Avebury to Stonehenge: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Dec 11, 2011 in category

29 September – London to Warminster

9.00 am rental car pick-up at Fulham went off well. With a nifty VW Golf in hand, I powered along the M4 to Avebury.


On the way - Westbury's chalk 'White Horse' dated to a 1700's 'restoration' project with possible Saxon origins


Avebury is a most unusual site – a town (11 ½ hectares) smack-bang in the middle of three megalithic stone circles that are themselves contained within a 'henge' or deep 'ditch'.

Unlike Stonehenge that disallows visitors to touch the stones, Avebury positively encourages it. It's fun to wander around the outskirts of the town with its many prehistoric stone mascots (the National Trust has protective control of this entire township). A very fair 5 pound parking fee was a small donation for a hands-on experience of this Neolithic/Bronze Age site which is dated 2850 B.C. – 2200 B.C.

For an artist's interpretation of Neolithic/Bronze Age Avebury see:


Back in the Golf, we headed for Devizes with its old 1885 Victorian brewery called 'Wadworth' and the Kennett/Avon Canal system. An old family business, Wadworth's traditional barrel ales are an acquired taste with minimal/no chilling or gas. The 'Bishop's Tickle' was the favourite choice on the day. Wadworth still employs a 'cooper' to make barrels.

labels of past brews labels of recent brews

Devizes's canal began construction in 1794 during the 'canal mania' era. Shipping to London from the west coast around Bristol was hazardous due to rough seas and wars with France. Man-made canals in conjunction with English rivers seemed a logical solution. Devizes was more than lucky to be included in the canal system for two Devizes politicians successfully plotted to include their town in the expensive construction project.

See: http://www.katrust.co.uk/index.html

The Kennett/Avon Canal at Devizes

Stonehenge stands out on Salisbury's plains. In contrast to my visit in the 1970's when I could climb all over them, today's visitors are kept at a very safe distance, perhaps too safe! A perimeter fence enables people to gain nearly the same view without paying for entry. This enigmatic megalithic structure has many myths clouding its image. For example, Celtic druids were said to have built it and sacrificed there; however, Stonehenge was constructed and evolved over a long period of time well before Celtic culture permeated English society – over a 1000 years before!

Professors Darvill and Wainwright in a recent archaeological dig of Stonehenge purport its main purpose to be a magical healing centre, a type of Lourdes. The bluestones in the middle circle were transported from healing springs in Wales some 250 kilometres away. Evidence for this theory hinges on the excavated skeletal remains which revealed very poor health of the buried.

See: YouTube 'Timewatch'

Other theories still remain such as a type of winter/summer solstice weather gauge and Professor Michael Parker Pearson's (University of Sheffield) theory that it was a memorial to the ancestors.

See: What were the building phases? Also, see the Stonehenge Riverside Project.

Accommodation was at the Travelodge, Warminster. Travelodge accommodation is a good cheap way of travelling in England especially for overnight stays. We booked online gaining some great deals. The rooms are clean, although somewhat Spartan; moreover, their hotels are well located on main arterial roads for quick access. A delicious steak and Guinness pie with a pint of Grolsch at the 'Masons Arms' ended an eventful day. Driving in England on the first day was quite challenging mainly because of the constantly changing speed signs once off the M4.

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