Though a small church, Avebury Church dominates the scenery and makes a perfect picture when taken afar from where the stones are. My guess is that it's a medieval church though I couldn't gain access to it.
The Manor House and gardens next to it are opened from 1 April to end of October so I didn't see the place inside, but, it looks cosy even from the outside.
The stones are over 5000 years old. There has been much speculation about the purpose of the stones. It was probably used as a religious and ceremonial centre. Some people believe that they were used for the observance of fertility rites and there are two basic shapes to the stones, thought to represent male and female.
It is thought that the two inner circles were completed around 2600BC. The stones were transported from the Marlborough Downs, probably on wooden rollers. This must have been a huge task as some of the stones weigh over 40 tonnes, more than those at Stonehenge. Originally there were around 100 stones, but now there are only 27.
There has been some damage to the stones over the years; the worst destruction happened in the 18th century when a farmer broke up the stones to use for building materials for the village of Avebury and farm buildings.
Situated nearby is Silbury Hill, Europe's largest man-made mound. It is prehistoric in origin and no one knows why it was made. It looks like a burial mound but there is no mention of that of it. You can see it from the road and you can get a good picture from the carpark for visitors to Avebury town.
The number of houses within the roughly 1400-ft (428-m) wide circle of stones is not very large and they are clustered along the sides of the east-west streets within the circle, while the highways pass through on the north-south axis. Avebury is a typically quaint little English village and the houses are quite picturesque. We parked partially on the side-walk (as is the custom) just to the left of these buildings and then walked up past them to the pub for our meal. This view was taken as we returned to the street from the large open grassed area by the standing stones. Although many of the buildings were of red brick construction, this one has a small building using large stone blocks for a part of it's walls. Could these be from the many standing stones that were broken up many years ago by the locals for use in their fences and walls?
Considering that this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the crowds were not too bad at all for a Sunday afternoon in mid-December!
Having entered the tiny village of Avebury by passing through its encircling ring of standing stones near the clump of trees in the photo, our first order of business was to find a parking spot and then a bite to eat for a late-lunch. This accomplished, we walked straight out of The Red Lion pub, crossed the street and we were amongst the standing stones you see here!
Information on these stones from the Kennet District Council web-site states: "The Avebury henge is one of the largest known examples of its class and the stone circle which runs around its interior is the largest stone circle in Europe. The henge enclosure consists of a roughly circular ditch and outer bank enclosing an area roughly 11.5ha. The ditch measures 23m wide at its top and originally had a flat bottom 10m wide and between 7m and 10m below the ground level, cut into the natural chalk. There were four causewayed entrances into the interior, all roughly aligned with the cardinal compass points. The outer bank which was built with the material excavated from the ditch, measures between 22m and 30m wide at its base and stood up to 5m high.
Within the enclosure stood a stone circle of some 100 stones, built c.2,500 BC. Inside the massive circle stood two further stone circles. The northern circle contained 27 stones and had an inner horseshoe of stones known as the Cove. The southern circle of 29 stones included a 6.4m high stone known in recent times as the Obelisk. These stones all came from the sarsen “fields” within 3km of the site, mostly on the Downs to the east.
The monument remained little affected by ... later human activities until in the 1700s a concerted effort was made to remove the stones by breaking them. Excavation has shown that earlier attempts to bury and remove stones were also made and one such action resulted in the death of a Barber Surgeon in c.1300 AD." By the way, sarcen stones are even harder than granite and were also used to construct Stonehenge.
There are approximately 200 longbarrows in Great Britain. They were generally built as communal graves.
West Kennet Longbarrow is situated 1 1/2 miles from Avebury. It is over 100m long and is one of Britain?s longest chambered long barrows. Excavations in 1859 and 1955-56 discovered 46 burials of all ages. The construction commenced in 3600 BC and it was in use for about 1000 years. It is now covered with turf but originally it would have had bare chalk sides.
There are great views of Silbury Hill from on top of the mound. Admission is free. This is my husband standing at the entrance way.
Having finished with Silbury Hill, I realized that I had overshot a small, unmarked road that angled up into Avebury itself. Doubling back a short distance we swung onto that road and were amazed to shortly find ourselves driving by these two long lines of standing stones. As it turns out, these stones mark one of two known avenues of standing stones associated with the Avebury stone circle, this avenue running for about 2.4 km (1.5 miles) from the Overton Hill Barrows area. It is formed by two roughly parallel rows of standing sarsen stones dating from the Late Neolithic period. This best-preserved part of the Avenue is the first 800 metres stretch nearest to Avebury, thanks to the efforts of Alexander Keiller who excavated here in 1930s, erecting the stones or replacing them with concrete markers. On reaching Avebury, the stone circle could be entered via avenues on the four points of the compass, with this route being one of the main ones.
We stopped the car in a small parking lot beside the highway, entering the long field through a stile and had our first 'touch' of a 4000 year old standing stone - something we could not do at a roped-off Stonehenge!
The first of the attractions around Avebury that caught our eye were the Overton Hill Barrows, several of which are located at the top of a hill beside the A4 highway as we neared the village. I pulled into a parking area close to these mounds for a closer look. It turned out that the sheep pasture was fenced off with a locked gate, so I had to settle for a distant shot of these old structures, dating back some 4000 years. A 'barrow' is a mound of earth and stones raised over a burial site. The most famous of these near Avebury is the West Kennet Long Barrow, very close to Silbury Hill (see next tip), with ancient skeletons having been unearthed within. While at the Silbury Hill, we could see the silhouette of the West Kennet Barrow on the skyline with ant-like groups of people slowly walking toward it across a trail on the open downs. In fact, although I did not know it at the time, where I stood looking at this Overton Hill Barrow was on the same trail, called the Ridgeway. This 87-mile (137-km) route along the high ground between Overton Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon, Hertfordshire is reputed to be the oldest road in Britain, with its useage dating back to the time of these Barrows.
....................because it's got a real fire, and decent beer. Serves food, and has lots of interesting Avebury-linked photos/ drawings etc on the walls. And usually has interesting people in too................maybe you'll see a druid..........................
.....because there's no point in visiting if you don't. And try to walk down the avenue towards the Sanctuary too, away from the busy road and the village. Try to imagine what it was like 5000 years ago...............................
It will be obvious to everyone except those chaps suffering from mystical myopia, that up to this point in time the massed ranks of tree-huggers have hogged all the publicity within the world of New Ageism. Upon visiting Avebury seize the opportunity to portray them as a 'splinter' group and cuddle a calciferous deposit instead. Admittedly wearers of thin outer garments will receive a shock if they brazenly choose to fling themselves at a boulder on a frosty morning. Some might find the feel of cold stone upon the flesh as invigorating as an icy shower (boarding school survivors take note) whilst ladies who are unused to the status of 'Earth Mother' might be better advised to don a protective sports bra before enduring an embrace. That being said, on a hot Summer's day it is rather refreshing!
To be quite honest, many of the Avebury stones are not ideally suited to those seeking to bestow a full 'bear' hug. Indeed unless you are spectacularly enormous personage a partial canoodle is the best you can hope for. Perhaps you should head for Hove and practice on one of our many small pebbles first?
What could be better? An official World Heritage Centre that has free access at all hours. Mystical and magical it's arguably far more attractive a place to visit than the more famous Stonhenge which is still suffering from arguments over the best way to develop and improve access for visitors.
It's a massive site covering 28 acres to it's fullest extent, which comprises concentric circles of stones, banks and ditches and avenues. Difficult to do it justice as no single photograph - unless taken from a helicopter - can capture all the ancient megaliths in one fell swoop. It's getting on for 5000 years old and 'experts' will be arguing about it's original purpose for the next 5000. This is what comes from civilisations who selfishly forget to develop writing skills and don't bother jotting things down for future generations. Dashed careless! I only hope that 'Da Vinci Code' fellow doesn't give us a book on the subject.
Avebury possesses a stone ring similar to, but apparently older than, Stonehenge. The ring was long ago partly restored after years of being dismantled and it lacks the huge stone lintels of Stonehenge, but the area it covers is much larger. One can also walk among the stones and there are generally not the number of visitors that Stonehenge sees. In fact, we were the only ones there when we visited.
About a mile north of Avebury lies Silbury Hill, the largest megalithic construction in Europe – it is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe. It is on a base covering 2 hectares (5 acres) and is 130ft high. Archaeologists believe that Silbury Hill was built around 2700 BC – a date comparable with the building of the pyramids. The base of the monument is a 550ft diameter and is a perfectly round shape. It is likely that the time it took to build Silbury Hill was 30-40 years.
Noone really knows what it was used for - some believe it was for burials, however no evidence of this has been found.
Silbury Hill is located opposite West Kennett Longbarrow. Due to erosion you are not allowed to climb Silbury Hill and at the end of May 2000 it suffered from a lot of damage caused by heavy rain.
You can go into the burial chambers, of which there are 5. They only extend to 1/8th of the longbarrow’s length. (About 30ft). You can often find offerings such as perfumed candles and dried flowers that people have left inside the chambers. There is some light inside as 2 little skylights have been built into the roof.