The Great Christmas Escape 2017December 30, 2017
GLASS’s Seven Mile SmileJanuary 10, 2018
I thought I knew a fair bit about the ecology and archaeology of Wiltshire, having spent a lot of time exploring the many well-preserved sites that form this important part of our cultural legacy.
Jimmy Know-it-all? Not so!
Keith uses the green road network to explain the importance of the area to prehistoric man.
The historic Airfield Camp at Netheravon.
Keith explained that the pieces of sarsen stone
aside the road through the villages of the Avon Valley
may well have been brought down the nearby river during Neolithic
times when watercourses were the main methods of navigation, what with most of Britain still being covered by dense woodland.
This valley is one of several possible transit routes for the sarsen stones.
We followed the sarsen trail along the Ridgeway
byway from Adam’s Grave
, where the stones are named ‘Grey Wethers
’ on account with their similarity to sheep when observed from a distance.
This trail led us to the imposing Silbury Hill
, which – at roughly the same size as some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids – holds the distinction of being the largest man-made mound in Europe. A layby opposite the hill enabled us to park our bikes and ramble up to the 100-meter long West Kennett Long Barrow
, home to at least 46 burials since its construction in circa 3,600BC.
John, Andrew, Keiths, Becky & Steve pose a full kilometre away from Silbury Hill.
Lunch was taken at Circles Café
, operated by the National Trust
within the enormous stone circle and henge at Avebury
. Unlike the better-known Stonehenge
, the public are permitted to walk freely through the stone circle and its approach avenue
at Avebury, which makes for an enjoyable day out in its own right.
Andrew, John, Becky & Keiths posing by one of the many megaliths at Avebury.
Next stop was The Sanctuary
, site of prehistoric timber rings of unknown purpose, Bronze Age
barrows, and pottery from the age of the Beaker People
. Opposite The Sanctuary
is a continuation of the Ridgeway byway
– described as ‘Europe’s Oldest Road’ on account of its first known use being over five thousand years ago, when a seasonal TRO
was not required to manage its surface condition.
Riders inspect The Sanctuary after a brief introduction from Keith.
The sarsens of Fyfield Down look a lot like sheep from afar.
We headed south to Marden Henge
via West Woods
, where we crossed the post-Roman Wandsdyke
earthwork. In spring West Woods
is home to an impressive display of bluebells
, though was only able to offer us a blanket of golden leaves and a few slippery chalk climbs.
The stone ridgeway track atop Salisbury Plain, facing east towards Casterley Camp
Keith explains the importance of Amesbury to prehistoric man at Woodhenge.
Leaving Woodhenge and Durrington Walls
at dusk, we arrived back at Stonehenge in time to witness the sunset from the former A344 road
, which is now a permissive path managed by English Heritage. The former A344 is home to a twice-inscribed milestone
advising its distance to both London and Amesbury, and also the closest that visitors can get to the stone circle without having to pay.
Stonehenge at dusk, taken from the old A344 road.
Keith Dobson’s tour is suitable for most trail and adventure bikes and uses a combination of byways, permissive tracks and minor roads. He makes no charge for his time, though welcomes donations to Amesbury History Centre
, which helps tell the story of the town from 8,000BC to the present day, and Tommy’s
– a charity funding research to help save babies’ lives.