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The Cove, Avebury
©
Moss
 
This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986. A number of events are taking place throughout this year.
 
The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.
 
On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes [England], a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney(University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.
 
More here.
 
Avebury’s 17th century thresher barn
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Avebury’s Grade I-listed thatched barn is under threat… from jackdaws! This lovely 17th century thresher barn, at the heart of the World Heritage Site of Avebury, is also a museum with interactive displays and activities bringing the history and landscape of the area to life.
 
BBC News Wiltshire reports that –
 
The roof of the Grade I-listed Great Barn, which is owned by the National Trust, has been damaged by jackdaws since it was re-thatched in 2013. Ed Coney, who re-thatched most of the roof in that £100,000 project, said the damage was “soul destroying”. “We did the job and were very proud of it and everything was fine, and then slowly it’s been pulled to pieces,” said Mr Coney.
 
Thatcher Alan Lewis said: “It is a Grade I-listed barn, the centrepiece of a world heritage site, and it should be reflecting the best in British craftsmanship.” He said birds had only damaged part of the roof that was re-thatched most recently, but they had left alone an older part.
 
“The National Trust are looking at the effect, that the jackdaws are having pulling straw through the netting onto the surface of the thatch, but I think the cause is somewhere else. “It may be a difference in quality of the two materials used.”
 
More here.
 
 
The Winterbourne at Avebury flowing towards a snow-sprinkled Silbury in the background
©
The Heritage Trust
 
 
Seasons Greetings to our readers
 
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a
 
Happy New Year
 
 
 
South-east quadrant of the Avebury Henge in Wiltshire, England
©
Littlestone
 
Avebury, in Wiltshire, England is one of the largest stone circles in the world. Part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, that includes the West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill, it has achieved international fame as one of the finest and most complex Neolithic structures ever built. But where did the people who built the stone circle actually live? Now, according to the Western Daily Press
 
A team of experts from the National Trust, Southampton and Leicester universities and Allen Environmental Archaeology are currently in the middle of a three-week dig – having spent the last three years investigating the area.
 
“Avebury’s prehistoric monuments are justly world famous but one of the questions I’m most often asked is where the people who built and used them lived,” said Nick Snashall, the National Trust’s archaeologist for Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
 
“This landscape has been studied by antiquaries and archaeologists for almost 400 years, which makes it all the more astonishing that we had no idea where its Neolithic and Bronze Age residents lived or what they did in their daily lives.
 
“So a few years ago a group of us decided it was about time we changed that and teamed up to form the Between the Monuments Project.
 
“We’re trying to put the people back into Avebury. It sounds straightforward, but the houses the first farmers built are incredibly rare and difficult to spot.
 
“Finding stone circles and burial mounds is a doddle in comparison.”
 
More here.
 
 
 
The West Kennet Avenue of Standing Stones at Avebury, Wiltshire, England (note road on left)
©
Moss 
 
Following in the footsteps of the closure of the Stonehenge A344 road last year, a road which ran perilously close to Stonehenge’s famous Heelstone and the Monument itself (see our earlier feature The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre: First impressions… ) and which effectively cut the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in two, plans have been revised to do something similar at the Avebury Henge World Heritage Site, some forty miles from Stonehenge and also in Wiltshire.
 
The narrow, one mile-long B4003 follows the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones from the A4 at West Kennet to the Avebury Henge and Avebury Village. In places it actually cuts through the Avenue with standing stones on one side of the road and other stones on the other. At present the road is used mainly by farm vehicles and traffic wanting to take a shortcut to and from Avebury, rather than taking the slightly longer, two-and-a-half mile route via the Beckhampton Roundabout. According to a 2010 report from English Heritage, however, cars passing each other on the West Kennet Avenue road are causing erosion which “could spread into the upper layers of the monument” if it is allowed to continue. Heritage Trust members have frequently seen large 4×4 vehicles parked in the small layby at the bottom of the Avenue or on the grass verges that border it.
 
 
4×4 vehicles parked on the grass verge at the bottom of the Avenue
©
Moss
 
The West Kennet Avenue B4003 road closure proposal would be different to the Stonehenge A344 closure in so much as the road would remain in place for local landowners (the National Trust being one) and farmers, while excluding most other motorised traffic. Provided cyclist, pedestrian and disabled access continues to be allowed, however, the closure of the West Kennet Avenue road would seem like a good idea. It would exclude both commercial and rush-hour traffic and return the surrounding area to a quieter, safer and more pleasant state. The only downside we can see is that by closing the West Kennet Avenue B4003 road an increase in the amount of traffic on the A4 (which runs past Silbury on one side and the West Kennet Long Barrow on the other) would be generated. Given that the A4 is already a very busy road, and practically impossible for pedestrians to use, that increase would seem to make very little difference there but would improve the environment around the Avebury World Heritage Site immeasurably.
 
See also the feature by Peter Davison in the Marlborough News Online.
 

English Heritage’s new map of the Stonehenge and Avebury areas is now available –

The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is internationally important for its outstanding prehistoric monuments. Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest. Around them lie numerous other monuments and sites, which demonstrate over 2,000 years of continuous use. Together they form a unique prehistoric landscape.

There is no better way to learn about an experience the monuments than to go out and explore the World Heritage Site on foot. This map is ideal for walkers and others wishing to explore the fascinating landscape of the two areas of the World Heritage Site. The map uses an Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 base and draws upon information from the English Heritage Archive and recent archaeological investigations. With Stonehenge on one side and Avebury on the other, the map shows and describes both visible and hidden remains, with information about where you can find out more.

Details here.

   

 
 
We seem to have missed this (though given the date when the article first appeared it’s not that surprising) so thought it might be worth a mention again here. Frequent visitors to the Avebury World Heritage Site will know of the Barge Inn at Honey Street, what they might not know, and according to the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, is that the Barge –
 
…is banking on a huge cash windfall after a Banksy mural mysteriously appeared overnight on the Sarsen stone in the pub’s beer garden. The mural depicts a dog peeing against the stone and is thought to be in protest at the pub’s proposed banning of dogs from the canalside garden.
 
Now Honeystreet Ales, the pubs owners, are planning to cash in by uprooting the stone and selling it at auction. Simon Pye, a spokesman for the company, said: “We feel privileged that Banksy has chosen the Barge for his artwork. Some customers might view it as graffiti, but I’m sure it would help trade. Unfortunately, our insurers have insisted it’s removed as it’s too valuable to leave outside”.
 
Full article here.  On a serious note, it appears that Banksy’s Kissing Coppers, taken from a pub wall in Brighton, England, has sold for $575,000 in the US. Details here. Another case for repatriation we wonder… what do you think George?
 
 
The two stones that now make up the Cove in Avebury, Wiltshire England
©
Moss
 
On the way to Stonehenge at the end of last year, to see the newly-opened Visitor Centre there, two of our members stopped off briefly at Avebury. There was only time for a quick walk over to the Cove where they took some photos. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Bright, low sunlight raked across the stones from the west. Later, when they looked at their photos, there was something on one of the Cove stones that they hadn’t noticed before. On the stone on the right in the photo above there’s a circular feature resembling a millstone. The feature is probably natural (or natural and perhaps slightly enhanced) but if it was visible when the stone was in its natural recumbent position (before being erected as a standing stone) it might have been even more distinctive. Was the stone selected for both its size, shape and its ‘millstone’ feature? Perhaps the stone was selected for all three characteristics and also erected in its present position to take advantage of the low winter sunlight which might have helped enhance this curios circular feature.
 
 
 
Detail of the ‘millstone’ feature on one of the Cove stones
©
Moss
 
We know that some stones were selected for their distinctive appearances (the stone at the entrance to the Stoney Littleton long barrow in Somerset for example has a large fossilised ammonite in it) and perhaps the circular feature on the Avebury Cove stone is another example.
 
 
 
Entrance to the Stoney Littleton long barrow, Somerset England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
 
 
Detail of the Stoney Littleton entrance stone showing the fossilised ammonite
©
The Heritage Trust
 

The Avebury Henge (south-west quadrant) Wiltshire, England
©
Littlestone
 
 
The Cove at Avebury, Wiltshire, England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
A few days ago we celebrated our second anniversary. For this, our 500th feature, we thought we’d bring together one or two strands that go towards making us what we are – ie a group of people who love our heritage and want to see it protected and preserved. We do that by writing about it, photographing it, complaining when it’s mistreated, and showing our appreciation to the many, many people in museums, universities, libraries, in small groups or even alone who are working towards goals similar to our own.
 
The photo above and the poem below highlight, perhaps, how fragile our heritage is and how vigilant we need to be to ensure that it is there for both ourselves and future generations to enjoy, learn from and wonder at.
 
***
 
There’s a silence here
a silence that lifts and suppresses
all at once.
 
Lures life into a comfort
then leaves it limp
like a frozen drop of transience
on a quiet winter branch
that might
 
or might not
spring back to life again.
 
 
 
Avebury, north-east quadrant
©
The Heritage Trust
Free to use for non-commercial heritage issues
 
 
The Heritage Trust is two years old today. During that time we’ve published nearly 500 features, had over 40,000 hits and have attracted 165 follows. As with last year, we wondered how we might mark the occasion, and thought the following poem sums up much of what we hold dear and strive to promote and preserve. We hope both the photo and the poem will resonate with you, our readers, while at the same time thanking you for your continued support, input and encouragement over the last 24 months.
 
***
 
Avebury
 
A cold New Year’s Eve seeps in,
Walking along an unknown path,
Confronted suddenly by giant arcs of ditch and bank
Which draw the eye towards processions of stones.
Rings within rings,
Gauntly chiselled jewels bound by bracelets of mossy grass,
Their ancient faces careworn from witnessing millennia –
Sad, yet proud and wise, these forty ton leviathans.
Echoes of long-forgotten rituals
Intangible yet close, a sense of collective aim.
Slowly we traverse the great circle,
Latter-day invaders, unsure of their purpose.
How much have we forgotten?
Over two hundred generations – what is remembered?
 
Geoff Butts
 
 
 
Avebury’s 17th century Thresher Barn and Gallery
©
The Heritage Trust
 
This lovely 17th century thresher barn, at the heart of Avebury, is also a museum housing a selection of Alexander Keiller’s finds, along with interactive displays and activities which bring the history and landscape of the area to life. The Barn Gallery roof however now needs re-thatching and this has been made possible thanks to a grant of £75,000 to the National Trust.
 
 
 
The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Anglo-Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall
 
An article in today’s Telegraph outlines some of the concepts behind the new Stonehenge visitor centre (due to open in December 2013) this, in the last paragraph of the article, is especially encouraging –
 
English Heritage is continuing to push for the A303 to go into a tunnel eventually. But for the time being the road has been resurfaced with a noise-reduction coating in the hope that the sound of constant traffic might be less intrusive when the visitor is contemplating the stones and asking the big questions of how and why they were put here in the first place.
 
Of course we’ve heard it all before but is this a sign that Stonehenge will one day get the (isolated) ambiance it so richly deserves – here’s hoping. Meanwhile, the noise-reduction coating to the A303 is good news as that (the traffic noise) really was a distraction to anyone who just wanted to sit on the grass and contemplate the monument. More good news also appeared in This is Wiltshire today with the report that –
 
Devizes Passengers is urging people to use a new shoppers’ service between Devizes and Salisbury. The A360 will be run commercially by Hatts Coaches and stops at Potterne, West Lavington, Tilshead and Shrewton. It leaves Devizes Market Place at 9.25am, arriving in Salisbury just after 10am, and returns from Salisbury at 1.50pm, arriving in Devizes at 2.40pm, Monday to Friday.
 
Jasper Selwyn, chairman of Devizes Passengers, said: “If the service is successful it could expand to an hourly frequency serving the new Stonehenge Visitor centre when it opens at the end of this year. This would make it easy for tourists to come from Stonehenge to Devizes, visit the Wiltshire [Heritage] Museum and then continue to Avebury on the number 49 bus.
 
More here.
 
Update: The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald reports that –
 
English Heritage announced today [30 September] that the first phase of the long-awaited improvements to the setting and visitor experience of Stonehenge will be launched to the public on Wednesday, December 18.
 
More here.
 
 
 
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire England
Image credit Willow
 
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire, England has announced the opening, on the 14 October 2013, of its new prehistory galleries  –
 
Gold from the time of Stonehenge: new prehistory galleries at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. Opening on 14 October, a completely new display over 4 galleries will tell the story of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
 
On display for the first time are dozens of gold items dating to the time of Stonehenge. Many were found [in] Bronze Age burial mounds within sight of Stonehenge, and were worn by people who worshipped inside the stone circle. These nationally important objects have never been on permanent display, and are now on show as part of this £750,000 gallery development at the Wiltshire Museum – home of Britain’s richest Bronze Age collection.
 
The centrepiece of the stunning new displays is Britain’s most important Bronze Age burial. The Bush Barrow chieftain lived almost 4,000 years ago and was buried in a barrow overlooking Stonehenge wearing the objects that showed his power and authority – including a gold lozenge, a ceremonial mace and a gold-decorated dagger.
 
More here.
 
 
 
The William StukeleySaviour of Stonehenge exhibition is now open at Hartland Abbey, Hartland, Bideford, North Devon and runs until 6 October.
 
Details here and here
 
 

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