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The annual Heritage Journal Megameet – for members, friends and supporters of the Journal and anyone else with an interest in prehistoric sites – will return once again this year to the Avebury WHS. The first one was in 2003 so we think this will be the thirteenth, but we’ve slightly lost count.
Anyway, everyone’s welcome to come and chat or walk around the henge, the museums or further afield with kindred spirits, be they novices or knowledgeable. We’ll be near the two large portal stones and the beech trees at the southern entrance. Bring a picnic and maybe a couple of books to swap. We’ve yet to hear anyone say they didn’t have a good time so see you there.
This morning, 9th May, this flock of 150 sheep will walk from the megalithic site at Carnac to the megalithic site at Locmariaquer. The animals feed on the vegetation on the megalithic sites of the area and thus contribute to their maintenance.
Such a relaxed, low impact approach could hardly be further from the UK’s aggressive guardian-centric guardianship of its own flagship sites (the National Trust has imposed its own commercial stranglehold on Avebury and the guardians of Stonehenge are telling the world massive new approach roads can somehow be seen as “protection”!)
See also the article 7 years ago by our member Graham Orriss, Carmac, curation and display with a refreshingly light touch.
Many people opposed to parking charges and sobriety at Stonehenge have said they’ll go to Avebury instead. This seems to have prompted the National Trust to take action: “A new plan has been drawn up by the Trust, which owns the stone circle in the Wiltshire village, to clamp down on the growing numbers of people staying outside the village and blocking the Ridgeway, which runs along the hillside just to the east of the village. The crackdown will also see more enforcement of tighter new parking restrictions.”
However, as at Stonehenge the real motivation seems to be less about parking than an attempt to limit numbers and improve behaviour – “to curb the excesses of the revellers who gather there”, to make solstice “a more peaceful occasion” ….. “safe for everyone and respectful of the World Heritage Site”…. “We want the Solstice at Avebury to continue to be known for being a peaceful, respectful occasion which all those who care most about the henge and the village would want it to be”. To this end, “As part of the plan, the Police and Wiltshire Council will increase patrols on the Ridgeway – a byway east of Avebury where the number and behaviour of people gathering during Solstice has become a problem.”
No doubt the Trust will get a lot of stick (and Heaven knows, there isn’t a stick big enough on some occasions!) but it would be nice if the complainants at both Avebury and Stonehenge recognised that there IS a behaviour problem that needs addressing.
By Thelma June Jackson, Heritage Journal
After much delay, West Kennet Long Barrow has been closed for conservation work. The entrance is fenced off while a small team of what looked like three people work on the drainage and 1950s concrete skylight. I was over there on Monday and spoke to someone who said he was an archaeology-engineer. The work appears to being carried out with care and precision, has been jointly commissioned by NT and EH.
At the same time a very strong plastic webbing ‘road’ has been laid on the grass pathway leading up to the barrow and a portacabin is up there behind the fencing.
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!
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.
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?’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
and Phone 01672 539250 after 10a.m. for tour times.
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 email@example.com
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.”
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.