Silbury, Waden,West Kennet & 1976

Yesterday,  the four of us sat at a table outside the Red Lion. George and Erica had just shown us an extraordinary walk. I felt  a little embarrassed… but to be fair I don’t know Avebury very well. Nick and Briony are the NT archaeologists here.


Amazingly, you just cross the road from the NT car park and a path leads you beside a little stream with fantastic views of Silbury Hill,


then turn left, walk up and over the southern curve of Waden Hill and you arrive at the megalithic West Kennet Avenue


which guides you northwards into great Avebury Henge. ..Wow!


We climbed the bank and walked the south-east quadrant (a place of buried megaliths) until the road into the enclosure… which we followed to its centre …where lies the Red Lion Inn.

We drank tea in the weak sunshine, sheltered from the wind, watching the people in this busy place. George asked what motivates us to write. I thought… not necessarily for others….because you want to…because you have to… to capture a moment. You must understand… that for most of the time I write scientific reports…..reference evidence to past papers…filter the strands of the past to move understanding on.. a little..

I remembered my first visit here…

15th May 1976

‘Went to Avebury Stone Ring and Donnington Castle and Stonehenge. We got lots of booklets.


The weather was windy with intermittent rain but it was great walking along the top of the huge earth banks of Avebury, the steep drops to the ditch on one side and the countryside stretching for miles on the other.

The sun shone through the clouds showing moving patterns of shadows flowing across the green wheat fields. The wind blew hard and you could almost lean on it and not fall over.

Walking along a double row of stones that lead from Avebury through the fields of sheep and rough grass.

It started to rain. It was almost horizontal so we sat behind one of the big stones and watched the cars go by, as dry as you like. We waved at the cars and they waved back.

On arriving at West Kennet, we were intent on finding the long barrow. At last, we ran across a huge field of wheat and came to it in the middle of nowhere. I entered first and walked past the side chambers to the back of the tomb and sat down to read the guide book and wait for the others.

Shocked a stranger as they entered to see me there.

Stonehenge was commercialised and festooned with tourists. We sat by the concrete kiosk and ate hot dogs in the biting wind.’

So, Avebury won pretty convincingly over Stonehenge..reduced to two lines in my page a day diary. No consideration at all for the freedom we then had to walk amongst the trilithons …

during that first visit ….but you never know what you’ve got till its gone.

6 thoughts on “Silbury, Waden,West Kennet & 1976

  1. When I was about 10 years old in the mid 1960s, the whole family went to Stonehenge for the day. It was a very popular visit in those days, full of people, all walking among and touching the great ancient stones, pilgrimage of a sort. It was a privilege to be there …

    • That’s a good memory Jane. I think Stonehenge gradually became more and more popular and the ground inside the stone was getting worn away. General access to the stones was closed in 1977 so the 17 year old me only just got there in time.

  2. A different Jane says – keep writing Martin, it is always informative and always enjoyable. I too can remember visiting Stonehenge in the 1960s and can remember being shocked at how small it looked as you come upon it for the first time but how amazing it was when you got up close. Your visit to Avebury has also inspired me to go back and revisit it again.

    • Dear Jane Yes, it is strange how there is a sense of disappointment when you arrive because Stonehenge looks so little in the landscape. But as you say the real wonder is when you walk amongst the stones see how they are shaped and how they tower above you. Simon the ranger arranged access for a National Trust group we had been working with at White Barrow. We sat amongst the stones as the sun went down talking of why the place was built and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

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