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West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill & crop circles at Avebury

Practical guide to visiting the Neolithic burial mound & hill

Inside West Kennet Long Barrow Avebury

Inside: West Kennet Long Barrow Avebury


Getting to West Kennet

Access to West Kennet Long Barrow is from a lay-by on the main A4 London to Bath road, about a mile south of Avebury. You cannot miss the lay-by on the side of the road heading towards Bath and away from London.

 

The large earth mound of Silbury Hill (featured below) is a few hundred yards to the west of the lay-by and it is well signposted and a landmark you would have to be asleep to miss.

 

The long barrow itself is up on the ridge to the south of the road. It is a 10-minute walk up a steady incline direct to West Kennet. After passing through a kissing gate the path descends to a small stream.


The small stream is the River Kennet and the clump of trees about 100 yards to the west of the path in the valley is the source of the river.

 

This area is a favourite spot for pagan religions and you may see rags or other things in the tree by the path left by them. The path then climbs straight up to the burial mound.

 

West Kennet Long Barrow

About the Long Barrow

It is estimated that West Kennet was built around 3,700 BC. West Kennet is a typical long barrow, as time passed by the Neolithic people built smaller, round barrows. Most of the barrows you see around Stonehenge are much smaller round barrows for example.

 

Around 2200BC the tomb was sealed with chalk rubble, and the gigantic Sarsen boulders that now guard the entrance were put in place. The same stones as at neighbouring Avebury henge.


During excavation it was revealed that almost 50 people of varied age groups were buried within the tomb. The tomb is completely free access and can be entered at any time.


The mound itself - of which the burial chamber is only a small part - stretches for 100 metres in an East - West orientation. The earth used in its construction was taken from two trenches dug alongside the mound, although these have long since become filled with weathered material.


The chamber, which extends 10 metres into the mound, consists of five separate chambers, two on either side of a narrow passage, which then opens up into a further chamber at the far end.

 

Practical information

Arguably West Kennet offers one of the most intimate experiences of any ancient site - you are allowed to enter the actual chambers of the barrow, but best to bring a torch with you if you want to see anything.

 

West Kennet Long Barrow is completely free to enter; it is in private ownership but under English Heritage and National Trust management.

 

From the top of the mound there are good views of Silbury Hill, the East Kennet Barrow, the Sanctuary and Windmill Hill.

 

Free parking is available in the lay-by signposted on the A4.

 

Assistance dogs only.


There is an information board outside West Kennet Long Barrow giving you rudimentary information about the monument.

 

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill Avebury

Mysterious: Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill, even for ancient Neolithic monuments is a bit of a mystery. It appears right by the side of the main A4 road about one mile south west of Avebury.

 

There are some theories about it, but no real front-runner that convinces all. Even dating of when and how long it took to build have see sawed over recent time. The latest suggestion is that Silbury Hill is the finale, the full stop at the end of the Neolithic age, the last great monument.


Unlike most of the Neolithic monuments at Avebury it is strictly off limits for the public, to prevent erosion to the ancient site and its sensitive archaeology. There is a small car park and viewing terrace with information boards, but this is away from the hill itself.

 

The guide books will tell you it is the largest man made mound in Europe. At 130 feet high and covering an area in excess of 5 acres the enormous contours of the hill challenge us with the mystery of why it was built and what for.


To many it reminds them of the pyramids in Egypt and following on from this was perhaps a burial mound for someone important?

 

A lot of people have thought this and as a result funnelled into the hill over the ages only to find, well nothing - it's just a solid mound.

 

Whatever our confusion, the Neolithics must have had a clear idea of the purpose of Silbury Hill. The manpower required to build such a structure was vast and someone had to inspire and lead people to buy into the project over decades and generations.


The hill itself has distinct stages of building, but is very simple in construction. It is assumed that in its day it would have been pure white, devoid of the vegetation that now cloaks it - the natural colour of the chalk rock.

 

One interesting fact about it is the height of Silbury Hill and its flat platform at the top. This flat top can just be seen or is level with key points all around the Avebury complex, including the centre of Southern Sun Henge at Avebury.

 

Crop Circles around Avebury

Crop Circle Pictured Near Avebury

Hot spot: one of Avebury's many crop circles

In recent times more and more visitors are drawn to the Avebury area in summer months hoping to find a crop circle or two.

 

Avebury is on the edge of an area called the Warminster Triangle. Strange sounds, celestial lights, crop circles, electromagnetic effects, ghosts, black dogs, folklore, energy lines, ancient sites, UFO landings, humanoids, invisible walkers, geophysical strata are all part of this.

 

Crop circles seem to be the aspect that has most captured the imagination of the general public.


You will see crop circles in the area during the summer months only. There are specialist web sites that track down the latest discoveries.

 

The area around Avebury has proved a rich hunting ground in recent years.


Crop circles are patterns created by the flattening of crops, commonly wheat, barley, and oil seed rape in the Avebury area. The patterns can be very intricate and seemingly appear from nowhere with no witnesses.


Theories of how they are formed differ wildly, clearly some may be man-made. Theories stretch across the spectrum and of course there are some who put forward a connection to UFOs and such like.

 

More scientific explanations tend to suggest it's a natural phenomenon, perhaps connected with the natural magnetism of the Earth. This would tend to tie up with the area having a dense grid of natural ley lines which are magnetic in nature.

 

If you go to Avebury, you can't be guaranteed a crop circle. Best to ask around in Avebury Village. Remember, nearly all the crop circles will be on private farm land.


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