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 My parents were visiting for a couple of days after Easter, so when it came a nice day, we decided to go out, and to visit Muchelney Abbey and Church.

Mulcheney was one of the villages which suffered particularly badly in the flooding in 2012 and 2014, so I became used to seeing it on the news, but I have not ever had reason to visit. However, having recently joined English Heritage, we looked around to see what sites there were locally we might be able to visit, and decided on Muchelney.

Muchelney Abbey and Abbot's House

Muchelney Abbey was originally an Anglo-Saxon Abbey, (There is, apparently, a record of a grant of land by Cynewulf, in 762,  then later (in the 10th C) it was re-founded as  a Benedictine Abbey, before being dissolved under Henry VIII in 1538. It was never as powerful or well known as Glastonbury, but was pretty wealthy, and was responsible for draining much of the surrounding moors for farmland.

The majority of the buildings, including the Abbey church, were demolished after the abbey was dissolved, and a lot of the stone reused for building elsewhere. However, the Abbot's House (built in the late 15th / early 16th Century) survived, as did a small portion of the cloisters and parts of the kitchens, and a separate 'reredorter' (the monk's lavatories) also survives.

The Abbot's 'Great Chamber' 

 I enjoyed seeing the Abbot's House. There is a set of 3 or 4 rooms; the 'Great Chamber', where important guests would have been entertained, and which has a wonderful carved mantelpiece, with two slightly improbable looking lions above it. 

The wooden settles are 19th C. but incorporate some medieval panelling.

Lion (from the carving above the fireplace in the Abbot's Great Chamber

There are also some smaller rooms, including one which still has traces of the original wall paintings, and a very nice barrel vaulted ceiling.

Painted room

After visiting the internal rooms we also wandered around the ruins a little, then visited the Parish Church, next door to the Abbey.

From the outside, the church seems fairly ordinary, however, inside, it is a different story! 

When the Abbey was dissolved, some of the medieval tiles from the Abbey church were removed and re-used in the parish church, where they remain. And were decked with coloured light from the sunlight shining though the stained glass windows, when we visited.

Even more spectacular is the ceiling of the nave, in the church.




It is painted with wonderful, Jacobean angels and cherubim.



The ceiling was apparently painted in the early 17thC and is very unusual, both simply by having survived the Puritans, and based on the style - some of the angels are very feminine, which is unusual, and several are bare-breasted, it is believed that this is intended to symbolise  innocence and purity.

It is stunning, and such an unusual thing to find in an English church (and because this is the Parish Church, and not part of the Abbey, it isn't mentioned in the English Heritage information about the Abbey)

We were not able to visit the Priest's House, originally built for the priest of the Parish Church in 1308 and almost unchanged since the early 17th C; it is now owned b ythe National Trust but is only open 2 days a week, and this wasn't one of them. It looks very pretty from the outside, though! 


It was a grand day out!
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Montacute House (East Front)

It came a nice sunny day on Friday, so I decided on a day out to visit Montacute House, about 30 miles from here.

Montacute House (West Front)

It is a beautiful Elizabethan mansion, built between 1598 and 1601, and now owned by the National Trust.

View over garden

The original owner was a Sir Edward Phelips, who was a lawyer and courtier, and who was involved in the prosecution of Guy Fawkes and the other gunpowder plotters. After that, the familiy seems to have become less prominent or active.

Tudor Chap

In the Great Hall, I met this gentleman. I assume he was a NT volunteer, and not simply a visitor with a taste for historical re-enactment!

Dining Room with 15thC Tapestry

None of the furniture in the house is original to the property, as the original owners sold off the contents when they could no longer afford the house,  but much of it is is of the right periods - the tapestry in the dining room is a 15th C French one, for instance, created during the 1470s in Tournai.


My favourite room was, naturally, the Library. It was originally the 'Great Chamber', where the most important guests would be entertained or impressed, and where any passing royalty would have slept.

Stained Galss - Library

It has impressive (and expensive) 16th C stained glass, including Queen Elizabeth I's coat of arms (although if he hoped to impress her that way he missed the boat, as she died soon after the house was completed, and never visited)

There's also some 18th C graffiti, on the windows, although I'm not sure whether poems in Latin to the writer's mother really counts...

The Long Gallery

The house has the longest surviving Tudor Long Gallery in England, 173 feet (53 metres) long. It's currently used to house portraits loaned by the National Gallery, of various Elizabethan and Jacobean dignitaries. They are all in the style of Holbein,but none of them are actually by him....

There was also, separately, a small exhibition of samplers, dating from the mid 1600s to the late 1800s.

I rather liked this mid-1600s mermaid and peacock, although I would have liked a little more information - for instance, for many of the samplers they listed the name of the girl who made it, (even when this wasn't shown on the sampler itself) but didn't give any further information, for instance about her age or status. I'm sure in some cases they may have known!

Outside, there are formal lawns and yew hedges, and the obligatory fountain!

If the place looks familiar, it is probably because it was used extensively as a location for the filming of 'Wolf Hall', standing in for Greenwich Palace, and also appearing in the jousting and archery scenes.

It's a beautiful house (and is in a very pretty village) and was interesting to visit.

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Jut over a week ago  I drove up to Stratford - upon - Avon to see' Two Noble Kinsman' at the RSC.

I had the day off work (having inadvertently booked the play for the Friday not the Saturday night!) so had time to make the trip a leisurely one. Traffic was heavy so I left the main road and went cross country, resulting in my meeting a flock of sheep, and coming upon an unexpected folly!

I had time for a meal in Stratford's oldest pub (at least it claims to be so, and who am I to argue?), The Garrick.

The pub is on the left in this picture - the house on the right, with the American flag, is Harvard House - it dates to 1596 and was built by one Thomas Rogers, who left it to his grandson, one  John Harvard, who emigrated to the American Colony in Charleston, in 1637, where he died in 1638, leaving his library and half his assets to the proposed new college to be established... The house became the property of Harvard University in 1909) .

I then had a stroll through the town, passing Shakespeare's birthplace (I was a day or two early to go to New Place, which has been closed for several months and only just reopened. Maybe will visit in September when I am back in Stratford.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

The performance was in the Swan Theatre, which was another first for me - the last few productions I have seen have been in the main, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which is in the same bulding as the Swan, but is significantly bigger (it seats about 1,000, compared to the Swan's 450)

Swan Theatre, RSC

The play was still in previews, which meant I was able to get an excellent seat (front row of the stalls) at a very reasonable price!  It's a relatively small theatre with a thrust stage, so many of the audience are seated to the sides,rather than the front of the stage.

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My visit to the Potter play was on the Sunday, which, as I had to stay overnight afterwards, meant that I had booked the Monday off work and had time for a trip to the British Museum before heading home.

I went to see the Sunken Cities exhibition (which I had originally planned to see when I was in London for the Likely Stories screening, but was foiled by some protesters who caused the museum to close that day).

It's a fascinating exhibition, based on archaeological finds from Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, cities which stood at the mouth of the Nile and which sank into the sea in the 8th Century BC. (probably due to liquefaction of the silt they were built on)

The remains of Canopus were originally spotted by an RAF pilot in the 1930s, but the discovery of the full extent of the ruins, and their identification as the near legendary cities, did not take place until 2000, when a team of archaeologists led by  Franck Goddio, working with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities started to map and explore the ruins, and to recover many of the artefacts preserved there.

A selection of the finds make up this exhibition, which explores in particular the links, and the cultural connections, between the ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek civilizations. There are also other, connected items, loaned by Egyptian museums

As well as statues, finds included gold jewelry, inscriptions, buildings, ritual objects, and even a wooden barge, preserved almost intact (It's still on the seabed, I believe, but there were photographs)

The exhibition provides lots of information about the way that the Greek conquerors of Egypt adapted (and adopted) elements of Egyptian religious life, with gods from each culture being merged.

There is a fascinating section about the mysteries of Osiris, in which priests made models of the god out of a mixture of soil and seeds, and then, once the seeds had germinated, processed in barges through the canals of the city.

Of course, the water did not preserve the papyri or the amazing textiles or painted artefacts that one sees in other Egyptian exhibitions, so these artefacts seemed, to me a least, a little more distant, less relatably human, than (for instance) The Petrie, or even the items in the Egyptian galleries at the BM itself, but it's still very interesting!

I wasn't a big fan of the  piped music played throughout the exhibition, which made me feel a little as if I were trapped in a  New Age lift, but other than that, it think it well done. I would have liked, also, to have been given more information about the technical side of the the archaeological excavations, which the short videos presented didn't really go into.

But over all, well worth visiting!

I then headed upstairs to the old Reading room to see the smaller (and less heavily advertised) exhibition about Sicily: Sicily: Culture and Conquest.

It is absolutely fascinating, very well put together and full of beautiful and stunning things.

I admit that I know very little about the history of the island, so learned that it has been variously invaded and ruled by the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Romans, Arabs, Normans, the Spanish and finally the mainland Italians, and of course took, and retained, elements of each culture. There are also some unique prehistoric remains, including burials.

Prehisitoric carvings

There are some wonderful documents in the exhibition, including Arabic maps and manuscripts.

It seems that although the island was repeatedly conquered, for much of its history it was ruled by surprisingly enlightened individuals, so that the North African Arab conquerers built mosques and palaces in their own style, but allowed Christians and Jews to continue, to a gret extent, to practice their own religions and customs (albeit they were required to pay higher taxes for the priviledge, and all important posts were held by Muslims)

Christian Tombstone in 4 languages (Greek, Judeo-Arabic, Arabic, Latin - 1149)

Then the island was conquered by Vikings, and after that buy the Normans, in 1072. (Presumably Roger I decided that Sicily was a nicer, and definitely warmer, place to conquer than England - I wonder whether he and William the Conqueror ever compared notes!

Under the Normans, the Arab culture was retained, resulting in the island being far more open and advanced both artistically  and scientifically (at least in the cities, where mosques remained open, and Arab mercenaries served with Christians in the King's service. I gather rural areas were less open minded), so you get churches filled with Saracen-inspired mosaics,and a carved wooden ceiling reminiscent of those you find in the madrassas of Marrakesh.  Astonishingly, given how Jews and Muslims were treated elsewhere in medieval Europe, in Sicily Jews and Muslims had freedom of religion, access to their own court.

Its a fascinating exhibition and left me wanting to visit the island, and to learn more about it!

Henry V

Nov. 9th, 2015 10:04 pm
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I was in London for the day on Saturday. I had booked to see 'Photograph 51', a play about Dr Rosalind Franklin and her role in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, but I arrived early enough to have time to go first to the Guildhall Gallery where there is a temporary display commemorating the 600th Anniversary of the battle of Agincourt.

There is the Great Chronicle of London, displaying an account of Henry V's entry into London following his victory.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the Crystal Sceptre (also known as the Crystal Mace) which was a gift from Henry V to the City of London, in thanks for their having loaned him the money (around £4M in modern terms) to finance his campaign. (actually, there isn't a lot else of the exhibition, but there doesn't need to be)

Crystal Sceptre - head showing Henry V's coat of Arms

The sceptre is made of rock crystal and gold, and apparently (and with a touch of irony) the crystal parts were, almost certainly made in France!

The whole thing is beautiful, and I found it amazing that it has, apparently, never been put on display before (it is used each time a new Lord Mayor is installed, but apparently they only hold the box, and it does get an airing when it is carried by the Lord Mayor during coronations, so I suppose people may have caught a glimpse of it in 1953)

Hedon Mace

The second item on display is the Hedon Mace - it belongs to the town council of Hedon, in East Yorkshire, and is believed to be a mace used at the battle of Agincourt, which was then coated in silver gilt, and was given to the town by Henry V when he granted a charter to the town in 1415

It is believed to be the oldest surviving ceremonial mace in the country, and looking at it, one of the things which stands out is that despite the gilding and engraving it is still, very obviously, a weapon. You can imagine a medieval Brian Blessed wielding it to lethal effect!

Its on display until 3rd December.

Entirely gratuitous picture of Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, because
 when am I likely to get a better excuse?
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After my night at the theatre, I had the morning free before heading home, so took the opportunity to go to the British Library, to see their Magna Carta :Law, Liberty, Legacy Exhibition, which opened on 13th March.

The exhibition is, of course, part of the celebrations of the 800th Anniversary of the Charter, and it is both fascinating and comprehensive.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically, starting with some background reading - a beautifully illuminated scroll setting out King John's genealogy, Henry I's coronation charter, and the Laws of King Cnut, reminding us that Magna Carta didn't emerge from a vacuum, but built on previous ideas and legal agreements. There were contemporary accounts of John's first forays into warfare (in Ireland) and of his murder of his nephew Arthur, and documents relating to the political and financial issues which led up to Magna Carta (the Papal Interdict, documents relating to the treatment of Jewish moneylenders, and so on.) The Papal Bull which put England under the Pope's overlordship is also displayed, as the the Statute of Pamiers, which was a charter issued by Simon de Montfort to his French subjects in 1212, guaranteeing rights similar to those in Magna Carta.
Thomas Cromwells's remembrances:
Photo British Library

Then there were documents relating to the Charter and its implementation,such as the Articles of the Barons, (effectively a first draft of Magna Carta), documents relting to the dissemination of the Charter,  the Papal Bull annulling it, King John's will, (and his finger bone, 2 teeth, and a fragment of his shroud, all taken from his tomb when it was opened in 1797).

There were also copies of the later Charters, reissued in 2017, and by Henry III.

The next stage of the exhibition moves on and looks at how Magna Carta was used and invoked, including a handwritten note by Thomas Cromwell (believed to relate to Sir Thomas More's trial), The Petition of Right of 1628, to King Charles I, (and printed details of his trial) and the Bill of Rights of 1688, (which invited William and Mary of Orange to take the throne, and set lmits to their power if they did)

Declaration of  Independence :
Photo from NY Public Library
And then moved on to the Colonies, starting with transcripts of the trial of William Penn (at which the Judge notoriously imprisoned the jury for failing to give the guilty verdict he felt appropriate!),and including Thomas Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence, and contemporary printed copies, together with material relating to the laws of various of the original States, some of which, such as Massachusetts and Virginia specifically invoked Magna Carta.

There are also political cartoons relating to the French Revolution, and to to the Chartist movement in this country.

The remaining section of the exhibition relates to more recent developments - documents relating to the East India Company, and, later, the Colonies. There are also documents relating to Churchill's suggestion to give the Lincoln Magna Carta to the USA, in the hopes this would encourage the US to join the War, and modern political cartoons, as well as, on a lighter note, Magna Carta themed jigsaws, games, a Ladybird Book, and of course Sellar and Yeatman's 1066 and All That which notes that John was a Bad King,  but that Magna Carta was a Good Thing (which, now I come to think of it, is arguably the message of this exhibition, too!)

Right at the end of the exhibition are the British Library's two copies of Magna Carta, the 'London'and 'Lincoln' copies.

The 'London' Magna Carta - British Library

It is a very interesting exhibition. Many of the items on display have been loaned by other institutions, from the NY Library, to the French National Archives, Parliament, several Oxford and Cambridge Colleges and any number of Cathedrals, so the chances of seeing them all together again seems slim!

The exhibition continues until September, so I am hoping that I shall have a chance to go back, perhaps when the exhibition is a little less crowded (well, a girl can hope!). If you are in or near London between now and September, I'd strongly recommend going.
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The final events I attended at the Bath Literature Festival were both based on books about WWII, but couldn't have been more different.

The first event was Rick Stroud, speaking about the events around the kidnap of General Kreipe on Crete during WWII, by a team led by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Stroud gave a summary of the incident. Originally planned as a kidnap of General Müller 'the butcher of Crete', the target changed when Müller was replaced by Kreipe.

Stroud described the (often bizarre) group of young SOE men who planned the kidnap, and the extraordinary Cretans who assisted them, risking everything.

It's a fascinating story - famously made into a film 'Ill met by Moonlight' .

It wasn't, ultimately, particularly useful in terms of the war effort, but it was a heroic effort, with a very interesting cast of characters. I  didn't buy Stroud's book, although I think I may borrow it from the library, and perhaps also look for Leigh-Fermor's own account, too.

The second event was about a very different element of the War - the women who worked at Bletchley Park. The event was withTessa Dunlop,who has tracked down many of the women of Bletchley Park who are still alive, and persuaded them to tell their stories, and the resulting book, The Bletchley Girls has now been published.

Tessa Dunlop has a wonderful enthusiasm for the women she met, and she brought them vividly to life as she spoke about the work they did, and  their post-war lives.

The women undertook a range of jobs at Bletchley, from transcribing intercepts, to working as a messenger, to working on the 'Bombe' machines, and came from a variety of backgrounds: in the beginning, the majority of the women were the wives and daughters (and wives and daughters of friends) of the men who were working at, or who knew about, Bletchley Park, and so were mainly middle or upper class, but over time, as the number of people working there increased, a wider range of girls and women were recruited.

As well as speaking about the women and their roles, Dunlop played  recordings of several of the women themselves, and showed us a number of photos of them, then and now. She also pointed out that as the work was secret, none of the women told anyone what they had done until maybe 30 years after the end of the war, and that many of them had, in the mean time, married and had husbands who were not particularly interested in what they may have done in the war!

I was already broadly familiar with the work of Bletchley Park, but Dunlop's enthusiasm and knowledge of her subject made me want to read the book and learn more about this particular aspect of work there.

By a happy coincidence, the event was held a a venue I have not been to before - the former chapel (now a small museum) at the Mineral Hospital (Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases). It is rather nice, and has some lovely stained glass, including the delightful gentleman on the right, in the fez!

I shall have to go back to look around the museum when I have time.

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Back in October, I entered into the British Library's ballot, to try to win tickets for their Magna Carta Reunification event - all four surviving copies of the original 1215 Charter, brought together to be visited by just 1,215 members of the public.

In December, much to my surprise and delight, I got an e-mail from the British Library, which started "Congratulations, you have won tickets to the Magna Carta Unification Event on 3 February 2015." It appears that well over 40,000 people applied for tickets, and (given tht the tickets were available in pairs) the chances of winning were about 1 in 80.!

For the next couple of months, I kept going back and re-reading the e-mail, to check that it really did say what I thought it did. And then, in January, the actual tickets arrived, and I was convinced that it really was happening!

So, on Tuesday morning, I set off to the British Library, to enjoy some History.

We started in the Library's Conference Centre, where historian Dan Jones was to give us a brief introduction to the Charter.

And we got a lovely surprise. We had asked, with every expectation that the answer would be no, whether they had happened to have any last minute cancellations which might allow my mother to come with us (I got 2 tickets. I invited one of my parents to come with me, and they agreed that that would be my dad, while my mum spent the day doing some research elsewhere) . Much to our surprise and pleasure, there was (or possibly they had been authorised to allow a few extra people in! ) So all three of us got to see the Charters!

There were a number of reenactors at the library for the event, soldiers / men at arms for security and crowd control, musicians, scribes, and others. For instance, we were greeted by one of the King's Marshals (who warned that anyone allowing their phone to go off during Dan Jones' talk would be taken up for witchcraft, as clearly small talking devices must be the work of the devil!)

Dan Jones gave us a short talk, summarizing the background to the grant of the charter, and explaining some of the differences between the 4 remaining copies - for instance, that three of them are written in 'Chancery Hand', a style of writing associated with the Court (and proto-civil servants) and the fourth is in a style associated more with the copying of prayer books and other literary works.

He also spoke briefly about what is known of the provenance of each Charter, and about how it failed at the time, and  little about it's ongoing influence.  For instance, the second of the two copies held by the British Library, which was damaged in a fire in the 18thC, but it's current illegibe condition is due, not to the fire damage, but to the early Victorian attempts at conservation! (recently, research using photography using different lights has allowed much of the Charter to be read again)

Then, we were to go across to the main Library to queue to see Magna Carta itself.

While we waited,  there were further reenactors, including musicians,  a gentleman reading Magna Carta (in English) aloud, another writing out the charter, in (so we were told) accurate medieval Latin, complete with the various contractions used in the original Charter, and using a quill.

Others were moving around making conversation  we had a chat with Richard Poer, Bishop of Chichester, who was looking remarkably youthful for a prelate entering his 9th Century!

It took us a while to reach the head of the queue, but it was worth the wait.

When you see it, Magna Carta is surprisingly small. The handwriting is beautifully regular and clear (although unless you read medieval Latin, not actually comprehensible)

On each one, it was possible to make out King John's name, in the first line, and to pick out where each clause began.

The 'London' Magna Carta (picture(c) the British Library)

Seeing the copies side by side, it was also possible to see the differences in style we had been told about.

The Salisbury Magna Carta (Picture (c) Salisbury Cathedral)

Seeing the documents, and knowing that they have survived for 800 years, and inspired and influenced law and constitutions worldwide, was awe-inspiring (although  King John, and the Barons, would of course all find the modern legacies of Magna Carta utterly alien and very different to their original intentions.!)

As we left the exhibition space, we were each given a rather nice goody bag, which contained, as well as souvenir pens and pencils from Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals, a note book, and a very chocolate coin, a 'Golden Ticket' (to allow a visit to each of the three exhibitions, at the British Library, Lincoln Castle and Salisbury Cathedral, and a certificate of attendance at the event.

We were invited to go to the one-day-only scriptorium (usually the ticket office!) to have our names inscribed upon the certificates, which were then sealed with beeswax.

Did you know that the whole thing about melting sealing wax over a candle to seal documents is a hollywood mistake? Modern sealing wax has shellac in, but beeswax, as used on Magna Carta, and our certificates, is simply warmed in the hands for sealing!

It was a very memorable day, and I feel privileged to have been one of the few people given this opportunity.

The British Library's exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy opens on 13th March, and runs until September. (You can also read more about Magna Carta on the Library's blog There are also exhibitions on in Lincoln and Salisbury. I am hoping that I shall manage to visit the Salisbury one, at least!

More photos of the day on Flickr

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After a couple of weekends having, and being a visitor, this weekend was quieter.

Saturday involved making my Christmas cake, doing laundry, reading the papers and, of course, playing with the kittens.

They have not yet quite worked out how to use the cat-flap - they haven't yet sussed that they can open it for themselves, so I am propping it open for them and hoping they work it out before the weather gets much colder!

It's only in the last week that they have been allowed out unsupervised - the first day I left for work leaving the cat flap open I felt a little like parents leaving their children at school on the first day must feel!  

(I came home to snuggly cats, with wet feet, so they had obviously been out and about while I was out!)

Then on Sunday there was the thrilling cleaning and vacuuming, a quick trip into Bath to pick up my copy of 'Pictures that Tick:Vol 2., and one of this year's 'Book are my Bag' bags.

I was also able to admire their lovely, newly decorated  Chris Riddell loo!

Apparently he came in to decorate it while he was in Bath for the Kids Lit. Fest.and personally decorated it!

I particularly like the pipes, all carefully marked 'gurgle'.

I was very good, and only bought one book apart from the one I had ordered, and it's going to be christmas present, so it doesn't really count as me buying books..

On the way home, I called it at the village hall, where there is an exhibition about the history of the village - it has been part of a bigger exhibition (covering, I think, 3 local villages) at the local museum, and was set up in the Village Hall this weekend.

It was quite interesting - it didn't, as I had hoped it might, include any old photos of my house or information about when it was built, but I did learn that Samuel Taylor Coleridge passed through in 1794 and write a poem about a spring here (although unfortunately mis-remembered the name of the village).

Beau Nash had family here, and may have lived here, (although based on what I know of Beau Nash, I suspect his connection may have involved shaking the dust of the village from his feet at the earliest opportunity, never to return) Gainsborough apparently also passed through, although apparently only to see his doctor!

More recently, the village seems to have lowered the bar a little for 'famous links' - Queen Mary visited a soldiers'  recuperation home here during WW2.

After that, in the 'Famous people' section,  we were down to the local doctor, (retired after a lengthy career, in 2002) who used to make house-calls on horse-back, and who cross-qualified as a vet in order to look after the health of his own horse!.

I knew that the village was a mining village - now I know where all of the mines were - and also where the railway ran, which I didn't know before.

All in all, an interesting way to spend an hour!

I think next weekend is mostly likely to involve finding out whether or not the kittens are freaked out by fireworks. Tybalt, despite being very nervous generally, was totally unfazed by them. I am hoping this pair are the same...

Old Sarum

Jul. 7th, 2013 09:43 pm
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I realised a few weeks ago that although I only live about an hours drive from Salisbury, and often pootle in that direction to visit Stonehenge, I'd never actually been to Old Sarum. (I admit, to, that having read Diana Wynne Jones's wonderful 'The Merlin Conspiracy' I am very slightly anxious about it, as deep down I know believe that Old Sarum is both sentient and a little bad tempered and unpredictable. But I digress)

So, today, after a morning which involved some baking (not, I think, 100% successful - I should have listened to my instincts, and added some more extra flour - the shortbread tastes OK but is not perfect) I made a small picnic and drove to Salisbury, and thence to Old Sarum itself.

Inner Fortifications

Old Sarum was the original settlement, later displaced by Salisbury - the archaeology apparently shows that it was an Iron Age settlement, from somewhere between 400 and 100 BC. It was  then occupied by the Romans, when it was known as Sorviodunum, and later there was an Anglo-Saxon settlement, then William the Conqueror put a castle there.

Bridge to inner fortifications

You can see, even now, what a defensible place it is - the pictures above shows the inner Motte, which is big, with a huge, steep ditch around around it, and there is then a further, outer ditch, which is huge.

Outer ditch (with Salisbury cathedral in the background)

In the 11th Century a castle was built inside the inner motte, and a cathedral was built outside, but within the outer earthworks. It was finished in 1092, and struck by lightening 5 days after it was completed, but they were not ut off, and rebuilt it bigger and better!

However, King John (who did use the castle) and his bishops had a falling out, and by 1220 the cathedral was abandoned and they built a new one in what would become Sailsbury.

The castle is mostly ruins, now, and the cathedral has gone altogether apart from the foundations, but the original earthworks are till there, and very impressive.

Castle ruins, from gatehouse

After walking around the castle ruins, I walked around the top of the outer earthworks - you can see for miles, and can see just how huge the outer ditch is, and how hard it would have been to take this place by force.

Outer Ditch

The path was narrow, and there were lots of wild flowers and grasses, and lots of butterflies, which made me realise how few I have seen this summer - it's been so cold and wet until now.

There were also lots of bumble bees, and other insects - there was a tiny little spider with  a lime-green body, and some beautifully iridescent beetles,which appeared to come in both green and red varieties.

Across the ditch I could see sheep, grazing in single file on the top of the far side of the ditch, and at one point I heard (but didn't see) something larger than an insect - perhaps a snake or a mouse, among the grass.

There were birds, too - lots of crows, and pigeons, but I also saw (as I walked around the earthworks) goldfinches, and blackbirds, and red-legged partridges.

It was a lovely sunny day, and I really enjoyed my visit.

And after I got home, I learned that Andy Murray won Wimbledon, which is nice to know, as it will make lots of people very happy, and I completely missed the tennis match, which is ideal for me!

A very good day.

Anne Boleyn

May. 7th, 2012 03:21 pm
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Anne Boleyn starts with members of the cast coming into the chat to the audience, and swiftly moves on to Anne herself (or rather, her ghost) displaying her own severed head to the audience. What follows is fast moving, often very funny, and thought provoking.

King James I, a camp, twitchy, and at times terrifyingly astute Scot, arrives in London to take the throne following Elizabeth I's death - he is dealing with disputes between different religious sects and becomes interested in Anne Boleyn, finding her (protestant!) prayer book in an old chest. We then flash back to the events of her life, and death.

Anne is portrayed as a very witty, principled woman, motivated by her strong protestant views and support for William Tyndale, seeing her relationship with the King as an opportunity to make England into a Protestant country.

The play manages to portray the frightening and often dangerous flavour of life in 16th Century England without ever losing its light touch, and the frequent asides to, and knowing nods toward the audience work very well (When Anne finally (after 7 years) gives in to Henry's persistent attempts to seduce her she turns to the audience. "There will now be a fifte.. twenty minute interval"...)

A very strong cast, in a very good play. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening out, and am looking froward to seeing 'Henry V' which is on in 2 weeks time, and which is also a 'Globe' production, this time touring before, rather than after, a London season
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Bath Lit. Fest. ends today, and the last two events I had tickets for were yesterday, with Richard Fortey and Jeremy Paxman.

I’d booked the ticket for Richard Fortey’s event having enjoyed his book, ‘Dry Store Room No.1’ about his time at the Natural History Museum, and his recent TV series, 'Survivors' (which has an accompanying book, of course!)

Richard Fortey

Fortey is a Palaeontologist, with a special interest in trilobites, but his theme today was to look at the range of organisms which have succeeded in surviving one or more of the great extinctions, and to speculate a little on how and why they succeeded in doing so.

Horseshoe Crabs, for instance (which can still be found in large numbers, coming to Delaware Bay to spawn) are found in the fossil record over 150 million years ago, Stromatolites, now found in Western Australia are over 2.5 billion years old, and there are anaerobic bacteria in hot springs in Yellowstone, (among other places), which are even older. Some of the other survivors are Magnolia Trees, which were around with the dinosaurs, Nauteloids (which were contemporaneous with Ammonites) and the Echindna, whose babies delight in the glorious name of 'puggles', and which interests scientists both as its milk is so nutritious that it is being studied by researchers interested in anorexia, and as it has no nipples, just a slightly modifies sweat-gland which 'oozes' milk, so it represents an evolutionary step on the way towards true mammary glands. (of course, it also looks very cute, like an overgrown hedgehog, and lays eggs, just to confuse)

Fortey pointed out that most of the survivors have certain attributes in common: enduring habitat (often tidal), a willingness to eat a wide variety of foods and/or the ability to go long periods without food, good defence mechanisms such as being difficult to eat, (Apparently the only part of a horseshoe crab which is edible is its eggs, and they taste pretty nasty!) a little counter intuitively, many of the survivors also have relatively few offspring or (like the Echidna) have slow-growing young needing a relatively high level of parental care.

It was fascinating, and afterwards, when I went to get my slightly battered copy of 'Dry Store Room No 1' signed, by Fortey, (rather than having spent £20 on the new hardback 'Survivors' book) he was charming about it, and commented that he liked signing books which had been read, which was very nice of him, whether it was true, or simply to put me at ease!

The second event I had a ticket for was Jeremy Paxman, talking about his new book,Empire (What Ruling the World Did to the British). However, as this didn't start until 4 hours after Richard Fortey's event finished, I had plenty of time to treat myself to a delicious pie and a pint in the The Raven, and still had time to visit Mr B's to drink coffee and buy books, and then to the Guildhall where, having some time to spare, I wandered around a little to admire the empty corridors, and the many splendid pictures of all of the majors of Bath, going back to about 1870. (The first clean-shaven Mayor appeared in 1899, but was clearly an aberration, as there wasn't another until 1913) Women took rather longer, there wasn't one until the 1960s.

After that little diversion, I settled in to listen to Mr Paxman. He has a ferocious reputation for his political interviews, and for his sometimes scathing comments to contestants on 'University Challenge', so the warnings, before his talk, not to annoy him by letting your phone go off during the presentation were particularly effective!

The presentation was more of a potted history of the Empire (mainly, but not exclusively, in India) than a discussion of how it affected the British and as such most of the information was not new, but it was very well presented (despite Mr. Paxman's difficulties with the remote control for his slideshow!) and entertaining, particularly his somewhat caustic asides; In describing the Privateer Henry Morgan he explained that Morgan, seeing the Spanish exploiting indigenous people in South America, worked out that it was much less effort to wait and then steal the goods from the Spanish, became immensely wealthy so was, in the fine British tradition, rewarded with a knighthood..

He also commented on Gordon of Khartoum's decision to disobey orders and try to hold, rather than evacuate Khartoum, describing Gordon as "Brave but deranged" - Gordon apparently believed that he was in direct communication with the Prophet Isaiah, who, understandably, he considered outranked the Prime Minister..

Part of his theme was that the British Empire was not in any way planned, it grew as a result of a lot of opportunistic people trying to get rich, although the Victorians, in particular, liked to see it as a benevolent way of bringing Christianity and civilisation to the 'less advanced' parts of the world.

While acknowledging the many negative issues in the Empire (referencing the atrocities committed during the Indian Mutiny (1st War of Indian Independence), for instance) he did also flag up some of what he saw as positives; the introduction of in theory and principal, at least, a largely non-corrupt cadre of public servants, the abolition of slavery, including the fact that around 150,000 people were liberated due to the Royal Navy being used to enforce Britain's anti-slavery laws. He also commented that without defending colonisation, if you were going to be colonised, it was probably better to be colonised by the British than by many of the other colonial powers - Belgium and Portugal being particularly bad examples.

The American questioner had a rather rambling comment, resulting in saying "we got rid of them (the British monarchy)
Paxman; "Yes, you did. What's your point?"
American Questioner; "DO you have any comment?"
Paxman; "I wouldn't dream of intruding on your private grief"...

The Canadian Questioner spoke about the issue of Quebec and the odd partnership of the French and English;
Q "I don't know how the English ever expected that to work"
A "They probably took the view that it's your problem now. What do you want me to do?"

Perhaps not terribly serious responses to serious (if poorly constructed) questions, but most entertaining. I shall continue to watch the rest of the TV series, and will probably buy the book once it is out in paperback.

A very interesting finish to my Bath Lit. Fest.
It will be interesting to see what next year has to offer.

marjorie73: (Default)
If Sunday was all about history, on Monday I was expecting to be entertained, more than informed. I had a ticket to see Sandi Toksvig. I love her dry humour, and thoroughly enjoy her as host of ' Radio 4's News Quiz. I also missed seeing her when she was due to appear in Bath a couple of years ago, as she was ill and had to cancel, so was particularly pleased to see she was going to be at the Lit. Fest. this year.

Sandi is possibly Denmark's best known import to this country, (after bacon) - I am most familiar with her radio work, but she's also a regular columnist and has written a number of books. She admitted, when asked, that her upcoming book, Valentine Grey, has communalities with her other books "I used a lot of the same words. But in a different order". It's a novel set during the 2nd Boer War (1899). The eponymous heroine disguises herself as a man and joins a bicycle regiment and goes to war. Toksvig explained that she got the original idea to set a book in a bicycle regiment in the Boer War after seeing a memorial in (I think) Canterbury Cathedral. It fired her imagination, she wrote the novel, and then went back and found that the memorial which started the whole thing was, in fact, in remembrance of members of a bicycle regiment in a different war, and a diferent country....

She read a short extract from the book, about the first occasion Valentine tries on male clothes, and talked a little about the way clothes change the world - Pockets! Trousers!

the conversation wasn't limited to the book (which isn't out yet) but also encompassed comedy (and the terrible scandal of the 'cuts' joke she made on R4 last year.."It's the Tories who have put the "n" into cuts" which led on to talking about politics and politicians more generally, to Sandi’s childhood and her family.

When we got to the Q&A section she was asked about the Great Marmite Scandal (last year there were a lot of news headlines about marmite being banned in Denmark) Sandi explained that the Danes are not interested in Marmite because they have real food, like herring…

More than any of the other events I’ve attended this one felt like a conversation we were lucky enough to have joined, rather than a scripted ‘talk’.

After the event, I got Sandi to sign my copy of ‘Hitler’s Canary’, and she definitely wins the ‘friendliest author of the festival’ prize, too!

Two days later I was back at the Guildhall to listen to physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, talking about the “Golden Age of Arabic Science”.

He started by explaining that the “Dark Ages” between the fall of the Roman Empire and the start of the Renaissance, were really only ‘Dark’ in western Europe, and that during this time, and in particular during the period from the 8th to 10th Centuries, Arabic was the language of Science, and Baghdad was the centre of the scientific world. Harun al-Rashid, the Caliph, was tolerant and encouraged scholars within his empire.

This wasn’t a solely Islamic phenomenon; although Islam did feed into a great deal of the science; for instance, the need to be able to accurately locate Mecca was one of the motives for work on astronomy, cartography and geometry, but the Caliphate welcomed scholars from other countries and religions, and extensive work was done to translate earlier scientific writings such as those of Aristotle, Euclid and Galen.

I think it’s fairly well known that the word algebra comes from the Arabic. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi wrote a book ; Kitab al-jebra, which set out the principals of solving algebraic equations, and which ultimately became Latinised to ‘algebra’, but what we learned was that the word ‘algorithm’ comes from the latinisation of al – Khwarizmi’s name – he was known as Algorithmus!

There was also Ibn Sina (980-1037) whose name was Latinised as Avicenna, and whose ‘Canon of Medicine’ and ‘Book of Healing’ became the standard medical texts for the next 700 years, and, like other Arabic texts, spread into the west as Arabic texts were translated into Latin.

Al-Khalili is clearly enthusiastic about the subject, and his interest comes over very clearly, and he managed to make what could be a dry subject accessible and interesting even to a non-physicist such as myself.
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This is a slightly belated blog - having been going out to lots of events, I've been short of time to then write about them.

On Sunday I was in Bath again, for two very different history events. The first was (Sir) Simon Jenkins, talking about the entire history of England, and his new book (imaginatively titled 'A Short history of England' and the second was Faramerz Dabhoiwala, discussing his book, ''The Origins of Sex'

Simon Jenkins is a journalist and Chairman of the National Trust, and is unimpressed with the current habit of teaching history in unconnected chunks. He argues that it is necessary, in order to understand history, including current events, to understand their causes. (which seems fairly reasonable, although I am not 100% convinced that it necessary to understand the entirety of English history to achieve this in respect on a single part of it)
Simon Jenkins
Having set out his stall, Jenkins then proceeded to gallop through the whole of English History, from 410AD to 2012, in around half an hour (although to be fair there was a rather large leap from 410 to 1066).

He has a gift for picking out interesting and unobvious nuggets of information. I realised, afterwards, that only one of these was actually new to me (I hadn't appreciated that the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 was a proper, armed invasion, even of it didn't lead to a bloody civil war, at least in England. I just thought we just sent out for a mail order King.)

I was aware that Magna Carta was not a success at the time, and was then virtually forgotten until the 17th C, that Agincourt was a PR success but a practical disaster and that we ended up losing that war (Shakespeare spun it a little...) he suggested that when you have a monarchy, what you need for political progress is a really incompetent King - the examples he gave were King John, Richard III, the Stuarts and George III. You can see his point.

It was a fascinating lecture, and his conclusion, that we're seeing a return to an elite executive - back to the old Norman pattern, which was a chilling thought to leave us on...

The second event was also about history, albeit of a different kind. Faramerz Dabhoiwala discussing his book about what he describes as the 1st Sexual Revolution - the change, in the 17th - 18th C of attitudes towards sex and sexuality - specifically, that in around 1650 attitudes were similar to those we associate with modern day extremist theocracies - extra-marital sex could, and often did, lead to severe punishment; public shaming, whipping and banishment for life from the parish, and even to execution. Dabhoiwala (in response to an audience question) siad that this applied across the social spectrum, but I did wonder whether this were true - I am sure that there were wealthy and powerful people who faced punishment after accusations os sexual impropriety, but can't help but feeling that such accusations would be awfully handy as a way of controlling political emenies, for instance, and that it may be that among the upper echelons of society we only ever hear of those who were punished, not those who were not.

Faramerz Dabhoiwala
The prevailing view, according to Dr Dabhoiwala, was that such behaviour was a risk to society as a whole, not merely to the individuals concerned. There was also an assumption that women were naturally weaker than men, and therefore more lustful.

By the 1750s the philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment extended to the sexual sphere; ideas that sex outside marriage were 'unnatural' or intrinsically wrong were challenged, and surprisingly, Dr Dabhoiwala had even found evidence of such arguments being put forward by at least one gay man.

The idea developed that there was a difference between public and private, and that private life was, well, private, and not the concern of the state.

Courtesan Kitty Fisher become, arguably, the first sexual celebrity and pin-up girl (She commissioned Joshua Reynolds to paint her portrait, for instance, and was written about extensively. We are far from having invented celebrity gossip! ), and the first 'homes' for 'fallen women' were established, with people starting to see them (up to a point) as victims in need of help rather than as criminals in need of punishment, although this appears to have been somewhat patchy, and of course there tended still to be a strong impulse to evangalize to such fallen women.

Interesting stuff. Not least for the reminder of how recently our society changed. I think I shall see about getting a copy of the book from the library. The discussion certainly piqued my interest.
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My younger sister came to visit this weekend, partlly in order to see me, and partly in order to collect some
wood flooring from my other sister's nearly-in-laws, which  they no longer want but which my sister does. As I live about 40 minutes from their home, it's easier for E to visit me & make a trip to pick up the flooring, than to come all the way from her home.
 She arrived on Friday evening, and we did some catching up. On Saturday it came a nice bright sunny morning, so we went out to visit Farleigh Hungerford Castle, which is a ruined castle a few miles from here - I pass it on my journey to work every morning.

The castle was originallly built in the 14th century, althugh there were considerabe changes and additions in the 15th century, and the place fell into ruins after the civil war.

The Hungerford family had their share of dodgy ancestors - including a charming lady in the 16th Century, who murdered her 1st husband in order to marry the lord, and was eventually tried and executed after her 2nd husband died, and her step-son inherited the title.

The son apparently later went mad,, and kepy his own wofe imprisoned in one of the towers, where she was fed by baskets of food sent up by local villagers!

Within the castle is a small chapel where there is a surviving medieval wall painting of St George, which was preserved by having been plastered over  (also another painting of the Hungerford's coat of arms, which was apparently painted about 100 years after they lost the title and the right to the coat of arms. Obviously they weren't finding it easy to accept!)

There is also a crypt, which has some rather grim lead coffins, dating to the 1600's, with death-masks over the heads. however, you cannot go right up to them because there is an iron gate in the way.

Tnis was apparently put in in the early 1800's becuae visitors were poking sticks through a hole in one of the lead coffins in order to (And I am not making this up) TASTE the gloop inside.

I mean, what kind of person stirs the contents of an old sarcophagus with a stick and then thinks, "y'know, I really wonder what this tastes like"?!?

After leaving the castle, we were going to visit a Barrow which is supposed to be near by, but we were not able to find it, aand decided not to risk taking the car up the very narrow, very steep & very muddy lane which seemed the only one ging in the right direction. Instead, we headed over to Bradford on Avon for lunch and cakes, then down to Dorset to pick up the flooring.

Today, we had had thoughts of going to Bath, but as it turne out to be a miserable grey, rainy day we ended up having a lazy morning & brunch, then E headed home, and I turned my attention to fun stuff such as laundry, housework, and blogging.

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Last night I went to Bath again, this time it was to see Michael Wood, who was there to talk about his recent TV series and the book which accompanies it,'The Story of England' 

But before I got to that part of the evening I had time for a quick visit  to Mr B's bookshop which is a very nice bookshop (with free coffee & comfy  chairs upstairs, which I didn't have time to enjoy this time round) and a wall papered with pages from Tintin, which I rather enjoyed.

 I then had to spend a couple of hours on a work related course, and had just time to grab some mediocre chinese food (and all-you-can-eat buffet is your friend when you only have 20 minutes in which to eat) before heading to St Michael's church, where Mr Wood's event was taking place.

I have to thank Cheryl again, who not only spotted that this event (and Monday's, with Iain M Bnks) was on, but also booked the tickets and got to the church first and saved me a seat.

Mr. Wood was talking about The Story of England, and it was fascinating. The premise is that he set out to look at the history of England (and he was careful to note that it was just England, not Britain) by looking at a single town.

The one he picked is Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was picked because it is (geographically) central, and broadly on the border between the part of England which was under Danelaw, and that part which was Anglo-Saxon , but mainly because it has excellent written records - one half of the village was bought by Merton College, Oxford, so there are 750 years worth of written records. The parish is made up of 2 distinct villages - Kibworth Beauchamp (the posh bit) and Kibworth Harcourt (the poor bit)

The aim was to look at the history and development of the villages from the perspective of the community - bottom-up, not top-down, history.

The two halves of the parish are very different - they have different entrances to the church, and the Vctorian rector recorded that when a sewage system was being mooted, the villages wanted separate systems, so thast the effluvia from Kibworth Beauchamp was not contaminated by that of Kibworth Harcourt.... (and in case you think tht's a one off, Michael recalled hearing a discussion in a cambridgeshire village, when it was proposed that 2 neighbouring parishes should be combined, due to declining congregations. One parishioner, entirely seriously, and wholly outraged , exclamed "We are not almagamating with them. They were Parliamentarians!" It's understandable, I suppose. After all, its only 350 years since the civil war...

In Kibworth, the social divisions certainly went back as far as Domesday book (there were fewer slaves and  villeins in Kinworth Beauchamp than in Kibworth Harcourt) and possibly longer - Michael had a theory that it may do, and that the names of the fields were anglo-saxon in one area, and celtic in another.

The project not only involved looking at the history of the community, but also involving the community in the research - they dug 55 test pits all over the parish, (including one in the pub car park where they found a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon  bone comb)

The village lost 2/3 of its population in the Black Death. The quality of the records mean that it is possible to trace 15 generations of peasant families.

The series (and book) go right up to the present day. I have not yet seen all of the episodes but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, and to reading the book.

After his talk, Michael signed books, and was very friendly  and chatty.

A most enjoyable evening.

marjorie73: (Default)
After finishing my visit to Stonehenge, it occurred to me that the day was still young, and also that Avebury is not that far from Stonehenge (about 20 miles) and is also somewhere I haven't been for a while.
Driving cross-country I was surprised to see ahead of me a White Horse.

One of the small, unconsidered bonuses of having no sense of direction is that such things can sneak up on one!

This is not the White Horse I usually see - That is the Westbury White Hprse (which is visible on my drive home from work every day, if I remember to look, and provided it isn't raining) This one is the Alton Barnes White Horse, and it doesn't really belong in a blog about visiting prehistoric monuments, having been made in 1812.

I didn't go up to it, but enjoyed the view for a while.

The next unexpected pleasure was coming upon Silbury Hill. 

I normally approach Avebury on a different road ,which doesn't go directly past the hill, and I had forgotten it was so close.
It's another very impressive place.

Legend has it that there is a King buried under the hill, who will, as such Kings are wont to do, return when required. I admit, I can't think of very many situations in which we would find the arrival of a neolithic king useful, but still, that  may simply be a lack of imagination on my part!

Archeology says there is no (apparent) burial, but that the hill is entirely man-made, and that it was completed in aroud 2500 BC, making it  a similar age (and size) to the Great Pyramid of Giza.

I'm not sure how impressed we should be by this; on the one hand, kudos to our stone-and-early-bronze-age ancestors  for building the thing, but at the same time, given that the Egyptians were busy empires and inventing writing, and politics, and art, and so forth, building a big heap of chalk with only a deer antler or two seems just  a little slow off the mark.. Although I suppose they had better weather, and perhaps therefore more spare time.

The acheologists seem to think that the flat top may have come later, when the hill was used (possibly defensively) during the Saxon period.

Visitors are no longer allowed to go up the hill, as it risks erosion and damage to the structure (and upsetting the sheep)

So, after admiring it from the bottom from several angles I moved on to Avebury.

Avebury is best known for its stone circle (see how the Neolithic theme continues?) but the National Trust also owns Avebury Manor, which is a 16th Century Manor House and gardens, so I decided to pop in for a look around before going around the stone circles.

Unfortunately it turned out that they had had to close the house early, as several of the volunter stewards had had to leave early, so I wasn't able to go inside.

The gardens are very nice, however - I particularly liked the eometric patterns of hedges outside the back of the house, and the parsley borders in the herb garden...

I shall have to go back to see the house another time.

Avebury (the circle) is big - perhaps the only way to get an idea of the size and scope is from the air.


From ground level it is hard to get an idea of how large the circle is, as you can't see all of it at once. However, unlike stonehenge it is possible to go right up to the stones and even on to them.


You can also see the outer ditch, and when you consider the tools they had to work with, it really is an amazing construction.

The Avebury circles are thought to be older than Stonehenge, having been constructed starting in around 3000 to 2800 BC - the stones themselves were not imported from Wales like the ones at stonehenge, but quarried in the area (Clearly, this was a local stone circle, for local people, none of yer nasty foreign muck..).
A lot of the stones were destroyed or removed in the 13th - 16th centuries - apparently this was initially because the Church disapperoved of these nasty Pagan stones (although the local people buried the stones ather than removing them altgether) and later, stones were actually broken up in an attempt to clear the land for farming and to use the stone for building.

Alexander Keillor, the Marmalade Magnate who bought Avebury in the 1930's excavated and re-erected many of the  stones, and marked with concrete pillars where he found evidence of missing stones, and later geophysical surveys have shown that a further 15 or 16 stones are still buried.

One of he oddest things I learned was that, as far as they can tell, no-one actualy lived in the immediate area during the period the Stones were in use; it seems to have been purely a religious/ceremonial/sacred area. The other thing (which makes sense but which hadn't occured to me) was that it probably wouldn't have been turfed so it's likely the whole area was white from the chalk, so it would really have stood out against the surrpounding coountryside.

I went for a walk along the top of the mound, before heading back through the village for icecream, and a drive home.

On my way home, I did a little detour via Rowde, and the Caen Hill locks.

This is a flight of 29 locks on the Kennet & Avon  canal - they ccome in 3 groups - this one, of 16 locks, is the longest and most dramatic. Although having been on a canal boat holiday or two in my time, I can't help feeling it would also be awefully hard work, especially as there are no moorings so I'm pretty sure you have to do the whole flight at once....

Because it is so steep, with so many locks close together there are extra "pounds" storing water to the side of each lock.

The canal was completed in 1810 and was still in use commercially until 1948, then it fell out of use until it was restored in the 1970s and reopened in the 80s.

It was very peaceful, and was a lovely end to a delightful day.

One of the nicest parts of the day was when I was wandering around Stonehenge and saw a family - the little boy (maybe 5 or 6 years old) was talking 19 to the dozen, very excited - he was (I think) Spanish and I couldn't understand most of it, but every other word was 'Pandorica'... I noticed he had a Dalek in one hand, too.
I didn't see any (other) Daleks, hoever, and no Docctor or plastic Romans, either (more's the pity)


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