A Family Adventure

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The clouds were gathering, rain threatening, but it was Bank Holiday Weekend so we were going on a family adventure, no matter what πŸ™‚

After discussion and consultation of maps, Avebury was decided upon. It’s somewhere I’ve always been keen to visit and, as it was only an hour and a bit away, it was deemed appropriate for a day trip. And we enjoy exploring, we really do. My husband is still finding his way around the country, while I’m rediscovering places I remember from childhood. And the gorgeous child is always up for a day out, keen to see somewhere new.

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So rain jackets and umbrellas were packed, the car filled with petrol and we were off, fingers crossed that the M25 would be more forgiving today, painful memories of almost missed flights and bumper-to-bumper traffic making us wary. But all went well and an hour or so later we were approaching the massive henge, so large that a village has been built in what was once the centre.

And I lost all reception on my phone. Which was a bit odd.

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We parked, then made our way along the overhung-with-green pathway leading to the looming ridge surrounding the circle. There were a few other people out but not too many, as the rain had started to fall in earnest. We walked the short avenue leading into the first quadrant of the circle, marvelling at the huge stones and wondering how on earth they had been brought here and put into place. I reached out to touch one, laying my hand flat against the cold stone, rough under my palm.

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And I felt a buzzing, tingling sensation, like pins and needles. My daughter put her hand on the stone and she could feel it as well, though perhaps we were both just kidding ourselves. There was a humming in the air too, but only I could hear that – water on the ear, perhaps? I thought to myself how extraordinary a sight it must have been when all the stones were in place, like a dance across the green field bounded by chalk.

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We kept going along the curve of stones, noticing flowers left as offerings in the nooks and crannies, the rain still coming down. Crossing the road that cuts the circle in half one way, we found ourselves in the next quadrant. There were more stones here, a smaller circle within the large one, and steps leading to the top of the ridge. Making our way up to the top we started along the chalky path, marvelling at the depth of the ditch and the work it must have taken to dig.

Beneath the trees at the edge of the circle a group of women in bright clothing were gathered. Some were whooping, others dancing and hugging each other as a drum began to pound out a rhythm. There was a full moon last night, and I felt maybe that was what they were celebrating, though I couldn’t be sure. Then, as the ridge curved around we saw a small group of trees, so close together they seemed as one, the roots twisting and twining fantastically along the earth, while the branches were hung with ribbons and tokens.

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This seemed a magical place indeed, and the gorgeous child was disappointed she didn’t have a ribbon to leave there. But we decided a large chocolate button was a nice compromise and so one was left, I didn’t see where, and a wish was made.

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Down the ridge we went, to the second road cutting through the ancient henge, where we crossed into the third quadrant. This one was home to sheep and goats, some of them incontinent, it seemed, by the minefield of droppings we had to negotiate as we walked along the ridge. We made it fairly unscathed into the field where two large stones known as ‘The Cove’ stood close together, both of them over twice my height and massive. Another loomed behind the wall of a picturesque old barn enclosure, and I wondered what it would be like to live in the shadow of these stones.

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We crossed the road once more and entered the fourth and final quadrant, leading us to the old church and manor house. Once again the remaining stones were imposing, one pocked with small holes that looked like faces. We passed through into the old farm and manor grounds, spending time in the Barn and Museum where we learnt more about the history of this extraordinary place, and men such as the one nicknamed ‘The Stonekiller’ who sought to destroy the stones, knocking them down, breaking and burning them, before building them into the walls of the houses nearby.

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As we came out of the Barn, gorgeous child pointed up to the top of the church tower. ‘Look at all the birds,’ she said. I turned to see ravens perched on every corbel and point of the old tower, at least thirty of them. But as soon as I looked at them they took off, each and every one, a black squawking crowd passing overhead. Which was kind of odd, again.

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We came full circle past the Manor House and old Church, past cottages and brick homes, before taking the green path back to our car. The rain had stopped, the stones wet and gray against the vivid green grass. As we left the henge behind we saw a cricket game being played, a perfect summer village image.

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And for a moment, there might have been a hum in the air. Then it was gone.

Update: The lovely Sue Vincent, who is very familiar with Avebury, told me that the buzzing and humming are well documented phenomenon at the site. How cool that I got to experience it!

24 thoughts on “A Family Adventure

  1. Avebury is one of my favourite places… I have written a lot about it over the past few months. The phone thing is not uncommon… the buzz and the hum well documented. And I think the chocolate button was a perfect offering.

    1. Thanks Sue πŸ™‚ And that’s really cool about the hum and the buzz, I didn’t realise that it was documented, I’m really pleased I got to experience it. And I did read your series on Avebury, it was wonderful – you had much better weather for your visit than we did. It was such an intriguing place – I’m sure I’ll go back there again one day. Don’t know that I could live in the circle though…

    1. Thanks Ali – it was quite something, I think it’s still resonating with me. I’d love to go back there again – you never know, perhaps we’ll make it there together one day πŸ™‚

  2. I have been to Avebury. Don’t remember the humming and buzzing, but it did have an other-worldly quality about the place. Seem to think we were there for a good part of the day and still felt we hadn’t properly explored it. Thanks for reminding me of a fascinating day out – and great photos helped as well.

    1. Thanks Graeme, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. That’s kind of how I feel as well, as though I could go back again several times and still not quite get a handle on the whole of the site. It’s quite an extraordinary place.

  3. I’m very much a cynic when it comes to any sort of otherworldliness but… Avebury, Silbury Hill, that Henge, they all make you wonder…. what were they thinking? What drove them to what are clearly extremes? How did they organise such feats? Nope it’s beyond me and rational explanations actually seem to be the least likely. Thanks for reminding me of those odd days out when things don’t fall quite as you expect.

    1. It’s true – they are places that really leave you wondering. My husband is also something of a cynic but he was fascinated by the stones, the ditch and what it would have taken to get them there. As for the humming and the buzzing, I really did experience it – as you say, one of those odd days out when things aren’t quite as you expect. I’m quite keen to go back there now, as I think I’d like to see it when it’s not pouring rain πŸ™‚

  4. Never been, but I would like to go especially to see if I can hear the buzzing and humming. I need to get myself to Stonehenge one of these days as well.

    Sounds like a great day out Helen, despite the good old British weather not helping. I wonder where that giant chocolate button ended up?

    1. Yes, she wouldn’t tell me, said the wish wouldn’t come true, so it remains a mystery πŸ™‚ We went to Stonehenge a couple of years ago and it certainly has presence, sitting alone on the plain as it does. But you can’t get near it any more – I remember visiting in the 70s when you could walk amongst the stones, people lying all over them (probably why they closed it down) – at Avebury you get a sense of what it was like inside the circle, so they would both be worth a visit. If you do go, let me know if you can feel the stones buzzing!

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