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...and the award for Best Supporting Cast goes to...

When you go to Avebury, it's easy to be wowed by what I call the Hollywood sites; the stone circle itself, the henge, West Kennett long barrow and Silbury. But allow a little time, too, for the Supporting Cast, for these unsung 'B-movie' sites are real beauties in their own right and add to the context and one's understanding of the Oscar winners.

The promise of a chink of blue sky in the west lured us out for the day with a shopping list of sites to see from the Marlborough Down's Best Supporting Cast.

For example, Marlborough Mound is the second largest man-made mound in Europe after Silbury which is just four miles west. Unbelievably for such a vast construction, it's hidden away amongst the science blocks and sports halls of the Marlborough School. We didn't ask permission to enter the school grounds, but we were not challenged. I was pleased we had come when the trees were not in leaf for you get a better sense of it's scale when you can see the top of it from the ground.

Marlborough Mound — Fieldnotes

...but climb it and it seems even larger still. Phew -whee! As you climb, its spiralling terraced design and construction become more apparent and from the top its bulk is quite overwhelming and makes the ugly school buildings seem tiny. Lurking in a dip at the top of the mound is a huge ugly water tank and a kilny/chimney thing. I wondered if it was a rudimentary crematorium for disposing the bodies of schoolboys who'd been thrashed to death by an over-zealous master. Maybe not. But perhaps it should be.

Marlborough Mound — Images

<b>Marlborough Mound</b>Posted by Jane
The sun still shone as we drove south towards Adam's Grave through the village of Lockeridge. It wasn't on our shopping list, but rather we stumbled across Lockeridge Dene, a gentle valley the bottom of which is still strewn about with naturally occurring sarsens, the result of glacial activities.

Lockeridge Dene — Fieldnotes

For those unable to get up to the Mother's Jam, here's a great way to see how the landscape up there is littered with massive stones. Why this little valley escaped field clearance is not apparent, but it did and very impressive it is, too. And we're not just talking about a handful of big stones here, there are hundreds of them lying exactly where the long-forgotten glacier dumped them as it melted into history. Fantastic.

Lockeridge Dene — Images

<b>Lockeridge Dene</b>Posted by Jane<b>Lockeridge Dene</b>Posted by Jane<b>Lockeridge Dene</b>Posted by Jane
Driving out of the valley bottom towards the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs, the road cuts through a massive earthwork - Wansdyke, before finally opening up to rolling downs, with the complicated convoluted contours of Knap Hill rising to the left and the peak of Adam's Grave to the right.

Not really a very good day for pottering around outdoors. Positively Antarctic, in fact. A wall of thick grey weather loomed up from the south, the sun was fast disappearing, the wind was chill and strong. And we were still only standing in the car park. I remembered the determination and endurance of Ernest Shackleton and thought: 'this is a wimp's picnic compared to what he tolerated', so put on my fluffiest, tightest hat, took Moth's hand and we strode on up towards the skyline and the undulating outline of Adam's Grave. As we rose up, the wind practically knocked me off my feet and threatened to whip off my unblowoffable hat. Was it worth it? Oh yes!

Adam's Grave — Fieldnotes

It feels like it's on the edge; crouching, clinging like an animal to the very crest of the hill, on a threshold between the known world of the Marlborough Downs and beyond, between land and sky, between the earth here and now and the heavens. And what a view! Leaning heavily into the wind, I watched the low winter sunlight fade fast producing weak yet dramatic shadows on the very sexy figure of Knap Hill just opposite.

I never expected this long barrow to be so dramatic and frankly so bloody big. I never expected to see a bank and ditch running round it, today providing welcome relief from the howlin' wind. I never expected to like a place so much in such foul conditions.

Adam's Grave — Images

<b>Adam's Grave</b>Posted by Jane
Onwards towards Avebury and the promise of sanctuary at the Henge Shop, via West Kennett Avenue. As we passed East Kennett long barrow the storm broke and a lightening bolt crackled. We paused part way to see the Falkner's circle but as it was so damned windy that I couldn't even flick my ash out of the window and now, pelting with rain, too, I couldn't be arsed get out and walk the 100ms to see it. I'll never make the next trans-Antarctic expedition. From the road I could clearly see that the Oscar for Best Editing of a neolithic site would be awarded to.......the Falkner's circle.

In the all times I've been to Avebury over the years, I've never visited the Keiller Museum. The tedious grey weather determined that today that duck was to be busted. If you've never been, do so. Why? Beakers it's worth it. The sight of glorious zig-zagged patterned beakers, smooth stone axe heads, real neolithic doggie-dos (I kid you not!), chalk phalli, flint leaves, antler picks and other bits puts the people back into the Avebury picture. The ticket to the museum also gets you into The Great Barn which has a nicely designed permanent exhibition in it, though I was far more interested in the construction of the barn itself.

... and the winner is...
My own vote for Best Supporting Site would be for the beautiful constructed and visually stunning blockbuster Adam's Grave. Perhaps it's a murder mystery:
...a freckled-faced, cherry-lipped public schoolboy fails to appear for chapel one stormy Sunday morning. His severed head and badly charred body are found by a kite-flyer in a shallow grave on the Downs...
Well, it does sound like a film title, doesn't it? I'll get me coat.
Jane Posted by Jane
12th January 2004ce
Edited 12th January 2004ce

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