An Atmospheric Amble Around Avebury
PUBLISHED: 12:46 10 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013
Joan Crosbee travels back in time with this circular walk around Wiltshire's enigmatic monuments and along the ancient Ridgeway track, following in the footsteps of ancestors who walked this way for aeons.
This fascinating walk takes you around a World Heritage Site where you will be walking in the footsteps of your ancient ancestors. It encompasses four ancient monuments, The Ridgeway - England's oldest road, and the attractive village of Avebury. See and enjoy the largest and most impressive Henge in Britain; Silbury Hill, which despite three centuries of excavation still keeps its secrets; West Kennet Long Barrow some 5,000 years old; The Sanctuary; and, the Seven Barrows at Overton Hill.
1. From the car park head northwards along The Ridgeway for approximately 2 miles to reach a cross track. A gate on the right leads to Fyfield Down, but we turn left onto the Wessex Ridgeway. Follow this byway downhill for 1½ miles passing the barns at Manor Farm and the tourist information office which is housed in the old chapel to reach the village of Avebury.
Here you can visit the stone circle complexes and massive circular earthworks which are amongst the most important megalithic monuments in Europe. Thought to have been begun around 3000BC, the main circle is about a quarter mile across, enclosing an area of some 28 acres, and has two smaller circles within it. Excavations have shown the ditch would have originally been about 30 feet deep. If time permits, a visit to the Alexander Keiller Museum is worthwhile as it houses one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain.
2. Carefully cross the busy A4361 to pass The Red Lion public house.
Purported to be the most haunted building in Britain, legend has it that during the Civil War a woman called Florrie and her soldier husband lived at the 400 year-old inn. He went off to war and Florrie took a lover. One day her husband returned unexpectedly and discovered her in bed with the lover. He shot dead his rival, slit his wife's throat and threw the body down the Inn's well sealing it with a huge boulder. It is said that several customers and employees have seen Florrie, dressed in black, walking around the pub.
Just after the Henge shop turn left along an enclosed concrete path to reach the National Trust car park. Cross the car park and turn right along the A4361 for approximately 20 yards.
3. Opposite the footpath sign carefully cross the busy road to follow the Winterbourne, passing en route the enigmatic Silbury Hill.
The monument, the largest human-made mound in Europe, is 130ft high and built of thousands of chalk bricks. It has recently undergone conservation work by English Heritage to repair damage left by tunnelling attempts in 1776, 1849 and 1968 all of which failed to solve the enigma.
Continue along the path crossing two stiles. Follow the right hand edge of an open field to reach the A4.
4. Cross the A4 with care. Turn left to find a metal kissing gate on your right. Go through the gate and over the infant River Kennet. At another kissing gate turn left to arrive at a 'Dressed Pagan Tree'
Requests by those who believe the ground here possesses magical powers are written on ribbons then tied to the twigs and branches in the belief that their desires will be fulfilled. Here you can take a right hand detour uphill to visit the West Kennet Long Barrow which is the largest monument of its kind in Europe. The barrow lies east-west so that the rising sun of the summer solstice shines directly into the entrance of the tomb.
To continue the walk follow the left edge of the field to a gate that leads to a concrete path and a narrow lane at its junction.
5. Cross the lane, traverse the stile to follow the right hand edge of the field. Ignore the dysfunctional stile and continue to one which takes you into a wooded path. At the junction turn left onto a concrete path leading to a pumping station on East Kennet Lane.
6. Turn left, then just over the bridge turn sharp right to follow the right hand edge of the field to a gate in the corner, turn left and continue up the hill to reach The Sanctuary on your left and the first of the Seven Barrows on your right.
In 1648 John Aubrey described The Sanctuary as a standing stone circle, but by 1724 William Stukeley had recorded its destruction.
Carefully cross the A4 to return to your car.
Wiltshire & Swindon Ramblers Association
For a complete list of Ramblers Association led walks in Wiltshire and Swindon visit www.ramblers-wilts.org.uk
Distance: 6 Miles
Start and parking: The Ridgeway car park at Overton Hill, grid reference SU118 680
Time: 3 hours, but allow extra time if visiting the monuments.
Map: OS Explorer 157
Terrain: footpaths and tracks
Refreshments: The Red Lion, Avebury
Public Toilets: Avebury