Friday, March 25, 2011

Why not Avebury?

Photo of Avebury by Jim Champion (from Wikimedia Commons)
I've recently been watching and enjoying two UK TV series about the early pre-history of Britain (Neil Oliver's and Bettany Hughes's), and they brought back memories of stone circles. Not of Stonehenge, however, but of Avebury, where we spent some time when I was writing Bronze Lightning. I took my heroine Sarmatia to Avebury and used the powerful setting for some of the pivotal scenes in the story.

As a place Avebury remains impressive and intriguing, despite the ravages of time and the deliberate vandalism of some of the huge stones. It’s older than Stonehenge and much bigger, incorporating several circles, avenues and barrows. The ditch was dug by red deer antler picks and was 30 feet deep. Its proximity to the West Kennet long barrow and Silbury Hill, the largest man-made mound in Europe, has led some archaeologists to speculate that this is a vast ritual site.

I've noticed, though, that the star status of Stonehenge has tended to put Avebury a bit in the shade. Is it because the massive stones don't have lintels? Or because the tiny village of Avebury has grown up within the site and so it doesn't appear as broodingly untouched?

Anyway, when we were there, it seems ages ago now, there was a white pheasant squawking in the village, a flight of old Lancaster bombers flew over to mark a wartime anniversary and the chimney of the cottage had a birds' nest in it. I have a soft spot for Avebury.



Suzanne Barrett said...

I have always wanted to visit Avebury. Thank you for sharing.

Maggi Andersen said...

You've made me want to go there, Lindsay. I was a bit disapointed with Stonehenge because of the fence around it and the crowds.

Linda Banche said...

I think having the stones in the middle of the town shows just how important it was. Let's keep it a secret so it doesn't become overrun like Stonehenge.

L. K. Below/Lindsay Below said...

Thanks for sharing. Personally, I'm glad this place hasn't gotten the same fame as Stonehenge. The fence prevents you from truly knowing the atmosphere of the stones, whereas these (if slightly marred by vandals) still give you the chance to feel the magic for yourself. It's been on my must-visit list for a while.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Suzanne, Maggi, Linda and LK - I agree about Avebury being really special and full of atmosphere. I've been at Stonehenge, too, and wandered among the stones - this was when I was 8 and the site was less developed than now.
Avebury also has many midsummer visitors and that is amazing, too.

LK, I hope you can come here sometime.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I actually prefer places like Avebury because of the dichotomy between the past and the present. And the continuity, I guess. I like to know we are still there.
Scotland has standing stones like these as well, and they seem to give off such power, as if the stones themselves change the air currents or energy patterns or something.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lindsay. I visited Avebury years ago and found it delightful, the village very sweet. There are so many wonderful Neolithic stone monuments in Britain. I used one small circle as a setting in one of my stories (still a WIP). It's in the north, Derbyshire I think, and it's called The Nine Ladies. It's just nine standing stones in a glade surrounded by trees. My mind starts spinning with all the story ideas from that small inspiration.

Raine Miller