Posted by: marymarthatours | March 28, 2014

Avebury, England–some difficult choices

On our tours Martha and I often hear participants say, “I wish we had more time at _____”.  And we frequently agree with them that more time at each site would be wonderful.  It points up one of the hardest tasks we have when planning the itinerary for a tour – how to balance the desire for more time at each location against the wish of travelers to see a large variety of sites.

We try to let people know when they have some options for more viewing time.  Since time for lunch is often scheduled at the sites we visit, we suggest that folks can skip lunch or else get a “take-away” to eat later on the coach.  But even with those hints, our visit to Avebury on the upcoming Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour is going to present some major decision dilemmas.  Too much to see and too little time.

Outer circle, Jim Champion2, CCASA3.0

Avebury Outer Circle

First, of course, to nutty ancient history buffs like Martha and me, there are the Stones.  Part of a large Neolithic complex that includes Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Avenue, and the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Avebury Stone Circle is the largest megalithic stone circle in Europe.  The henge, or ditch, which surrounds the outer circle is 460 yds. across, and the outer stone circle has a diameter of over 360 yds. (that’s 3.5 American football fields).  It was originally made up of 98 huge standing stones.  Many of the original stones remain, and small concrete obelisks mark the locations where stones have been lost.  Within that large circle lie two additional separate stone circles, although much of one of them is now covered over by the village of Avebury itself.

 

inner circle, Dick Bauch, CCASA3.0

Avebury Inner Circle on right

Martha and I have visited Avebury together and separately on a number of occasions.  Our time there has always started with a walk around and among the stones.  But we have also stopped at the Alexander Keiller Museum to see the artifacts found during archaeological digs and read about the amazing history of the stones.  Alexander Keiller (1889-1955) was a fascinating man – heir to the Scottish marmalade family, he was an ardent amateur archaeologist who decided to preserve Avebury stone circle by buying it.  Not only did he purchase the area of the stone circle, but he also bought much of the West Kennet Avenue as well as the nearby Avebury Manor where he lived until his death in 1955.

Avebury Manor, Jurgen Matern, ccasa2.5

Avebury Manor began life as a 16th century manor house with surrounding gardens.  Over the years it was partially remodeled by many families of succeeding owners and tenants, leaving the house a mixture of styles and periods.  After the Keillers sold the house and all of is holdings in the area to the National Trust (for a small sum equal to the value of just the agricultural land), the house was rented out to a series of tenants.  When the last of these residents departed in 2009, the house was left virtually empty.

avebury manor2, chris gunns, ccasa2.0

Enter the BBC.  In 2010, the BBC contacted the National Trust with a proposal to renovate and redecorate the house, not as it actually had been, but by creating period rooms that would depict life in the house from a number of eras.  And the icing on the cake was that everything in the rooms could be touched, sat upon, and tried out by visitors, an experience rather than a museum.  With £225,000 and a 6 month deadline, the BBC launched The Manor Reborn project.  The house reopened to the public in 2012.

Our travelers will now be able to visit Tudor, Georgian, Queen Anne, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco rooms that look as though their inhabitants have just stepped outside.  For some great photos of these rooms go to the Flickr website of Stephen Watson and look at the 11 photos he has posted there. 

And there are beautiful exterior garden rooms as well.  How on earth will we be able to decide what to see during our limited time in Avebury?  It will be a challenge for each member of the tour.  For myself, it will have to start with the house and gardens, but I’m also hoping for a bit of time to commune with the Stones.  Lunch? –  oh well, that might not happen.

Avebury98 mw2

Mary at Avebury in 1998

(by Mary)

Photo credits:  Avebury outer circle copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license;  Avebury inner circle copyright Dick Bauch and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license;  Avebury Manor, back view, copyright Jurgens Matern and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 license;  Avebury Manor front gate, copyright Chris Gunns and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license;  Mary at Avebury, copyright Martha Liska.

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Responses

  1. A nice pub for lunch in the middle of the village and a little “junque” shop also in the village which usually has nice Roman coins and other finds. And the museum. . . and the gift shop there . . . why can’t you stay 2 days?????

    • I’ve had lunch at that pub, Mary – great fun. And I’d love to stay in Avebury for two whole days. What a wonderful way to have all the time you need to see everything at a relaxed pace. Maybe next time…

  2. I would ADORE being an heir to a marmalade fortune! Gads. Just imagine browsing the bookstore and hearing the whispered “I understand the orange peels paid for her statuary collection.” How delicious.

  3. I have been to Avebury three times. I have walked around the entire circle which is a mile in circumference twice. But I have never had enough time to get to and enter the West Kennet Long Barrow. Sadly I won’t be able to do so this year either. I have discovered an excellent, recent YouTube on the history of all the Neolithic sites at Avebury. It runs for about 30 minutes and is well worth the time as it would take days to explore all the sites on your own. On the internet, put “Avebury wiltsjack” in the search bar to get to it. (Or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCy2iJxOhCo)
    Enjoy, Martha


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