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Moth flies south - part 2

BIG AND BOLDBecause John had never been down this way before and I haven't seen all that much, especially over the last few years, there were plenty of 'high-profile' sites we were both keen to visit.

We'd already set aside Wednesday as a full day in and particularly 'around' Avebury. And Friday we'd be travelling home to Leeds, slipping into a few interesting places on the way.

So that left Tuesday and Thursday to fill with the delights offered by Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire.

Who's this Stanton, Drude?Tuesday 16 September 2003
First stop of the day was the Weddings at Stanton Drew. Remarkably enough for me there wasn't much to say about the journey from Burnham, other than it took a lot longer than I expected. And I don't think it was John's navigating - just a lot of fairly little winding roads.
Tuesday 16 September 2003
Access coming from the west, we took the B3130, turning right at the signpost for Stanton Drew. This junction is remarkable for a strange little cottage on an 'island'. One of the most bizarre domiciles I've ever seen - looks more than a little like a toadstool. Shame about the incongruous big brick chimney.

Driving into Stanton Drew, the circle is clearly signposted to the left. There's a small car park, and entrance to the field where the main circles stand is by a (kissing?) gate with an English Heritage honesty box.

And if you're lucky (we were) a little stock of b/w photocopied A4 single page info sheets. Nice touch but makes it annoying that they don't do it more often!

There's another kissing gate just before you reach the Great Circle. Looks bizarre because (at least at the moment) the only fence either side of it is a single string! This is not visible from more than a few yards away, so it just looks like a gate standing in a field!

The ground around the main and north-east circles is reasonably even, on a gentle slope.

Access to the south west circle is, from memory, over a stile and possibly through a gate too. Or 2 gates. Or 2 stiles. (Sorry!) The small field is also considerably less even and level.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
I'd been looking forward to this one for a very long time, since spotting it in Burl's ...Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany - many years ago, not long after I got the book.

Despite having read quite a bit about it, the place still surprised me, particularly just through the sheer size of the Great Circle, and I guess, the cohesiveness of the whole 'complex'. Guess it's not ALL that often that you visit sites that are so distinctly and unavoidably inter-related. Shame about Hautville's Quoit....

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.
<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth
See main Weddings at Stanton Drew page for Access notes.

Tuesday 16 September

While there John and I had the Great Circle down as marginally smaller than Long Meg and her Daughters but when I looked in Burl later, it's actually a bit bigger. As my copy of Burl lives in my rucksack I really ought to remember to look at the damn thing on site a bit more often!!!

As we walked round the Great Circle looking at the fallen stones, it became simultaneously easier to imagine the circle when the stones were standing and more frustrating that the vast majority are fallen.

This is an amazing place, that would be truly mind-boggling in a Hurlers, or Machrie Moor way if only the stones were standing!!. Kind of almost in an Avebury way if you look just at Avebury itself, the West Kennett Avenue & Longstone Cove. (Leave out Silbury & everything else though, because that's where Avebury leaves everything else trailing!!)

John's still slowly converting me to the opinion that more circles should be 'restored' - not in the Cullerie sense, 'just' re-erected as well as possible. Never would've said that a few months ago! (I'll probably change my mind again anyway next time I see a 'badly' or 'overdone' one!!!)

In fact, you only have to look at the damaged but BEAUTIFUL NE circle to see what I'm on about. If the Great Circle was anywhere near as complete as this, we'd all be mind-blown bunnies I reckon.

Big stones, most of them standing. Nice proportions

Maybe it was the defiant insubordination of the smaller circle in close proximity to a much bigger 'monument', or maybe it was something about the proportions. Or maybe it was something else. But somehow, the NE circle in relation to the Great Circle put me in mind of Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag in relation to Callanish.

Well, I know what I mean, even if nobody else does!

(The Avenues are sh**ged and seem very strangely aligned, but they're still a nice little bonus!)

Also see South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.

The South West Circle — Images

<b>The South West Circle</b>Posted by Moth

The South West Circle — Fieldnotes

See main Weddings at Stanton Drew page for Access notes.

Tuesday 16 September 2003

It is (now) possible to approach this circle directly from The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues.

Considerably more unkempt than the main site as a result of being in an apparently uncultivated field, the stones here are all fallen. And a bit overgrown. And almost impossible to photograph.

But this doesn't prevent this from being a nice circle featuring large and interesting and aesthetically pleasing stones. Ace.

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.

The Cove — Images

<b>The Cove</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Cove</b>Posted by Moth

The Cove — Fieldnotes

Access Going south through the village, when the circle is signposted left keep going. (It might even be signposted too.) As you reach the far end of the village there is a bend left with the Druids Arms on the left. Immediately after the pub there is a small car park. Park here.

If you can resist going straight for a pint, there is a gate from the car park to about 5 fairly steep steps up to the beer garden. When the back door of the pub is unlocked you can also get through that way, but it still involves steps. The stones are set in well kept grass on a gentle-ish slope in the beer garden.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Well, when we arrived the beer garden was deserted and the setting seemed fine. (Sorry Oci!) We had a look at these BIG old rocks and stood on walls at the top of the beer garden working out the relative position to the Great Circle etc and the SW Circle.

This was relatively easy. We orientated ourselves by the tops of the trees in the Great Circle's field, the Church - which lies between the Great Circle and The Cove (...hmmmm!), and, less pleasantly, a farmer's huge stockpile of old tyres that we'd noticed not far from the SW Circle!

This gave useful visual support to John Wood's observation a couple of centuries ago (related by Burl) that The Cove would align on a straight line through the centre of the NE and Great Circles. (He also says that Hautville's Quoit aligns on a line through the centres of the SE and Great Circles.)

Curiously none of this is mentioned in English Heritage's little info sheet, though it does give loads of interesting info about a geophys survey of the main site. (Once you've waded through the usual woolly 'what stone circles were for' and 'folklore'.)

Anyway, nice Cove! Inevitably a little reminiscent of, but very small in relation to, the Avebury one(s) - but still big stones in comparison to an awful lot of megaliths! Wonder what coves were? (I've read a few theories of course.) Pre-dates the circles according to Burl.

Have to say being sited in a beer garden quite appealed to us. (Ahem, what a surprise!) So, better to enjoy the ambience, we grabbed a pint of Wadswoth 6X each and drank to the glorious Mr Stanton Drew....

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle and Hautville's Quoit.

Hautville's Quoit — Images

<b>Hautville's Quoit</b>Posted by Moth

Hautville's Quoit — Fieldnotes

Access at farm on right of B3130 travelling east. It's just possible to park by the gate to the farm. Ask to see the 'stone'. They might snigger - the old chap painting the gate did when we asked! The stone (what there is to see!) lies on the farm side of the hedgerow to the east of the farmgate.

I emphasise this because the aforementioned 'old chap' didn't bother to point this out, letting us set off blithely down the roadside verge.... (I hope he did it out of cantankerousness, otherwise he was just annoyingly unhelpful!!!)

The ground may be a bit rough if you have trouble walking, but the stone is only about 100 feet (?) from the farmgate, next to the hedgerow under a tree.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
No dog in evidence today. Good job. Had no biscuits.

You will think 'is that it?' You almost certainly will think 'why did I bother?' But you'll probably also be glad you did. Me and my imagination were.

To confirm what Kammer says, I've read (can't remember where, other than Burl's mention) that the stone did, relatively recently, used to be bigger. Considerably bigger I believe.

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle and The Cove.

It ain't little and it's only stony on the inside (mainly)Next up was Stoney Littleton Long Barrow. Again it seemed to take an age to get there just because of the nature of the roads, though we didn't find it difficult to find Stoney Littleton 'village'.

What we did find was nowhere decent to park! Which from reading people's fieldnotes makes me think we might've gone a different way to everyone else!!!!

From the Landranger it wasn't even apparent whether to approach from Stoney Littleton or from Wellow. So, as I do once in a while when using a Landranger, I consulted Mr Cope. It has to be said that Julian's instructions in the big papery TMA aren't his most helpful....

One way or another, we got there....

Stony Littleton — Images

<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth

Stony Littleton — Fieldnotes

Access using the route we did, it's a fairly long walk (a few miles). A lot is uphill, some fairly steep. Ground is largely pretty even. Couple of stiles and a few gates.

We parked in a passing place-cum-layby which was plenty big enough to still be used for passing even with my car parked at one end! This was at approximately map ref ST727565.

Bear in mind that other people on this website have left their cars somewhere they refer to as a 'car park'. While references to this seem to be tongue in cheek, it was almost certainly at least as good if not better than where we parked!

We walked down the hill to a left turn heading north east along a lane which runs alongside a small river. About a quarter of a mile along, we turned right, through a kissing gate I think (though it could have been a stile). The path crosses a narrow grassy area, through the trees and across a little bridge over the river.

At the other side (east) of the river, the path heads briefly uphill across a field, meeting a farmtrack or bridlepath running roughly north-south. We turned left and followed the track northish.

The track stays maybe 50-100 yards from the river for a few hundred yards, but before long we could see a hill in front of us and the river was getting further away. There are some farm buildings just the other side of the river.

Very soon we could make out the profile of the barrow up on the hillside in front of us and to the left. About halfway up the hill I guess, we took a lightly worn but distinct path off to the left across the field, still going uphill. At the hedgerow was a stile and, I think it was here that there was a signpost to the barrow.

Over the stile and right, along the field edge following the hedgerow, slightly uphill I think. After only 100 yards or so I'd guess, there was a collapsed stile back to the other side of the hedgerow. The barrow is clearly visible and close, side-on straight up the hill from here. I think there is an English Heritage sign. There may be one more fence and stile, more-or-less directly in front.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Reaching the barrow, I commented to John that the final approach from this direction was a tiny bit disappointing, being uphill and from the side.

I feel it would be more impressive if you could approach the barrow directly towards its entrance, by continuing up the main track to the level of the barrow and then approach it by turning left. John was quite happy with it the way it is!

Maybe I'd been expecting something a little more overtly striking because I'd been looking forward to 'meeting' this place for a few months.

Approaching from the side, the first thing I noticed was the low retaining wall round the bottom of the long barrow's embankment. It seemed incredibly neat and well-preserved. I was pleased with how well it had survived and wondered if it is one of the elements of the barrow that has been restored.

Round to the entrance and the barrow took on an extra beauty for me. It's proportions are lovely and the stonework around the portal is beautiful (except for the scar where there has been a nasty plaque on the right.

I was proud to have remembered my torch for once, so we took a look inside. And discovered that the batteries were sadly inadequate!!! One day I'll get it right!

Quite a few signs of the repairs and reinforcements made before the chamber was reopened to the public. They don't exactly look subtle, but I suppose they're better than nothing. I'm no structural engineer so I'd better not complain. Funnily (?) enough, they're even more evident on my photies....

Speaking of photies, I was going to take one of the legendary giant ammonite on the left upright of the entrance. But we couldn't find it!!!

I have to say that at the time I couldn't remember where it was and hadn't seen a photo. Having checked on this website since, I really can't see how we missed it. Unless we missing it because we were too close and it's SO big?! Guess it must still be there?! My only photos of the entrance are a fraction too distant to make it out now I know where it is.

But most of the stones throughout are just dripping with chunks of shell and stuff - never seen owt like it. I was impressed. But then, I'm not a geologist either & know nothing about shelled creatures!

The chambers themselves are impressive, possibly even more so because it's a bit of a squeeze to actually get in there and manoeuvre about to see them - or is that just me being perverse?

Probably not, as this really is the first barrow to even vaguely make me feel 'cocooned' - or perhaps what I really mean is 'cockooned' given the spectacular feminine imagery of Severn-Cotswold style barrows like this!

Weirdness 'n' wallsRight up until the last moment when planning today's trip we'd been 'umming' and 'aahing' about where to go after Stanton Drew and Stoney Littleton. Well, I had anyway - John just gave his usual 'what ever' response. Note that as the English 'what ever' not the US 'whateverrrr...'.

John wasn't especially interested in the most obvious nearby sites - Glastonbury & South Cadbury castle. I'd been to both before and don't particularly feel the need to revisit. So it'd have to be somewhere a bit further afield.

My original half-plan was that we could head south and take in the Cerne Abbas Giant and maybe some other sites around there.... Luckily I rethought - no way would we have had time to do anything justice given the time when we finished at Stoney Littleton!!

We'd instead settled on the wacky idea of going to Stonehenge. We were giving priority to Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and the general area, but we agreed it'd be daft to miss out Stonehenge itself if we had time, as we'd each only ever been once (me about 8 years ago & John when he was a nipper).

It didn't take all that long to get to Stonehenge's car park. John jumped out to go and see if he could get an OS Explorer of the area (we'd drawn a blank at all the local garages etc we called at on the way). But of course you can't get to the shop unless you pay to get into the monument....

So off we went, to find Woodhenge using the road atlas. Pretty easy actually.

Woodhenge — Images

<b>Woodhenge</b>Posted by Moth

Woodhenge — Fieldnotes

Access we headed north off the A303 up the A345. Woodhenge is well signposted and has a fairly small car park across the road. There is a gate or kissing gate into the 'monument' itself.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Well I expected weird and I got it. Goodness knows what anybody who hasn't read a bit about this site would make of it. I guess the info boards would help, but I still had difficulty even vaguely making any kind of sense of it!

If you're going, read up first to get anything out of it!!! Also, get an OS Explorer or be with someone who knows what's what if you want to see Durrington Walls.

Although I thought I knew which direction was in, we were unable to work it out for ourselves even though we later found it had been staring us in the face! (It turned out to be where I thought but we hadn't recognised it because I had no idea of the size or where the main visible bits are....)

Interesting little place....After not being sure where Durrington Walls was while we were at Woodhenge, we finally tracked down an OS Explorer at a petrol station in Durrington. This was when we discovered as I'd suspected, that we'd been staring at Durrington Walls just about the whole time we were looking for it!

Luckily we were able to spot the embankments as we headed back to Stonehenge. We'd pretty much decided that there wasn't much point in going looking at barrows - after all, you can't turn around without falling over one in this part of the country.

Arriving back at the Stonehenge car park I suddenly remembered - I thought they were starting to charge for parking?! If so, they'd stopped by about 3 or 4pm the day we were there seem!!!! Or did I get it wrong?

As it happens john saw Glastonbury Tor and Weary-All Hill on the way home anyway, as we went though Glastonbury on the way back to Burnham.

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth

Stonehenge Cursus Group — Images

<b>Stonehenge Cursus Group</b>Posted by Moth

Stonehenge — Fieldnotes

Access ahem, I won't bother with directions! The tunnel has ramps. The path's pretty good. I assume everyone in the world knows you can't get right up to the stones which are roped (or more accurately, 'stringed') off. £5 entrance fee on 16 September 2003. Various concessions. (Except if you forget your relevant documents as John forgot his UB40 or whatever it's called at the moment!)

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Oh bl**dy hell! I've always said it's not 'overrated' and it's not. Sad? Yes. Undignified? Something like that. Overrated? No. How can it be? It's both spectacular and totally unique. AND it's a whole complex of 'monuments'.

Of course it's horrible having to share it with so many other people. And of course they're irritating especially when they're not very interested, 'over-interested' or just plain too damn loud.

But I found I can 'tune them out' and really feel like I got a lot out of the place by being patient waiting for it to happen. I can't say it's easy and maybe I'm just lucky or less easily disturbed or something. I don't know.

Once that happened though, I found that I could see or imagine all the things that I can remember hearing about the place - some of the sight lines and so on. The avenue, the place of the monument in the overall 'landscape'.... Of course there's no point in me describing it - we pretty much all know it back-to-front.

Time flew. One of these days I'm going be able to give myself enough time for a proper look around. Maybe I just need to go more often than after 33 years and then 8 years!!! I've had a pretty good look at the stones and the henge now. Cursus and a few of the barrows next I reckon.

It is a mindbender and I'd love to be able to do it justice. I'd love even more if it could do itself justice. I suppose English Heritage don't do such a bad job in some ways given the amount of attention (positive and negative) the place gets. But there must be a much better way. It should at the very least be free to people who can't afford to go!!!!

And you should be able to book to go right up to the stones without extra charge. And they do seem to use Stonehenge's entrance fee to subsidise EH and its other places, esp non-prehistoric ones! And...and...and....

Avebury againWednesday 17 September 2003
A reasonably early start in order to meet up with Jane at Avebury. Rendezvous successful, we headed off in Jane's car to park at Manor Farm on the lane east out of Avebury, to save a little time on the walk up the Ridgeway to our first stop, The Polisher.

The Polisher — Fieldnotes

Access a walk of at least 2 or 3 miles from the nearest parking place. Walking as we did from Manor Farm to the east of Avebury, the Ridgeway is a reasonably evenly surfaced bridlepath-type track. The gate to the bit of the down where the Polisher is has been locked both times I've been there, but isn't difficult to climb if you can climb at all.

Wednesday 17 September 2003
When I was here before I thought it'd be a cool place to sit & chill in good company. I was right.

Also had a stomp about looking at the sarsens in the area. Loads of them are beautiful and impressive. Made me want to go down into the Mother's Jam etc & just wander about looking at stones, but didn't have time!

Found a couple of stones nearby with holes in, but probably not 'the holed stone' that people talk about. Didn't find the 'cup-marked one' either. Didn't much care. This is such a special place.

Wowed on WindmillNext stop was Windmill Hill, which none of us had visited before. I don't think any of us really knew what to expect, though I'd read a few bit and pieces including Julian in TMA and the various posts on this website.

Having already walked up the Ridgeway to the Polisher, Jane (the non-walker of our little trio) seemed extremely relieved to find that Windmill Hill is actually a very short and gentle climb from the A4361 north out of Avebury.

Windmill Hill — Images

<b>Windmill Hill</b>Posted by Moth

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Chris







Back to BassettLunchtime beckoned so we returned to Avebury for a slightly over-priced but pleasant enough meal at the Red Lion (we couldn't be bothered to go looking for anywhere else).

After a brief foray to the Henge Shop (mmmmm, boooooks!!!!), John stayed in Avebury to do the 'detailed tour' with my copy of 'Burl'. Jane and I headed off to Winterbourne Bassett, both of us being fairly familiar with Avebury itself.

Jane had never seen the circle at Winterbourne Bassett and I'd only visited briefly with John 2 days before, so off we went to d some exploring.







The horse doesn't hack itWith a little time available before we'd arranged to rejoin John at the ubiquitous Red Lion, Jane suggested a quick zip up Hackpen Hill and having a look at the White Horse before returning to Avebury.

Over the last 6 months I've learned that any elevated view of the Avebury area (or most places for that matter) is worthwhile, so up we went. We were disappointed when we read the very modern date of the horse though.



Seeing Avebury in a new lightWe rejoined John at the Red Lion and decided to put off eating until later in order to enjoy the evening light on the south west of the circle. Our short visit to the pub was enlivened by a quick and inept bit of juggling by me, dropping a bottle of fizzy water which exploded on impact with the ground, leaving a damp and disgruntled US tourist in the bar... Oops!

By the time we started to lose the light on the stones, all of us were pretty hungry and we made the unanimous decision that a curry would fit the bill nicely. So, quickish scoff at The Raj in Marlborough then off in convoy as far as the M4, where Jane headed for home & we dived off back to Burnham.

A wonderful day that I was sorry to see the end of!













Moth Posted by Moth
10th October 2003ce
Edited 10th October 2003ce

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