2014 – Day Forty Three

Oh so far to go to get to Dover….back on the motorways we go. Those maps where the UK looks like a mere paw print on the globe…they’re very deceptive.

At least today we get an early respite. We take a short detour to stop in Avebury to look at the stone circle and Avebury Manor.

The Avebury Circle dates back 4,000 – 5,000 years ago and is National Trust and World Heritage protected. Leading into the circles (there are two) is a long avenue of stone that dates back even further – sections of it have been carbon dated back 6,000 years.

Avebury is 16 times larger than its famous cousin, Stonehenge (also in this area), but sadly, not as well preserved. It’s also the largest stone circle in the world. It was plundered in the 1400s as a result of superstition and in the 1800s for building materials. Still though, enough of it remains to be a seriously impressive site and sight. The stones are really boulders – they are enormous. I can’t imagine how they would have been moved here, nor set up, once here. As with Stonehenge, the rocks are not indigenous to the area. Missing stones are marked with concrete place markers so that you can picture them in situ.

The two circles are side by side, one large, one small, and both are surrounded by a deep and wide man made moat, dry now, of course. Given how primitive tools were at the time – the Bronze Age – whatever they were celebrating, commiserating or worshiping, they took it very seriously indeed, to have taken the time and manpower to make this.

I love the glimpse into history that comes with sites like this…but am also highly amused by those on a spiritual quest amongst the stones. We see a guy who would look at home in the hippy era, meditating happily against a stone and a couple of modern day Druids, complete with crushed velvet and Dumbledore long hair. And that was just the bloke. Fabulous. If only they’d done a little dance and chanted a bit, my day would have been truly complete.

Stone circles investigated and no more or less enlightened than before, we go off to explore Avebury Manor and gardens. The Manor has an interesting history dating from 1550 to the 1930s in private ownership, changing hands many times. On the way we see
the museum briefly, which covers the archeology of the area, a doveton (a cute Hagrid like hut where doves were kept), an ancient thatched barn and stables where apparently 5 different species of bats live today.

The Manor is three stories, built in stone and set in beautifully maintained grounds. Interestingly, when the Trust acquired it, it was empty. The BBC, then searching for a location for a historical documentary, approached them to see it they could work set up
each room in a different period associated with one of the owners at the time. The rooms reflect the first owner William Dunch in the 1550s, with a Tudor parlour and very sumptuous bed chamber. There is also a Queen Anne suite (a bed chamber and withdrawing room (and a very spacious closet and privy) prepared for a visit in 1712), and a spectacular dining room reflecting 1798 and the then owner and Governor of Jamacia, Sir Adam Williamson. He is said to have died in this room, but it is by far my favourite. The wallpaper is hand painted Chinese silk, it’s just beautiful. Moving into more modern times there is a well set up kitchen from 1912 (just like Granny’s, Chris says), a billiards room from post WWI, and lastly a 1930s parlour, a reflection of the last owner, Alexander Keillor, who was excavating the stone circles at Avebury in 1939.

The BBC also set up the kitchen gardens as part of the document with which the Manor now uses to service their cafe. They’ve done a great job, in the house and in the gardens. There must be some savage bunnies that live here – all the veggie crops are well guarded
with chicken wire!

Our need for a break from the drive appeased, we hit the motorway with a mission and make it to 10 miles out of Dover by day’s end, near the town of Hythe.

Dinner out me thinks. A reward for all that driving.