Another excellent tour we went on was The Stonehenge Tour Company. This one covered 5000 years on one day! They didn't disappoint. The village of Avebury in Wiltshire has given its name to one of the greatest stone circles in the British Isles.

Avebury and one of its stones
Avebury is the largest stone circle in the world: it is 427m (1401ft) in diameter covers an area of some 28 acres (11.5 ha). It's not as visually stunning as Stonehenge, but it is an extraordinary site formed by a huge circular bank (a mile round), a massive ditch now only a half its original depth, and a great ring of 98 sarsen slabs enclosing two smaller circles of 30 stones each and other settings and arrangements of stones.

The outer bank, still very impressive, was originally 17m (55ft) high from ditch bottom to bank top. (The ditch it to the left of the stones.) The stones, each weighing about 40 tons or more, were left rough and not dressed as were the Stonehenge blocks. Now there are only 27 in place, because a few hundred years ago many of the stones were broken up by lighting fires beneath them and pouring cold water over them. They were then used to construct the present village which grew up within the earthwork. The village is very quaint. I was in their post office that doubled as a general store. It was so tiny that you had to close the door behind you when you entered in order to get to the mail teller.
Part of the stone circle

Avebury Stone
In the 14th century some of the stones were buried. In that period, a man was killed by one of the stones falling over unexpectedly in the pit which was being prepared for its burial. No attempt was made to extract his body. A pair of scissors, a lancet, and three silver coins were found next to the poor skeleton, and the stone is now called the Barber's Stone. Other remarkable stones are the Swindon Stone, the largest (it weighs about 60 tons), the Devil's Chair (local legends attribute mystic powers to the stone such as the ability to summon the devil if you run round it 100 times anti-clockwise) and the Repaired Stone, which has been reconstructed in an odd shape.

Silbury Hill, located just south of the village of Avebury, is a massive artificial mound with a flat top. It is approximately 130 feet (40 m.) high, with a base circumference of 1640 feet. It is composed of over 12 million cubic feet (339,600 cubic m.) of chalk and earth and covers over 5 acres (2 ha). It was built in three stages, the first begun around 2,660 B.C.E. The last phase comprised the building of six concentric steps or terraces of chalk which were then covered with chalk rubble, flints, gravel, and finally soil to form a cone-shaped mound. Each of the six steps was concealed within the overall profile of the mound, except the last one at the top which was left as a terrace or ledge about 17 feet (5 m.) below the summit.
Silbury Hill

Wiltshire Crop Circle
The county of Wiltshire is one of the most active for crop circles in the world, particularly around the historical stones of Avebury and Silbury Hill. They are usually found in fields of standing corn. Of the 175 recorded in England in 2000, 70 were found within a 15 mile radius of Avebury. In 2001, there were 184 crop formations recorded worldwide, of which 102 were in the UK.

The circles range from small to large, to gigantic. The smallest circle recorded as part of a formation was six inches in diameter and the longest formation nearly a mile long. The biggest so far, consisting of 409 circles of various sizes and measuring 787ft in diameter, was found at Milk Hill in Wiltshire in the summer of 2001. Is this some strange message left for us by UFO's? Or is this the work of a crafty farmer in a tractor?

Isn't this cool? A horse carved out of chalk on a hill! This horse is a little under a mile north of the village of Alton Barnes, on a moderate slope on Milk Hill.

Here's a little history behind the horse: The artist was Mr Robert Pile, of Manor Farm, Alton Barnes. In 1812 Mr Pile paid twenty pounds to a John Thorne, also known as Jack the Painter, to design the white horse and have the work of cutting it carried out. Thorne designed the horse, then sub-contracted the excavation work to a John Harvey of Stanton St Bernard. Before the work was finished Thorne took off with the money, and Mr Pile was left to pay out again. Thorne was eventually hanged, but what crime that was for is not recorded.

White Horse of Alton Barnes

Quaint Thatched Roofs
While thatched roofs are beautiful, they are more expensive to buy and much harder to maintain as moss grows on them and destroys them quickly. Though difficult to make out in this picture, the thatched roofs have a chicken type netting on them to help protect them against decay. It was now close to lunch time and included with the tour was a typical pub lunch. I had fish and chips. Yum! The pub was big and bright, nestled in the pretty Woodford Valley.

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