After finishing up with our exploration of the standing stones in the village of Avebury itself, we drove north a short distance on the A4361 highway toward Swindon and then swung right out an even smaller road angling southeast toward Marlborough. We were in search of our first 'White Horse', another feature of this part of England that I had picked up from the pages of VT members. The beauty of the extensive AZ Road Atlas of Great Britain that I had bought during our 2004 trip to England was that it was so detailed that it had small red symbols depicting historical attractions of note, and these included some of the 24 known White Horse sites in Britain (with 13 of them being located in Wiltshire).
These very large hillside 'carvings' of various depictions of horses are almost always made by stripping the topsoil to reveal the white chalk beneath. Although the oldest one dates back an estimated 3,000 years, most of the White Horses are not older than 300 years. The Hackpen White Horse that we zeroed in on is relatively young, being carved from Hackpen Hill on the edge of the Marlborough Downs in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria. Of the 13 known White Horses in Wiltshire, 5 have been lost as the vegetation grew back in over the years, but this one was in fine form as the intruding growths had been hand cleared by one of the locals in 2004.
The oldest White Horse, near Uffington in Oxfordshire, is different from the later ones in that it is carved on the top of a hill and is best viewed only from a distant elevation. It is a stylized depiction of a horse made with curving white lines and, at about 360 feet in length, is much larger than the more modern offerings. The "wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk" web-site has a lot of information on this very interesting British custom of hillside carvings!
My family was more interested in the stones than the village, and I did not know anything about the village at the time, except that there was no place for me to sit and rest - a serious shortcoming as far as I am concerned.
However, I found a website on Avebury which says:
"The village itself holds much of interest including the church of St. James which has a long history going back to Saxon times. It also contains a notable font believed to date from the 12th Century which is adorned with some interesting carvings. There is also a fine Manor House alongside which is The Alexander Keiller Museum. This contains detailed information relating to the archaeology of the monuments and has many fascinating artifacts from the area on display. Supplementing the Keiller museum is the Barn Gallery which also contains some interesting "hands on" exhibits and other information supplied by The National Trust under whose care the monuments now fall."
I don't know if Manor Farm and Manor House are connected in any way. But I would have liked to have seen the museum when I was there.
Alexander Keiller Museum inc. Barn Gallery: £4.20, child £2.10, family £10 (2 adults & 3 children), family £7 (1 adult & 3 children).
Visitors who would have difficulty walking the 150m from High Street car park may park near the Barn by prior arrangement
Old Sarum was one of the early places where people lived in this area and the remains there span about 4000 years.. It antedates the Romans. Saxon and Norman both occupied the fort. Constable painted a very evocative painting of Old Sarum
We stopped off here on a whim on our way from Salisbury to Stonehenge, but didn't go in. There is a £2.80 entry fee. (English Heritage Members Free)
Our primary objective was to look back at the Salisbury Cathedral. The Salisbury Cathedral was the replacement location for Old Sarum.
We did not stop at another nearby site Woodhenge.
This is the White Horse, located near Avebury, Wiltshire County, England. England is spotted with these white horses cantering over the Wiltshire chalk hills around Avebury and Stonehenge. The Cherhill white horse was created in 1780 by cutting away the grass on the hill and using the chalk to create the shape of a horse. It's located on the edge of Cherhill Down off the A4 road from Calne to Marlborough. The tradition has been practiced for centuries - horses carved into the chalk hillsides, and while many have disappeared through neglect, there are eight of them that can still be seen today: Westbury, Cherhill, Pewsey, Marlborough, Alton Barnes, Hackpen, Devizes, Broad Town, and Pewsey. The Oldest white horse in the West isn't in Wiltshire - it's at Uffington, a few miles over the border in Berkshire. It was noticed later through time that this particular horse at Uffington was similar to the horses decorating Iron Age Celtic cauldrons and coins found in Marlborough and Aylesford. The Celts worshipped the horse goddess Epona, or her Western counterpart, Rhiannon. The white horse was used to symbollize her and pay tribute to her. It's believed that the British had over-farmed their lands and were very concerned about it becoming less fertile. There were periods of desolation and infertility that led to catastrophe. Some theorize that the people who had built the vast ceremonial temples of Stonehenge and Avebury came up with these horses as offerings to Epona (or Rhiannon) for blessings upon the land. It is believed by some that they left their farmlands and became horsemen and mounted warriors who lived in hill forts eating what they could hunt or gather. The white horses were representative of a statement of defiance or celebration because the horse liberated them. On horseback, there was no boundaries ... they could travel far and wide quickly.
A new White Horse trail has been created that links all 8 of the still-visible horses on a 90 mile circular way marked route for walkers and cyclists.
Silbury Hill is the largest, prehistoric, man-made mound in Europe. Construction began around 2750 B.C. It can be found about one mile south of Avebury. And, West Kennet Long Barrow is about a 5-10 minute walk away.
Built around 3250 B.C. It was used as a burial chamber for a thousand years. You can walk inside where you'll find 5 dark, dank chambers. It's about a 10-15 minute walk from Avebury - not far from Silbury Hill.
On the bus trip back to Salisbury, I stopped off at the site of Old Sarum. Actually, it was closed by the time I got there - so I climbed over the fence and walked around inside by myself. There's not much left to it except the foundations.
Old Sarum was a town first settled in 300 B.C. and lasted until about 1300 A.D. The Romans also used it as a military base The stone ruins come from a castle and a cathedral from a thousand years ago - around the time of the Norman Conquest. It's about 2 miles north of Salisbury and about an hour away from Avebury.
Construction of Stonehenge started around 3100 B.C. In 1998 A.D., I was there...and so was the rain. Nevertheless, I got wet so I could look at these big, old, stones. Actually, the stones are roped off, so visitors can't get too close...unlike Avebury. Stonehenge and Avebury weren't too far apart...saw them both in one day.
Stonehenge was one of the places that I was anxious to visit. My daughter took us there, but she said she liked Avebury better, so after we visited Stonehenge we came here. It is perfectly possible to visit both in the same day.
Since walking was difficult for me, I actually got closer to the Stonehenge stones, although there were a whole lot more people (photo 2)
Juet behind the Alexander Keiller Museum is the manor itself. As most people look at the stones and then possibly the museum, few people realise that the National Heritage also runs this place just behind it all. It started off as a monastery and then became a Tudor manor house which today is mostly famous for its Edwardian gardens. I have not been inside as tours are limited since it is now rented by a private family so if you want to see the inside you'd better look at the site below to see when you can book. What I can say is that the exterior is lovely.
One of the most famous prehistoric monuments of England next to Avebury. The megalithic monument is located on the southern part of Salisbury Plain (about 8 miles - 13 kilometres - north of Salisbury). Scholars believe that the site was used as a ritual site or temple from 2800 - 1100 BCE (Neolithic Age through the Bronze Age). The monument was constructed with sarsen stones that are believed to have come from the Marlborough Downs (about 20 miles - 32 kilometres - to the north), and estimated to have been built in about 2000 BCE. The most accepted theory stated that there was needed more than 1,000 men to transport the stones. Many of the stones from the original temple are no longer there: they may have been broken up in the time of the Romans or in the Middle Ages.