Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
59Trip End Oct 27, 2010
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Where I stayed
Salisbury Youth Hostel
So, after deciding to skip Stonehenge, we took a bus to Avebury the next day. It was a long ride through some beautiful scenery, and very relaxing. On the way there I saw a distant white horse on a hill- one of the famous figures created by digging down and exposing the bright white chalk under the grass, many of them ancient. I'm not sure which one it was, and it was lost in the trees before I could get a picture. I saw a sign for a "White Horse Inn" not long after, just one of many pub signs with colorful illustrations... a lot of them looked like they might even have been by the same artist, though they were spread throughout 4 or 5 towns in the area.
Avebury, when we finally arrived, was a beautiful place, though it really seemed as though the roads and buildings had been built with complete disregard for the standing stones and the circular ditch surrounding them, as though the builders had somehow not noticed them
We started at one of the inner circles, the male one. I say male because there are two inner circles and they're theorized to have been used in fertility rituals- one is a ring of stones surrounding a massive phallic monolith (now destroyed, sadly), while the other is a U-shaped group of three rocks called the Cove, thought to be the female counterpart. We wandered past the rocks, noting the Devil's Chair (a very large rock with a natural seat in the side, and a hole above it that's rumored to emit mysterious smoke) and went up to the hill above the circular ditch- when the site's builders had dug the ditch, they'd built up a matching circular mound around it. There were new-age types all around, doing tai chi, hugging some of the stones, and sometimes making droning humming noises. I thought their behavior was a little irritating, and a bit arrogant, claiming the site for their own religion when so little is known about why it was originally built or what the people who built it believed in, but I can't blame them for being so excited- Avebury is a very special place, whether you're a new age hippy, a scientist, or just a plain old tourist.
Our crappy 50 pence guide (a book, not a person) pointed out a distant burial mound and guided us across the road running through the middle of the circle, to what turned out to be part of an avenue of stones leading to the circle's southern entrance, though we didn't know this until we bought a better guide later, which explained a lot
After that we headed to the actual outer circle and got a better look at the surrounding ditch and mound, which little kids were having a blast rolling down. I found myself imagining how the site must have looked when it was still in use, before all the farms, just a vast open field of grass dotted with stone circles, perhaps eerily firelit at night as they were used for rituals. The ditch was originally 30 feet deep, dug out with crude antler and stick tools, probably a bright, striking white as the chalky soil was exposed, and I wondered if it had always been in the soft curving U shape it was now (albeit deeper back then) or if it had square edges, like a castle's moat
Another road, another gate, and we were in the Cove, which was full of sheep with neon blue or pink dye marks on their backs. They apparently enjoyed rubbing up against the stones, because I found wool stuck to the base of one, and even a tiny hint of blue. There wasn't as much to see at the Cove, since it hadn't been excavated very much, and there are no plans to do so anytime soon. Glennica told me that there were a lot of buried stones there, though... the church ordered the stones destroyed, but some people, fearing retribution from dark forces, buried them rather than breaking them apart by heating them and cracking them with cold water and hammers.
We wandered the site for a while longer, appreciating its beauty and getting a better idea of what it looked like as a whole, but soon it was time for us to catch the bus and head back to Salisbury, which took the rest of the day
That's pretty much it for that day, except that I had a ploughman's dinner that night at the pub- a wheat baguette, some really good sharp cheddar, a slice of cold pork pie, salad, and a pickled onion. It was very good and definitely unlike anything I could get back home, but I have no idea how one is supposed to eat an entire pickled onion... I'd have a hard time eating a whole normal onion.