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To understand and appreciate Avebury henge you really need to appreciate the work of Alexander Keiller, the man who discovered Avebury in the 1930s.
In the medieval ages, the Christian religions saw the pagan monuments such as Avebury henge as a threat to their own religion and encouraged the faithful to destroy them.
As a result, a century ago you would have seen nothing at Avebury compared with today. Stones were buried or broken up, some of the stones in the buildings at Avebury look suspiciously like henge stones.
But thanks to Alexander Keiller, Avebury was painstakingly restored to something like its former glory, and is now owned by the National Trust, and free for everybody to enjoy and learn about.
Alexander Keiller was rich, his wealth coming from the family marmalade and jam business, a household name 50 years ago. Keiller was a keen amateur archaeologist and after performing some local digs was so encouraged that he bought the Avebury site in the 1930s.
Of the original 600 stones that approximately made up the henge, only 16 remained at the time of purchase. For an intensive period up until the 2nd World War, stones were dug up and Keiller set about restoring the henge back to its former glory. Failing health meant that Keiller never finished his work and the site is now owned by the National Trust.
Pits where the stones stood enabled Keiller to know where the stones originally stood. Keiller first restored the avenue of stones leading up to the henge from the south, a truly impressive sight. It is is the western side of the henge that Keiller restored most, the eastern side is largely barren.
The stone pictured is a stone that Keiller tried to put back together from fragments. As you walk around Avebury, concrete posts mark the location of some missing stones.
Avebury henge is a great training camp for Stonehenge, about 20 miles south. Unlike Stonehenge you can see the avenue processional route leading up to the henge and the ditch and bank that circles the henge is truly impressive today, even though it is half the size it was all those years ago.
Unlike Stonehenge, the stones at Avebury are naturally shaped. They come from the Marlborough Downs about 3 miles from Avebury - the same source as the Sarsen stones at Stonehenge.
And unlike Stonehenge, the stones have completely free access, you can walk among and touch the stones free of charge.
Avebury is far, far larger than Stonehenge. It is about a mile to walk around the perimeter on the bank alone. There is an outer ring of stones within the ditch and bank.
Then within that, are two separate henges (north and south) with their own separate ring of stones. The north henge is thought to be dedicated to the moon and the south the sun. The south henge is the most complete.
At the north henge the major focus is on the two stones that make up the Cove, the ceremonial area at the heart of the henge. Like all stones at Avebury the stones alternate between male (tall and thin) and female (wide and squat). The female stone is thought to weigh up to 100 tons.
In the south henge, the stones are more complete. You are first attracted to the massive entrance stones.
A large concrete plinth now marks the position where one of the largest of Avebury's stones once stood. Known as the Obelisk, it was the central stone of the Southern Inner Circle henge.
The inner circle henges were the earliest components of the henge to be built. At about 2900 BC they predate by several centuries the final henge and avenues.
There are no information boards dotted around the Avebury henge site, so it's worthwhile invested in a book to accompany your visit. There are two shops at Avebury for such books, the official National Trust shop and the Henge Shop, a quirky alternative.
Volunteers from the National Trust perform walking tours around midday and early afternoon most days. These have a small fee but are worthwhile.
The volunteers are very enthusiastic and have much more material than can be crammed into the official one hour tour duration. They have fascinating photographs and maps too.
If you're into earth goddesses, pagan religions, astronomical alignments and things mystic, this is a great area to explore.
The Henge Shop is a good place to go. As well as an extensive range of books, crystals, dowsing forks and such like they are aware of the many "alternative" practitioners in the area.
Stonehenge, Glastonbury & Avebury Small Group guided day tour from London
• Adult from £164 • Child (3-15 years) from £144
• Small group day trip - maximum 16 people per tour • Admission to Stonehenge, Glastonbury Abbey & Avebury Stone Circle • Beat the crowds at Stonehenge - go there first! • Professional guide • Photo stop at Glastonbury Tor and entry to Chalice Well Gardens
Visit the largest and most famous henges in one day
Adult £109 • Child (age 5-17) £99
• Entrance into Stonehenge • Walking tour of Avebury & Avebury henge • Free time for lunch in Avebury • Visit West Kennet Long Barrow • Professional guide • Operates Wednesday, Friday & Sunday
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