Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Avebury - Part One

I set off at 6.20am which wasn't too far off my original aim. The M1 was packed with traffic but happily I only go down as far as Northampton and then I turn off onto the A43 going towards Oxford. From this point life became much pleasanter, it's a good road but with a fairly low volume of traffic and some pleasant scenery. The weather was lovely - hot and sunny, but my car has air conditioning so I stayed nice and cool. By just after 10am I'd reached Newbury and turned onto the A4 which goes through Marlborough and on to Avebury. I arrived in Marlborough just before 11am and to my astonishment was able to choose from several empty parking spaces in the centre of the main road through the town - it's very wide and the left hand traffic goes on one side of a double row of parking spaces and the right hand traffic comes down the other side. It's a really pleasant small town and I'd be happy to see more of it at some stage but, being short of time, I just stopped for coffee and cake at the Polly Tea Rooms then found the Post Office to post a parcel. The tea rooms came straight out of a light novel from the 1930s, full of smartly dressed grey-haired elderly ladies and waitresses in black dresses with white aprons. I half expected to see Miss Marple walk in:)
There is a little website with photos here. The waitresses have red aprons in the photos but I'm sure they were white when I was there.

I set off again and after half an hour or so reached a sign saying 'Silbury Hill' - not that I needed the sign because to my amazement it was right there at the side of the road. No-one knows exactly what it is or why it was built, only that it is entirely man-made and was constructed in prehistoric times (around 2500BC) with picks made of antlers. Considering that it is 130ft high and covers a base area of 5 acres that is quite some feat, it's the largest manmade mound in Europe. There have been several excavations but no-one is any the wiser. The photograph required some careful positioning on my part as they are doing largescale conservation work on the mound and the base is actually surrounded by barriers and huge diggers and dumper trucks etc - not at all romantic looking!

Just across the road from Silbury Hill is the path leading up to West Kennet Long Barrow, a distance of about half a mile I should think. It was a lovely walk through water meadows then up a gentle hill to the barrow. I had it virtually to myself and it was so quiet and peaceful, there were skylarks singing and peewits calling and all kinds of wildflowers to see. Peewit is a country name for a lapwing as that is exactly what its call sounds like - my dad introduced them to me as peewits when I was a very small girl and I was well in my 20s before I discovered that they had a more official name. The photo above is showing the approach to the barrow.

This is an attempt to show the shape of the barrow which gives it the name of long barrow. The entrance faces east and there was a semi-circular forecourt at the front.

It was in use from 3500BC to 2000BC when, for reasons unknown,the chambers were filled with stones and the entrance sealed with the big sarsen stones. When it was opened there were piles of bones all over the place but only one complete skeleton.

This is taken from the entrance looking into the barrow with the main chamber at the end. Only about one sixth of the 340ft of its length has ever been excavated. In spite of its association with bones and bodies and death there is a very tranquil and friendly atmosphere all around the area.

There are several small chambers on each side of the main passage of which this is one.

For this photo I was standing on top of the barrow looking along its length towards the West.

I have simply turned round to face south to take this photo, I thought the view was absolutely beautiful.

This skylark was standing on top of the barrow while I was taking photographs so I thought I'd try out the 18x zoom - gradually I edged nearer and nearer and I couldn't believe how close it finally let me get to it before it finally flew off. It was a privilege to be so close to this bird which sings such a beautiful song as it soars into the sky until it is so high that it is virtually invisible, though never inaudible. There is a wonderful piece of music by a British composer called Vaughan Williams called The Lark Ascending which captures all the beauty of its song and flight. The moments spent so near to it were the crowning pleasure of the time spent in this truly magical place.

I think this is long enough so I will write about Avebury itself in another post. It may be worth clicking on some of the photos to enlarge them especially the views from the barrow.


Love Bears All Things said...

Lovely post. I do so love to read about your countryside. If you'll open the page for your link(a new page) copy the address at the top of the page, go back to your blogger post, highlight the word you want to link to,right click on the link icon and choose paste in the drop down window.

Love Bears All Things said...

I couldn't pull up their website.

Ragged Roses said...

So glad you made it to Avebury. Thanks for such a lovely and interesting post - can't wait to hear more about it.
Kim x

Lynda (Granny K) said...

It looks like you had a lovely day for your visit to Avebury. I love to hear Larks singing.

Rowan said...

Thanks to Love Bears All I can now do live links to other web pages! Thank you so much for that, I've been trying to figure it out ever since I started blogging:)

starnitesky said...

I have recently found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. This is a lovely post and reminds me of a sponsored walk that I did in this area finishing at Avebury. I love the area, the views are superb.You have reminded me I must go back soon. By the way getting a parking place in Marlborough - amazing!

meggie said...

What a lovely post Rowan. It made me really wish I could see it all for myself. Your photos are beautiful. I loved reading about the mystery of it all.

Sheila said...

How interesting. I enjoyed reading about this, and it all happened the first morning of your trip..!
Lark ascending is beautiful, and so very English.
I do enjoy seeing these places with you. I didn't see too many when I lived there, as assuming I would always be there, I was in no hurry to see them.
As you may have heard..hindsight is 20/20..LOL
Thank you again,

BooksPlease said...

Lovely photos and you were really lucky to have such a peaceful visit. I look forward to seeing your photos of Avebury - when I went there a few years ago it was packed with visitors, but it was still an amazing place. I'd love to be there without the crowds.

Remiman said...

My sister visited Avebury a few years ag. Her husband was in England on a work assignment. She was captivated by it, as she is by all things English.

Reading and viewing your post is better than a scan through wikipedia....;-)
Maybe because of your attention to detail and your lovely prose style!

PAT said...

Lovely lovely lovely! Thank you Rowan. I enjoy your wonderful posts and photos, so much!

Back Porch Musings

Knot Garden said...

That particular area is beautiful and full of ancient history. When our children were small we sometimes spent short breaks in Wiltshire. It's still one of my favourite areas in the country.

Love Bears All Things said...

Rown, I wasn't sure I explained linking correctly. It looked so confusing in my comment but if it worked for you then I'm glad. Now if I can just figure out how to access the Tea Room's site.
Mama Bear

Mary said...

Oh my gosh, Rowan I wanted to be with you walking through those water meadows and across the beautiful English sod!! You made me so homesick but I thoroughly enjoyed this very informative post, and then the pic of the beautiful skylark - love all Vaughn Williams music as it's so British!
Backing up a bit - I've been so busy with my visitig friends - you asked where I grew up. I was born and lived in Torquay until I came to the US in 1962. My childhood playgrounds were of course the Devon beaches and Dartmoor, not bad!! I'm heading back in Oct. and can hardly wait - even though it will only be two years since I was home.

Lesley said...

Dear Rowan,

This lovely post encouraged me to leave you a comment, after enjoying your blog for a few months now. I have always wondered just what an English lark looks like, after reading about them for so long and loving the Ralph Vaughn Williams piece you it was wonderful to see the photo! And I feel as tho' the places you described today will have to go on the list of places to visit when I finally take my family to Britain next year. Your writing really made me want to be there-now-but as I have waited more than twenty years to return for a visit, I suppose I can wait a bit longer to place my feet again on your "green and pleasant land".

I just read your profile, and see that we have alot in common (Enchanted April, Alison Uttley, etc.) Please know that your posts are so appreciated by me and so many others who love the land you cherish.

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

That barrow is fascinating! Someday I want to take my husband to England and travel the South West and especially go to Glastonbury. This puts me in mind of that. Love reading about your travels Rowan.


Daisy Lupin said...

That really is a true English tea room. How lovely! I am so glad you got to Avebury. Two things, first I never thought of Avebury as being so near to houses and secondly like you didn't think Silbury Hill would be next to the road. Looking forward to hearing more.

smilnsigh said...

So many wonderful photos. Thank you, yet again.

And oh my, I want to visit such a Tea Room. Oh my yes!


Chris said...

I really enjoyed looking through your posts :-) I have never been to Avebury so will have to add it my list :-) Thank you for sharing your wonderful journeys.

Simmy said...

Hi Rowan,
After reading your travelling posts I always feel as if I was there with you........looking forward to hearing about Avebury.

smilnsigh said...

You asked {in my blog comments} if I was old enough to remember the song 'Blue Moon' by the Marcels in the early 60s? :-)

My dear Lady, I was born in 1937. I am old enough to remember nearly all versions of 'Blue Moon." :-)))))


miss*R said...

what an interesting place - I read somewhere that wherever a person dies, the place becomes a sacred place. I felt that peace and tranquility when I visited Ground Zero in New York - despite the tragedy that happened, I could feel the sacredness of the site.
I cannot wait til I can come and visit England, it looks so beautiful
(ps - have made my blog private - if you would like an invite, please email through my profile)

I need orange said...

Wow, how cool that you could go right in, and how amazingly wonderful to not have crowds of people there.

Thank you for taking us with you!

-- Vicki in Michigan