Yesterday's unseasonably warm weather (20 degrees centigrade) and cloudless sky cried out for a good afternoon walk. NAH completely surprised me by suggesting Avebury as our destination. We're blessed with being close to several World Heritage sites and Avebury is by far my favourite but each time I suggest it for one of our forays, NAH without fail greets it with less than enthusiasm. However, it's ages since we've been there, so I cheerfully agreed to go.
The landscape beyond Calne dramatically changes to that of chalk upland. It's relatively empty with big skies and the signs of current habitation are far outweighed by the signs of our ancient Britons. I always feel like I'm entering a different world. It's the same landscape which hosts the more famous Stonehenge, but I prefer the more rugged and oddly shaped stones of Avebury. I also like how the stone circle encompasses Avebury village: it's as if ancient times are dominating our more recent history. It's a place I return to regularly (with or without NAH) and has often been the subject for my photography. I've had particular success with using infrared film - a medium which seems to suit the site's mysteriousness. Famous photographers have also captured the surrounding landscape well - Bill Brandt and Jane Bown for example.
We set out on our regular route, firstly passing by the stones themselves, crossing the main road to Swindon which cuts a swathe through the circle and then up onto the embankment circling the village. There's also the odd bit of woodland - beech with twisted roots and I saw signs of tree dressing for the first time. I'm sure it's happened here before, but perhaps it gets cleared away by the National Trust who manage the site on behalf of English Heritage? It'll be interesting to see if it continues and grows.
Avebury of course is a very popular site, particularly on sunny October afternoons. The car park was almost full and there are obvious signs of the damage that the passage of so many feet are causing to the site. Some of the pathways by the beech woods are being relaid and strengthened at the moment, causing a little confusion as to which route is actually the way to go. This in turn is causing new stresses and strains on the site. We made our way across one of the ditches back to the village and it soon became clear why NAH had been so enthusiastic to come here, as he suggested we have a well earned cuppa and slice of cake at the tearoom! On our way back to the car park I spotted the sign shown at the top of this post - the advertised event looks most intriguing. I think I'll be returning in November to check it out, subject to the requisite starlit evening being available.