Ancient Avebury site has so much potential

12 02 2013

A TWO-man Avebury stone circle research team say the site should capitalise on a World Heritage boost.

The Which? Travel magazine hailed Avebury as the second greatest World Heritage site, behind only the ancient Mexican city of Monte Alban and ahead of attractions including the Great Pyramid and the Taj Mahal.

Avebury_Stone Circle, WiltshireThis was music to the ears of author Eric M Crook and artist Maurice Giraffe from Swindon, who have spent decades investigating not just Avebury but other ancient sites such as Stonehenge and Silbury Hill.

Mr Crook, 88, is the author of a study called Wiltshire: A Journey-man’s Tale. Many of the book’s illustrations are the work of Mr Giraffe, 55, who combines artistic and technical drawing skills to plot the relative positions of stones.

Mr Crook said of the Which? Travel accolade: “It’s fantastic for this to happen, and we would hope that maybe somebody has taken notice of our comments over the years about this place being so important.”

Mr Giraffe added: “I too am very, very pleased that Avebury has been nominated within the top 10.

“At the same time, what draws the attention is that seven of the 10 are building complexes. There is only one stone circle.

“Avebury should now improve its facilities for visitors. Shelters from the rain would be useful, and so would pathways for wheeled access around the stones. We’d like to see uplighters installed so the stones can be seen better at night.”

The two also suggest night time tours and regular grass cutting, as well as restricting access by grazing sheep.

The researchers believe the archaeological establishment has missed clues about ceremonial and navigational uses for such prehistoric places.

They say their research indicates that the surviving Avebury stones were once part of a vast amphitheatre featuring many thousands of carved human and animal faces, and these faces would have appeared to come to life in flickering firelight.

The researchers say remnants of these carvings can still be seen in fragments hacked from the stones down the years, whether for recycling or because the early Christian church objected to the old religions.

Mr Crook said: “Many churches were built with the old stones, and also other properties across Wiltshire.”

Wiltshire: A Journeyman’s Tale costs £9.99 and can be ordered from Amazon and book shops.
Article (By Barrie Hudson –

Merlin says: ‘Not sure about the uplighters idea’ ?

Merlin @ Stonehenge
Stonehenge News Blog

Explore the archaeology of Stonehenge

1 02 2013

Enjoy a winter afternoon walk on Sunday, learning about the ancient archaeology of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and the area’s varied wildlife.On this three-mile walk with views of the stone circle, the ancient earthworks that have revealed much about the people who once lived and celebrated there will be visited.An aerial view of Stonehenge without the A344 road

Talking points include the Cursus, the many and varied barrows, and an ancient avenue connecting ceremonial centres.

Booking is essential, and the walk begins at 2pm. For details and to book, when the start point will be given, call 0844 249 1895.

Merlin @ Stonehenge


Row over Stonehenge visitor centre continues

15 01 2013

A TOUR operator has waded into the row over the £27million improvement project at Stonehenge, saying that while some operators may bypass the stones the “vast majority” are welcoming the transformation.
Stonehenge-Private -Viewing-Access-Tours-2012 (25)

The new development – involving a ten-minute shuttle from the new visitor centre being built 2km from the stones – will require a significantly extended visit time for tour operators.

Some guides fear the plans have been ill-thought out and that the two-hour stop recommended by English Heritage will put tourists off as many have limited time and want to “see as much as possible” in their packed daily itineraries.

But Ralph Bennett, director of Tours International, who has brought visitors to the iconic site for the last 25 years, said they only spend a short while at the site because the current facilities are inadequate.

He said: “Parking is problematic, our clients have to queue and there is nowhere to sit and eat under cover. Yes, we currently fit two or three destinations into a one-day tour, but Stonehenge is most definitely the star attraction.

“The transformation being made by English Heritage will address these problems and enable us to offer Stonehenge either as a day out in its own right or as part of a two-stop tour; and a two-hour visit will be about right.

“The vast majority of us are embracing the future, which will at long last mean we can properly showcase one of our most iconic and fascinating visitor attractions to tourists from around the world.”

Article by our local experts:

Merlin @ Stonehenge

UN launches ‘Heritage of Astronomy’ portal. Includes Stonehenge Monument

25 08 2012

A picture shows the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, in central southern England, on July 12, 2012.

Stonehenge Heritage PortalA pharaonic temple in Egypt, a 3,000-year-old pillar in China and a 1920s tower in Berlin have been inscribed on a UN-backed heritage list for astronomy, unveiled on Friday which also includes Stonehenge. Observatories in Britain, France and the United States, a pharaonic temple in Egypt, a 3,000-year-old pillar in China and a 1920s tower in Berlin have been inscribed on a UN-backed heritage list for astronomy, unveiled on Friday.

The Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy ( aims to give astronomical sites the same place in public awareness as UNESCO’s World Heritage List does for places of historical importance. The website was launched on the sidelines of an International Astrononomical Union (IAU) meeting in Beijing on Friday, the IAU said in a press release. It is being backed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The portal has a preliminary listing of around three dozen sites, ranging from prehistoric caves to 20th-century observatories, but should expand swiftly in the coming months, the IAU said. Among the first entries are Stonehenge, which is aligned along the axis of the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise, and the Dengfeng Observatory in Henan, China, where Tang Dynasty astronomers used a pillar to measure the Sun’s shadow and thus calculate the length of the year. There are also the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the Meudon Observatory in France, the Mount Wilson Observatory in California and the 1920s “Einstein Tower” in Potsdam, all sites where important contributions were made in the era of modern science. Eventually, the portal will not only feature sites and monuments, but also other types of astronomical heritage such as portable instruments and intangible cultural practices, as well as “dark-sky” locations, meaning places where the night sky can be viewed without pollution from man-made light. “A lot of our most precious astronomical heritage—both ancient and modern—is under threat. If we don’t act to try to protect and preserve it, we run the risk of losing it,” said the IAU’s Clive Ruggles, a professor of archaeoastronomy at Britain’s University of Leicester.

Read more at:

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog

STONEHENGE: UNCOVERED – February 24th 2012

22 02 2012

Unlock the secrets of Stonehenge and the surrounding sites in this exclusive walking tour led by English Heritages’ Properties Historian Susan Greaney.Visit the World Heritage Site and key archaeological areas in this fascinating landscape. Along the way, gain an exclusive insight into the new and exciting discoveries made by recent research projects carried out in the area and discover for yourself more about this special landscape.
Stonehenge HOW TO BOOK

Purchase your tickets today by calling our dedicated Ticket Sales Team on            0870 333 1183       (Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30 Sat 9am – 5pm). Please note: Booking tickets for this event is essential as places are limited


Sponsored by ‘The Stoneheng Tour Company’

Merlin say “You have to be an English Heritage member for this tour but its well worth joining”

Merlin @ Stonehenge 

Why the future of Stonehenge must live up to its past

25 04 2011

Interesting article by Steve Kemp of Amesbury, Wiltshire in This is Devon.

Western Daily Press reader Steve Kemp, of Amesbury, Wiltshire, met foreign tourists as they marvelled at the Stonehenge World Heritage site – and asked them for their impressions. Many shared his view that more could be done to present the stones more helpfully and favourably when the world comes visiting. The nearby A303 is a major distraction for many visitors, Steve found. Pictured right are some of the visitors he met, and some famous images of Stonehenge over the years

 A303 Stonehenge

It’s around 5,000 years old, a World Heritage site since 1986 and as well known throughout the universe as the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall. It’s in Wiltshire. It has to be Stonehenge.

Cared for by English Heritage, the ‘stones’ are visited by just over a million people each year. That’s a few less than the Roman Baths and Spa but more than the Eden Project. Well over half that number come from abroad. Having paid an entrance fee of up to £7.50, selected one of the audio headsets available in ten different languages from Japanese to Russian, Mandarin to French, what do our guests really think of the Stonehenge experience? Living within walking distance of the stones, and having a free pass (courtesy of the previous owner, Sir Cecil Chubb) I thought I’d try and find out.

Four young men from Singapore approached me with a request to take their picture in front of the monument. They had hired a car for a week, done Bath yesterday and next up was Portsmouth.

One of them, George Tong, who spoke excellent English, said: “I thought there might have been more to see. Been here a quarter of an hour and that’s it really. There’s an awful lot of people here, is it always this busy?” The site was indeed heaving, perhaps due to the fact that everybody has to stay on the roped path.

Rohak and Anchal Singh and their three-year-old son had travelled from India. Rohak was on his third trip to Stonehenge. “This time I’ve brought my wife and son. Otherwise two visits were more than enough. What do I think? Well it’s cold and dreary, but a duty to take my family here.” Mrs. Singh was clearly unimpressed; perhaps she just wanted to see her relatives in Birmingham.

A group of Americans from Michigan listened intensely as their guide explained to them they had one hour before the coach left for Salisbury Cathedral, the rest rooms were over there and you were not allowed to touch the “ruins” as she called them.

 Kathleen Barbour asked me when the fog would disappear so they could see something, whilst Mike Guinn was just astounded at “how old everything was here”. “It’s incredible people could have put this together all those thousands of years ago, but I have to tell you it’s not as impressive as our Grand Canyon.” With that they headed back to the coach.

Many of us will remember visiting the stones in our childhood, cars parked on the field, walking up to and touching the monument. In British archaeologist Christopher Chippendale’s book, Stonehenge Complete, he traced the first tourist back to 1562.

A Swiss chap, by the name of Hermon, escaping religious persecution, took refuge at the Bishop of Salisbury’s residence. With time on his hands he asked the bishop to take him to “something that will astound me”. The bishop duly obliged with a day out at Stonehenge, at that time owned by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. What an experience he must have had.

About 20 French students were listening to their audio sets, and I asked their tutor, Claude Thierry, for his views. “Very honoured to be here, much interest and questions from my pupils. This visit will be high on a list for our practical work. Have you noticed how well behaved the group is?” Yes, I had, and how several of them had chosen the English language audio sets. Again I was asked to take a picture of a couple, this time from Hong Kong. They were so polite, and obviously enjoying the experience. Chen Qingi said that back home the stones were very well known and had been on their wish list for years. “What an amazing place, it was so mysterious early on with the mist surrounding. Glad we came.”

There were at least two dozen Japanese tourists there, one young couple dressed up against the chill in reindeer and rabbit hats. They said they had bought them in London. Sadakazu Nogami told me: “It is 6,000 miles from our home. We had been planning this journey for many months, and despite the tsunami, our parents wanted us to go ahead. “We’re very pleased with what we see here. Stonehenge deserves our respect.

The birds nesting in the cracks are from the past, that’s what we believe.” Coaches and different languages were piling up all over the place. There was Polish, Russian, Danish and Dutch, plus Australian and New Zealand accents. I didn’t ask who was who, as from previous experience I know how our Antipodean cousins can get upset if you get it wrong. Perhaps something to do with rugby and cricket. There was no mistaking the Germans though. Herr Schroder said he had all the time in the world to give his views. He and his wife had travelled over in their own car from Munich, calling in at Avebury before here. “This is fascinating, what skill to have put these stones up, and get them here in the first place. You do know we Germans were involved,” he said. No, I did not, but please go on. “A long time ago, when there was no sea separating us, people moved around. Remember there was no borders then. “If I had my way that road (A303) wouldn’t be there. In Germany we would have solved problems like that years ago. We could still solve it for you, but you haven’t got the money now,” he concluded. You can’t help but notice, and indeed feel, how both roads completely throw the whole experience for visitors.

Even English Heritage staff whom I spoke to now find the whole situation an “embarrassment”. “These people, who have travelled in many cases thousands of miles to see the stones, are being let down. A proper Stonehenge Experience would be a world beater,” said one staff member. With a fair wind, work on a new visitor centre, one and a half miles away at Airman’s Corner, could start in April 2012, plus low noise surfacing for the main road, at a total cost of £30 million.

So there is the prospect of a proper experience and existence for Stonehenge. The people who built Stonehenge, wherever they came from, must have felt proud when the work was finished, I think the least we can do is put the pride back into the Stonehenge Experience.

Merlin @ Stonehnenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ –

Wessex Audio Tour – Ancient Britain

3 03 2011

Start: Avebury |Finish: Old Sarum
Distance: Approximately 42 miles

Wiltshire is a county of history and mystery set in a dramatic landscape. The combination of heritage and scenery provides a truly memorable day out. So come with us on a journey through the countryside and across the ages as we go back to the time of our prehistoric ancestors. Hundreds of thousands of years may have passed but all over the county there’s evidence of human activity from the end of the Ice Age through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to the invasion of the Romans in AD43.

Click here for audio / visual tour

This driving tour will take you through the heart of Wiltshire. En route you’ll discover more about how our enigmatic and mysterious ancestors lived, worked, fought and died.

This tour can be undertaken in a variety of ways; as a day-long journey, in short sections or you can use the information as a guide to individual visits.

You might also consider embarking on the tour using public transport but keeping up to date with bus service and timetable changes will require plenty of preparation.

Before you set off make sure that you’re properly equipped. Nothing beats a really good Ordnance Survey map, marked with contours and ancient monuments. A compass and a torch would also be useful. Some of these historical gems are in fields and away from roads or footpaths, so good walking boots are a must. Some sites have few or no facilities and it’s also worth noting that mobile phone coverage can’t be guaranteed in parts of rural Wiltshire. For news of road works or route closures, check BBC Local Radio and

This guide has been produced with the generous assistance of Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, Bob Clarke, Martin Kellett, David Dawson and the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.
Sponsors:  The Stonehenge Tour Company

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Britain may pull out of UNESCO

1 03 2011

Britain is threatening to withdraw its support for the United Nations agency

Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle

Unesco has designated more than 900 cultural and natural world heritage sites and 28 are in the UK including the City of Bath, Stonehenge, Avebury and Dorset and east Devon’s coastline.

Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, is expected to reveal tomorrow that aid to about 16 countries will end and that more than half a dozen UN agencies will either lose British help completely, or be warned they face losing it unless they reform.

UNESCO – United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization: an agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts
Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company

Merlin @ Stonehenge  and Avebury
The Stonehenge Website

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