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It was wet, it was cold, it was windy. But that didn’t stop a loyal band of Heritage Action members from congregating at Avebury, twelve years to the very day since a group of megaraks met at the Uffington White Horse to plan what they could do to help combat damage to prehistoric sites. Many of the same people and a whole bunch of others came together at the weekend for the umpteenth (we’ve lost track) ‘Megameet’.

Admittedly, several Founder members couldn’t make it this year but they were replaced by a number of new attendees, some very young, which bodes well for the future. But considering we’re in July, I’ve never seen the circle so devoid of people generally on a summer weekend!

Red Lion

Those who did turn up met with old friends, had an enjoyable lunch in the Red Lion and discussed all things megalithic until the weather cleared enough for some to attempt a brief circumambulation of the henge, including the obligatory ‘selfie’, courtesy of artist and founder member, Jane Tomlinson.

Megameet2015

But we weren’t the only people to brave the weather. At the far end of the West Kennet Avenue, an archaeological excavation is taking place over three weeks. The Between the Monuments Project – a collaborative research project between the University of Southampton (Dr Josh Pollard), University of Leicester (Dr Mark Gillings), Allen Environmental Archaeology (Dr Mike Allen) and the National Trust (Dr Ros Cleal & Dr Nick Snashall) – is attempting to answer the tricky question ‘Where and how did the people who built these monuments live?’.

Avenue Trench

The main Avenue trench. Faulkner’s Circle is by the dark tree in the middle background, top centre.

Two trenches have been opened up, one immediately between the stones of the Avenue, and another off to the side. Despite the weather, some of the principals and volunteers were busy mattocking the side trench, part of which has already been excavated down to the natural layer, exposing some ‘periglacial striations’ in the underlying chalk.

Periglacial Striations

The side trench, showing the ‘periglacial striations’.

Sadly, I had no time to stop and chat (and I think they wanted to get on with the dig while the weather allowed it!) as I stupidly had no coat, and a long drive home in the rain ahead of me. But it was good to see everyone again, and I’m sure we’ll do it all again next year, if not sooner!

It’s only a few days away now, so time for a very brief final reminder that we’ll be meeting up in Avebury this coming Sunday, from 12 noon.

We’d love to see as many of you there as possible, so why not come along, say hello and meet some friendly, like-minded people? There’ll be plenty of chat on prehistory, heritage protection and all related matters, as well as ample opportunity to explore the area.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring along a book or two for the book swap. Anything is acceptable, but Prehistoric Archaeology books will have more chance of finding a grateful recipient.

Bank and Ditch at Avebury, © Rebecca van der Putt, RIP.

Bank and Ditch at Avebury, © Rebecca van der Putt, RIP.

Update: We’ve just been reminded that there is currently an archaeological dig ongoing at Avebury, in the West Kennet Avenue that leads SW from the main circle. Full details of the dig so far can be found on the FragmeNTs web site. They’ll be digging every day except Fridays until Friday 7 August, and will have volunteer meet and greeters on site to explain what they’ve uncovered so far.

The annual Heritage Journal Megameet – for members, friends and supporters of the journal – will return once again this year to the Avebury WHS.

As in previous years, the rendezvous point will be located near to the Cove in the NE quadrant (or the Red Lion if inclement) but attendees will be encouraged to perambulate among the various components of the WHS and tell of their discoveries on their return to the main group. There should be plenty of experienced people present to provide some guidance and advice for those new to the area.

The Cove at Avebury,  © Copyright Shaun Ferguson and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

The Cove at Avebury, © Copyright Shaun Ferguson and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

So mark Sunday July 26th in your diary – we’ll be congregating for the usual chat and banter from midday onwards – and don’t forget to bring a book or two along for the bookswap! 

We look forward to meeting lots of new friends on the day.

avedig

Do visit the dig if in Avebury this week or next!

The first excavation on West Kennet Avenue for more than three quarters of a century! The ‘Between the Monuments’ project is a collaboration between the University of Southampton under Dr Joshua Pollard, the University of Leicester under Dr Mark Gillings, and the archaeology and curatorial National Trust staff at Avebury Dr Nick Snashall and Dr Ros Cleal. The excavation on the line of the West Kennet Avenue involves two, possibly three trenches at two Neolithic sites at the foot of Avebury Down where Alexander Keiller’s excavations in 1934 unearthed remains of some form of settlement.

See here for more details
http://ntarchaeostonehengeaveburywhs.wordpress.com/
and Phone 01672 539250 after 10a.m. for tour times.

Sketch of a spaceship creating crop circles sent to the Ministry of Defence circa 1978

Sketch of a spaceship creating crop circles sent to the Ministry of Defence circa 1978

There haven’t been many crop circles around Avebury this year due to the poor spring – and those that there have been have been a bit uninspiring. Possibly the latest heatwave will change all that so we thought we’d issue a challenge:

Crop circles always seem to be bisected by “tramlines” – the tracks left by farm machinery – which invariably spoil the look of them. Clearly it’s not beyond the ability of aliens (who can hover  rather than walk) to create a crop circle entirely between the tramlines.

So that’s our challenge to any aliens reading this: we’ll give a massive £10,000 prize to the first alien to produce a crop circle between the lines. Please send us a picture at info@heritageaction.org.uk

A draft Traffic Plan has been produced on behalf of Avebury Parish Council. It calls for the introduction of “some specially designed, sensitive solutions to manage traffic issues that may not be commonplace elsewhere.”

[Image credit - Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action]

[Image credit – Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action]

It appears that overall parishioners support the idea of reducing speeds on the A and B roads through the Parish and the plan proposes a maximum design speed of 40mph instead of 60mph limits, either across the entire WHS or, if that is not possible, around individual focal points such as Silbury and The Sanctuary.

Specific proposals at other focal points include better provision for pedestrians and people crossing the road opposite the Red Lion, a ‘Permit Holders Only’ parking scheme in the High Street and cheap, short term parking in the main National Trust car park (so that short term visitors don’t have to pay day rates).

The report also made the point that it is important that road signs, road treatments, or other alterations are carefully designed to be highly sympathetic to the surroundings and to suit the importance of the World Heritage Site – and that at present “the great majority of road signs in the Parish are erroneous, unnecessary or dilapidated and need to be updated, moved or removed.”

Of particular interest was the proposal to develop a new ‘Avebury’ village sign which gives a greater sense of place. The plan indicated that this could be a unique design – related to the World Heritage Site – to mark the village boundaries and could be repeated for all settlements in the Parish, thereby reducing clutter by incorporating 30mph signs and simple directions for the main car park.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Soon....

Soon…..

No more... (The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

No more…
(The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

Today at 7:00am, 27 years after the Government promised UNESCO it would happen, the southern half of the A344 road that runs immediately past Stonehenge, over The Avenue and down to the junction with the A303 was closed forever. It’s the first tangible step in the project to bring an element of “splendid isolation” to the stones.

Over the rest of the summer the road surface will be removed and grassed over, the high fences will be taken down and the monument will at last be reunited with its ceremonial landscape.

[Incidentally, all this week there is a recruitment drive for volunteers to work at the new visitor centre and elsewhere under the auspices of the various organisations concerned. Those interested can sign up at Amesbury Library. More details are available from the Salisbury Journal.]

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

© Andrew Smith, from www.geograph.org.uk

Fyfield Down, © Andrew Smith, from http://www.geograph.org.uk

Dear Friends of Stonehenge and Avebury WHS,

Despite their similarities, the two parts of the World Heritage Site are in many ways poles apart – to the casual visitor, at least.   The differences in visiting each of the major henges at Avebury and Stonehenge are often commented on; the road-trip, the visitor facilities, the topography, the archaeology itself.   Living here in Wiltshire, I like to think about it differently.   One thing, more than anything else, unites the parts of the WHS for me.

I don’t mean the long history of archaeological research in the area; or the fact that – to use the terms of the UNESCO inscription – “The World Heritage Site provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction…over more than 2000 years, from the early Neolithic to the Bronze Age.”

The much-reduced spread of Wiltshire’s sarsen stone is my “glue”.   Sarsens used in archaeological monuments, sarsens scattered over the landscape, sarsens in the walls and houses.   Sarsens thread their way through the World Heritage Site, in time and in place.   No matter how many, or how few, were once recumbent on the chalk, sarsens have been encountered and used by people for thousands of years; and still are, as gravestones, building material and street furniture for example.

Known for their tough hardness, sarsens have a temporal and spatial durability across the World Heritage Site and beyond.   They help me to think about the wider environment, and serve to keep me mindful of the contexts in which we should place archaeological monuments.   Not divorced from one another by outlines drawn on maps, but features in a landscape to be explored.

Yours, Katy Whitaker

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

shb

About now the jackdaws should be busily raising their families in nests built in crevices in Stonehenge. One favoured spot is a “chimney” within Stone 60 which they have to patiently drop sticks though until one becomes wedged and they can start building their nest. How long jackdaws have been living at Stonehenge is anyone’s guess but it’s quite possible they have been there far longer than there have been ravens at the Tower of London. It certainly suits them very well. As 18th century English poet William Cowper wrote of the jackdaw….

A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishoplike, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too

At around the same time the early ecologist, Gilbert White, noted that ….

“Another very unlikely spot is made use of by daws as a place to breed in, and that is Stonehenge. These birds deposit their nests in the interstices between the upright and the impost stones of that amazing work of antiquity: which circumstance alone speaks the prodigious height of the upright stones, that they should be tall enough to secure those nests from the annoyance of shepherd-boys, who are always idling round that place”.

NRS

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Avebury notice

George Brown was only four when his home was burgled a few days before Christmas, but along with Avebury Great Farm he would inherit his father’s doggedness. In sight of Cherhill White Horse in 1850 George famously beat off an attempt to part him from his gig, then tracked the culprits down to discover one of them had been armed with a loaded pistol. Of this uncompromising character Dean John Merewether would the previous year write:

It is some comfort to know that the present owner of the circle and the western avenue, Mr George Brown, will not allow a single stone to be defaced or removed; and has been the means in time past also, of preserving them. George Brown of Avebury has engaged that he will take care, and his sons after him, that not a stone at Avebury shall again be injured or removed, I feel confident that a general spirit of antiquarian conservatism has been widely and effectually instilled, from which the cause of archaeology and our Institute will reap much advantage.

George Brown died at Avebury in July 1881 aged 87, the following year Sir John Lubbock introduced the Ancient Monuments Protection Act.

B.E.

________________________________________________

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

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