Saturday, 14 September 2013

A henge road trip

Who build Stonehenge and why?
How did they build it and for what purpose?
Oh hang on the Roma’s built it, that’s it. Well that’s what some stupid Yanky tourists were shouting out to each other while ignoring the audio guides provided and shattering the peace and quiet.
Here I was standing at Stonehenge not for the first time but the first time since university and the first time since they have shut the road so you cannot pull over to see it for free.
Last time I saw this magnificent remnant of an incredibly ancient time I gazed in wonderment. This time I did the same but my mouth was closed.
I stood looking at the gigantic stones and was lost in deep through about how they could have got them here and then erected them. It must have been an utter superhuman effort of strength and unity to achieve this.
Looking around me I thought back to when the main road ran straight past and made this place look like a natural disaster. The mismanagement and the road somehow made this remarkable unique monument become degraded by the modern infrastructure.
Now they are removing the road and the visitor centre is moving way off into the distance.
The sun shone down creating fantastically long shadow that crept along the ground from the stones and if you aimed your camera right you could cut out all the tourists and take a photos that avoided any American with a Boston red Sox baseball cap and white socks up to their knees.
I remember many years ago seeing Stonehenge for the first time and wishing I could go up and touch the stones, sadly like now they are cordoned off after years of vandalism which was started way back in the Victorian era where they chiselled pieces off for mementos.
This prehistoric momument in Wiltshire still after years of weaqther and exposure looks terrific like a 60 year olf woman who can still turn heads and look barely 40. There is something mystifying about Stonehenge that really gets you deep down and makes you stare at her deep and hard.

Archaeologists believe it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating (whatever that is?) in 2008 suggested that the first stones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC.
This is a time so far back that we are still discovering details about it today.
Stonehenge appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthurian legends and he wrote that the stones were brought to their current location by Giants from Africa.
It was once amazingly privately owned too.  A guy called Cecil Chubb bought the site for £6,600 and gave it to the nation three years later.  Imagine owning Stonehenge!?

Imagine this place as the sun rises or sets, it would send shivers down your spine.

Stonehenge still throws up new discoveries even to this day. One of the most remarakle was made in 2011.
Scientists discovered the exact rocky outcrop that those stone had come from in the first place. Geologists from University of Leicester and the National Museum of Wales announced the discovery of the exact source of the rock used to create Stonehenge's first stone circle. The researchers have identified the source as a 70-metre (230 ft) long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire, located 220 kilometres (140 mi) from Stonehenge.
140 miles to drag a stone that size is incredible. Maybe that’s why many believe aliens built it!
Stonehenge is not the only henge in these parts. There is one far more accessible, larger and lkess famous. But to me equally as beautiful and also it has the distinction of having the only pub in the world inside a henge.
Avebury is a small village with a pub, some rustic old buildings, local shop, cricket ground and of course a Neolithic Henge. Imagine hitting a six and the ball whacking against a stone that has stood there since time and memorial.
Unlike Stonehenge there are no ropes stopping you from touching the stones. On the contrary you can wander up, touch, lick, rub and dance around them if you so please; I did.
As long as you close the cattle gates behind you and do not let the sheep out you can spend ages looking at this massive stones. When I say massive, I truly mean massive as they tower over the stones at Stonehenge, but they are less famous as they have no cross sections and are rough and not hewn into a more architectural shape.
Avebury is the largest stone circle in Europe and the Red Lion offers a nice selection of beers.
It is a shame though that because of the amount of tourists flocking to see the stone circle many cars make the crossing from one field to the other quite hazardous.
Avebury has an inner stone circle, an outer stone circle, a stone avenue and an outer ditch.
All of which are in various fields and are really worth the walk.
I stood on top of the ditch and must admit I was rather evil as I laughed at an old couple trying to clamber out and failing. I could not have helped as I was the other side of a fence but must admit I was pissing myself laughing.
The sun was shining and it was a hot summer’s day as I walked round the stones. Somehow this henge even though traffic flows through it and there is a pub doing a roaring trade and a local shop selling ice creams, this place seems calmer and more tranquil than Stonehenge. Maybe it is because of the lack of audio guides telling you to press number 5 and so on.
To this day archaeologists, scientists and historians have all argued about Avebury henge’s purpose. It remains elusive to this day which I think is rather nice. It is nice not knowing why something is there. Like a bizarre ornament on your senile grandmothers mantelpiece that no one knows where it came from but it has always been there.
It is nice that time still has mysteries that may never be solved. Even with advances in technology history and the past can still hide secrets for forever and a day.
Mystery is good as it keeps people guessing and it makes this henge special in a way that maybe its more famous brother Stonehenge can never be.
Don’t get me wrong both henges are magnificent and incredibly important to our nation’s history. But for me Avebury is the more charming one and when I see it the smile is a little wider on my face.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to go and see these two famous places and marvel at them for yourself.
Stones can cast spells over you and it is certainly worth the drive to see them.


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