Sights to visit around Stonehenge.

4 03 2016

While Stonehenge is by far and away the superstar of southern England, and no visit to Wiltshire is complete without touring it, Stonehenge is in fact just one of many ancient sites in the area. Indeed, the surrounds of Stonehenge contain the most densely-grouped collection of neolithic sites and monuments within England – and more are being discovered all the time. It’s thought that the nearby settlement of Amesbury (believed to be the oldest in Britain) was a major cultural centre during the island’s ancient days. If you’ve got some time to spare during your Stonehenge trip, and want to take in some of the area’s other sights, here are a few suggestions:

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Within Walking/Cycling Distance Of Stonehenge – Woodhenge, Durrington Walls, The Cuckoo Stone

In all fairness, you can strike out in pretty much any direction from Stonehenge and hit archeological gold – although you may not always recognise it as such. Just be careful not to wander into the path of the military (who train on Salisbury Plain). If you’re cycling, be sure that you’re properly prepared for historically significant (but nonetheless unexpected) bumps and tumbles! Woodhenge, less than four miles from Stonehenge, is an odd sight at first glance. However, once you understand what you’re looking at, it becomes much more impressive. It’s thought that this was once a large burial mound with a complex system of banks and ditches (now eradicated through ploughing). Thousands of years ago, six concentric rings of wooden posts may have supported an enormous building. Today, the position of these posts are marked with stumps. It’s an atmospheric and very interesting place! A short walk away from Woodhenge is Durrington Walls – a recently discovered monument which in its heyday would have dwarfed Stonehenge. The ‘Walls’ were formed by lines of enormous stones, which could possibly have formed a processional way leading to Stonehenge itself. There’s not masses to see there now, but it’s still a lovely area! West of Woodhenge is the Cuckoo Stone – a sarsen boulder lying on its side. It was once a standing stone, the origins of which remain a matter of debate. It’s an enigmatic piece of history in a very atmospheric location.

Salisbury – Old Sarum, Salisbury Museum

Old Sarum is a wonderful visit for anyone with an interest in history. It’s the site of Salisbury’s oldest settlement – a hilltop fort commanding absolutely incredible views over Wiltshire. There’s an iron age hillfort to walk around, the remains of a castle to admire, and an absolutely breathtaking panorama which will give the camera-happy everything they could ever dream of. There are also plenty of events put on by English Heritage throughout the year, giving people the opportunity to really step back in time! Down in Salisbury itself, the Salisbury Museum is packed full of fascinating finds from all over the county. It’s a well laid-out and beautifully explained museum, with some truly intriguing exhibits. You can find it just opposite Salisbury Cathedral – which it itself a beautiful and interesting building.

A Short Drive Away – Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill

A 40 minute or so drive from Stonehenge is Avebury. Managed by the National Trust, this ancient stone circle sits in a Neolithic landscape incorporating avenues of standing stones, a henge, and an enormous stone circle in which a village was once situated. The stone circle itself is the largest in the world, and contains two smaller circles. A short walk away is West Kennet long barrow, which can be entered by those who are neither claustrophobic nor fearful of our long-dead ancestors! Then, of course, there are the round barrows with which the landscape is littered, and the curious structure of Silbury Hill. Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, and would have taken similar effort to construct as its contemporary pyramids in Egypt. It was clearly important to those who built it – although, unlike most barrows of its kind, it contains no burial. Its purposes remain perplexing, but its presence is both beautiful and fascinating! Anyone with an interest in Stonehenge and its ilk, particularly those who enjoy the mystery of the structure, will find much to whet their appetites at Avebury and Silbury!

There are Stonehenge tour companies who operate guided tours of the area and the Visit Wiltshire webiste lists the best ones.  If you want to explore the Stonehenge landscape with a local expert then we recommend ‘The Stonehenge Travel Company

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Stonehenge Midwinter Solstice Walk

13 11 2015

On the midwinter solstice, explore the ancient monuments of the Stonehenge landscape with National Trust. This walk is around three and a half miles. (December 20th 2015)

Stonehenge does not stand in isolation, but forms part of a remarkable ancient landscape of early Neolithic, late Neolithic and snow-hengeearly Bronze Age monuments. The best way to appreciate Stonehenge is on foot. You can enjoy the impressive Wiltshire countryside while exploring the ancient history that has shaped it. Follow in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors and discover the prehistoric monuments that fill the vast ancient landscape surrounding Stonehenge.

Stonehenge has far more than the stone circle. It encompass unrivalled Neolithic landscapes that contain many other fascinating and unique monuments. You could easily spend a whole day in either part of the World Heritage Site.

Containing more than 350 burial mounds and major prehistoric monuments such as the Stonehenge Avenue, the Cursus, Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, this landscape is a vast source of information about the ceremonial and funerary practices of Neolithic and Bronze Age people.

It can also help our understanding of regional and international contacts from the 4th to 2nd millennia BC, and shed light on how prehistoric society was organised.

National Trust Stonehenge Midwinter Walk: 20th December (1pm – 5pm)
Immerse yourself in the ancient landscape of Stonehenge, there’s so much to explore and many mysteries to unravel.
Booking essential (click here to book direct)

Stonehenge Guided Tours are offering their usual Midwinter Solstice Tours from London and Bath
Booking essential (click here to book direct)

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Walking the Dead: Exploring the Stonehenge Ceremonial Landscape

12 09 2015

A guided tour of the amazing collections of the Wiltshire Museum, followed by a guided walk from Durrington Walls to Stonehenge. This full day tour will be led by Museum Director, David Dawson.

Note: this event was previously advertised for Saturday 19th September.and is now Thursday, 08th October, 2015Walking the Dead: Exploring the Stonehenge Ceremonial Landscape

The morning visit to the Museum starts at 10.30am and the walk begins at 2pm. We should reach the Stonehenge Visitor Centre at about 5.30pm.

The day begins with coffee and a guided tour of the Wiltshire Museum. The early story of Wiltshire is told in new galleries featuring high quality graphics and leading-edge reconstructions. On display are dozens of spectacular treasures dating to the time of Stonehenge and worn by people who worshiped inside the stone circle.

The tour is followed by a light lunch at the Museum and minibus transport to the start of the walk, if required.

The walk will take approximately 3.5 hours, and starts at Durrington Walls and Woodhenge, close to the River Avon. The route passes the Cuckoo Stone, a megalithic standing stone, before following the Apple Track – a WW1 light railway. The route then passes the prehistoric Cursus, before passing the Bronze Age barrows of Kings Barrow ridge.

The route then follows the Avenue – the Neolithic ceremonial route that leads to Stonehenge following the line of the solstice.

At Stonehenge, you have three options:

1. Visit Stonehenge. This is free for English Heritage and National Trust members, but is not included in the cost. If you are not a member, then you should book your visit online from the English Heritage and you should choose a timed ticket for about 4.30 pm. You can then take the English Heritage shuttle bus to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
2. Continue to the Cursus barrows and the Western end of the cursus, before continuing to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
3. Take the English Heritage shuttle bus to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre and purchase a well-earned snack and cup of tea.

At about 5.30pm, at the end of the walk, there will be minibus transport back to your car at the start of the walk, or back to the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

Cost: £35 (WANHS member), £40 (non-member)

Booking:CLICK HERE TO BOOK DIRECT

The Stonehenge News Blog





Events at Stonehenge: Up Close

4 01 2015

Stonehenge: Up Close

Gain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts. The event starts with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge accompanied by our expert.

Stonehenge Landscape

Following a light breakfast, we will then go on to explore key archaeological sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus to learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigate work that has taken place in recent years.

There is plenty of walking, sometimes over uneven ground on this tour, so we have graded it as moderate access.

15th January 2015 SOLD OUT
9th February 2015 SOLD OUT
9th March 2015

Heaven and Earth Tours
Special evening bookable tour learning about the stars and planetary movements and how early man may have utilised them.

24th January 2015
21st February 2015

How to Book
Tickets are available to purchase by calling the English Heritage dedicated ticket sales team on 0370 333 1183. (Mon-Fri 8.30am – 5.30pm, Sat 9am – 5pm) Visit their website here

There are tour operators who offer special access trips and include transport from London.  Visit Wiltshire have links to local tour operators offering inner circle tours from Salisbury

Merlin at Stonehenge
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The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project

3 10 2014

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is an unprecedented initiative to survey a vast tract of land around the iconic stones. Now that the bulk of the practical work is complete, Carly Hilts spoke to Vince Gaffney and Chris Gaffney to find out more.

An ambitious programme of geophysical survey, covering 12 square kilometres around Stonehenge, has revealed a landscape scattered with previously-unknown features. Credit: All images courtesy of the University of Birmingham and LBI ArchPro

An ambitious programme of geophysical survey, covering 12 square kilometres around Stonehenge, has revealed a landscape scattered with previously-unknown features. Credit: All images courtesy of the University of Birmingham and LBI ArchPro

Stonehenge could confidently claim to be one of the most-studied, and certainly most hotly debated, prehistoric sites in Britain. However, much of the local landscape, so important to any interpretation or understanding of the site, was largely terra incognita – until the launch of The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, the largest geophysical mapping survey of its kind yet undertaken.

Begun in July 2010, and headed by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology  in Vienna, the four-year Project has explored a massive 12 square kilometres around the celebrated stones, and revealed the footprints of hundreds of previously unknown features, invisible to the naked eye, including henge-like monuments, burial mounds, ditches, and pits spanning thousands of years.

Clocking up 120 days in the field, the team used the latest non-invasive survey techniques – including magnetometry, ground penetrating radar (GPR), earth resistance surveys, and 3D laser scanning – to explore the Stonehenge landscape in unprecedented detail, allowing researchers to see features buried as much as 3m below the modern ground level.

‘We created a palimpsest,’ said geophysics expert Dr Chris Gaffney of the University of Bradford. ‘Unpicking it is one of the joys of geophysics, but also one of its conundrums – we don’t have a ditch detector or a wall detector, so after gathering this incredible explosion of data, you still have to delve in and interpret it manually.’

So far, eagle-eyed project members have picked out 17 shapes from the vast amounts of resulting data that are thought to represent Neolithic monuments roughly contemporary with Stonehenge, as well as field enclosures, barrows, settlements, and other signs of human activity ranging in date from the Bronze Age to the 20th century.

We approach the features as we would if we were using aerial photography, by looking at their shape and comparing them to known sites,’ said project co-director Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham (and brother of Chris Gaffney). ‘The tricky thing is that prehistoric monuments come in a variety of forms, they do not conform to standards – even Stonehenge is not a typical henge, as its ditch lies outside its bank – so once you spot something, it is not always easy to categorise it.’

Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, added: ‘No landscape deserves to benefit from a study at this level of detail more than Stonehenge. The terabytes of digital survey data collected, processed and visualised by LBI ArchPro provide the base for the precise mapping of the monuments and archaeological features buried in the subsurface or still visible in the landscape surrounding Stonehenge. After centuries of research, the analysis of all mapped features makes it possible, for the first time, to reconstruct the development of Stonehenge and its landscape through time.’

High-speed survey

With an ambitiously large area designated for investigation, the team called on other modern technologies to help cover the uneven terrain. Although hand-pushed carts were used to explore more difficult or sensitive sites, much of the project survey equipment was mounted on the back of quad bikes.

‘This means we were collecting data at up to 40kmph,’ said Vince. ‘It was georeferenced and its location logged as it came in, and the information would already be partly processed before you reached the end of the field – that’s how we managed to so much data in a relatively short time.’

Beyond the stones of Stonehenge

This multi-technology approach has proven a particular boon in revisiting well-known sites, where a host of unexpected new details have been revealed. Around 3km from Stonehenge lies , the largest-known henge in the world at over 0.5km in diameter, and home to a Neolithic settlement that some interpret as a possible base camp for the builders of Stonehenge (CA 270). Although the site has been studied in detail during previous investigations, the recent survey identified traces of a previously unknown row of holes along the site’s southern border, which could have held around 70 posts or stones.

While investigating a known long barrow at Woodhenge, the team found the remains of a large timber building hidden inside it. This reconstruction shows how it may have looked

Another enigmatic find comes from the adjacent site of ‘Woodhenge’, once home to a Neolithic timber circle. The chalk long barrow standing in the same field had long been known to archaeologists, and so it came as a complete surprise to discover that the monument seems to have a kind of forecourt in front of it – and that within the mound itself there once stood a massive timber building some 33m long. With the outline of its walls marked out by lines of holes that once contained huge wooden posts, the team has provisionally interpreted the building as a mortuary, possibly used in excarnation rituals.

Interpreting the Cursus

Stonehenge_new_monuments_distribution

Over at the Cursus ­– the c.3km long Neolithic earthwork just north of Stonehenge, thought to predate the earliest phase of the monument’s construction by several centuries –exploratory work has revealed new links between the two sites, as well as potentially significant astrological associations. At each end of the Cursus, the team has identified a massive pit measuring around 5m in diameter. More excitingly, Vince said, if you stand at Stonehenge and look towards the Cursus on the Summer Solstice, the easternmost pit aligns with the rising sun, and the westernmost with the sunset.

‘As the Cursus runs East-West it has long been suspected that it had some kind of association with the sun, so these pits forming a triangle with the site of Stonehenge are very interesting,’ he said. ‘It seems like a massive coincidence if their alignment was not intentional. We don’t know their date, but something else that is interesting to note is that while you can get a clear view of the sunrise pit from Stonehenge, looking down the first section of the Avenue, the sunset pit is hidden behind a bank. You might be able to see it if it was filled with fire and smoke, though – perhaps a future excavation will reveal traces of burning.’


This is an extract, but you can read the full article in Current Archaeology 296
http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/features/stonehenges-hidden-landscape.htm

The Stonehenge News Blog





Durrington Walls, Wiltshire: Walk of the week

13 03 2010

The first of our new series of weekly walks, provided by the National Trust, is a ramble around mysterious Durrington Walls in Wiltshire, with views towards Stonehenge.

View Durrington Walls: Walk of the week in a larger map
THE EXPERT’S VIEW

Mike Dando, Head Warden: “The walk starts at the largest henge monument in the country and takes you past ancient monuments such as Round Barrows and the ‘Cuckoo Stone’ where it is easy to imagine the landscape as it was some 4,000 years ago. The walk takes in beautiful grazed grassland, strips of mature Beech trees and offers fantastic views across the Stonehenge Landscape.

Download an OS map of this walk

“My favourite part of this walk would have to be walking past the New King Barrows, the large Bronze Age burial mounds. A stop here on a warm summers’ day, listening to the skylarks and the beech leaves rustling, is hard to beat, especially on top of the view over to Stonehenge itself.

“Unique to this walk is the sense of being in an ancient and sacred place; the combination of the natural and historic sights is simply spectacular. My top tip for first time walkers would be to bring binoculars to take in the wildlife and views.”

ESSENTIALS
Start: Woodhenge car park
Grid ref: SU151434
Map: OS Landranger 184

Getting there
Bike: National Cycle Network route 45 runs south-east of the property. See http://www.sustrans.org.uk

Bus: Wilts & Dorset 5 or 6, between Salisbury, Pewsey, Marlborough and Swindon. Service 16 from Amesbury, request stop at Woodhenge

Rail: Salisbury station, 9 miles from Woodhenge car park

Road: Woodhenge car park is 1¾ miles north of Amesbury, follow signs from A345

Distance, terrain and accessibility

4 mile (6.4km) across open access land, including Rights of Way, with gates, at several points. The ground is uneven in places, with a few short, steep slopes. Sheep graze the fields and there are ground-nesting birds, so please keep dogs under control.

Local facilities
Picnic area (not NT) and information panel at Woodhenge car park
WCs
Outdoor café
Picnic area (not NT) at Stonehenge car park, 0.75 miles from this walking route.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Durrington Walls: The largest complete henge in Britain is 500m in diameter and encloses a natural valley. It once contained timber circles and what appear to have been shrines. The area outside the ditch and bank was once a settlement, perhaps containing hundreds of houses, making Durrington Walls potentially the largest village in north-west Europe at the time. People travelled for miles to feast and take part in ceremonies, probably at the midwinter solstice. Woodhenge stood nearby as an impressive timber circle surrounded by a bank and ditch.

The Cuckoo Stone: This standing stone now lies on its side, but over millennia it has been a focus for Bronze Age urn burials, an Iron Age boundary line and Roman remains. It is made of sarsen, a kind of sandstone, the same as the largest stones in the Stonehenge stone circle. The reason for its name remains a mystery.

The Stonehenge Avenue: A two mile long ceremonial way linking Stonehenge with the River Avon and crossing King Barrow Ridge. Interestingly, Durrington Walls is also connected to the river, leading experts to believe the Avon symbolically linked the two monuments, forming part of a ritual journey; maybe leading to the afterlife.

DIRECTIONS

Download an OS map of this walk

1. At Woodhenge car park, go through the gate nearest to you and into a field. Walk downhill into Durrington Walls (taking care of rabbit holes).

2. At the centre of Durrington Walls, looking around you, you can appreciate the nature of the henge as an enclosed valley. Standing here 4,500 years ago, you would have been viewing several “shrines” around the slopes. Next, turn left and walk to the corner of this field. Pass through gates either side of the road, heading towards a low rock.

3. The Cuckoo Stone is one of very few stones in the area that is made from sarsen – most local rock is chalk or flint. From here, continue forwards to the next gate.

4. You are now on the route of the old military railway between Amesbury and Larkhill; turn right and follow the path.

5. When you reach a crossroads and National Trust sign to King Barrow Ridge, turn left and follow the shaded bridleway.

6. At the junction, turn right through a gate to continue along the ridge, crossing the Stonehenge Avenue on your way to a line of 200-year-old beech trees and a fine view of Stonehenge. At winter solstice, Neolithic people may have marked the occasion of the midwinter sunset at Stonehenge, before travelling to Durrington Walls to celebrate the new sunrise.

7. Continue forward to New King Barrows, a fine row of Early Bronze Age burial mounds, originally capped in white chalk so they would have been visible from a far distance. Return to point 6, turn right and follow the stony track to point 8.

8. Take a left turn through a gap in the hedge, to join the old military railway once more. This leads back to the gate in the corner of the Cuckoo Stone field.

9. Head across the grassland to Woodhenge and back to Woodhenge car park.

STONEHENGE STONE CIRCLE








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