I loved the trip to Stonehenge and surrounding countryside. I met some fab new people, heard some incredibly fascinating information (if you’re geeky like me!), and did a lot of walking into the bargain!
Since I was 8 I’ve read books about archaeology – apparently I was getting library books out about the excavation of Tutankhamen even back then! If I’d not done accountancy at university, thinking I was going to qualify as a chartered accountant, I’d have done some sort of degree along those lines, but I didn’t really know you could do one!
So when I just started at QVC I took A level Archaeology at evening class and loved it, but it’s only recently that I’ve been exploring my fascination some more. Next year it’ll be Egypt and the Nile. This year it was a walking holiday around Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and surrounding barrows and henges, all accompanied by the eminent expert Julian Richards – he of Meet the Ancestors fame.
What was so fascinating is that this is a man who’s been intimately involved in recent developments on the site and has an in-depth knowledge of the history of the ancient monument – which dates back to the late Neolithic age, between 3000 and 2000BC.
He’s also an encyclopaedia of facts about the digs on the site, which is equally as interesting, including how and when some of the stones fell down, and how even in the last 100 years, so called ‘experts’ came to do a dig and didn’t even record the evidence properly! So unlike nowadays eh? I wondered what made him specialise.
Julian’s fascination with Stonehenge
And with all that knowledge, we got a rare insight into what he thought Stonehenge was actually used for – and it’s not a midsummer druid fest, as many have come to believe today.
I remember going to Stonehenge before they fenced it off from close visitor contact in 1978. Since then it’s only been possible to get up close via private tours – which have to be booked a long time in advance! Mick from Lindum Heritage, who organised the trip, said he had to book it almost a year in advance and they’ll only take a few at a time. We felt very lucky being amongst the stones. So, here’s a lovely insight into what it’s like to walk amongst the stones, just in case you’ve always wondered.
We had already walked for about two and a half hours, been rained on and gone up barrow and down dale, so needless to say we slept well that night! We stayed at a nice comfortable hotel not far away and I had a great dinner amongst some lovely new friends, including Val, Ian, Jean, Arthur, Sue and a smashing lady called Mary. Hi to you guys!
Our second day was spent exploring elsewhere on the Neolithic/Bronze Age landscape – I loved it! We were lucky with the weather – it was a beautiful day apart from a cutting wind! We went to Avebury – fabulous, fascinating and featured in more depth on my Facebook and YouTube pages.
Such a shame not more of Avebury remains, but the 18th century farmers didn’t realise the significance and smashed down the stones to make many of the houses and walls – you can see bits of them in the buildings. Some were just too big to move though, so fortunately remain – like this one Mary was resting in!
Finally, we even went inside the West Kennet long barrow, over 300 feet long, which was one of the very first types of large organised burial sites built by ancient man.
The graves at one end were only able to be properly excavated because the first 1859 excavation dug down into it from above only got as far as one chamber. They were looking for precious grave goods and thought the other big stones down one end were just the edge of the corridor, but they were hiding four more burial chambers.
So, fortunately in the 1950s they were able to excavate them fully and found that they’d segregated the chambers into the young, the elderly (considered 40 and above in those days!) and two of mixed adults. It was really fascinating, and amazing to go inside it and touch the stones the prehistoric people actually put in place. Tons more on the web if you’d like to read up on it! (I won’t go on!)
Part of what was so interesting was also just the general info about how they lived, which Julian discussed as well. We really got our money’s worth! For instance, how prehistoric people had small elements of how we live today. The Amesbury Archer for instance, only found in 2002 when they were working on a housing site three miles south of Stonehenge, was buried around 2300BC.
He had one of the richest graves discovered, including the earliest gold to be found in the British Isles – very thin gold leaf decorations, like tubes, for his hair braids (or earrings) and a fancy wrist guard made of shiny, finely crafted, polished sandstone – probably regarded much like a Rolex would be today! And it turns out he came from the Alps!
So he could have been like one of the top sportsmen of today, transferred in from Europe, and one of the richest people in the society at the time! His remains are now in the Salisbury Museum, and you can find out more and see more pics on the net.
An action-packed break
So much more happened across my three days, but this is just a little sample. Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit – I know it’s a bit geeky to some but to me it’s just fascinating! I’m now planning next year’s trip. They do some Roman, some medieval and some military-based trips, so there's lots of choice. Otherwise I’ll go up the Nile – finally!
If you’d like a brochure for their trips, do email Mick@lindumheritage.co.uk and give your address. I think they’re going back to Stonehenge next year too if you’d like to book your place early – it does get busy as you can imagine!
Well, with that over I’m back on air this week with some lovely gems at midnight on Tuesday. But I’ll have my work cut out because I’ve only got till Friday to get in my submission for the Mills and Boon writing competition for new writers.
There are some very interesting ones online already – and the chance to see what people think of them too! I’m about to go explore www.romanceisnotdead.com – if you see an entry from Debbie Flint, it means I got my act in gear!
Then on 28th September it’s my next writing course in Oxford with Cornerstones – nice to get the chance to do some away days following my very busy summer on air so much! Gracie has her op next Monday too (27th) so will keep you informed.
Best wishes and hope I didn’t bore you too much this week!