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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Stonehenge, Avebury, Cotswolds

I forgot to wish everyone Happy Pi Day yesterday. Happy Idles of March today.

Even though we rented a car, Michael decided we should leave the driving to someone else and sign up for a tour of Stonehenge and the surrounding area. That way he wouldn't have to concentrate on driving on the other side of the road and he could enjoy looking at the scenery.

Toni suggested we sign up with Mad Max Tours. The company is named after Madeline or Maddie for short and her dog Max. Toni was so right that we should do this. Our driver John even picked us up at Chestnuts House on his way to get everyone else at the Abbey Hotel. We had a little tour bus. We were picked up at 8:05 sharp and we came back into the city at 5:30. There were 11 customers. On the bus we had 2 from China, 2 from Malaysia, 1 from The Czech Republic, 1 from Georgia (the country, not the state), 1 from Philadelphia, 2 from Chicago and us. I forgot where John was from.

I took notes on my iPad during the trip as I was afraid I wasn't going to remember anything when I started writing tonight. John provided so much information.

For those of you whom know me well, you know I don't like to read or write when I'm driving. I was shocked I didn't get dizzy since the roads we traveled on were country roads which are very winding and extremely narrow.

Bath has a population of 90,000. There are 2 universities. The city is built on 7 hills.

Brassknocker Road is the road that goes past the University of Bath. It is a very steep hill. There were a few brave souls who pumped up the steep incline while most people waited at the bottom of the hill for the bus. John also mentioned that the rich people in the city lived up the hill while the poorer people lived in the city center which had a tendency to overflow its banks in Spring.

We drove through the countryside. Saw at least 10 pheasants in the fields. Hunting season is over so they are showing themselves. Sheep and horses grazing now in the fields.

In the around just past Bath, farmers grew wheat and barley and fodder crops for the animals.

Went from Somerset county which is hilly to Wiltshire county which is relatively flat.

Drove past a house named Dead Maid. Once there was a Farmer whom had a lovely daughter. Two peas men had a duel over this maiden. Shots were fired and one man lay dead. The dead man's black dog killed the man whom killed his master. The maiden was saddened and so distraught that she killed herself. Ghost of maid and the black dog now haunt the area. John was telling us there are so many ghost stories and legends associated with this area.

We drove past Longleat House which is one of the country's top 10 sites to visit. Concerts are held on the grounds.

Longleat is an English stately house and the seat of the Marquesses of Bath. It is a leading and early example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park.. The house is set in 1,000 acres (400 ha) of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown with 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of let farmland and 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of woodland, which includes a Center Parks holiday village. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and the Longleat estate includes the first safari park outside Africa.

We next drove through the Wiley Valley which is known for its many streams for fly fishing.

Chalk Plain - military uses this area to practice.

Chitterne is known as the town in the forest. Large parts of Chitterne parish are Ministry of Defense land within the Salisbury Plain Training Area; the Imber firing range is to the north and the Copehill Down training area to the east. The latter has an uninhabited "German Village" used by the British Army for training in street warfare (FIBUA- Fighting in Built-up Areas). This was built in the mid-1980s, before the Berlin Wall was demolished, and is based on a typical village of Saxony in Germany.

Stonehenge was our first stop. We were one of the first tour groups to arrive there. We were told the bookings for today were 26,000 people. That doesn't include people whom stop on their own.

Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC. In the early Bronze Age many burial mounds were built nearby. Today, along with Avebury, it forms the heart of a World Heritage Site, with a unique concentration of prehistoric monuments.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.

One of the most famous landmarks in the UK, Stonehenge is regarded as a British cultural icon.It has been a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882 when legislation to protect historic monuments was first successfully introduced in Britain. The site and its surroundings were added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage ; the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.

Stonehenge could have been a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. Deposits containing human bone date from as early as 3000 BC, when the ditch and bank were first dug, and continued for at least another five hundred years.

Winter Solstice is more important to people than Summer Solstice.

I took pictures from every angle. It was cloudy but as soon as we were leaving the sun starting shining through. It would have been nice to have a blue sky as a background but I might not have been able to get some great pictures from every side.

After Stonehenge we went off to Avebury.

We drove by Larkhill, home to the Royal Artillery. Soldiers returning from Afghanistan come home to this base.

John described how chalk streams are fishing streams.

Many thatched roofs on cottages along the way. Material used is Norwood reed. Will last 20 to 30 years.

The hedge rows are made of Elm and Hawthorn . Can't cut from March to July because of nesting birds.

White chalk horses- stopped to take a picture

Wiltshire is the county for white horses. There are or were at least twenty-four of these hill figures in Britain, with no less than thirteen being in Wiltshire, and another white horse, the oldest of them all, being just over the border in Oxfordshire. Most of the white horses are chalk hill carvings, and the chalk downs of central Wiltshire make it an ideal place for such figures.

Of the thirteen white horses known to have existed in Wiltshire, eight are still visible, and the others have either been lost completely, or are in a sense still there, under the turf, but have long since become grown over and are no longer visible.

Contrary to popular belief, most white horses are not of great antiquity. Only the Uffington white horse is of certain prehistoric origin, being some three thousand years old. Most of the others date from the last three hundred years or so, though the hillside white horse can be a slippery creature, and the origins of some are impossible to establish with any certainty.

Our next stop was in Avebury to see the Avebury stone circles. Most people only go to Stonehenge and skip Avebury. I think both locations are unique, interesting and worth your time to explore. Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire. One of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, it contains the largest stone circle in Europe. It is both a tourist attraction and a place of religious importance to contemporary pagans.

Constructed over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC, during the Neolithic or New Stone Age, the monument comprises a large henge (a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony. The Avebury monument is a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill. Actually, Silbury Hill is the largest man made object in prehistoric Europe.

The Wagon and Horses is an inn which has a thatched roof. Dickens stayed here.

Next, we were off to LaCock; which is such a quaint small village and civil parish in the county of Wiltshire , England, 3 miles (5 km) from the town of Chippenham. The village is owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust and attracts many visitors by virtue of its unspoiled appearance.

The films Emma and Pride and Prejudice adaptations from Jane Austen's books used this village. It has also made brief appearances in the Harry Potter films Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. In the spring of 2012, it was a filming location for the fantasy adventure film Mariah Mündige and the Midas Box. Most recently it was used for the upcoming series of Downton Abbey.

We had plenty of time to explore so we had lunch at the Red Lion. To drink, I had the Wadworth shandy(India Pale Ale with lemonade). Wadworth had been brewing beer in Wiltshire since 1875. Michael opted for the Wadworth 6X. The 6X is an amber ale.

We both decided on the fish of the day in a Wadworth beer batter with chunky chips, mushy peas, lemon and tarter sauce. We ordered before I saw the specials board. One of the dishes was butchers faggots (large meatballs) creamy mash (potatoes) and rich onion gravy.

The other specials were:

Wholetail scampi, chunky chips, peas and tarter sauce

Cottage pie with cheddar mash and seasonal vegetables

Homemade fish pie with cheddar mash and seasonal vegetables

There was a huge Cricket pitch located behind Red Lion.

Next village to drive through was Corsham, home to Corsham Court. They filmed the movie Poll Dark in this place.

Corsham Court is an English country house in a park designed by Capability Brown. It is notable for its fine art collection.

John had to be careful driving as many peacocks roam freely through Corsham Court and throughout the village.

We passed over the GWR railroad several times in our trip. This is the national railway. John joked that it stands for "God's Wonderful Railway".

Castle Combe, a traditional Cotswold Village, is noted for having one street and cottages. It is the prettiest in England.

Sheep in the area are called Cotswold Lion Sheep because of its wool. Today the wool is only used for carpets. The village seems to be in a time warp. Graffiti from 1604 can be seen in the center area.

Lovely church, St. Andrew, is located in the center of town.

Spinners and weavers lived in this area. Only one house now has a thatch roof. Wealthy have stone tiles.

The village was a location for the 1967 film musical Doctor Dolittle, but its frequently rainy summer climate, and the residents' irritation at the producers' arbitrary modifications of the area for shooting that was severe enough to incite attempted sabotage, frustrated production. In a 2016 episode of The Simpsons, Cue Detective (Season 27 Episode 2), Castle Combe is visible because Springfield Elementary School students are made to watch the Doctor Dolittle musical by their principal Seymour Skinner and footage from the film appears on screen. Raymond Austin, director/writer, set the action of his book Find me a Spy, Catch me a Traitor in the village and at the Manor. Other productions include "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, an episode of Agatha Christe's Poirot and the films Stardust and The Wolfman. Throughout September 2010, the village was used as a key filming location for Steven Spielberg's production of War Horse.

The English countryside is beautiful. Amazing to see so many varieties of daffodils blooming in fields, in gardens, along the roadways and the banks of brooks and streams. Cherry trees are in full bloom. Magnolia flowers are a few short days from popping open. Crocuses, pansies and English primrose are planted in gardens, containers and in hangers.

It was another fun filled day!!!! I must say I didn't have a favorite or least favorite. The villages were quaint, charming and quite lovely. Excellent tour!!!!!

Many pictures for you to enjoy. Click on picture to enlarge.

I'm tired so I will sign off for tonight.

Tonight's treat that was left in the room was a slice of date nut bread. Oh, yesterday's snack was a slice of yellow cake with strawberry cream filling.

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