April 13, 2011

Stonehenge and Salisbury

19 March 2011

The sun was sneaking its head out this morning when I woke. Very relieved  as yesterday was wet and miserable. Today's start was slightly earlier than last Saturday (Windsor post) because the journey was further. So like last week, I got up, got organised, and headed again for Waterloo station.

It was easier to find the two ladies taking the walk this time. They seemed a little bit louder. Paid the £53 and hung around waiting for the train to leave. This train was better than the last as it had a moajorit of its seats facing fowards. I ended up sitting next to a lady who was very comfortable in telling me her opinion on anything and everything as well as asking me crazy and completely random questions. The quiet trip with my ipod didn't happen.

We arrived in Salisbury around 11am. At the train station we were divided into two groups as about 65+ people had arrived. I found myself in Chris' group and we learnt our first stop for the day would be Stonehenge, arrived at via the scenic route. We filed aboard the bus and were soon being whisked through New Sarum, or Salisbury as its now, more commonly known.

Chris pointed out the architectual features of the landscape, the checker board pattern walls and fences. This pattern is acheived by alternating between chalk (the ground remains of prehistoric shells) and flint. I kept expecting Phil Harding to appear and say "ooh ahh". The land is also quite wet as lots of different rivers run through the region. Because it's all farmland too, there isn't anything to stop the water run off.

Phil Harding - Image Source*
As we got closer to the Henge you can see lots of mounds appearing on the landscape.

This photo is of Dorset, but gives you an idea - Image Source*
These are the funeral barrows of the dead dating back to the Bronze Age, and continued in variation through the Iron Age and longer. Just before these mounds start to appear though, you drive past a large hill. I think even those without archaeological backgrounds would recognise it as something important. The rest of the area is fairly flat around it, and this stands out as a man made structure. It is Old Sarum. You can see all the levels of fortifications etc. Very impressive.

Air view of Old Sarum - Image Source*
We reached the Henge about 15 minutes later.

Stonehenge is as impressive as you expect it to be. Salisbury Plain sweeps out into the distance. The strangest part for me was the roadways carved through the middle of it. You literally stand in the middle of two main highways.

Most of the tour met up with Chris at the bus at the designated time. One guy however, was 20 minutes late. I realised when he finally got back on the bus that he was the one I'd watched getting ready to "commune" with the stones. He and his mother were later heard to be bitching about Chris cause she had threatened to leave him behind if he was late again.

We drove back into town and adjourned for lunch. When we all met up again, we went a short distance to Salisbury Cathedral.

Not sure what this little guy is, but he seemed a stange adornment to have at the end of a row of choir stalls.

From these two pictures, it is easy, I feel, to see how writers and artists were inspired by the view. To end with, I'll leave you with a painting done by Constable of the Salisbury Cathedral Spire. Magical.

Constable "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows" - Image Source*

*http://www.show.me.uk/site/news/STO486.html Phil Harding
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-sarum/#Left Old Sarum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bronkham_Hill_barrow_cemetery,_Dorset.jpg Barrow
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/john-constable-salisbury-cathedral-from-the-meadows Constable

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