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Megameet 2016.

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.

By Alan S.

As mentioned in the writeup for this year’s Megameet, the very first megameet (and the origins of Heritage Action) occurred on the same date back in 2003, 12 years previously. Following that meeting, as was my custom then, I wrote up some fieldnotes of the day’s travels and the sites we’d seen. Reading them now, the notes show a level of naivety that I hope I’ve shrugged off in the intervening years, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the day as a whole, and a good indication of how thinly I used to spread myself back then.

Bear in mind that there was no such thing as ‘Heritage Action’ when I first wrote these notes, and I have had to update several of the links as the original links (and many of the pictures) are no longer available. And so I present my notes from:

TMA Picnic Day – 2003

July 26th, the day of the Modern Antiquarian (TMA) picnic.

M. had identified a craft shop in Calne that she wanted to visit first, so we made a relatively early start and joined the holiday traffic on the M4. It was difficult passing the turn offs, first for Uffington, then Marlborough and Avebury, before dropping south to Calne (why is there a statue of 2 pigs in Calne?)

Oh look, there’s the A4 – Avebury is just up the road! And so after a brief retail break, off we set.

As we passed Cherhill Down, I saw a sign advertising trial flights in a microlite. Now that would be a good way to see Avebury. I must enquire about prices one day… (ed. I never did.)

I’d hoped to take a look at the Beckhampton Longbarrow marked on the OS map (SU087691), but despite a trot down the Wessex Ridgeway, didn’t see it. Either I didn’t go far enough, or it was hidden beneath a copse. I got to check out the Longstone Cove again though, peeping above a quite high crop where last time I was here there was none. And so into the village, and some more retail therapy: John Michell’s ‘Sacred England’ (reduced as it was the shelf copy), ‘Discovering Hill Figures’ (Shire Books), and ‘Unusual Aspects of Avebury’ by Lamont & Hedderman. Some light reading there. M. purchased a Tree Ogham booklet.

We drove down West Kennet Avenue, and I would have stopped again, but there was a herd of dreaded COWS grazing in the field! So it was on to West Kennet Longbarrow. I recalled that I was last here some 7 or 8 years ago as I pulled myself up the hill. I was quite wary, as I’d barely been able to park in the layby and was anticipating a crowd, but by some miracle I managed to have the place to myself for at least 10 minutes after a small group left. I’ve been away from here too long, and must resolve to visit more often.

Back to the car, and the weather started to close in. I was already late for the arranged start time for the meet at Uffington, and the question now was: hill or pub?

I’d tentatively planned to stop on the way at Ogbourne St Andrew, but put that plan to one side, and diverted via Liddington Castle as we made our way up towards White Horse Hill. The weather still couldn’t decide whether to convert to a full-on downpour, so I decided the hill was the place to meet, on the basis that “it’s only a few spots of rain”.

And I proved to be right. We parked above the Manger, hoping that M. would be able to make it rest of the way on foot, but to save her energy, I did a scouting trip first. Some scout! I’d completely lost my bearings, and instead of aiming for the head of the white horse, I ended up in Uffington Fort! Correcting myself, I found the head, but no other TMAers were to be seen. Or was that Treaclechops? Unsure of approaching a possible stranger myself, someone approached the two women on the groundsheet, obviously having just returned from Dragon Hill. I heard the magical incantation “TMA” spoken, and dove in. Yes, it was Treaclechops with Miriam, I just hadn’t recognised her from behind at first, and the absence of Jane had confused me. Moth was introduced, being the one having just returned, then Jimit, Baza and Jane also returned from their wanderings, introductions were made and the group for the day was complete.

The Horse's Head

I returned to the car, but M. felt it was a hill too far for her to manage, and she decided to wait there while I returned to socialise with the group.

A couple of young tourists (for want of a better phrase) had decided to walk the horse, until Treaclechops raced down the hill, screaming in her best RSM voice “Hey! Get off, that’s a scheduled ancient monument you’re walking on!!” Boy, did they get off quick!

An hour later, we made a collective decision to move over to Wayland’s Smithy, where hopefully M. would be able to walk on the flat to join us. And so, a convoy of five cars made their way up to the Ridgeway and Wayland’s.

The last time I was here, the fields were cropless, and I’d gotten very angry upon finding the remnants of a rave party were packing up and leaving. Throbbing music and (to me), a total desecration of the site, right next to the sign that says ‘No Camping, No Fires’.

I’m pleased to report that today’s visit was the total opposite, bar the evidence of a camp fire right in front of the monument. The crops were high, and we had the site pretty much to ourselves for most of the afternoon. Jane started sketching whilst photos were taken, and the ‘entasis phenomenon’ of the mound was investigated. I’d had to have this explained to me, but the visual effect is quite outstanding once you know what you’re looking at!

© Jane Tomlinson "Sitting in the shade of the Wayland's beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I'd made of the Wayland's site from further up the hill..."

© Jane Tomlinson
“Sitting in the shade of the Wayland’s beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I’d made of the Wayland’s site from further up the hill…”

The rain started. We’d sheltered under the trees, so avoided the worst of it, but the afternoon was getting on and a call for beer went up. So, after a couple of silly group photos, we decamped and made our way back to the cars.

Jane (the local) led the procession, twice getting lost and turning us all round, before TC leapt out of the car, running towards me (that RSM voice again) “Give me your bloody map!” Needless to say, I complied, and we duly arrived at the designated hostelry in question. Which was shut. Twenty minutes standing in the rain, and the doors finally opened, whereupon we were suitably refreshed whilst browsing through Moth’s copious photograph albums. He has some quite stunning shots there.

An hour later, M. and I decided to head home, but I couldn’t resist one last stop for the day at the Blowing Stone where, in the teeming rain, my camera jammed and refused to recognise the memory card with the day’s photo’s on it. Thankfully, all were ok once I got home (nearly 10pm), but I’ll have to return for a shot of the stone another day.

Afterword

A truly memorable day. Sadly, Treaclechops is no longer with us, but on a happier note, after meeting for the first time on that day, Jane and Moth were happily married the following year, as were myself and M. Back then, M. still had a degree of mobility although she tired very easily. She now has to use a wheelchair and I currently can’t envisage undertaking such a busy day as that again with her.

If you have your own fieldnotes from a truly memorable day, why not share them with us here? Just tell us why the day was particularly memorable for you, which sites were visited, and maybe share a photo or two too?

 

 

 

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.

Last weekend,  a group of diverse individuals came together at the Rollright Stones, in Oxfordshire for the latest Heritage Journal Megameet. The weather stayed fine, if a little chilly at times, and a good crowd turned up from all corners of the country, including all the usual suspects. There was much discussion covering a variety of topics, many involving an appreciation of old stones, rock art, cave paintings, wildlife and the power (and use) of social media. And of course there were the stones to appreciate: The King’s Men circle, the King Stone and the Whispering Knights burial chamber.

'Emmet' gets up close and personal with the Whispering Knights.

‘Emmet’ gets up close and personal with the Whispering Knights. © Alan S.

A swirly, whirly King Stone. © Alan S.

A swirly, whirly King Stone. © Alan S.

Jane Tomlinson, the Heritage Journal’s ‘artist in residence’ created a very quick iPad ‘doodle’ of the stones, which given the light/screen glare and the time involved was considered an impressive piece of work by all who saw it on the day. For your delectation and delight, we’ve been given permission to reproduce it for the masses, below (click to embiggen).

© Jane Tomlinson

The King’s Men. © Jane Tomlinson

Some quotes from some of the participants on the day:

  • “Loved every minute of it, only wish it could have been longer”
  • “Great to meet old friends again”
  • “Such a shame we can’t do this more often”
  • “Even the kids enjoyed themselves”
  • “Such a lovely bunch of people!”

Planning for next year’s meet will begin soon – there has been talk of a possible overnight camp for those hardy souls who indulge in such things (and have a distance to travel).

It’s a weekend of Megameets!

Firstly on Saturday, there is an informal meet in the depths of Cornwall, at the stone circle in Duloe, south of Liskeard as part of the Mines and Megaliths walk. Combine a love of all things prehistoric with chat about the industrial archaeology of Cornwall – famed for it’s mining.

Mines and Megaliths. A walk in the shadow of Caradon Hill on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Footpaths and quiet country lanes lead to some well known sites, but also some hidden industrial remains that make up part of Cornwall’s World Heritage sites. Meet Outside the Crows Nest Inn (Please don’t use their carpark). 10am 574 Western Greyhound from Liskeard at 9.56am; 573 service from Looe at 9.02am connects with this. Walk will last approx 3 hours.

Duloe Circle. © AlanS

Duloe Circle. © AlanS

Then on Sunday, it’s a final call for those intending to come along to the Rollright Stones for our annual ‘Megameet’. Meet at 12:00 midday, just south of the circle (or the Red Lion at Long Compton if inclement). Bring a book (or several) to swap, have  a chat with lots of lovely like minded people and enjoy the King Stone, the King’s Men and the Whispering Knights. Oh, and don’t forget a snack to eat or share! See you there!

rol.

 UPDATE: We’ve been asked by the Rollright Trust to remind people that if events are planned at the stones they would appreciate being told in advance.

by Alan S

For those not in the FB Megameet group, here are the details I posted there yesterday:

Ok folks, less than 2 weeks to go! We meet at the Rollrights (see their website at http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk/ for a full downloadable audio tour) from around Midday on Sunday 14th September. Gather for a chat and picnic in the clear area just south of the circle, a stroll among the stones and don’t forget the bookswap! I’ll also be looking for ideas for articles for the Heritage Journal, so please bring along any ideas you may have (and feel free to volunteer!) Also don’t forget change for your admission fee – it’s only a couple of quid, and goes toward upkeep of the site, such as the wheelchair tracking laid a couple of years ago to aid access and prevent erosion.

rollright20420small1

In the case of possible inclement weather, the backup plan is to meet in the Red Lion at Long Compton (see http://www.redlion-longcompton.co.uk/) – to find the pub head east from the stones then turn left (NW) onto the A3400. The pub is on the left about a mile and a quarter from the junction.

See you there!

Just to remind you. On Sunday 14th September you have a choice:

You can pay £13.90 to slowly circumnavigate Stonehenge at a respectful distance with thousands of others in a scene reminiscent of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow but less cheerful…

napoleon

Or you can pay just a pound to walk right inside the much more complete, much more atmospheric Rollright stones and then sit down next to them for a picnic of quails eggs and truffles (maybe) and a chinwag and book-swap with a bunch of fellow megalith enthusiasts.

Tough choice. Up to you. And whilst Stonehenge is the focal point of a World Heritage Site, don’t forget that the Rollrights also has a wealth of prehistoric sites within easy reach.

Please be at Stonehenge or our Rollrights picnic about midday.

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