The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

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The Sanctuary (Timber Circle) — Fieldnotes

28th June 2006

And so to The Sanctuary... well that is if you can actually get into it! It took me about 5 mins to work out how to open the gate, which seems to have been fashioned from an Inquistion torture device and one of those brakes mechanisms that they used to put on kiddies go-karts. I pushed and pulled and the gate remained locked; i lifted and tugged and still no joy. I tried a combination of the above and, at last, it came undone - this certainly wasn't the type of riddle that i'd expected to be confronted with here.

Once inside there's not much to see and it's rather left up to your own imagination or the graphics on the EH information post to fill in the blanks, or the holes if you will. In the dramatic reconstruction that an EH artist has kindly put together i found it rather disconcerting that Neolithic man bears an uncanny resemblance to the hairy, bearded bloke from that 1970's erotic masterpiece, 'The Joys of Love'. Perhaps it was the same artist?

Either way this shouldn't really distract from the wider context in which The Sanctuary is posited: sitting aloft Overton Hill at the south-western end of The Ridgeway and forming part Avebury's astonishing Druidic complex. As some of the other posts have commented, this really is the place from which a visit to any of the surrounding sites should begin. Having already trod the Ridgeway earlier in the day up at Uffington i picked it up once again, by way of the M4, at its conlusion just north of The Sancturay.

As one journey ends at The Sancturay it seems that so another begins - that of the descent down to Avebury and Silbury. I found an excellent print in the Henge Shop in Avebury etched by Antiquarian extrodinaire, William Stukeley, in which he offers up a far more interesting and aesthetically pleasing dramatic reconstruction than the one seen on the EH sign. In it he depicts a panoramic elevation of Beckhmanpton Ave, Avebury, West Kennett Ave and The Sanctuary in which the shape of a serpent is apparent in the way the sites are connected - The Sanctuary being it's head!

West Kennet (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

28th June 2006

West Kennett Longbarrow was the 7th destination on this my first pilgrimmage from the city slums of the Big Smoke to the mystical, mythical West. I'd spent the morning at Uffington in the company of the White Horse et al, then it was back in the motor and back onto the M4 and off to Wiltshire...

As other posts have alluded, the car park for WKLB is frequented by local bandits and there's no shortage of reminders in the form of rude, day-glo posters put up by the local fuzz. It would be easy to condemn this skullduggery as a product of modern times; but i couldn't help but speculate as to the comparable threats and dangers faced by the Ancients on their own sacred pilgrimmages and wondered if indeed there was a Neolithic equivalent of a Hoodie? So rather than a modern anomaly i came to view this threat as something that i probably shared with my forefathers and something that, undoubtedly like them too, consolodated the purpose of my journey. Another point to note is that on the lower reaches of path leading to the barrow there are sections where the nettles severely intrude on the walkway and, as such, leg protection is necessary or you'll probably find that you get stung. Avoid wearing mini-skirts!

There is little point in me going into any detail about either the barrow itself or the panoramic views afforded from it - these are all described elsewhere. However, one thing that i must mention is the view to the south of the barrow. Normally overlooked in favour of the view northwest towards Silbury Hill, or east towards The Sancturay, i'd argue that, certainly at this time of the year, the view to the south is by far the most spectacular, inspiring and profound on offer. This has happened by chance it seems, as nature has conspired to present us with a highly seductive floral alternative to the man-made sites that our gaze usually comes to rest on: three fields: one blue, one pink and one yellow, interspersed with swathes of brillant scarlet poppies: psychedelia au naturel!

I found the barrow itself magnificent but ultimately a sort of gloomy place - a place of solenmity and death. But the adjacent abundance of flora, fauna and wildflower speaks only of life and vitality. Perhaps the barrow's isolated, elevated position - surrounded as it is by the wild landscape - has something to do with this? Death and decay amidst life and renewal? Whatever the answer it was well worth the journey and an experience that i will, undoubtedly, take with me to the barrow.
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