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, June 05, 2007

Avebury Part Two

It doesn't take long to drive from West Kennet to the village of Avebury. As I approached it I saw, to my horror, signs to the National Trust car park! I hadn't realised that the NT own Avebury as well as Stonehenge. I parked and walked the short distance to the village and, sure enough, the NT have begun their atmosphere removal job on the Circle. At least you can still walk round the circle and touch the stones but it is fenced off into four quarters with little gates to get into the fields. There is a road running through the middle of the Circle and two lanes, one to the left and one to the right of the main road so this naturally divides the Circle into four quarters. The fencing is comparatively recent though, I was talking to a couple who had been to Avebury about 20 years ago and it was all open then. At least it isn't as bad as Stonehenge which is totally fenced off now and can only be seen from the edges. You have probably gathered from a couple of my posts that I am not over fond of the NT even though I'm a member:) I fully support the original aims of the NT to acquire and preserve important historic buildings and areas of great natural beauty, but I'm afraid that I don't care for the way it is run these days. However that is beside the point so on to more interesting things. The photo above is of the Barber's Stone which has a sad story attached to it. The stone circle dates back to around 3000BC when building began, though it's completion took over 500 years to achieve. It stood there until the mid 13th century when the Church took a hand and decided it must be destroyed. Over a period of years the stones were toppled one by one and buried in pits until disaster (or retribution!) struck. While one of the stones was being toppled into the hole that had been dug for it one of the workers
was crushed beneath it as it fell. There was no way of lifting the stone again and it would have been pointless anyway so he remained in the grave he had unwittingly helped to dig for himself. His skeleton was discovered 600 years later when Alexander Keiller was locating and restoring the stones to their original places. The skeleton had with it a pair of scissors, an iron probe and three silver coins indicating that the man had probably been a travelling barber surgeon and since then this particular stone has been known as The Barber's Stone. Oddly enough no more stones were toppled after this........

Alexander Keiller located and re-erected the stones in the 1930s using his personal fortune to fund the project. The concrete markers in the photograph were put in where the original stones couldn't be located. The restoration was never completed due to the advent of WW2 and Keiller's money running out.

This is the Diamond Stone, it is one of the North gateway stones and has remained in its original position for around 4500 years escaping the vandalism of the Church in the 13th century unlike the majority of the other stones. Legend has it that at midnight it crosses the road in search of its missing partner. It is also said to spin through 360 degrees on its axis at the stroke of midnight.

I took this photograph to try and give an idea of the huge ditch that was dug. It is a phenomenal achievement, a mile in circumference and originally 30 feet deep and it was dug using tools made of antlers and bone!! The loosened chalk was put in wicker baskets and used to form the banks. It's been estimated FOUR MILLION cubic feet of chalk was moved using these methods. Then they brought those huge stones to the site and erected them solidly enough to be still standing (given chance!) 4500 years later. I find that just mind blowing - how anyone can consider these people primitive astounds me, they were immensely skilled engineers among other things.

This quarter was closed off for conservation work so I had to teeter along a narrow bank at the side of the road to get the photograph of these two stones which formed the South gateway. The one on the right is known as The Devil's Chair. One side, which I couldn't see or get to, forms a natural seat. Apparently you can summon the Devil by running round the stone 100 times in an anti-clockwise direction!

The Red Lion pub which stands at the crossroads inside the stone circle. It has, I gather, a splendid selection of ghosts!

This is getting rather long so I think there had better be an Avebury - Part 3!


Janet said...

Rowan, I can't tell you how much I've missed your "travel" posts. I always learn so much and you make things so interesting. The story about The Barber Stone was sad but maybe fitting. And that ditch must have taken such a long time to dig with nothing but antlers and bone. Primitive isn't the word that comes to my mind either!!

Sheila said...

Wonderful Rowan!
I've never been here and find this fascinating. I had goose bumps reading about the Barber stone, and the size of the ditch is incredible.This was an amazing achievement. The National Trust, seems to be going too far in it's attempts to preserve these places, from what I have heard. Too bad they can't take a slightly more relaxed approach, whereby atmosphere is preserved, while the listed places are protected.
Thank you again, I look forward to part three..!

PAT said...

Rowan, this is, Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful!! I am always excited about reading your posts.

I enjoy your travels. J is here today and we both read and enjoyed this post. Looking forward to part 3!

I'd love to hear about some of the ghosts at the Red Lion!

Back Porch Musings

Jenny said...

I thoroughly enjoy your travel posts as well. I've been dreaming of traveling to the British Isles for years now, and your posts (while they make me want to see the places for myself!) are a good substitute until I can make the trip. Thanks for taking the time to write about your travels and post the photos!

meggie said...

Yes, I thank you too! Wonderfully interesting posts. You really make me wish I could visit, & your photos are wonderful. Look forward to Part 3.

Julie Marie said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this post, and I eagerly await Part 3. I know that these old ruins/sites must be preserved, but I feel robbed. They belong to everyone - whether we are British, American, Australian, whatever. I think it's better that I'll never see Stonehenge because I think I would be so disappointed with the fences and the restrictions.

Daisy Lupin said...

Hurrah for Avebury Part Two! That was very interesting, especially the story of the Barber's Stone, perhaps the moral of this story is Don't tamper with ancient stones..... I bet that pub has a stack of ghosts. I am sorry to hear that the NT are 'improving' Avebury. Personally, I have always thought the beauty of stone circles is that you can actually hug or touch the stones to feel age etc. I hate circles being fenced off!

healingmagichands said...

Thank you so much for this post. I was fascinated, and truly appreciate the opportunity to visit such a wonderful site via your blog. I did not find this post too long, not a bit. Of course, I am probably the queen of run-on posts, so I am not the best judge of length. . .

Again, thank you.

Naturegirl said...

I love the green green grasses so peaceful..I want to jump into the photo and sit on the cushion of grass!Love the first photo with the sheep in front of rock shade.

BooksPlease said...

Lovely photos, Rowan. I agree about the NT (and I'm a member too).They do have a remarkable gift for stamping "NT" on everywhere. But the stones are protected and are still mesmorising.

Ragged Roses said...

Thanks for this post, Rowan. I love finding out the background and history of places, not sure about the Barber's Stone! I agree with you about the NT, they need to step back a bit. Looking forward to part three!
Kim x

Remiman said...

At first glance, I thought the stone in the first photo was small until I noticed the sheep!
The NT I'm sure is trying, in their way I suppose, to preserve the sites for as long as possible. But of course some of the eeirie and mysterious ambiance of the sites is lost in so doing.
You write so well and weave such engrossing tales that I never seem to notice the length of a post until you point it out.
I wonder if my lion, Zaccharias, knew about the barber stone. I'll have to check. ;-)

La Tea Dah said...

Thank you so much for this post! It was enjoyable, learning new things!


smilnsigh said...

Thank you for Part 2! I love all of it. And yes, please do give us a Part 3.


kerrdeLune (cate) said...

Rowan, thank you for this lovely post - it has been many years since I visited Avebury, and I loved the village and the great stones then - this is like being there again but with the NT added to the equation. (Sigh) when I was there, everything was wide open and wandering around was magical.

Anonymous said...

hi there! the field of daisy's is on the bournemouth road, between salisbury and fordingbridge. it is closer to the salisbury end rather than the fordingbridge end. I dont think you will be near it on your journey. It is right next to a layby where there is a van selling food. it is the only van selling food on that small stretch if road. Best of luck if you venture off to find it!

Patty said...

Do they let folks have ceremonies there ? For a few years I was a member of O.B.O.D. and there was always lots of chatter about the NT and what they would and would not allow

Love Bears All Things said...

I have been a while away from your page and am catching up. There was a Red Lion pub in Pennsylvania when I lived there.
Mama Bear