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Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  We are delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market is now running for an additional week – a total of 18 days! Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2011 are 24th November – 11th December 2011. 
bath-christmas-market

Click here to view the opening times of the Christmas Market.

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 129 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The World Heritage Site of Bath is one of England’s most beautiful places to visit, so why not make your visit to the Bath Christmas Market the focus of a private tour.  A populr itinereary from London is Stonehenge, Lacock Village in the Cotswolds and Bath.  We can also arrange tours from Bath os Salisbury.

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Two children have found “rare” specimens of a fossilised sea creature at the Cotswold Water Park.

Another Rieneckia ammonite was found in the park several years ago

Another Rieneckia ammonite was found in the park several years ago

Emily Baldry, five, from Chippenham, discovered the Rieneckia ammonite during a fossil hunt organised by the Cotswold Water Park Society on Sunday.

Hugo Ashley, from Poulton, and his grandfather also found an ammonite cadoceras, and another Rieneckia ammonite.

A society spokeswoman said Rieneckia ammonites were “extremely rare”.

Ammonites were free-swimming molluscs of the ancient oceans, living around the same time as dinosaurs.

‘Quite phenomenal’

Society spokeswoman Jill Bewley said: “The chances of finding something like this [Rieneckia ammonites] are really, really slim.

“It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack so to hit upon something like this is quite phenomenal.”

After Emily hit upon the fossil with a spade, her father and palaeontologist Dr Neville Hollingworth helped her dig out the block of mudstone the 162.8 million-year-old object, which had spikes to ward off predators, was encased in.

A range of other fossils, including many ammonites, were also found during the hunt, in a sand and gravel quarry within the water park.

Ms Bewley said that once work to expose the Rieneckia ammonite, which measures about 40cm (16in) in diameter is complete, it will go on display at the Gateway Information Centre along with a range of other fossils.

She said Dr Hollingworth found another Rieneckia ammonite in a similar quarry in the park several years ago.

The 42 sq mile site of the Cotswold Water Park, which has 150 lakes, is on the Gloucestershire-Wiltshire border.

During the Jurassic period, 165 million years ago, the area was a warm shallow sea.

The Best Tours in British History
HisTOURies UK – Private Guided Tours of Britain

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An ancient burial site which dates back thousands of years has been reopened to the public after two years of repairs.

The Long Barrow, known as Hetty Pegler's Tump, could date back as far as 3200BC

The Long Barrow, known as Hetty Pegler's Tump, could date back as far as 3200BC

Uley Long Barrow in Gloucestershire, known as Hetty Pegler’s Tump, was closed while urgent structural work was carried out at the Neolithic site.

Structural damage to the interior dry stone walls of the burial chamber had left it in an unsafe condition.

English Heritage has overseen the work to restore the 120ft (37m) long monument which dates back to 3200BC.

Mark Badger, from English Heritage, said: “We are delighted that this very significant Long Barrow is once again open to visitors.

“The archaeological investigations carried out during the urgent works by the Cotswold Archaeology team have also confirmed the original plan of the burial chambers which were excavated in both 1821 and in 1854.”

Samples of original Neolithic mound material will now be taken away for analysis in a bid to establish a more accurate date.

The scheduled monument is managed by Gloucestershire County Council on behalf of English Heritage and is named after Hester Pegler, the 17th century owner of the field in which it sits.

It is one of a series of ancient stone structures known as the Cotswold-Severn barrow group, sited near Dursley and overlooking the Severn Valley.

Very little is known about who was buried there other than that they were from some of the first settled farming communities

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/uley-long-barrow-hetty-peglers-tump/

Wessex Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Ancient History
Mystical Landscape, magical tours………….

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Few things have helped create the look of the English countryside more British Hedgerowthan hedgerows. Hedges have been used for a long time in England, yet for all their antiquity, much of the familiar checkerboard pattern they help create is of very recent vintage.

Hedges have been used as field boundaries in England since the times of the Romans. Excavations at Farmoor (Oxon) reveals Roman hedges made of thorn. The Anglo-Saxons also used hedgerows extensively, and many that were used as estate boundaries still exist. Although these early hedges were used as field enclosures or to mark the boundaries of one person’s property, there was no systematic planting of hedges in England until the first enclosure movement of the 13th century.

The pressures of population expansion led to a widespread clearing of land for agriculture, and the new fields needed to be marked clearly.

Later, farming expansion in the 15th century led to more widespread hedge planting, but the greatest use of hedges came in the Enclosure Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Enclosure Movement is a fancy term that historians use to describe the habit of wealthy landowners enclosing common fields for their own use, usually for the purpose of raising sheep.

Hedges are used as field boundaries in the lowland regions of England. In the highlands, such as the Yorkshire Dales, dry stone walls are commonly used.

Aerial Hedgerow ViewSo great was the need for hedges during the Enclosures, that a whole new industry sprang up supplying hawthorn plants to be used in planting new hedges.

In the process of enclosure many rural labourers lost their livelihood and had to move to the new industrial urban centres. So the next time you sigh over the timeless quality of the English hedge-shaped countryside, spare a thought for the misery and hardship caused by the erection of hedged fields to much of England’s rural population.

Hedge Facts
When: Roman, Anglo-Saxon, 13thC, 15thC, 18th-19thC
Where: Lowland areas
Why: Field boundaries
How
: planting bushes or trees and pleating them together at an angle as they grew
Materials: huge variety based on local availability, but the most common were hawthorn, blackthorn, and holly

A lot of effort and ingenuity has been brought to bear on the problem of dating hedges. Several historians have advanced mathematical formulae for calculating the age of a hedgerow based on the number of plant species found in a certain length of hedge. As an extremely rough rule of thumb, one species of hedge plant per 100 years seems to get close to the truth.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen the disappearance of many miles of English hedgerows. It is easier for modern farmers to string new metal fence wire than to maintain ancient hedgerows. Conservation efforts have introduced incentives to farmers to maintain the hedges, and losses have slowed somewhat. Estimates vary, but there may be upwards of 500,000 miles of hedgerows in England today.

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedge
http://www.britainexpress.com
http://www.BestValueTours.co.uk

The Best Tours of the Britich Countryside
HisTOURies UK Private Guided Tours

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Loosely speaking, thatching is the use of straw or grasses as a building material. Using thatch for roofing goes back as far as the Bronze Age in Britain. At Shearplace Hall in Dorset there are remains of a round hut that shows signs of thatching.

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatched cottages and farm buildings were the norm in rural Britain for a millennium or more. Why the attraction to thatch? First of all, the building practices of bygone Britain ran to lightweight, irregular materials, such as wattle and daub walls, and cruck beams. These walls were simply not made to take much weight, and thatch was by far the lightest weight material available.

The study of materials used in thatch buildings can get pretty obscure, but basically, people used whatever was available locally.

This meant materials as diverse as broom, sedge, sallow, flax, grass, and straw. Most common is wheat straw in the south of England, and reeds in East Anglia. Norfolk reed is especially prized by thatchers, although in northern England and Scotland heather was frequently used.

Although thatch was primarily used by the poor, occasionally great houses used this most common of materials. In 1300 the great Norman castle at Pevensey (Sussex) bought up 6 acres of rushes to roof the hall and chambers. Much later, in the late 18th century thatched cottages became an extremely popular theme with the “picturesque” painters, who tried to portray an idealized (Romantic/sanitized) version of nature.

Churches also used thatch frequently. In one humorous episode the parish church at Reyden, near Southwold, was roofed in 1880 with thatch on the side of the church hidden from the road, and with tiles on the side facing the road. Presumably the tiles looked more elegant than the more commonplace thatch.

What caused the decline of thatching? Primarily better transportation. The growing railway network in the Victorian era meant that cheap slate from Wales became easily available all over Britain. Agricultural machinery, particularly the combine harvester, had the unfortunate effect of making wheat straw unusable for thatching. This made Norfolk reed all the more prized, and now the latter material is grown specifically for use in thatching.

So how does one thatch a cottage? First the thatch is tied in bundles, then laid in an underlayer on the roof beams and pegged in place with rods made of hazel or withy.

Then an upper layer is laid over the first, and a final reinforcing layer added along the ridgeline. It is at the ridgeline that the individual thatcher leaves his personal “signature”, a decorative feature of some kind that marks the job as his alone. One lovely cottage I saw on a bicycle tour near Glastonbury (Somerset) has a row of thatch birds marching proudly along the ridge of the roofline!

Although thatching, like many rural crafts, has suffered from the encroachment of “civilisation”, many property owners today recognize the value of keeping their cottages thatched, if for no other reason than that thatched cottages fetch a prime price on the real estate market!

Well thank goodness, for those of us who love traditional British architecture! Sure, it is “corny” but to this anglophile North American at least, nothing says “Great Britain” so much as the sight of a beautiful whitewashed cottage, a blooming rose bush climbing a trellis beneath a roof of weathered thatch. Long live the thatcher!

The phrase “Its raining cats and dogs”
You’ve heard of thatch roofs, well that’s all they were. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. They were the only place for the little animals to get warm. So all the pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs, all lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery so sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the saying, “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

There are more thatch work in Wiltshire than any other county in Britain.  Join us on a private tour of Wessx and learm more about the history of this tradional craft.

Links: 

THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MASTER THATCHERS ASSOCIATIONS

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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A chance to go ‘behind the scenes’ at the Roman Baths Museum.

Roman Bath Tunnel Tours

The tour includes

·        The main museum stone store with material dating from Roman to Victorian times from all parts of Bath and the surrounding area

·        The King’s Spring Borehole supplying water to the Pump Room and the new Thermae Bath Spa buildings

·        Georgian vaults under Bath Street and the water pipe that supplies the spa

·        Rooms of the Roman bath house not on public display, including the unusual circular laconicum

·        The chance to handle some of the items which have been excavated in Bath and are now stored in the various vaults.

Although we do walk through most of the public areas of the site we do not stop in them and visitors are advised to visit them before or after the tunnel tour, during the normal public opening hours

A chance to look ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the stores of the Roman Baths Museum. See and handle objects in the reserve collections and find out why and how they care for them. 
Visit the vaults around the Roman Baths. See parts of the Roman Baths and temple not on public display and discover the hidden Georgian and Victorian history of the site. Numbers are strictly limited so advance booking is necessary on 01225 477779

http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/

The Roman Baths is one of the largest tourist attractions in South West England. Find out more about charges, opening times and the facilities that we offer at the Roman Baths in the links to the left. Please allow at least 2 hours to get the most from your visit.  Bath is often combined with a day trip to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds from London.  A private guided tour allows over 2 hours in Bath rather than the 45 minutes many coach operators allow.

Stonehenge and Bath Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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Filming in Wiltshire

Wiltshire is a perfect loction for film and television productions. Working with South West Screen, VisitWiltshire and Wiltshire Council seek to encourage new productions and film making in the area, making it a very ‘film friendly’ part of England. Film Friendly

Wiltshire is a favourite with filmmakers, taking centre stage in a whole range of productions from swashbuckling adventures to Jane Austin classics. Wiltshire continues to be popular with television and film crews, making an ideal location for anything from traditional period dramas to gothic horror films featuring Hollywood stars.

The county was used as the backdrop in productions such as The Wolfman, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Creation, as well as TV series such as Lark Rise to Candleford and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Wilton House (photo: Will Pryce)Anyone who enjoyed the cinema version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, will recognise not only Wilton House – which doubled as Pemberley, the family seat of Mr Darcy – but also the magnificent gardens at Stourhead, where Lizzie initially rejects his proposal of marriage.

Filming The Young Victoria at WiltonThe film on the life of Queen Victoria: Momentum Pictures’ The Young Victoria, features Wilton House. Wilton was used to double for Rosenau Castle, Prince Albert’s Coburg and Buckingham Palace.

The National Trust’s Mompesson House in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close achieved celebrity status as the London home of Mrs Jennings in the 1995 Oscar-winning version of Sense and Sensibility, when the leading parts were played by Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. Wilton House’s Double Cube room was also used for ballroom scenes in the film.

Channel 4's Team Team at Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral took centre stage in the TV production of Mr Harvey Lights a Candle and Old Wardour Castle experienced some modern-day drama when it was used for the filming of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, while other starring roles have been played by Breamore House and Church (Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders); Heale House (The Portrait of a Lady) and Houghton Lodge (The Buccaneers and Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage).

Stonehenge is an iconic location – used in the BBC production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles; the lake at Fonthill Bishop was used in the film Chocolat, and Trafalgar House near Salisbury has been used for several films including Amazing Grace.

Filming Cranford at LacockThe village of Lacock, with its cottages and inns dating back to the 15th century was the backdrop to the recent BBC production of Cranford. The village is much admired by film makers; the National trust village and nearby Abbey has played host to a variety of classic films and costume dramas including Pride and LacockPrejudice, Harry Potter and the 2008 film production of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Castle Combe has been called the “prettiest village in England”. A favourite with film makers this stunning village is located at the southern tip of the Cotswolds. The village has played host to many filming productions, the most famous of these being Doctor Doolittle filmed in and around the village in 1966, and recently the village had a major role in Stardust and The Wolf Man.

Lark Rise to Candleford (photo: BBC)Pride and Prejudice was also filmed at Luckington Court, Chippenham, the BBC Tess of the D’Urbervilles was also filmed in Corsham, Walk Away and I Stumble for ITV was filmed in Calne and Chippenham, and North Wiltshire is also the location for the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford. The unspoilt streets of  Bradford on Avon make the town a perfect location for films. Scenes from the Charles Darwin biopic, Creation, were filmed in the town.

Longleat house and safari park has been used for a number of film productions and is the location for the BBC’s Animal Park.

Wiltshire also has more unusual film locations: aircraft hangars and runways at Kemble and Hullavington, and with such a big presence on Salisbury Plain, the British Army has many locations available for filming. Swindon provides a useful urban location a short distance from London along the M4 motorway or by train, the STEAM railway museum and designer shopping village provides hstorical and contemporary locations. Swindon has been used as a backdrop for film, television drama and advertising. Norman Foster’s Renault building in West Swindon appeared in the James Bond film A View to a Kill and the Motorola Building in North Swindon was used as a filming location for the James Bond film The World is Not Enough. The National Science Museum outpost at Wroughton airfield, the house of Lydiard Park and the Cotswold Water Park provide unique locations near Swindon.

The Young Victoria filmed at Wilton House

Scenes from Saving Private Ryan were set on the Wiltshire Downs.Kennet“Africa and the plains of America are just over an hour away from London”, or so the movie makers have found. Rolling hills, majestic horizons, open skies and a real sense of space, together with a South West Screen “Film Friendly” star rated council are just some of the reasons for filming in the area.

VisitWiltshire staff will smooth the way for a hassle free shoot.

>>Read more about filming in Wiltshire in an article in Your Wiltshire magazine

Wiltshire can offer Neolithic monuments, stone circles, Saxon and Civil War battlefields, peaceful villages where the old rural traditions are still alive, or historic towns such as Devizes and Marlborough both with unique shopping quarters which make them stand apart. Marlborough has reputedly one of the widest high streets in Europe and is home to Marlborough College, while Devizes has an impressive Market Place.
The area has first class road and rail links with the rest of the country and over half of it is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is rich in industrial heritage related to the Kennet and Avon Canal and local industries such as brewing still survive today, with beer still delivered to local hostelries by dray. 

Filming near Marlborough and Devizes include: Time Team – Reconstruction of a timber structure that was excavated at Durrington, Walk Away and I’ll Stumble – Tamzin Outhwaite (2 part drama featuring Avebury), Flog it – Pewsey, How Long is a Piece of String – Savernake Forest and Kennet and Avon Canal, History Mysteries – Open University, and Derek Acorah’s Ghost Town – Devizes, and Wilton Windmill was used for The Victorian Farm produced by Lion TV for the BBC series The Victorian Farm.

The Wolfman filmed in Wiltshire

  Latest NewsCastle Combe
Steven Spielberg  filming War Horse in Castle Combe

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has to shot his most recent film in Castle Combe.  Based on the 1982 book by author Michael Morpurgo, the War Horse, it will feature Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch and Harry Potter star Emily Watson among the cast. The film is now in post-production and is due for release by Disney in 2011.

>>View coverage of the filming in The Daily Telegraph
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/

We offer private guided sightseeing tours of all these locations.
Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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