally stepped back onto a fallen stone and continued stepping, stumbling falling, wondering when the stone would end… still falling she also stepped onto a bag someone had left next to the stone, eventually she came off the end of the stone and fell down on her back and hugged the floor! It really doesn’t sound half as funny in words! Me, my friend and her husband were in creases, the guy who retrieved his bag also found it highly amusing! 😀 There is a lovely picture of her hugging the floor, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to capture the actual fall! 😦
*Picture of ‘Hugging the floor’ coming soon*
Again there is little point me going into the many explanations for the purpose of Stonehenge, however it clearly has more relevance to the lunar cycle than solar – which one guy was emphatically describing to the couple he was with. My friend’s husband kept saying “Can I call out ‘it’s lunar’?” as he found the guy’s focus on solar purposes frustrating! lol
Well what more can I say, except it is definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss! If you live in the UK, why haven’t you already been?
Ohh but do me a favour, don’t take the kids! neither Avebury nor Stonehenge really have family/child friendly facilities, and unless your kids are old enough to be interested in the site itself they will just get bored as there really is NOTHING for them to do, and worse with unrestricted access in Avebury especially they will only want to do what we witnessed several kids doing – climbing on the stones, they aren’t a playground take your kids to Wacky Warehouse or something instead!!
Other than that, what are you waiting for!? Go visit Avebury and Stonehenge – it rocks! 😀