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West Kennet long barrow
West Kennet long barrow

 

A bit late in the day but an interesting walk round the Avebury landscape for tomorrow.

“As part of the Bath Geological Society programme, Isobel Geddes from the Wiltshire Geology Group will be leading this field trip on Saturday April 18th – ‘The Avebury Landscape – Monuments and Megaliths’. This will be a walk relating local geology to archaeology in the pre-historic landscape of the Kennet valley, visiting the West Kennet long barrow, Silbury Hill, the Sanctuary and the Ridgeway then down the West Kennet Avenue to Avebury. This is a 4-5 mile walk.
Meet at Silbury Hill car park (free), SU 097 685 at 10.30am. We will be at Avebury at lunchtime so there are facilities/pub/cafe for those who prefer not to picnic. Participants can then return to their cars (1 mile) at their leisure after a tour around the stone circle/buildings (and those that have already done that, could go!). Avebury car park is free to NT members and we will arrange for some cars to be there”

Nature demeaned by ritual 'tat'

Nature demeaned by ritual 'tat'. Image credit Willow

The following quotes are taken from an exceptionally impassioned email Heritage Action received sometime ago, which deserves to be expressed as an individual response to the clutter of ‘new age’ litter often to be found at sites.

Our ancient sites, not just those in Wiltshire, but everywhere throughout the country should be protected, treasured and maintained, as indeed most are. It is therefore unfortunate that certain religious factions see fit to participate in irresponsible pursuits in the name of paganism and druidism, both in my opinion, sadly misplaced in the 21st century.

My concern is not for the pagans or the druids and their beliefs, I couldn’t care less, no, it is for the rubbish they leave behind. I refer to the ribbons, bits of clothing, Wiccan effigies, which can all be seen adorning the trees at the Swallowhead Spring and on the approach to West Kennet Avenue. These trees have their own beauty, they don’t need bits of tat hanging from their branches like so many split bin bags.

Silbury Hill doesn’t escape either, ‘don’t climb on the hill’ the sign says, so why is it that nearly ever time I pass it, some air head is up there trying to get closer to their god. Avebury too has seen its stones daubed in graffiti over the years not to mention bits being chipped off the stones, god knows why, souvenirs I suppose. I am not suggesting for one minute that religious factions are responsible for all the defacements and damage, but it is true that the vast majority is down to them, my feeling is that they should take with them their rubbish, paraphernalia and imposed beliefs and leave our ancient sites tidy and tranquil once more.

For all their religious practices, I strongly believe that so called modern druids and pagans have no claim on Avebury, Silbury Hill, Stonehenge or anywhere else for that matter as they would have you believe.

 

 

Willow

Strong words, and Heritage Action in printing them is reflecting a personal viewpoint, these words do not represent our attitude to the Pagan world. Protection of ancient sites belongs to us all, but the above comment received by Heritage Action shows sometimes how deep the feelings of the ordinary public are when they visit these sites.

Heritage Action does not of course go along with the idea that Pagans, in all their manifestations, should have their religious activities on the site of our ancient monuments stopped. This is a free world, how we wish to interpret our own beliefs is a matter for the individual. Such issues as litter at sites needs to be addressed however. Damage to stones cannot be tolerated, but these acts come from many sources. Pagans are as keenly aware of the need to address these problems, and do much to protect the sites, probably far more than the general public.

The ‘tat’ seen round the Swallowhead Spring, the Christmas decorations swaying from the trees on Waden Hill or down the Avebury Avenue does offend the eye. Such tat needs to be removed, and people should feel free to remove it without the slightest compunction of guilt. Avebury and it sites are, after all, for everyone whatever their religious beliefs.

http://www.heritageaction.org/?page=ourbeliefs_guidelinesforvisitors

While we welcome articles and reports on heritage-related subjects to the Heritage Journal, the opinions expressed therein and the accuracy of the reporting lie solely with the originators of the report.

a british druid by william stukeley

 The National Secular Society believes that the National Trust and English Heritage have abdicated their clear responsibility to the nation to turn down the requests from the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO) an unelected and unaccountable group,  for the reburial of ancient human remains at the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury.

So say The Secular Society in their response to English Heritage’s public consultation. CoBDO’s claim is of course an absurd assumption, because it is impossible to claim ancestral links that far back. We know little of the funerary practices, use of barrow monuments, or ritual beliefs of the old ‘stone age’ people.

Archaeologists have sparse knowledge from what little evidence remains; that we can look on these monuments and preserve them, and treat ancient old human bones with respect is of course the right way forward, but to tangle the argument with modern day Druidism and its newly found rituals is a foolishness.

Not that any religion or belief system should not be given the respect it is due today, that is not the argument, it is the interference and the supposition on the part of a small group of Druids that they consider they have a right to interpret a past religion.

Science has come a long way forward in understanding human history, through the study of bones we know more about our past. Even archaeologists, whose job it is to ‘delve and dig’ feel that moment of direct connection with the bones of the individuals that they may encounter, here is part of a letter published in the current edition of British Archaeology.

“We don’t know much about the religious beliefs of these people, but know that they wanted to be remembered, their stories, mounds and monuments show this. Their families are long gone, taking all memory with them, and we archaeologists, by bringing them back into the world, are perhaps the nearest they have to kin. We care about them, spending our lives trying to turn their bones back into people. We look at the things they made and used, and, by enjoying the things that they enjoyed, human hands and minds touch over the centuries. Their bones give us direct evidence of who they were, where they came from, how they lived and even what they looked like. The more we know the better we can remember them.”

This surely shows that we all have a common humanity, a respect for the dead, the issue is complex, ancient bones reside in museum showcases and in archaeological storehouses, their fate must be decided by more rational means than a sentimental response, or perhaps more importantly, a modern belief system that wishes to usurp an old belief system that we know nothing about.

Judgment always walks a fine line, the argument has many strands leading to its centre, but it is well to remember that our lives are short lived, our belief systems vanish with the winds, all that is left are the old stones, monuments to a past way of life. Religions on the other hand are balanced on words, the need of humanity to express itself in a different form.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19819n

 
 
 

 

Avebury residents were given the choice of three options as to whether they wanted to allow pagans to camp in or near Avebury during their festivals. The National Trust who own most of the village had put forward the options to the villagers last week.

 The options;

1) Ban overnight camping in the large village car park;
2) Create a new campsite East of West Kennet Avenue
3) Allow limited camping in the overflow car park.

The third option seems to be the one most in favour after a vote was taken from the residents of Avebury. “The residents felt that the option of doing nothing could create significant problems”, though what those significant problems could be remains a mystery. One can have sympathy for the residents of Avebury for the ‘siege mentality’ that they feel under because of the pressure of tourists and pagans alike but living as they do in a World Heritage Site, with some of the most fabulous prehistoric stones in Britain, surely this must compensate for the hardships that they occasionally encounter.

See Western Daily Press co.uk article here
See previous Heritage Action article – A Very Bad Idea here

 

Update;  Camping at Solstice weekend see the National Trust information

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