Unlike Rhiannon I didn't walk right up to the Cursus but chose to 'view' it from the top of a barrow just to the south of it.
(Easy walk from the official car park)
There was a pretty good view from the top of the barrow and you can let your imagination get the better of you by imagining how it would have looked when in its prime. I wonder what really went on here all those years ago?
Well Cursuswalker, the machine dispensing leaflets seems to have been dispensed with full stop. Oh well. It'll save people having to enter the circus that is the Stonehenge car park on a summer afternoon. They want £3 off you if you're not paying to see the stones. I, like many other people, chose to park for nothing on the side of the byway that runs up to the Cursus. And after queuing for a lockless and fairly mangy toilet I headed up the track. It's not long before you get away from the mayhem. It's amazing how few people bother - and yet, you get a completely different view and understanding of the stones.
It's heresy, but I kind of feel that Stonehenge is, has to be, a sacrificial site - I mean, sacrificed to tourists. EH can make huge profits out of it, and they can sink those profits into other heritage sites. This is surely good. All this aspirational stuff about a new visitor centre far away, and 'walking to the stones'... people on the whistle stop Stonehenge tour don't want to walk. If they did, and they had time, they would already be walking over the landscape, and they're not. I was virtually alone.
Just keep walking and before you know it (wafted along by painted lady butterflies) you are there slap bang in the middle of the cursus. It's immense, disappearing off as far as you can see in both directions. Cows roam on one side, sheep on the other, and you can walk the length of it if you please. A board shows you the brawny prehistoric builders digging the ditches and building up the chalk sides - thus it was originally even more dazzly and impressive.
So I urge you to make the (relatively minimal) effort and walk up here. Maybe it's for the slightly geeky - but that's you anyway isn't it.
When you next visit Stonehenge, try getting hold of the booklet "Exploring The Stonehenge Landscape" that is sold from machines in the car park, but not in the shop for some odd reason.
I recommend Walk 3, which takes in all the most prominent barrow groups to the north, but most importantly includes walking the entire length of the Stonehenge Cursus, a two mile long processional Neolithic route that leads to a now destroyed long barrow. The sides of the Cursus can be made out along most of its length and it is vast in scale.
For much of its length Stonehenge can be seen right on the horizon, without all the modern rubbish that surrounds it. The walk ends by approaching the Henge up the Stonehenge Avenue, from the exact direction of the Midsummer sunrise.
The walk is about 6 miles in total and gives you an utterly different way of seeing the whole area.
This post appears as part of the weblog entry Pilgrimage
Neolithic cursus, comprising a long, narrow earthwork enclosure circa 2.7 kilometres long, and varying in width from 100 to 150 metres. The cursus is orientated roughly east-west, passing within circa 700 metres of Stonehenge (SU 14 SW 4), which is located to the south. Both ends of the cursus are square in plan with rounded corners. Two round barrows lie within the cursus interior at its western end. Much of the cursus bank and ditch survives as earthworks, the bank to a maximum height of 0.4 metres, and 6.5 metres width. Small scale excavations occurred in 1947, 1959 and 1983, plus some reconstruction work in 1987. Dating evidence for the main phase of use is limited, but construction has been assigned to a period contemporary with phase 1 at Stonehenge (circa 2950-2900BC), and the main use of the monument is believed to have come to an end during phase 2 (circa 2900-2400BC).