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Sunday, 19 January 2020

Avebury Stone Circles, Seorfon Barrows, Stonechat, Silbury Hill, Starling, Common Sandpiper, Overton Down, Roe Deer, Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve, Mallard, Ant Hills, Red Kite, Fungus, Lichens, Jackdaw.


Me and the other half took a trip out to Avebury Stone Circles on the Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire (https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/avebury/).
We parked the car near the Sanctuary and the Seorfon Barrows, it was a cold frosty day and a little cloudy but at least it wasn't raining. We started to walk north up the Ridgeway, our first stars of the day were a pair of Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), Mrs Stonechat was a bit camera shy but Mr Stonechat was very obliging.





Pointing and saying "SILBURY!" loudly in a (apparently not very good) Julian Cope voice, has become something I do whenever sighting Silbury Hill, ever since his documentary film he did for the BBC, The Modern Antiquarian a megalithic road trip.
My first sighting of the Mother hill Silbury, was it just peeking over the top of Waden Hill.

Walking further up the Ridgeway I quickly came to notice that all the clumps of trees dotted about the farmland are hiding a Barrow (Tumulus). It's mind boggling how many there are.


In one of the distant fields was a mixed flock of Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). They were busy feeding on something.

Looking over at Overton Down, one can see a mix of sarsen stones and sheep, also the experimental earthworks, a long-term project in experimental archaeology (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-prehistoric-society/article/experimental-earthwork-on-overton-down-wiltshire-england-the-first-four-years/CFC962A0D0F5D39A45E5CC6A94A4C524).

The sarsen stones living up to their other name of Grey Wethers, wether is Old English for sheep.



As we walked more up the Ridgeway, we spotted a small group of Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) that had been spooked by other walkers on the track up ahead. It looks like only one in the photos but there was at least four.


At the point the Ridgeway meets the Wessex Ridgeway, we followed the Wessex Ridgeway east onto Overton Down and into the sarsen feilds. The sarsens are the remains of a silicified sandstone deposit that formed on the chalk over 30 million years ago.



Walking further east we entered Fyfield Down national nature reserve. (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/fyfield-down/).

A pair of Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) having a stroll.




I think these bumps are Ant hills.

The boulders are more numerous on Fyfield Down, this part is called Delling, also known as Mother's jam.




Despite the wholesale quarrying of the stones, a practise that continued up to recent times, there are still some large boulders left. This one is taller than me. 

A Red Kite soaring over the site, a bird that had vanished from England by the end of the nineteenth century due to human persecution.  Reintroduced between 1989 and 1994 with birds from Spain, and are now coming back to being a common sight.




This type of fungus crops up here and there all over the site.


Evidence of modern quarrying of the stones.



Travelling west back on the Wessex Ridgeway, we crossed the Ridgeway and headed toward Avebury village and the henge and stone circles.
We passed yet more Barrows in the surrounding fields on the descent into the village.


A large flock of Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), were murmurating in a low flight over the fields, a mesmerising dance of the finest choreography.

Almost into the village, Mrs Stonechat showed up for a photo.

Entering the henge and circles complex in the village, one is just in awe of how much effort it must have taken to create a site so big.





There is a mix of tall slender and broad rounder stones, I can't remember where I read it now but I read that the tall ones are called Bulls and the broad ones are called Cows. 




The stones all have their own personality; this one was called the Rabbit by my other half.

A Dragon's head?

The henge ditch is the bit I find the most impressive, to dig down into the hard chalky ground and move so much rock and earth with out modern tools is just an astounding feat of engineering.





One of the local Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), eyeing up the tourists, waiting for dropped crumbs of food, no doubt.


This stone has the feature known as the Devil’s Chair (https://www.gothichorrorstories.com/journal/the-devils-chair-at-avebury/).



One of the many concrete pinnacles that mark a missing stone. 


It's only about 15:30 and the Winter Sun is already starting her decent towards the horizon.



Interesting features and Lichens cover every stone.



As we were starting to loose the light, we decided to start our long walk back to the car, we chose to walk back up the West Kennet avenue that leads back to the Sanctuary.







More Barrows.










The avenue has been truncated by modern farmland so we had to deviate on to a footpath that headed back to the Ridgeway. While crossing over we spotted a herd of Roe deer.






Finally we reach the Ridgeway, just in time as the Sun has set.

So back at the Seorfon Barrows and the car; a quick sandwich and then the long drive back home. There is so much to see in Avebury and the Marlborough Downs, impossible to see it all in one day, we'll be back.