Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Visiting Avebury.

This plan assumes that you...
  • ....are travelling from Marlborough.
  • Need somewhere to park the car.
  • You don't know where you are going.
  • And that you want to see more than Avebury's rings. 
The areas to visit and to explore on this plan are:
  • The Sanctuary.
  • West Kennet.
  • Silbury Hill.
  • The Kennet Avenue.
  • Avebury ring.
Here is the basic layout of the trip.

  • The A4 in Marlborough is the main road, the High Street.
  • The white ovals are car parking areas all by the side of the road, therefore free. 
Lets begin!

Take the A4 road...
Stock up on good things in Marlborough first, some fresh bread and cheese, fruit juice. Toilets can be found either in Waitrose, or its car park.

Back to the A4 ...
Past the church on your right.
Turn right at the island.

Stay on the A4.

My grandparent's wedding.

The first location on this trip is The Sanctuary.
The journey distance is approximately 7 kilometers / 4.35 miles.

The river Kennet follows the road, usually as just a stream. As you climb the hill towards the round barrows the river is now further away down on the left.

As the road goes up a hill you will see Bronze Age barrows on your right.

Look out for the parking place on the left side of the road.
There is also parking on the right hand side.

You can park either on the right where those cars are, or on the left (where the lorry is in the photo).

The right hand side parking fills up with camper vans at midsummer, and it is the start of The Ridgeway, a track you can follow all the way to Ivinghoe Beacon. The left hand side of the road is a good place to stop, often a resting place for lorry drivers, but I have always found a parking spot when I've traveled here.

Now known as Overton Hill, it was once called  Hakpen by William Stukeley. This place was known for part of its history as 'The Seven Hill' recalling that even though most of the barrows in this area were constructed at least 4000 years ago, at least one of them (on the Sanctuary side of the road) is 2000 years younger, built for a Roman burial.

Though timber circles are now thought to have been quite common, they were unknown until Maud Cunnington excavated 'Woodhenge'.

Maud Cunnington.

Maud Cunnington  found The Sanctuary from accounts of the area made by William Stukeley in the 18th century who described The Sanctuary as:
 " a most solemn and awful place....."
And from John Aubrey (17th century) who wrote:
"..above which place (West Kennet) on the brow of a hill, is another monument, encompassed with a circular trench, and a double circle of stones, four or five foot high, tho' most of them are now fallen down"
The circular trench is a mystery, since there doesn't seem to be one.

The Cunnington's excavated the site in 1930.

Now the position of the timber posts and stone circles are marked by concrete posts of two kinds, the small red ones - like crumbly, rotten teeth, represent wooden posts, and the blue rectangular markers represent the (possibly Bronze Age ) addition of standing stones.

After the last dig here in 1999  the red posts didn't really make it back to where they should be...the blue ones remain fairly accurate I think, but the red ones are mixed up.

Playing the game of join the dots....

Trying to imagine posts!

Records of the post and stone holes, and possible paths through...

There are suggestions that the spaces between the posts were originally fenced between with wattle and daub...creating a labyrinthine path, towards what, or why... is a mystery.

It is also possible that the stones belong to a latter phase of its use and block the paths, rather in the same way as West Kennet was blocked.

There is a 'recumbent' stone in the SW quadrant which could be aligned to midwinter evening Venus, or the major southern moonset.

Venus at the Sanctuary.

In the east a buried stone marks the position of a Bronze Age burial.

The Sanctuary is one of the most Sacred spaces in this area.
More often than not, offerings are left at its center.

The Bronze Age Barrows.

After looking at The Sanctuary, cross the road and visit the barrows.
Though Bronze Age barrows are often described as being the burial place of a single person, this isn't entirely true, often other burials have been inserted into the mound.

Round barrows differ from Long Barrows chronologically by something like two thousand years, and in being closed after use. Long barrows remained 'open'...and were usually repositories for bones rather than burial places of individuals.

The burial at the Sanctuary and the barrows show that this sacred area, or at the very least ritual area, was quite large and extensive. It was once an important place, connected to the massive rings of Avebury by a long avenue of standing stones.

Neolithic structures; the timber circles of the Sanctuary are older than the Bronze Age barrows and the burial, and the long barrow of West Kennet indicate a continuity of use, though not necessarily a continuity of any particular ritual.

Next stop - West Kennet Long Barrow.

Back to the road, and continue for 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile) down the hill.
There is parking on the left.

If this is full, there is a car park by Silbury Hill

Park in the lay-by on the left.

From the lay-by, follow the foot path that leads (in this picture) towards the yellow field. The distance to the long barrow is about half a mile ( 712 meters).

There is conservation work going on now so West Kennet is closed, and so you may not be able to look inside until the work is over (March 2016). in other words, despite what I said about long barrows remaining open this one may not be...

West Kennet long barrow was built by the farming community of this area, about 5600 years ago and then sealed with a massive stone, around the time Silbury Hill was constructed - approximately 4400 years ago.

Silbury Hill car park.

Continue along the A4. for about half a mile.
Look for the sign.

The car park is a right turn.
Hidden from the road by trees.

Use this car park to turn around, so that you are now driving back towards Marlborough.

After 1.56 kilometers.
Turn left.

The road, the B4003 is just before those farm buildings.

This road will run parallel with the Kennet Avenue.

You can of course walk from The Sanctuary to this point. The way down, from The Ridgeway to the road isn't clearly defined and isn't, as far as I could tell, a footpath.

The Kennet Avenue and Silbury.

Look for parking at the side of the road.

The Kennet Avenue connected The Sanctuary to Avebury and was once marked along its entire length by standing stones.

To visit Silbury Hill, go through the gate to get onto the grass, take the footpath up Waden Hill, past those two small trees.

When you reach the top, you will know where you are!

To Avebury.

Return to the gate, and walk between the stones....
Cross the road and follow the footpath.

Avebury is so big, you will be inside it perhaps without knowing it.

Or, get into the car and drive along the B 4003 until you reach this junction.
Turn left, and look for the National Trust car park on the right hand side of the road,

Once there, you will have to pay for parking.
There is a cafe, some touristy shops, a 17th century house to look around and a museum.

And the most impressive ditch with standing stones you will ever see.

To return to Marlborough.

Leave the National trust car park and turn right.
Go left at the island to get back to the A4.