In the UK we see the ‘Man in the moon’ – a face on the surface of the moon, in Thailand they see a rabbit; you may never look at the moon the same way again – what has been seen can not be unseen…
The different view is helped by the slightly different angle of view in each country.
Apologies for my drawing abilities…
Dreary October day, but the city of Lincoln is worth a visit. Rising above the flat Lincolnshire plains the old town is topped by the cathedral and the castle. The cathedral built from 1088 onwards was the tallest building in the world for some 240 years.
Maybe less well known to an international audience than Stonehenge, and lying some 18 miles to the north, is the village of Avebury; site of the largest stone circle in Europe. There are actually 3 stone circles, 2 within the outer raised bank and ditch, and a third circle surrounding the entire site. Construction is estimated at 2600 BC – or 4600 years ago.
There is something of a chequered past to the stones; despite their age and significance they were considered the ‘work of the devil’ around the 14th C (when England was in the full throw of Christianity) and local villagers set about toppling or destroying them. One person was killed during this destruction (around 1320) – a stone fell on him and he was only excavated in 1938! This accident and the advent of the Black Death may have saved further damage to the stones – as the locals had other matters to contend with…
Further puritanical damage was inflicted around the 1720s, when the stones were broken apart for building materials.
The current state of the henge is largely down to Alexander Keiller (of the jam making family), who purchased the entire site and started renovation. The site now belongs to the National Trust.
Despite the fact a road runs through it (literally) and the site attracts a quarter of a million visitors a year, Avebury manages to be quite tranquil and not loaded with tourist tat.
West Kennet Long Barrow
Just to the south of Avebury is the West Kennet Long Barrow at approx 3600 BC, 5600 years old, this is much older than Avebury Henge and some 400 years older than Stonehenge. The barrow is a burial chamber and was in use for about 1000 years.
You can enter the front section of the barrow, and there is nothing remotely spooky about it; apart from suddenly hearing someone in a side chamber cough or shuffle about when you thought it was empty…
Being an ancient site, it does get a fair share of drum banging, cow bothering ‘New Age’ types…
The final part of this Neolithic collection is Silbury Hill. At 40 meters high, the largest Neolithic mound in Europe; estimated to have taken around 15 years to build, it has been standing for about 4750 years.
Discoveries are still being made; in 2007 English Heritage announced that they had found a large Roman settlement near the hill, but its original purpose remains a mystery.
For some reason I had never visited Oxford, so decided to pop down for a quick view and combine it with the Cotswolds area.
The Cotswolds is an area in central England, running from just south of Stratford on Avon to around Bath. It is notable for its gently rolling hills and pretty villages – with many buildings made out of the local limestone, which mellows to a soft honey tone, and gives an overall Chocolate Box* look.
Being easily accessible from London, Birmingham and Bristol, the area is very touristy, but also has a lot of semi-residential commuters from the big cities. If there is one word that describes this area and separates it from the bigger cities around; its not ‘countryside’, ‘rural’, or ‘peaceful’ – its ‘money’… the place reeks of money. Its like Knightsbridge or Kensington, but with fields.
Much of the money comes in with visitors, and most of the Cotswold towns are built to accommodate them – from car parks on the edge of town, to B&Bs, cafes and olde world pubs; it’s Disneyland for grown ups.
There is a pervading aroma in many of these towns and it took me a while to identify it: candle shops – scented candles in particular. Along with faux Farm Shops and the staple of this kind of place: the kitchen accessory shop, candles shops pervade the high streets. The kitchen accessory shops boom as visitors like to buy in to the lifestyle (for that is what they are really selling); so instead of a Disney snowglobe, you can satisfy your retail urges with a plastic cruet tray (£4.95), a wooden cruet tray (£9.95) or some sort of colander spoon for £12; convincing yourself of its usefulness will allow you to puts aside the fact that its 10 times what you would pay on your own high street.
Don’t get me wrong, the above is not a criticism, its all very well done and the area is beautifully preserved – its just not very real.
Chocolate Box* – A pretty scene used to decorate a presentation box of Chocolates, also known as Biscuit Tin for the same reason. Often Cotswold or Devon villages.