November Long Weekend. Show me the Menhir.

You’ve got to love 2 days off work part way through the longest, darkest term. Last year when the long weekend came around we did nowt, but we didn’t have a camper then. This year, as Madame has been learning about the Stone Age, we decided to head south for a megalithic caper.

There was no chance of packing up during the week, so we opted to send the children to school/nursery as normal whilst we packed up and depart at lunchtime (suitably reprimanded by the junior school for daring to spend quality educational time on a Friday afternoon with family and hampering her future educational prospects for missing out on yet more literacy drills).

Attempts to book a site had proved fruitless, we liked the look of the C&CC site at Devizes, which stated it was open all year, but didn’t answer the phone and online booking was not available, so we booked in at Salisbury, about a 4 hour drive.

After suitably refuelling at Burger King and then Starbucks for cakes part way down we arrived in the dark.

Filling the water tank was interesting in the dark using a head torch and flexible hose, and we headed over to our hard standing pitch. We knew the site was sloping from online info, but after half an hour of manoeuvres up and down off chocks in different positions we were resigned to still being unsatisfactorily positioned and giving in.

Teatime was chicken and pesto pasta and we settled in expecting a reasonably quiet night, ready for our 12.00 booking at Stonehenge.

Unfortunately things didn’t run to plan, and I woke up at just gone midnight in a cold sweat feeling very sick. By the time I’d got out of bed, put my coat and shoes on, found my torch and umbrella and trudged the 500 yards or so across the field in the dark the feeling had worn off a bit. But I wasn’t out of the woods. For the remainder of the night I made half a dozen repeat trips of varying urgency, keeping my coat and shoes on most of the night and spent a good portion of the nocturnal hours sitting by the door clutching a bottle of water.

Really the last thing I felt like was standing in a cold field miles away from the nearest conveniences, but with the help of copious access to mint tea I soldiered on.

It was about 30 mins to Stonehenge’s Visitor Centre, the last 10 of which was a traffic jam, but once in the car park we found a spot easily.

It worked out quite financially agreeable as with being national trusties we only had to pay for the guide book and lunch for 3.

We took a look at the museum exhibits and the model Neolithic village out back. KB and the youths had a go at the test your strength pull a Sarsen stone. (100 men to move it, interesting occurrence fiends).

3/4 of the group enjoyed some English Heritage victuals, I stuck to Stonehenge’s finest spring water. We headed out into the wind and mizzle to catch the bus to get up close to the stones.

I’m trying to take a moment to remember the last time we visited any megalithic monuments, and I’m struggling to recall, which means it’s more than a few years. I consulted Mr Cope’ s excellent Antiquarian handbook to remind myself of what we were in for, and despite Stonehenge being the black sheep of Neolithic monuments I was still looking forward to it.

The commentary on the bus was cheery and pointed out other key landmarks to spot. When we alighted at the end of the line it was good to see you could get quite close and walk all the way around.

By the time we were half way round the awe struck wonder had subsided into wind whipped fatigue and we continued to trudge until we reached the Heel Stone.

Helpfully, someone had added an arrow to show the direction of sunrise and sunset at the solstice for those with little imagination.

A trip around the gift shop, and our work was done. The boy had spotted a black and white cow finger puppet as part of a set, and would not let it lie, and Madame fancied a bit of archaeology with a gem excavation set (which was bereft of treasures, tricksters!) and we returned to slopesville.

Actually the site was ok. It was v. open and lots of caravans and campers were in residence, which was fairly surprising. The facilities were heated and mother would have approved the cleanliness. There was a shop, much to the chagrin of the nipperz we dint buy any ice creams. We had a view of the football/rugby pitches and plenty of space.

This time round we hadn’t bothered packing the mess tent or the big chairs and although we packed the John it remained in the bag all weekend.

Saturday night was less disrupted and Sunday morning we packed up, de-chocked and headed to Avebury. For me, you can probably keep your Stonehenge, let me loose at Avebury any day of the week. To say it’s been on my radar for 20 years, Sunday was a big day.

En route we passed a white hoss on a hillside

and drove along West Kennett Avenue, which, on seeing ramblers in amongst them, looked worth a butchers,

but we couldn’t easily abandon the van anywhere nearby. As we came in to Avebury village there were just massive stones right there suddenly as we turned the corner.

We parked up on the 2nd attempt of finding the national trust car park and headed for the visitor centre.

We opted for a guided visit for the price of 3 English pounds per beard, and despite the biting cold the nice mester gave us a fine insight into the history of the site.

I loved standing at the north edge of the outer circle, just taking it all in.

Being able to stand amongst them and take time to imagine how it all came together was top.

We walked through the village and out of the other side, across the ditch and up the bank, it was a fine view.

Interesting occurrences/facts:

  • 9m of ditch
  • Antlers for shovels
  • Bank on the outside to keep things in
  • Dynamite for tree stumps
  • Concrete to resurrect fallen stones
  • Not like icebergs.

We adjourned to the tea room for a belated lunch and tootle round the gift shop as it was getting dark.

Avebury requires further investigation.

We took a long old drive home from there, we’re now at just shy of 7000 miles on the clock with 5 months of capers.

Going to try and squeeze one more in before 2019…

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