By Graham Orriss
A few years back, at one of our excellent Summer Megameets, one of the regular attendees led a guided walk for a few of us to what my memory recalls was a cairn circle, not half an hour’s walk (it may have been a lot quicker – I don’t remember!) from Avebury’s main, enormous circle.
As we emerged from the trees, through a gate and into a field, I was amazed that, although I’d been to Avebury dozens of times previously, I’d never seen – or even heard of – this fairly large and prominent feature! Ok, it’s off the beaten track, but just next to a footpath, so close to the massively visited main circle, and extremely easily accessible.
Checking the map, and attempting to retrace the route we took, I believe it was this one: Penning, or Avebury Down Stone Circle.
Avebury is full of these “hidden in plain sight” gems. I remember gleefully pointing out The Longstone Cove (aka Adam & Eve) to some friends who’d also previously visited the area many times, but overlooked these extremely-obvious-when-you-know stones each time they drove past (as we did for ages before discovering them!) When one becomes aware of these sites, it makes you wonder how you ever missed them in the first place, as they now seem so conspicuous.
Another example is Rempstone stone circle, which, to be fair, is largely hidden in the trees, but at least one stone is (or at least was!) completely visible as you drive past. Again, once you know it’s there, it’s hard NOT to notice it. Not far up the road toward the Sandbanks-Poole chain ferry is the Studland stone row. Another one that is easy to drive straight past until you know it’s there and realise how visible it is.
The same applies to Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas, except this time it’s right beside an extremely busy stretch of road, and must be passed by hundreds – if not thousands – of cars every single day. I don’t know how obvious they are to the everyday passer-by, but I still remember seeing them for the first time (way before the trees were chopped down) and being amazed we’d not noticed them before. And then, just a mile up the road, is the almost completely buried Broadstone.
Ancient sites are prolific in certain parts of the country, but in others are not so. Many times have I been searching for a site in vain, only to ask a local if they are aware of the whereabouts, and the local is unaware of the existence until that conversation! Sometimes its’ existence is a lot more obvious than others but if the locals don’t even know of these places (presumably they take them for granted as they see them every day or have grown up with them) is it likely a visitor will pick up on it as it stands out more to them? Or does it just blend so well into the background that it’s not obvious until it’s pointed out?
How many other ancient sites are there that we walk past on a regular basis, that we have no idea existed until someone else points them out, which are now – as far as we’re now concerned! – impossible to miss?