Avebury / Stonehenge

Trip Start Apr 20, 2006
Trip End May 05, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Though Richard, Cindy's husband, had forewarned me of the disgusting tourist nature of Stonehenge, I could not resist the temptation to view the legendary stone pillars. My mind kept flashing back to the Microsoft Windows desktop image of Stonehenge, monstrous columns of stone connecting the greenest of grasses to the bluest of skies. He conceded, though this concession was contingent upon us visiting a similar site known as "Avebury" in Wiltshire.

Whereas Stonehenge is known throughout the world, the "henge" at Avebury is often overlooked. Rather than a concentrated circle of stones, such as at Stonehenge, Avebury has a whole host of stones spread across an expansive twenty-eight acre area. Still maintaining the traditional circular pattern, however, the center of this city lies encircled by two henge rings. At ones initial review of the stones, it seems that there is no rationale behind their placement. However, upon touring the city it is explained that each stone was deliberately placed on its particular site for a reason. Some of the stones were used to mark a grand pathway into the city, and yet others had religious and or astrological roles. Adding to the mystical feel of Avebury is the 5,000 year-old massive bank and ditch marking the city's extremities.

We (Cindy, Richard, Georgina, Ben, and I) spent a fair amount of time leisurely walking around the city before sitting down to lunch at an outdoor, picnic-style, vegetarian restaurant called 'Circle.' While Cindy unpacked the sandwiches, vegetables, and drinks we had packed for Georgie and Ben, Richard and I went inside to buy some of the vegetarian-style sandwiches for us and Cindy. I chose a cottage cheese and pepper medley sandwich, which was absolutely delicious!

After lunch, and before heading to Stonehenge, we briefly walked some of the grounds housing dozens of Neolithic burial mounds; underground, tomb-like mounds were leaders during the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) were buried. There are some guidelines on where you can walk in order to prevent erosion and keep the monument protected. Still, we were able to catch a great view of Silbury Hill, which is Europe's largest megalithic structure.

Next up was Stonehenge. A few hours drive and we arrived at "the most outstanding prehistoric monument in the British Isles." Sure, Richards was right in that the ungodly number of gawking tourists, the swarming visitor center, and the gate-like green fencing surrounding Stonehenge didn't exactly add to the monuments appeal, but it was still fascinating to be there. The kids were tired, as were Richard and Cindy, and we opted to take a breather resting in the grass. A warm cup of coffee, a cookie, and a little nap in the sunshine was all it took to get me up and going again. While the Hawkins family continued to repose, I chose to pay the small fee and take an audio tour of the henge. The site is "protected" from visitors, those threatening monsters, by only allowing entrance onto the grounds via an underground tunnel. As you ascend up out of the passageway you can't help but feel miniature standing next to the giant stones. They are beautiful, and the green of the grass and blue of the sky were just as I had hoped they would be-perfect. As the tour explained, there are two types of stones used at Stonehenge. The larger stones, known as Sarsen stones, were brought from Malborough Downs, a location about nineteen miles away. The second type of stone, Bluestones, are a bit smaller in size, but considering they come from the Preseli Mountains in Wales (240 miles away) I could appreciate why they decided not to bring bigger ones.

Our full day of sight-seeing and driving had worn us out, so we found our way back to the car and headed "home" to Thame.
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