Neolithic Era Attractions Around Stonehenge

After our final breakfast at 15 Bed & Breakfast, in Fareham, we said our goodbyes to hosts Lorraine and Dave, setting off for Widbrook Barns B&B in Bradford-on-Avon. It’s only about 70 miles, so we opted for a circuitous route, taking in Stonehenge and a number of other lesser known Neolithic attractions.

The previous post covered Stonehenge, so this one will focus on the route we took from Stonehenge to Bradford-on-Avon.

Departing Stonehenge, after about 3 hours, we headed east on the Amesbury Bypass (A303), turning left onto the A345, just outside Amesbury. After a short distance, we turned off to the left, visiting Woodhenge.

Aerial view of Woodhenge (courtesy of website)

While about a 6 mile drive, it is only about 2 miles across the fields from Stonehenge. Dating from 2300 BC, Woodhenge consists of a series of 6 concentric circles of pillars. Experts are unsure as to the purpose, speculating it could be a burial mound, building supports, etc.

Woodhenge panorama

For the above photo, I have played around in Photoshop to attain some depth. I started with a series of 5 photos, taken in portrait orientation (50mm f/13), which I stitched together. The result was a very wide, but short photo. When cropping the width to 1024 pixels, for the height, rather than accepting the default ratio, I opted for 700 pixels, which stretched the photo, adding some depth.

Woodhenge with wide-angle lens in landscape orientation

Over the years, the land reverted to agriculture, with repeated ploughing almost completely destroying the site; however, aerial photography detected rings of dark spots in the crops. The dark spots were determined to be holes that originally held large timbers, with the 3rd ring comprising larger timbers that were set deeper.

Original timbers replaced with concrete posts

Judi within the field of posts at Woodhenge

Experts are unable to determine the purpose, with any level of certainty, but it could have been a burial ground, or the posts could have been the base of a building.

Rendition of a potential building at Woodhenge (courtesy of website)

Departing Woodhenge we continued north on the A345. After a few miles, we turned off the main road, onto a series of single track country lanes, passing through the village of Wilcot.

Thatched roofed Golden Swan Inn – Wilcot

We already had lunch at Stonehenge, or else this would have been a great place to stop.

Entire street of thatched roof homes in Wilcot

What impressed us most was the 2nd house, which was still getting the roof replaced. Continuing along the country lanes we reached Alton Priors.

White horse on the hill

The Pewsey Downs white horse, was completed in 1937, replacing an earlier one that was taken over by grass. It is the smallest of 8 white horses in Wiltshire, measuring 66′ x 45′.

Next on our agenda was Silbury Hill and West Kennett Long Barrow. Both attractions are probably burial mounds and located either side of the A4. They have a small lay-by for parking and we were fortunate to get one of the last 2 available spots. We hiked up to West Kennett Long Barrow, which was about 2/3 of a mile, each way.

West Kennett Long Barrow looking towards A4 & Silbury Hill

The huge, obviously man-made hill at the top, left is Silbury Hill, which has a diameter of over 550′ and a height of 100′. Built between 2470 BC and 2350 BC, construction would have required about 4 millions hours of labour and 500,000 tons of material, mostly chalk. Over the past 300 years, 3 tunnels were dug into the hill, but none of them clearly determined the use, or purpose of the hill. Access to the hill is free, but we elected to visit the Long Barrow across the road.

Approaching West Kennett Long Barrow

Departing the car, we walked though a cow pasture, across a stream, then up a gradual hill, to access the West Kennett Long Barrow. Built around 3650 BC, it is one of the largest Neolithic burial chambers in the UK. It is believed to have been used for at least 1,000 years. Excavations have revealed human remains, pottery, beads, stone implements, etc. dating from 3000 BC to 2400 BC. The tomb was closed about 2000 BC.

Judi at eastern entrance to tomb

Inside West Kennett Long Barrow

About 2000 BC, they filled in the main passage with stones, rocks, earth and other debris. The entrance where Judi is standing, in the above photo, was sealed with large sarsen boulders.

 

Large Sarsen Boulders added to seal the entrance

Finally they added huge Sarsen blocking boulders to seal the entrance.

View across the top of the Long Barrow

With the slight dip and change in direction, it is speculated the Long Barrow was constructed in 2 halves, meeting in the middle. Overall the dimensions are – height 10′, width 82′ and length 328′.

Countryside to the east of Long Barrow

Starting the trek downhill and back to car

Judi strolling past the grazing cows

Once we all passed, they decided the grass was greener on other side

Getting back to the car, I managed to safely perform a “U” turn during a break in the traffic. We headed east on the A4, turning left onto B4003, towards Avebury. About a mile down the road I pulled over at West Kennett Avenue.

West Kennett Avenue

West Kennett Avenue is a 1.5 mile long, winding Neolithic road connecting Avebury to The Sanctuary. The width is about 50 feet and the route was marked by pairs of standing stones, which were set in place, about 80 feet apart. Sadly, many of the original stones have long since disappeared and are replaced with concrete.

Continuing onto Avesbury, it was already late afternoon and we quickly realised that Avesbury was not a quick visit, but required at least a few hours. Therefore, we elected to set course for our B&B, returning to Avebury when enroute to Oxford from Bradford-on-Avon.

Posts on Avebury, Bath and Oxford will be published in a few days.

 

 

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