An away day to Stonehenge.....15th September 2012
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|Amesbury Millennium Cross|
Armed with clipboard, our organiser Tom marked everyone off as they boarded the 9.30 for Stonehenge. Acton town is an unusual meeting point for a tour but convenient for me as I live in nearby Ealing. It of course allowed for an earlier arrival home along with, time permitting, the chance to enjoy at least some prime-time Saturday night locally ("cake" and "eating it" are always on my mind). I could also then get home comfortably before the nutty season kicked in.
Off we went. 22 stones fans on board and the bus slipped onto the M3 from the Chiswick roundabout bound for Wiltshire. As with most bus trips it was quiet on the outbound journey with the odd newspaper in view, some couples having quiet chit-chat and a girl in the same row as myself having a snooze. Luckily I had a seat all to my good self so I parked my day pack next to me and fished out a banana.
|Fly fishing along the river Avon|
The bus passed into Hampshire after 40 minutes then Wiltshire just before 11 and passed a road sign for Stonehenge shortly after that. We finally pulled up at 11.45 in the Amersbury where we began our hike. Everyone off of the bus, and a after a few introductions moved off along a lane from the village following The Lords Way.
|Walking group winding it's way to Stonehenge|
Amersbury is a small picturesque village of a couple of main streets lined mostly with independent family run shops. It gives you a feel of days gone by before familiar franchises and chain stores became the mark of every street.
|Wooded path leading to Stonehenge|
After crossing a small bridge the group followed along trails and lanes and into wooded walkways almost made for this hike towards the monument ahead. We took the sign for Dunford and followed what then looked like a mix of horse breeding country and farmland. All farms had their fields cut with hay piled high and several well packed sheds marked harvest time for sure.
|Cloud watching over Stonehenge|
Stonehenge is a neolithic monument from around 3000BC that has went through various rebuilds, additions and face
|Entrance to car park at Stonehenge|
Lunch over and we headed on. When we reached the monument the group stopped for another 40 minutes allowing the choice of entering the sight and forgo the admission charge or simply relax in the nearby fields. In would have been a sin not to go I thought especially since the sun was just starting to cast shadows from the stones. A good time for take a nice snap or two.
Those who chose to visit joined the conveyor belt of day trippers queuing for admission then passed through a tunnel that went under a fence and emerged onto a path towards the stones.
One thing that struck me when walking the pathway around the circle is that almost every tourist walked by the equally significant Heel Stone without any thought or realisation of it's importance. When viewed from inside the circle itself, the Heel Stone marks the direction from where the sun rises on the morning of the summer solstice. Relatively speaking though, it is situated out of the way and outside the guided perimeter path around the monument. In fact it's right up against the fence beside the road that passes the site erected to protect and preserve the stones from too much interference.
Here's a good video overview of Stonehenge.....
Forty minutes passes quick when you're drawn into an ancient world and those that made their way to the stones now had to rejoin the group. The walk back to Amersbury along the open fields of Salisbury plain, beautiful as they were, didn't offer the variety of the route we followed to the monument and didn't serve up the same air of anticipation either. The heat and direct sunlight were causing tired legs as we neared Amersbury again en route for a scheduled pub stop. Cloudier days make for better walking conditions especially in these parts as there's little in the way of shade. Take my advice and wear a hat if you intend visiting.
|The George Hotel, Amersbury|
We edged back into Amersbury along a different lane from where we had started and Tom guided us to The George Hotel. "The George" is an ancient coaching house founded by Henry II in 900AD as a Pilgrims Hostel. It's a pub of two halves with tables in the court yard in between that still provides Bed and Breakfast and is very olde worldy indeed.
With our laurels well rested we boarded the bus when it pulled up and set off east back to London. The setting sun made for a quiet trip back which felt quick partly due to the time of day.
We were back on the ground in Acton Town just after 8pm and allowed for that sensible arrival home time.
Thereafter a well earned bit of Ealing style jazz with food rounded up the day.
If you ever intend going to Stonehenge I would recommend a full day and go and investigate the surrounding barrows as well. Research the area and follow the Lords Way that leads to the monument. It's a perfect approach. Amersbury is a great place to park up, look around and spend time in. It's also a perfect place to start and return to if spending the day of foot.
For the full Stonehenge experience however go for the mid-summer all-nighter and join the hundreds who show up to celebrate the solstice with the Druids.
See you there next year :)