A member of an archaeological team working under the direction of Josh Pollard made an exciting and significant find at the most recent excavation at Woodhenge (Wilthsire, England). The discovery was of a large piece of bluestone from the Preseli Mountain Range in south Wales. Read more
I've never been to Woodhenge before, and I'm not sure what I was expecting - it looks so accessible near the road, and it's so near Stonehenge, but surely there's not much to really see? But I enjoyed my trip today. There's a perfectly good carpark, but I felt like commandeering the bus stop below and walking up. It felt like more of an entrance - and it made me realise that Woodhenge is indeed raised up from its surroundings. It gave me that 'top table' feel, like it was quite deliberately sited here for its superiority of position. But for various trees, you'd have a super 360 view. The River Avon is extremely close by - again, hidden by those dastardly trees?
At the top of the path I stopped to look at an 'interpretation board' - and suddenly I realised I was staring out at Durrington Walls, which was quite a revelation. It's huge and you can quite clearly see the banks. Durrington had post circles within it too. Such an enormous site must have been buzzing with activity once. The Riverside Project http://www.shef.ac.uk/archaeology/research/stonehenge/intro.html
suggests that there were once hundreds of dwellings inside.
Through the push-gate into the henge, and there are the rings of concrete posts in a nicely mown circle, surrounded by pleasantly unmown grassland full of wildlife (yellow rattle, scabious, butterflies, the peculiar sound of crickets). I sat down at the edge for some lunch. It was only by sitting down that I could really start to imagine how all the concentric circles of posts must have interacted - how your line of sight to the middle would have changed according to where you were. Some of the posts were just huge - one circle in particular has concrete markers a couple of feet? in diameter. That's quite a size.. and then you start wondering about how tall these posts would have been, and if or how they might have been decorated. Would it have felt claustrophobic amongst them? Was that the intention??
I walked to the fence - one thing you really can't see from here is Stonehenge, and I think that's more a matter of slope than trees. If only I'd been more prepared I would have known that the Cuckoo Stone was somewhere in front of me.
Another thing that set me wondering was the presence of 'additional' posts - posts that (to the untrained eye) look pretty randomly placed and aren't in line with any of the concentric circles. What were they all about? The mind boggles. Also to confuse there are two posts straddling the apparent N entrance - but then two more at a Strange angle off to the NE.
So don't just write this place off because it doesn't have its own stones! From an empty little field with concrete posts, you can conjure something up that is huge and imposing and mysterious, and that starts to fit into its surrounding landscape.
I came here first when I was a kid - and, apart from the colour-coding of the concrete posts, it's exactly the same - that is, disappointing and somewhat pointless.
I presume these days that archaeology / archaeobotany or whatever is cool enough to give an idea of how high the original wooden posts would have been - so why not make the modern markers a similar height? - at least that way there would be some sort of feeling of wandering through the cosmic grove or whatever it was...
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....)
Woodhenge's potential as something that little bit different (ultimately a mad site full of wooden posts) was spotted from the air by a chap called Insall, and it was excavated by Maud Cunnington in the 1920s. Before this it was known as 'The Dough Cover' - its low bank and vaguely domed middle looked like the wooden lid of a bread dough dish (like wot people used to prove their bread in before Mother's Pride was invented).
Silva,it's a neolithic site,part of the Stonehenge complex of SH,Durrington and Woodhenge. Some archaeologists have suggested Durrington was for the rites of the living, Woodhenge a site for rites of the newly dead,and Stonehenge was for thespirits of the blessed ancestors. Woodhenge has a midsummer alignment. Recent excavation has also confirmed that there were stones amidst the posts,including a three sided cove made of sarsen. Some bluestone fragments have recently been found in post holes.
I would personally like to see the concrete markers replaced with wooden posts,to give a better feel of how it might have appeared.
When I first visited this site 39 years ago, there were old wooden posts in situ - although obviously not the originals, but replacements from sometime in the early 20th century.
I don't know when the concrete replacements were put in, but they were there when I revisited the site in 1983.
you're right, it does look a bit new - they're actually concrete posts I'm afraid to say, but to show you where the post holes that did hold the wood were. There are six concentric oval rings of holes, surrounded by a round bank and a ditch (originally 8ft deep) - the bank and ditch is really the 'henge'.
Maybe the posts stood by themselves, maybe they were carved or painted, or maybe they made the uprights for a building. The long axis points to the midsummer dawn - perhaps it was an earlier version of Stonehenge.