After that we did pretty well, really. The roads were very good. From then on there were usually tall hedges on either side, so we couldn't see much of the countryside. There are now these really convenient turnoffs that just provide services to travellers; you just get off the road at the right place, and bam, there's a gas station, a motel, and a food court with eight choices and restrooms like what you get at Nevada truck stops, only much nicer. Fabulous.
We got to our reserved motel and all squished into a family room, which is a regular room with a double, a single, and an extra bed shoved in. This was our arrangement for the rest of the trip; squishy, but cheap. Ish.
|Stones along the edge of Avebury ring|
The next day, we went to Avebury, which is a wonderful place to visit. It's a Neolithic ring-fort with a lot of standing stones arranged around it, and a village built in the middle. Avebury is actually a bit older than Stonehenge, and the stones are rougher in shape--plus they've been kind of beaten up over the years. Many of the stones were buried a few hundred years ago and had to be re-set in their places. Others were broken apart to be used for building material. In order to break or bury the stones, people would generally set large fires at the bases and then pour cold water over them so they would crack. Somewhat fewer than half the stones are still there; they ring the fort and once marked a road out, and there are some really big ones just placed around. There were once smaller rings inside the large one. The stones tend to fall into two general shapes and are called male (tall and rectangular) and female (more lozenge-shaped).
|The ditch is part of the ring fort|
|Path around the edge--all chalk|
|Really quite large stones|
We also looked through two museums, one in a large, dark barn (to keep the bats happy) that shows a timeline of when things were built, and another small one that collects the various artifacts found in archaeological digs. There is also a manor (with dovecote!).
The church is in the middle of the ring-fort and is neat, with Saxon bits, a Norman font and door, and a Tudor rood-loft preserved from destruction by intrepid parishoners. It's one of the few rood-lofts left. (A rood-loft looks like a balcony.) The church was full of ladies busily arranging flowers for the weekend celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday. They were planning quite a celebration, and were very nice about letting us pick our way around them.
|Church door with sawtooth design|
|Rood-loft, plus Saxon arches on the sides|
After getting some sandwiches and pasties in a shop, we ate lunch sitting on a log-bench in a field. My older daughter, always eager to try new things, bought some dandelion burdock lemonade that nobody really liked very much, and we wished we'd tried the rose lemonade instead. We also got very strong ginger-beer--we drank a lot of ginger-beer on this trip!
We drove off to Silbury Hill, which is nearby. It's a massive conical hill built of layers of chalk and gravel, for no discernible reason that I can see except that it's kind of neat. (Mom theorizes that it was mostly for showing off--we can make it bigger! Now let's make it bigger again!) You cannot climb Silbury Hill; it's too fragile for that, so you just look at it for a bit.
The next Neolithic monument to visit is West Kennet Long Barrow, which is fantastic. You park at a tiny lay-by on the highway and hike across a field--not very far--to the Barrow at the top of a non-steep hill. The great thing about this is that you can actually go inside. The inner chambers are made of stone--there's a passage with two rooms on each side, and then a final room at the end. They've recently re-done the roof, which used to have large skylights; now there is just a hole that brings in very little light, so my flashlight was handy (my husband is a big believer in flashlights and made sure we each had one--thanks honey!). I think it's probably a big improvement, though I didn't see it before. People had left a couple of little tealight candles, some flowers and a strawberry as offerings of a sort. It was really neat. The barrow outside is much bigger than it is inside; it's been built up to be longer than just the chambers are. We walked all over it, enjoying the breeze and the view.
|West Kennet Long Barrow|
|Towards the entrance|
|Along the top|
|View of a barrow from on top of another barrow|
|The Sanctuary -- red is wood and blue is stone|
We also stopped on the way back to town to admire a chalk horse. This was the Cherhill White Horse, and it dates from the 18th century. Which is easy to tell, really; the pose looks exactly like an 18th-century horse portrait. Near the horse, on the crest of a hill, stands a tall obelisk monument and we had no idea what that was, but my phone came to the rescue. It's a memorial to one Sir William Petty, ancestor of the 3rd Marquess of Landsdowne, who put the thing up in 1845. Okay then.
|View of horse and monument|
It was still only early in the afternoon, which was great because we also wanted to visit Lacock. This was my mom's idea and it was really something! Lacock is a little village with a manor next to it, and it still looks pretty much the same as it did 200 years ago. Apparently one of the lords decreed that no modernization was to occur, or something, which must have been very annoying at the time, but now it's a goldmine. People still live in the houses, but it's mostly owned by the National Trust, and it's frequently used for movies with a historical setting. When the Bennett sisters walk into town in Pride and Prejudice (1995), they're in Lacock. Quite a few Hogwarts' locations are also at the manor.
We started with the manor, which is Lacock Abbey. Much like Northanger Abbey, it's a manor house built upon what was once a prosperous abbey, until the Dissolution came along. There are lots of wonderful abbey ruins to wander around in, a cloister, and so on. Catherine Morland would have swooned with joy. The chapter house survives in very good shape! Harry Potter fans could enjoy posters showing Professor Quirrell standing in a room and a small Hermione bustling down a cloister passage.
|A dim, blurry drawing room. I liked the books.|
|Bathroom with handy mantelpiece|
|Hall full of random statues|
|Gandalf? No, Diogenes the Cynic|
|Oldest extant photograph, 1835. Lacock Abbey windows|
One church looked to be open for visitors, so we went inside. Here, more church ladies were preparing for the Queen's birthday celebration with flowers, but this time it was a little different. Somebody had had the idea that each lady could make an arrangement showcasing an aspect of Her Majesty's life. There was a floral crown and an orb, a floral arrangement with a lot of hats, one for the Coronation with a cape, tiara, and a memento of the Hillary Everest expedition (which success was announced at the same time), one for the Christmas Speech, and so on. A floral Corgi reposed in a tiny chapel to the side. The Balmoral display was perhaps the most stunning, involving a tartan rug, blooming artichokes (which are giant thistles), and an animal skull representing hunting. My 15-year-old could not quite wrap her head around the concept of decorating a church with flowers for the Queen's party.
|Balmoral. This one really stunned my kid. Me too.|