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!). 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


Michelle Hix said...

I find all the unanswered questions to be so romantic and mysterious. Especially when you consider the journey of the stones and all the different ways and reasons that a stone could have been abandoned. Yet, all the stones seem to have made it.

Muse said...

Only you could take a little drive and end up at it must be convenient living right next door to history!

I love the last pic especially. Isn't it amazing they dragged those stones all that way? Maybe it was supposed to be a bowling alley...

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to go to Stonehenge -- I'm so jealous! All I have an hour drive from my place is... the US! :D

I'm from Brittany and we have quite a lot of mysterious rocks there too. The stories are fascinating.

Home of Cheddar... can I come? We could go to a chocolate factory after that too!

Anonymous said...

I finished Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles yesterday, so this post is timely for me. I've always seen pictures of Stonehenge, but knew nothing of the history. Amazing.

Chica said...

How amazing that you got the opportunity to visit there, and how close it is to you, another amazing thing. If only you could have climbed on one and sat up on it, that'd be fun! :)

Getty72 said...

Hello Michelle :) I hope they never discover the answers.... the mystery is far more romantic than the truth. Such a fascination :)

Greetings Muse :D I am kinda lucky where I live. There are soooo many places, all just a footstep away. I'll show ya around someday ;)

Hey Zhu :) Awww I have never been to Brittany, but have hheard that it is such a wonderful and picturesque area of France (popular with Britsh tourists). I'll be sure to post about the cheese when I visit Cheddar. MMmmmmm Chocolate... sound stempting - Cadburys is just down the road too!!

Getty72 said...

Kristy, I think Thomas Hardy is a great author. My fav book of his is "The Mayor Of Casterbridge".... a true genious of writing. I hope you enjoyed Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Hey Chica :) Thanks for your comment - it would have been fun to climb the rocks, it is just that I didn't really fancy spending a night in! Avebury (which is nearer to me) is better in some ways because at least you can go right up to the stones and touch them. In Stonehenge, you have to keep your distance.

Benjamin Burner said...

How intriguing. Stonehenge isn't exactly in my backyard, so I'll have to rely on your thoughts and photographs for now. Thanks for teaching me a little more about this site.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

I will be there on Easter weekend! We are arriving at Gatwick on Good Friday and staying with friends for the Easter break in Salisbury, not far from Stonehenge. Cannot wait to see those silent stones and show them to my son.

Elise said...

I went to see Stonehenge on a complete whim a few years ago. We were driving through Wilshire and as we passed we dropped by.

It truely is magnificent. The stones are so old and are huge. How they managed to get the big stones on top of each other without a crane is beyond me.

Your pics are amazing. They capture the scenery beautifully. xx

kasper794 said...

I absolutly love the photos. Great job.

Omega said...

great photos! some day i'll see Stonehenge too:) And i also agree - the mysteries should not be solved!

Tamera said...

This was really cool. Thank you!

meleah rebeccah said...

whoa! Now that is awesome. I cant get to see anything this amazing in NJ. or the entire Unites States. Thank for the pictures. AMAZING.

2sweetnsaxy said...

I love this kind of stuff!

Cocaine Princess said...

I've been to England numerous times but I've never been to Stonehenge, probably because I was too busy shopping. I love the mystery that surrounds Stonehenge, how and why it came about, much like the Great Pyramids. I agree with you, I hope we never find out the truth about Stonehenge. Beautiful pictures, you are a very talented photographer!
Cocaine Princess

Gregorio said...

very mystical place nice photos also.I enloyed the read.

dragoncaller said...

wow. that's one of the places that i've always wanted to go to. i love your pictures. pretty much amazing. =D

Anonymous said...

WoW...some very beautifully captured shots & nice reading the description!

Remco said...

I have been there also once, its great

[s][e][x][y][i][n][r][e][d] said...

Nice photos...Graham!

I never been to The Stonehenge yet...but I think it must be amazing to be there and see it for myself, I definitely will be visiting it on one fine day hehehehe

And btwn...I had just posted for the February photo challenge and here is the link

marigoldjane said...

I absolutely love your photographs of Stonehenge, and all of the info you provided with them! Stonehenge is one of the places that I wanted to visit while I was in Europe but didn't get the chance. Maybe I will someday. But until then, I am glad I have your experience to hear about and learn from.
By the way, Home of Cheddar sounds awesome! :)

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to see this in person, thanks for sharing your photos of your day trip!

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