Archive for June, 2010

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Stonehenge Tour Guide
Histouries UK

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Letters that lay undiscovered in national archives for more than 230 years suggest that Silbury Hill, the enigmatic man-made mound that stands between Marlborough and Beckhampton, may have originally be constructed around some sort of totem pole.

Historians have uncovered in the British Library in London letters written in 1776 that describe a 40ft-high pole which once stood at the centre of Silbury Hill. Europe’s largest man-made mound.

The letters detail an 18th century excavation into the centre of the man-made mound, where archaeologists discovered a long, thin cavity six inches wide and about 40ft deep.

A separate excavation found fragments of oak timber within the cavity leading historians to believe that the mound was built around the pole dating from around 2,400 BC.

David Dawson, director of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, said: “This is important, lost information dug out of the library, rather than through field work.

“It tells us that in one of its earliest phases some kind of totem pole was erected on the mound, then subsequent additions to build the hill up were piled up around that timber.”

The 18th century letters, written from Edward Drax to Lord Rivers, described excavations Drax had supervised at Silbury Hill.

He oversaw the digging of a vertical shaft from top to bottom that is sometimes claimed to be the work of the Duke of Northumberland.

Drax, a wealthy landowner who lived in Bath, had hired a team of miners to dig a shaft from the top of Silbury Hill, to the centre of the hill, 125 feet below.

To begin with the miners found little but chalk and pieces of deer antler, but 95 feet down – some 30 feet above where they expected the base of the mound to be – they stumbled upon a deep, narrow cavity.

The hole was six inches across but Drax noted: “We have already followed it already about 20 feet, we can plumb it about eleven feet more.”

In his letter he wrote that “something now perished must have remained in this hole to keep it open”.

Together with a later, independent account of fragments of oak timber found at the centre of the mound, the evidence adds weight to the totem pole theory.

Last year English Heritage completed a £2 million restoration programme on the mound to prevent it from collapsing after previous excavations, including the one by Drax, had left the structure weakened and prey to erosion.

Drax’s letters have been published for the first time in the new volume of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine.

I highy recommend a visit to Silbury Hill if you are visiting the Stonehenge and Avebury area – the best view of Silbury Hill is if you walk up to West Kennet Long Barrow.

Nicholas – Avebury Tour Guide
HisTOURies – The Best Tours in History

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The summer solstice is traditionally a time of peace and love.

So it was particularly fitting that this crop circle should appear in a field in Wiltshire yesterday – right next to a heart-shaped wood.

But the sentiment wasn’t exactly shared by the farmer whose land the circle appeared on. He blasted the design an ‘act of vandalism’.

Unusual: The 200-foot crop circle appeared alongside a heart-shaped wood on the Summer SolsticeUnusual: The 200-foot crop circle appeared alongside a heart-shaped wood on the Summer Solstice

A man claiming to be Gavin Davies, the farm’s manager, posted an angry message on a website run by crop circle enthusiasts, urging them not to encourage people to visit the field.

He said: ‘I have this morning noticed the circle on land that I manage.

‘I do not support this vandalism, and demand that this circle, and the location are not reported on your website. 

‘We will be posting notices on the field stating we do not allow access to the circle, and will regularly monitor the field to ensure this is obeyed.’

Mr Davies said he was concerned visitors could trample on his crops, destroying them in the process.

 He said: ‘At this stage, the crop remains harvestable, and as a result, we will leave the circle intact.

‘If visitors to the site ignore our notices, and continue to walk into the crop, we will mow out the circle.

‘I will be taking advice from the local police, and legal advice from our solicitors to counter this act of vandalism. 

‘Please let the teams behind the circles know they are not welcome here.  If we get anymore, we will be forced to mow them out to avoid the hassle. I thank you for your assistance.’ 

Detailed: The design is striking - but it has angered the farm manager, who branded the crop circle an 'act of vandalism'Detailed: The design is striking – but it has angered the farm manager, who branded the crop circle an ‘act of vandalism’

Crop circle fans were earlier trying to de-code the 200 foot design which sprung up in a field near Marlborough on the longest day of the year.

Crop circle expert Karen Alexander said: ‘It appears to be a complicated mathematical formula and there have been several circles in the area over the years that represent Pi.

‘The fact it has appeared next to a heart-shaped wood suggests there is something more significant to the message, especially as it appeared on the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year.’

Nicholas – Crop Circle Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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Stonehenge Summer Solstice

Sun rise at Stonehenge

CLEAR skies meant the thousands of revellers who flocked to Stonehenge got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise at this year’s Summer Solstice on Monday morning.

About 20,000 druids, pagans and revellers from across the country and abroad travelled to the famous Wiltshire landmark to celebrate the longest day of the year.

Numbers were lower than last year’s record-breaking event, which fell on a weekend and had a crowd of 36,500, but for the first time in recent years clouds didn’t block the view of the sunrise at just before 5am.

As the sky started to brighten the Widders Border morris dancers performed several routines next to the Hele Stone, before druids performed rituals and hailed the sun.

Revellers filled the stone circle and the crowd cheered as the sun came up between the stones.

Druid King Arthur Pendragon said: “I thought this year went exceedingly well. It was a nice crowd and a nice atmosphere and with a great spirit of co-operation – how could it not be a successful solstice?

“Lots of pagans say they are fed up with the revellers but I don’t have that view. Even if they initially come for the wrong reasons, they return for the right ones in the end.

“It’s the spirit of the place, Stonehenge itself, that draws people here and even if they don’t respect the stones the first time they do by the next year.”

No major incidents were reported. Wiltshire Police made 34 arrests – one on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, two minor thefts, two for assault, three for possession with intent to supply drugs, one drink driving, nine drunk and disorderly and 16 possession of drugs. A police spokesman said they were happy with how the event had gone and, despite the arrests, the solstice had been mostly peaceful.

Rhanks to all that joined me on the sunrise, a good time was hads by all.  I will be uploading my photos later in the day and would appreciate your input

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide

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Summer solstice revellers disappointed that coalition government will cut funding to new Stonehenge visitor centre

Summer solstice revellers disappointed that coalition government will cut funding to new Stonehenge visitor centre Sometimes the police come in for criticism, while at other times English Heritage attracts the ire of the druids, ravers, hippies and sun lovers who turn out for the summer solstice at Stonehenge. At today’s celebrations there was a political target – David Cameron and the coalition government – following the announcement that government funding for a visitor centre at the ancient monument was being cut. The outcry from solstice revellers was led by the unmistakeable figure of Arthur Pendragon, a druid who believes he is an incarnation of the once and future king. Pendragon, who rejoices in the title of battle chieftain of the council of British druid orders, said he was not surprised that the £10m funding was dropped. “I knew the writing was on the wall. I knew the new government wouldn’t stump up the money. It’s no surprise but, still, it’s a disgrace. This wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world.” Pendragon has campaigned for 20 years for a new visitor centre at the World Heritage site and to close at least one of the busy roads that surround the stones. Tourists are often shocked at the state of the centre and amazed that traffic is allowed to roar past so close. Last year Gordon Brown promised £10m towards a £25m scheme to build a glass and timber centre and to shut the nearby A344. The scheme was expected to win planning permission soon and the project was due to be completed in 2012 to coincide with the staging of the Olympics in the UK. Last week the government announced the funding would be pulled. English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was “extremely disappointed”, arguing that transforming Stonehenge was “vital to Britain’s reputation and to our tourism industry”. It said it would try to find the funding from elsewhere. Pendragon said he was worried about how the shortfall would be met: “I don’t want to see them making up any shortfall with a public-private partnership. I don’t want to see Americans going home with T-shirts reading: ‘I’ve been to McDonald’s Stonehenge’. “All they’ve got to do is go to an investment banker with a decent proposal. Nearly a million visitors come through here every year. Any investment bank will see that it’s a money spinner. “It’s not as if they aren’t good for the money. Being English Heritage, they’ve got a castle or three they can put up as collateral. “We’ve been 20 years waiting for this visitor centre, faffing about. They can borrow the money and build the bloody visitor centre. That’s what I intend to make sure they do.” Rollo Maughfling, archdruid of Stonehenge and Britain, greeted the rising of the sun with a blast on his trumpet – which sounded not unlike a vuvuzela. “It’s been a wonderful, warm night,” he said. Around 20,000 people turned up to mark the solstice and by dawn there had been 30 arrests for minor offences. It was also the first time the solstice sun had peeped from behind the clouds since 2003. While campaigning tends to be left to Pendragon, Maughfling said it was a druid’s duty to get involved in politics when the need arose – and it had now arisen. “You have to tangle with politics to make sure that, for example, our national shrines and temples are looked after,” he said. “Look at any of the stories of druids in ancient British literature and ancient Irish literature, there have been times when the security of the land has been in the hands of druids as well as kings. Druids have taken sides in all kinds of matters. We can’t stand apart from it all.” Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge for English Heritage, said he was pleased at how the solstice went but disappointed at the withdrawal of funding. “But it’s not over yet,” he said. “Let’s see what we can do. Maybe there is a way forward. The project has a great deal of support. It will ensure a suitable setting for Stonehenge and it will upgrade considerably the very poor facilities we currently have.” Sky, a pagan from Devon, broke off from a drumming session to explain how crucial it was that Stonehenge was improved. “It’s the most wonderful place and it’s a disgrace that we’re still waiting for a new visitor centre and for improvements to the roads. I bring people here from abroad sometimes. They’re amazed by the stones – but also amazed at how crummy the facilities are. I’d like that David Cameron to come down here and tell us why Stonehenge, our national treasure, is being treated so shabbily.”

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK Tours

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This fantastic formation lies in a beautiful location adjacent to Wilton Windmill. An extremely picturesque and quiet part of the Wiltshire countryside, the calm and tranquil atmosphere was accentuated on the still summers evening when we visited. With only the odd car driving past the field and a couple of late evening explorers, this really was the peaceful and magical experience visiting crop circles should be, rather than the rush to keep up!

The wide outer ring of laid crop here is striking. As can be seen from some of the aerial shots, the crop is laid in a ‘herring bone’ pattern around the entire ring. The effect this creates on the ground is stunning. Throughout the central section of the outer ring, the crop is laid in so many layers it is raised a foot or more off the ground

 Of course when walking around this area, the crunching underfoot gives the impression that this crop circle was not crushed to the ground with excessive force initially, rather that the stems were gently laid to continue growing, as they have.

There are many areas in which the layers of overlapping stems are visible and show little or no sign of damage.

While there are lots of stems which have been broken at or near the base of the plant, this does seem consistent with visitors. This is particularly evident in the central laid circle which looks totally trampled, as is often the case as people flock towards the centre of many formations. There are also ‘walked’ pathways in some parts of the outer ring, consistent with people following a common path towards the centre.

The abundance of bent stems, reassuringly, counteracts the variable damage throughout. Untouched stems are visible throughout every area of the formation (except the centre as discussed) including the herringbone pathway in the outer ring. Stems are bent to varying degrees and more often than not, at the very point the stems emerge from the ground.

This would be impressive enough but is taken to another level by the way at certain points in the design, two of these pathways flow towards one another and then stop short of meeting, but only by a few inches of standing crop in between. The image below does not really do this justice but to see it is so impressive!

Another great addition to the early stages of the 2010 season!

Needless to say, anyone joining a private tour in the Wiltshire area will get a chance to see this amazing formation.

Wessex Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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