Situated in southern England in the county of Wiltshire the village of Avebury is close to two small streams, the Winterbourne and the Sambourne, which unite to form the source of the main tributary of the River Thames. Around 4,500 years ago, when the site of England’s present capital was a thinly inhabited marshland, the area around Avebury almost certainly formed the Neolithic equivalent of a city.
By coincidence this waterway has become a link between the two largest cultural centres of their day to have ever existed in the British Isles. Just as London now contains most of England’s largest buildings, Avebury is the location of the mightiest megalithic complex to have ever been constructed in Britain.
Whilst at Avebury, you should visit the Alexander Keiller Museum founded by Keiller to display his archaeological finds from Avebury and windmill Hill. ‘Keiller’s methods were ahead of their time and incorporated pioneering techniques including aerial photography. As a result, the museum now houses one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in the country.’
West Kennet Avenue (Avebury)
The West Kennet Avenue connects the south entrance of the Avebury Henge to the Sanctuary one and a half miles away on Overton Hill. The avenues were the last components of the henge to be constructed at around 2400 BC. That of the West Kennet is believed to have consisted of about 100 pairs of stones spaced at intervals of 80 feet with the avenue being about 50 feet wide throughout much of its length though it may have narrowed as it approached the Sanctuary. At Overton all that remains on this enigmatic hill today are concrete markers showing the former positions of the circles.
Silbury Hill is the largest human-made earthen mound in Europe and dates from the Neolithic period. Its purpose however, is still highly debated. Composed mainly of chalk and clay excavated from the surrounding area, the mound stands 40m (130ft) high and covers about 5 acres (2.2 hectares) near Avebury in Wiltshire. It is a display of immense technical skill and prolonged control over labour and resources. Archaeologists calculate that Silbury Hill was built about 4750 years ago and that it took the equivalent of 500 men working 15 years to deposit and shape the earth and fill on top of a natural hill.
One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones and sits at the centre of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Swallowhead Spring feeds the Winterbourne Stream, down by Kennet at Fyfield Down, and is part of the greater sacred landscape of Avebury. It is found South from Silbury Hill, across the A361, forming a near alignment with Silbury and West and East Kennet Longbarrows.
West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet Long Barrow is one of the many prehistoric monuments that are part of the Avebury complex of Neolithic sites. It is one of the most impressive and well-preserved burial chambers in Britain, as well as being one of the most visited.
Mysterious Britain & Ireland feature
Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located to the North of Amesbury in Wiltshire. It was originally made up of a series of concentric circles of wooden poles within a circular bank and ditch and is of similar size to Stonehenge.
Most of the 168 post holes held wooden posts, though there is evidence of a pair of standing stones having been placed between the second and third post hole rings. The deepest holes measured up to 2m and the height of the posts they held has been estimated at up to 7.5m above the ground. This sort of timber would have weighed around 5 tonnes and prompted similar logistical problems as the erection of the bluestones at Stonehenge.
Further comparisons with Stonehenge have been noted; both have entrances oriented approximately on the midsummer sunrise and the diameters of the timber circles at Woodhenge and the stone circles at Stonehenge are similar, making the reasons for the name more understandable.
The positions of the postholes are currently marked with modern concrete posts which are either a simple and informative method of displaying the site or a travesty of visitor interpretation and visual amenity.
Although there is little to be seen on this site today, it was an impressively huge henge monument. Bigger even than the henge at nearby Avebury, (427 metres), which encloses virtually an entire village within its circle, Durrington Walls is approximately 480 metres in diameter. Its ditch, six metres deep, 16 metres wide and topped by a three-metre bank, is almost one mile around. Despite having been much damaged by ploughing and cut through by the A345 road, its tall banks are still visible.
Built about 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic era, around the same time as the first phases of construction of Stonehenge, it would have been a huge project for the people of the time. According to Time Team’s Mick Aston, ‘Most people in southern England must have been involved in some shape or form, because if they weren’t doing the building work they would have been supporting the people who were.’
St Nectan’s Glen and Waterfall
Sited near Tintagel in North Cornwall, this beautiful valley is hidden and is only accessible on foot. This Unique 60 ft waterfall is at the head if the idyllic wooded valley of St. Nectan’s Glen. St Nectan’s waterfall has been described as amongst the ten most important spiritual sites in the country. The Kieve has been a place of reverence, worship and healing since pre-Christian times. People of many faiths have walked the ancient route to the waterfall to bathe in its mysterious and therapeutic atmosphere.
Iconic 13th-century castle built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. But even before Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle, Tintagel was already associated with the conception of King Arthur.
Recent excavations have shown the castle location to have been the site of a high-status Celtic monastery.