The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Jane’s TMA Blog

Post to the TMA Blog

Sunset swims and a walk on the chalk

Saturday: Driving the 40 hot, hot, hot miles back from Stratford with my kids in my air-conned car (I'm so happy to have air-con in my 'new' car: I have power steering and central locking, too!) I decided briefly to swing by the Rollright stones en route and check them out with my new digital camera. I'd spend Friday evening digesting the instruction manual and felt quite confident. I took a couple of shots and got an idea for a painting, so a very useful 5 minutes!!

(I noticed that next weekend -19 and 20 July- is the Rollright's Archaeology Weekend, if anyone's interested...) I think they're doing dowsing and stuff, too, if you're into that.

Any road up, I spent the afternoon scribbling down my painting idea and getting quite hot sitting in the garden. At 5.30pm, the doorbell rings unexpectedly. It's my wonderful Dutch friend Louis, who's been out cycling and is looking particularly bronzed and lovely. He has a coffee and says: 'let's go swimming!' Great idea. So he and I stroll down to the Thames, just at the back of my village, to a fairly quiet spot where the only passing traffic is the odd boat or two.

Like TomBo, Louis's a man who enjoys the feeling of the sun, the water and the air on his skin. All his skin. It's liberating. It's wonderful. It's natural. He is more muscular, than 'well-upholstered' like me, and therefore can't spend as long in the water, so he basks like a lizard in the golden evening sunlight, whilst I float around in the dark, cool waters with the pike and the carp.

This section of the upper Thames was once home to rich megalithic cultures. In the fields just to the east of my secret bathing place crop marks can be seen every summer and of course, just a mile and half away, as the crow flies, lies the great henge of the Devils Quoits. As I bathed, I imagined all this and the important strategic position of this dramatic curve in the river as it flows round Beacon Hill before reaching Oxford.

Sunday: I had nothing particularly planned, but fancied a bit of painting 'en plein air'. The day was again significantly 'scorchio!', so I thought I'd nip out to Uffington with my sketchbook and see what was about.

I parked at the top of a trackway, where it intersects the Ridgeway near Wayland's Smithy and headed off north east towards Uffington Castle which utterly dominates the landscape. I had a notion, which turned out to be utterly ridiculous, that I would walk up to the castle barefoot, seeking to 'dirty' my feet with the chalkdust. But with ten paces the sharp stones began to cut my feet. What a wuss! I put my sandals back on and felt more 'Roman' than neolithic.

When I reached the castle, the breeze was strong and refreshing and the kite flyers were out in force! I walk around the 'ramparts', which are effectively the roof of my county and could see for MILES - a 360degree view of a tear-jerkingly beautiful landscape! I imagined a sweeping soundtrack of an orchestra of strings accompanying me in my own little world. I sat. And looked. I could see the line of the Ridgeway which I'd just walked up and the great beech trees rising out the site of Waylands. And I looked some more and thought: 'I'll just make a quick sketch'. Two hours, a phone call, a chat with a passer-by and some significant sunburn later, I reluctantly left and headed back down towards Waylands.

The shade from the beech trees was fantastic and I slumped down into the cool, long grass to rest. It wasn't long before I wanted to record my looking again, so got the sketchbook out once more to scribble a few lines and record the stones.

I always find it REMARKABLE how little time the average visitor stays at these places. Are they weird? Am I weird? Is it only with a camera that people are able to look - I mean REALLY look - these days? Have we lost the ability? Perhaps mass-visual media in easily digestible chunks has extinguished the pleasure of looking and finding out merely through observation for most people. It requires input from the viewer, not passive glimpses. This isn't a soap powder advert, it's an ancient site, and deserves time to be understood. I wondered how long most people from this website spend at any site...

Time was ticking on and I was hot. I'd drunk all my water, even drinking from my painting reservoir I was so thirsty! Yum! Cadium yellow! (not recommended ). A dip in the Thames to end the day? You bet your arse!

Jane Posted by Jane
15th July 2003ce
Edited 25th November 2005ce

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to add a comment