I've been coming here for the best part of twenty years. The first time was on my 21st birthday when my boyfriend of the time and I drank champagne from chipped mugs and ate homemade chocolate cake beneath the shade of one of the magnificent beeches that grow around the site. It was pretty cold that day too. As tomorrow is my 40th birthday (where exactly did that time disappear to?) it seemed very pertinent to return today and pay my respects to a landscape which has held me spellbound for such a long time (as well as drag my two cold boys, a cheery husband and a merry little dog round with me).
6000 years old and counting, Avebury sits in the centre of an ancient and to those who believe in such things, energetically important, landscape. It's linked to Stonehenge, Silbury Hill, Windmill Hill and the Sanctuary, and has survived a village being built in its centre and the fury of reactionary Victorian clergymen who instructed parishioners to pull down some of the pagon stone symbols and use them for building material. It also copes with thousands of visitors every year and the accompanying problems of erosion:
To me, it is testament to the power in the stones that they have endured and are one of the most important ancient sites in England.
I love this group of three ancient beeches sitting on the hill half-way round the site: they grow very close together and the children, M and I walk between them and whisper a prayer or a wish to the tree spirits. A few years back I was telling the children about this tradition and the family behind us overheard and after we'd walked through and said our prayer or wishes, they did the same! People leave bunches of flowers in the roots and tie ribbons in the branches as offerings. Its a very peaceful spot.
M was musing in the car before we arrived on the amount of times he's walked round Avebury carrying Ted's poos in a bag. This sort of conversation doubtless wouldn't occur in most families but it is very normal in ours. Never one to disappoint, Teddy obliged not once but twice, much to the amusement of the boys. This time we took a photo for posterity. (I apologise for including this, but it is reflective of life in our family...)
Not long after the dog-poo incident we saw two men who were old enough to know better climbing on the stones. This made me very cross and M, who was, I felt, rather brave, considering there were two of them, asked them to get off, which they duly did, muttering apologies.
The boys were very impressed. I suspect the men took one look at the dog-poo bags swinging carelessly from M's hand and decided it was better to beat a hasty retreat than risk a unwelcome coprolite baptism. Dad's street cred has soared with the boys, and L spent the rest of the walk saying things like: "look, there's those two men you told off!" in a voice pitched somewhere between awe and glee.
After walking round the double ring of stones we popped over to see the Manor, which is worth a visit in its own right. It was recently featured on one of those "doing up/ rescuing old buildings that otherwise would fall into dust but still cost the earth to save and maintain" type of TV programmes and is now open to the public. The first pic is the old farmhouse, which is equally beautiful.
Every single time we come to Avebury M and I disagree about the function of the round building in the pic below. He says "its an ice house" with great authority, and I always say "NO its a dovecot, and we have this conversation every time we come here."
This time I tool definitive proof in the form of photographing the blurb nearby which clearly says it is a dovecot. 10 points to me.
Avebury Manor in all its restored glory below....
All in all another lovely day out and a place I would recommend to anyone who hasn't already been (and they even managed not to fall down on the floor and scrap with one another!). I'll leave you with a pic of Silbury Hill, close by to Avebury. Despite numerous theories and explorations no-one has yet come up with a reason to properly and convincingly explain its purpose (I rather like the fact that things exist which are mysterious, unknowable and there to flummox people...)