Saturday, 16 February 2008
A step back in time - Stonehenge
Well, it is
Saturday and the sun is finally out - although there is a definite bite in the air. The temperature dropped well below freezing last night and isn't going to rise much all day. After a few weekends of rain, it is time I ventured outside and kicked off 2008's year of wandering.
There were a number of places that I planned to visit this weekend, from Cheddar (the home of Cheddar cheese) to the sea (the home of many fishes....lol!). I finally decided to visit somewhere that I haven't been for many years, but is only an hour drive from my house. Today's destination is the world heritage site of Stonehenge.
So, I filled up a flask with hot tea, made some cheese and cucumber sandwiches and packed an apple and an orange.... my lunch was ready and I was on my way. In no time at all, I arrived at the visitors car park in Stonehenge and made my way through to the ticket office and into the tunnel that leads right upto the stone circle.
The weather was perfect - a cold, crisp, sunny day. As I approached the stones, the sense of intrigue began. How was this wonder of the world built?
For those of you that are not too familiar with Stonehenge, I have included below some information about it's amazing history.
Stonehenge is estimated to be from 3100 BC, as can be found in my wonderful county of Wiltshire, here in England, UK. There is a lot of speculation as to whether this site or the site of Avebury henge is the most historical significant. In my opinion they are both astonishing in their own individual way.
Stonehenge was built in three stages, the first being a large earthwork or Henge with some large pits carved into the chalk bed around 3100 BC - these pits are thought to have been made for religious ceremonies. The Henge then remained untouched for about 1000 years.
The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge commenced in 2150 BC. No less that 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in South Wales, were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.
This astonishing journey covers nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. ( During the same period the original entrance of the circular earthwork was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. Also the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.)
The third stage of Stonehenge, about 2000 BC, saw the arrival of the Sarsen stones, which were almost certainly brought from the Marlborough Downs near Avebury, in north Wiltshire, about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. The largest of the Sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weigh 50 tonnes and transportation by water would have been impossible, the stones could only have been moved using sledges and ropes.
Modern calculations show that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the huge rollers in front of the sledge. It kind of reminds me of the similar challenges the Egyptians must have had when constructing the Pyramids.
These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels. Inside the circle, five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, whose remains we can still see today.
The final stage took place soon after 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that we see today. The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, these have long since been removed or broken up. Some remain only as stumps below ground level.
As you wander around the wonder of Stonehenge, you can't help but try to imagine how it must have been at the time of construction. What really happened in the centre cirlce? How did they manage to line the stones up so perfectly with the mid summer sun? These questions and many more will always remain a mystery. I am glad , as this simply adds more magic to the experience.
So, here finishes my first wandering of 2008. I can't wait for the next one.....
Cheerio for now,
Graham Ettridge xxx
Please click here to see more of my photographs from Stonehenge