Saturday, 17 September 2016

Silbury Hill & Avebury Stone Circle

Early morning and sunbeams brighten up a corner of the garden with promises of a glorious mid-September day to come
A lady spider has been up even longer than us busily spinning her web

Shrouded in mist Silbury Hill is Europe's largest man-made prehistoric mound constructed between 2400 and 2300 BC. The purpose of the mound or the meaning it held for the late Neolithic people who built it is not known. The monument seen today was not conceived and built in a single campaign, but grew larger over several generations. Composed mainly of chalk and clay excavated from the surrounding area, the mound stands 40 metres (131ft) high and covers 5 acres (2ha) - a similar size to the smaller Egyptian pyramids. Over time, the project became more ambitious, with huge quantities of chalk dug from the surrounding ditches to build the mound. The years between 2600 and 2000BC was a period of great change, when new forms of pottery, new burial rites and the first metalworking arrived in Britain. This period saw intense building activity in the Avebury area, when hundreds of people came together to construct a variety of monuments including a henge, stone circles and avenues at Avebury. The story of Silbury Hill does not end in prehistory as the Romans chose to build a road and a small town around the foot of the mound.
As the crow flies, Avebury is less than a mile from Silbury Hill - the whole area being a World Heritage Site. Avebury stone circle is the largest in the world, around its perimeter runs a deep ditch which is then surrounded by a high bank. It is possible to walk a complete circuit around the stones by following the pathway running along the top of the bank.
The surrounding bank was formed when Neothilic man removed chalk from the ditches.  Ditch excavations carried out in the early c20th discovered that they had used deer antlers as rakes and picks
The first farmers made their mark on the Avebury landscape almost 6000 years ago. Since then, a pretty village has grown up at the heart of the monument. This is the only place in the world where you'll find a pub and a chapel inside a stone circle. Sadly many of the stones were despoiled and used for building houses by the locals across the centuries - they did not have the knowledge or understanding of the historical heritage that was sitting on their doorsteps

A large piece of stone has been hacked away here  

The stones were not shaped by their Neolithic builders but were chosen for their natural form. The shapes fell into two categories: male and female. The tall rectangular shaped stones are thought to represent the male while the diamond shaped stones represent the female presence. Fertility was a property widely considered to be connected with these rings of stone
Halfway around the walk on top of part of the high bank grows a group of majestic ancient trees

These wonderful trees have their branches strewn with all kinds of paraphernalia, the roots are tied with ribbons and messages left by visitors, Pagans, Wiccans, and those declaring their undying love for one another. From time to time it is necessary to purged the trees of all these tokens which takes up valuable resources and time, but is important for the trees continued survival so that future generations may also see and admire them.
Personally I don't understand this compulsion that some have to leave their footprint behind - I am reminded too of the 'love locks' that decorate some of the historic bridges over the Seine in Paris which are causing structural damage and problems for the Parisian authorities. 
Next time Avebury Manor Garden 

40 comments:

  1. What a great and interesting post.
    It is always sad to see what people do in ignorance to nature and historic sites.

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    1. Thank you Catherine - I am delighted that you found the post of interest - we enjoyed a wonderful day there

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  2. Such a nice historical post again. I have seen those ribbons in the trees in Ireland too. People seem to have an irrepressible urge to leave a mark behind, curving trees and those terrible lovelocks indeed. I like that group of trees with their amazing pattern of roots.

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    1. Those trees are simply wonderful and a delight to see - the root structure is fascinating - how great is mother nature.

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  3. It's lovely to see Avebury again in your post - it is such a fascinating place. Beautiful photos, as always, but I particularly love your first photo of the ancient trees and their roots. I love the sunbeams in your first photo, too. One of the things I look forward to most in autumn is the golden light from a low sun.

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    1. It is lovely to catch the early morning sunbeams - given the right circumstances they happen so very briefly before departing - I love the network of roots surrounding the trees too.

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  4. Last time we were there it poured with rain as we were doing a walk from a couple of miles away into Avebury.........rather spoiled the looking round!

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    1. Hello Sue - that is a pity, you should try and make a return visit, and hopefully pick a lovely day

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  5. Hello Rosemary, What an incredible site, both the ancient stones and mounds, and the tree roots which are amazing. I agree with you that they are better unadorned. In Ohio there are many prehistoric Indian mounds, some round but some with special shapes, such as the Serpent Mound. These are so amazing that it strikes me as odd that even long ago some were leveled or developed. A few were even used as sites for modern cemeteries.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I suppose it is fortunate that much of our pre-history survives, and some of it is of course still hidden underground awaiting rediscovery.

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  6. I've been there! Both Avebury and Silbury Hill -- loved them both. So I enjoyed these photos very much as a trip down memory lane! Leaving bits of string or ribbons on sacred trees is an ancient pagan custom -- each one represents a prayer. At least that's supposed to be the purpose. Sort of like leaving bits of paper with prayers written on them at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. They have to clean those out too all the time.

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    1. I am so pleased to think that you have visited there too Debra - I wonder if you went to Stonehenge too.

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    2. Oh yes, Stonehenge was very special. I participated in a private pagan ceremony among the stones themselves, led at sunset by our guide who was/is an Archdruidess. Very moving and powerful.

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    3. Thanks for letting me know Debra

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  7. A very pretty and clever picture of the spider and web, Rosemary, and another interesting post. Have never heard of Silbury Hill, but it is a fascinating site. It is incredible to think of a pretty village sitting in the middle of a Neolithic site.

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    1. I watched the spider for several minutes pulling the thread out of herself and manipulating it so beautifully with all of her limbs into the web - it was possible to see it so easily because of the low bright morning light shinning directly on to her.
      When are you off to Ireland Patricia?

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  8. Lovely photos. Funny you should mention the modern craze for leaving tokens behind as the padlocks on bridge parapet idea is a world wide phenomenon now. Only last week I cycled past two small insignificant bridges in Glasgow beside waterfalls completely covered in expensive looking engraved pendants and padlocks probably adding up to a few thousand pounds in value. Nothing there 10 years ago. America's first city, Cahokia, and Monks Mound was built along similar lines as Silbury, only 13th century, so there must be something compulsive in all humans that relate to a herd mentality past.

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    1. On reflection people used to carve their initials into trees and stone walls - herd mentality sums it up - I am just starting to read a book called The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Beware of straying from the flock for fear you'll be left out in the cold - it appears that humans are either sheep or goats - in this instance I must be a goat!!!

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  9. I enjoy always to visit in your blog. And I didn't disappointed now either.
    So beautiful photos, and history text (of course, I didn't quite understand everything, but mainly, however).
    It's great to see that strange and bizarre past time.
    Hugs

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    1. Thank you Orvokki - delighted that you enjoyed seeing these remains from our prehistoric past

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  10. Dear Rosemary, I didn't know about Silbury Hill. When I looked at photo 8, I thought that it looked like ... and then read your description - so it is obvious.
    I liked the photo of the Lady spider especially - why is she called like this?

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    1. Sorry Britta - I didn't quite understand your question - she is not a lady spider with a capital L but simply a female spider - it is the female spider that does all the web spinning - is that what you meant?

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  11. What a stunning place , love those hills and the old trees...magnificent !

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  12. I find that part of the country fascinating. So much we still don't understand.

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    1. You are right Jessica, several days in the area would be much better to see everything

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  13. Great place to visit. The pattern of the roots of these old trees is just fascinating.

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  14. Dearest Rosemary,
    Absolutely stunning photos!
    Love also the roots from those majestic ancient trees, they too have a story to tell.
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - the ancient trees and their wonderful root stucture took me by surprise when I first came across them - thanks for your comment and your kind remark re: photos.

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  15. Fantastic photos of one of my favourite places.

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    1. Thank you - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the images of Avebury

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  16. Just glorious photos which really bring the place alive.
    Margaret P

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    1. Thank you - your kind comment is much appreciated

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  17. Ah, Rosemary, one of my favourite places - as you may have seen awhile ago over on 'ABAB'. Your photographs capture it beautifully and you took shots of those amazing tree roots too, which I regretted not doing when last there.

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    1. I must have missed your post Mike - I will take a look and see if I can find it - I loved those tree roots and have never seen any quite like them before.

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  18. Great images and great posting.

    (I suddenly got a strong wish to pop over to England, just for a long weekend with afternoon tea and a bit of shopping too...... )

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  19. Those tree roots are fantastic. It's amazing that the something created such a long time ago with very basic tools has not been lost, and we can see appreciate and wonder at it today. Sarah x

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    1. We are really fortunate that so much from antiquity still remains in our country for us all to enjoy and appreciate.

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