|When the delightful Jane and I arrived in Avebury on Midsummer’s Day, we were able to drive through hordes of affable people, and leave the car by a farm. It was lovely weather, blue skies, puffy white clouds, warm, breezy and sunny, but with denser cloud slowly moving in from the southwest.We set off eastwards along the white chalk track that met the end of the lane.
The map told us we were on the Wessex Ridgeway, and that a mile ahead, we would cross the Ridgeway itself. To our left, fields of green, slow-ripening wheat rolled away into shallow valleys and dells, every so often punctuated by occasional tumuli. The whole of this part of Wiltshire must have resembled something like the Valley of the Kings in its heyday. To our right, on the steeply climbing hill, yellow barley whispered and swayed with the strong breeze, while all around us skylarks circled higher and higher, their melodious, exaltative songs filling the skies.
It was a little bit like hard work for two non-walkers to trudge to the top of the down in the warm sun, getting thirstier with each dusty step, but it was worth it to turn and look westwards at Avebury and its henge nestling low in the broad, basin-like valley. Soft hills rose up on the far horizons, with all manner of greens and yellows washed across them in patches and swathes, broken up by dells and copses every so often.
We crossed the Ridgeway, then entered a huge green field that was on another rise upwards. The grass was close cropped by the flock of sheep wandering around, and the skylarks were even louder and more exuberant. Cresting the down, a beautiful piece of woodland called Delling Copse fell away to our left, while in front of us, the path led down into a steep, grassy valley which ran away to our right. The floor of this small valley was covered with huge grey stones, as far as the eye could see. Clearly, it was a glacial moraine, but seemed oddly out of place in the soft rolling Wiltshire countryside; you would expect to see this sort of thing in Scotland, Wales, or the Lake District - but in Wiltshire?!
The best part, though, was that we were completely on our own! A mile and a half out of Avebury, and not a soul to be seen. Admittedly, we had seen seven people on the way there, but there was probably something like 700+ in Avebury itself, so we weren't doing too badly. We rested by the nearest comfortable stone in the valley, desperate by now to stop and have a drink. We looked down the valley, at the stunning view in front of us, and as Jane was getting her sketchbook and paints out of her bag, she spotted a hare across to our left, which was great.
Having revived, I left Jane painting a water-colour of the scene, and wandered off to take some black and white photographs. These stones are intriguing, and after a short while moving amongst them, it’s easy to imagine they are recumbent souls, sleeping in Rip van Winkle style. It is a place to stop and look, to see the images in the stones, hear the silence, and to enjoy everything surrounding you. Very healing for the soul.
As I was moving between the stones in the ankle-deep undergrowth, balancing briefly on one stone, I heard a rustle to my right, and saw a rabbit loping strangely through the undergrowth. 'Strange gait that rabbit's got', I thought to myself. 'Must have myxamotosis' - then I saw a black-tipped tail, and realised that the rabbit was actually in the jaws of a stoat, which presumably was carrying lunch back to its kits. I was frozen for a few seconds, before realising I had a camera in my hand, but the stoat and its prey were out of shot. I ran after it, just as the stoat reached a hole, and disappeared with it's prize in next to no time. Very exciting. Not so healing for bunnikins, however.The weather by now was beginning to get a little cooler and cloudier, so we decided to head back to the car and onto another site, the Devil's Den. . .
Posted by treaclechops
31st August 2003ce