Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Marlborough to Avebury (Wessex Ridgeway Wiltshire 1)

 Marlborough High St

Having finished the Ridgeway with Merv and Pud, we were faced with the question of what to do next. The Wiltshire section of the Wessex Ridgeway (Marlborough to Lyme Regis) presented itself as the obvious candidate. We started from the east end of Marlborough's long, wide High St. There was a great fire in Marlborough in 1653 and there is no real domestic architecture older than that; most of the most characterful houses along the High St are Georgian.  The handsome Town Hall dates only from 1902 in a sort of 17th century style.

We headed west along the High St and turned right into Hyde Lane to follow this narrow, but criously busy lane away to the north west. This led us to the road to Broad Hinton and then to Barton Down. Here we took a left to join a track running beside gallops across the Marlborough Downs. This was the view back to the east.

This was a wonderfully wide open and quiet section, with vast views in all directions. The most promising views unfortunately were straight into the sun.

After a couple of miles of this, we reached Fyfield Down, which described itself as one of the most important geological sites in the whole country. Although we are nit really qualified to judge, this did seem a bit excessive. There were however immediately some sarsen stones (carried to their present resting places by long ago glaciers.

A little further on, on the left, there was an immense concentration of them.

Now there was a bit a climb to pass Delling Copse with this lovely view back in the direction of Marlborough.

Shortly after this we crossed the final section of the Ridgeway, heading towards Overton Hill.

There was more lovely open country to the north.

We passed Manor Farm and descended on a hedged path to suddenly find ourselves on the edge of Avebury. We took a path on the left which brought us out on the top of the surprisingly large earth work which surrounds the celebrated stone circle.

And a bit further on there was the great sight of at least some of the extraordinary standing stones. Without a detailed map it is perhaps difficult to understand exactly what you are seeing, and it is made more complicated by the fact that the tiny village including a pub favoured by bikers is partly within the earthwork ramparts.

We didn't have time for a proper exploration, but I can now say, courtesy of Pevsner, that the bank and ditch enclose an area of 28 acres.  The English Heritage website says that site dates from the Neolithic period, roughly between 2850 BC and 2200 BC, and there was originally a giant outer circle of about 100 stones - which in turn enclosed two smaller stone circles.The stones were undresssed sarsens. Some were broken and used for building in the 18th century and some part of what you see today was the result of the purchase of the site in the 1930s by Alexander Keiller who bought the site and cleared away buildings and re-erected many stones.

We had parked in the Avebury car park and it was just a short way from the stones to there.

Distance: 6.2 miles.

Conditions: bright and quite warm, maybe 14 degrees.

Map: Explorer 157 (Marlborough & Savernake Forest).

Rating: four and a half stars. A lovely walk between two great places.

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