August 12th, 2016

Wayland's Smithy, along with the White Horse of Uffington, is iconically etched into my mind from a visit as a seven year old child in 1969. A particular moment from that afternoon, clambering into the entrance passageway and chamber with my Uncle Mike -- similarly to hearing of the death of John Lennon, Princess Diana and the 9/11 attack -- is as fresh in my mind today as when it happened on that summer's afternoon 47 years ago. With the benefit of hindsight, it was the actual moment that sparked my subsequent lifelong interest in and yearning to know of our inscrutable prehistoric ancestors.     The chambered long barrow is a little south of the crest of the Berkshire Downs and about a mile ... Read More

August 4th, 2016

Through the eyes of a seven years old child, I experienced my first view of the chalk hill figures of the White Horse of Uffington and the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset. Since that time so many years ago, each image, like the land itself, has been welded into the core of my consciousness, etching its own unique perception. My first sight of the white horse was during the summer of 1969 visiting relatives at Stanford in the Vale in Oxfordshire. That first view conjured up images of dragons, horses, serpents, monsters and ancient heroes, somehow carved so perfectly and appropriately out of the very fabric of the land itself. There was also an underlying feeling of my spirits being naturally uplifted by the landscape, ... Read More

July 16th, 2016

Above is a view of the iconic early Neolithic West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire from the air, photographed on 8 July 2016. On Friday 8 July 2016, I was given the opportunity to have a bird's eye view of North Wiltshire, flying in an Ikarus C42 microlight airplane from Clench Common airfield south of  Marlborough with GS Aviation. Shortly after take off, the second highest of Wiltshire’s prehistoric camps or hillforts, Martinsell Hill at Oare, came into view. To the lower right of the photograph below is an area on the hill of an ancient flint quarry and pit dwellings. There is an article on the archaeology and history of Martinsell Hill on The Northern Antiquarian blog here.   [caption id="attachment_2544" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Martinsell Hill ... Read More

The above photograph, taken by Pete Glastonbury from a microlight aircraft, is of Yarnbury Castle, an Iron Age hillfort in Wiltshire, described by Historic England on Pastscape as 'A multiphase, multivallate hillfort of 28.5 acres. The earthworks were surveyed by RCHME in 1991 and a full descriptive and analytical account can be found. Excavations have recovered Iron Age and Roman pottery, as well as inhumations, in both graves and pits, as well as other human remains. Iron Age and Roman coins were also found. Within the main hillfort is an earlier enclosure 5.2 hectares in area. Intensity of occupation in the main hillfort is demonstrated by the recognition during the RCHME survey of over 130 probable structures, presumably representing the sites of round houses, as ... Read More

Since approximately 2500 BC, countless millions of eyes have gazed upon Stonehenge and millions of feet have circled the stones. In more recent times, the written word regarding Stonehenge has also become countless. The earliest surviving written references to Stonehenge date from the medieval period and this first notice was recorded in approximately 1130 by a gentleman we know today as Henry of Huntingdon, an archdeacon at Lincoln, who was commissioned by Bishop Alexander of Blois to write a history of England. 'Stanenges, where stones of wonderful size have been erected after the manner of doorways, so that doorway appears to have been raised upon doorway; and no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built ... Read More

May 13th, 2016

Professor Alasdair Whittle concludes the forward of the English Heritage seminal 2013 publication   Silbury Hill: The Largest Prehistoric Mound in Europe with the following observation: 'Was this the willed vision or the planned creation of a particular group, a lineage say, or a dynasty, or a sect of charismatic sages, who mobilised and motivated the labour for this astonishing construction over a very small number of generations in the rapidly changing circumstances of their times?' Silbury Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire was probably completed around 2400 BC and is situated at the source of the River Kennet, a major tributary of the River Thames. It is approximately 100 feet high and stands as a truncated cone close to the valley floor. It does not appear above ... Read More

May 8th, 2016

Over recent years I have spent many hours exploring the Stonehenge landscape and the ever present hares are an integral element of that region of Salisbury Plain. They are recorded as being coursed on the Downs around Amesbury in the late 16th century and in the early 19th century, and the coursing was recorded as 'excellent.' Amesbury Coursing Club was formed in 1822, at which time the owner of the land allowed hares to be preserved on the downland near Stonehenge. Elsewhere in the parish was also regularly used for coursing. The Altcar (Lancs) Club held a seven day meet at Amesbury in 1864 and the South of England Club used to meet at Stonehenge. Immediately southeast of Stonehenge is Coneybury Hill, where Coneybury Henge once ... Read More

April 30th, 2016

Walpurgis night is little known here in Britain but is celebrated in other Northern European and Scandinavian countries on 30 April. In Germanic folklore it is known as 'Hexennacht', literally 'Witches Night'. Legend says that during Hexennacht, evil ghosts represented by cold weather, snow and darkness meet with witches and demons at Blocksberg Hill in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. Here they make mischief before taking off on broomsticks, pitchforks and billy goats at midnight. Customarily, children and teenagers play tricks on neighbours, similar to the night of 31 October here in Britain. Witches Night seems to have originated in distant times, when people believed that evil ghosts attempted to prevent the "Queen of Spring" ... Read More

April 18th, 2016

The bluebells are almost in full bloom and on Sunday 17 April 2016, we decided to visit a bluebell wood in Dorset discovered by chance some years ago. Most bluebells are found in ancient woodland where the rich habitat supports a whole host of species and some perhaps remnants of the original wildwood that covered Britain after the last Ice Age. Nowhere does the bluebell grow in such profusion as in Britain. In Scotland the flowers are known as wild hyacinth.  During the Bronze Age, people used bluebell glue to attach feathers to their arrows.  Folklore suggests that a field of bluebells is intricately woven with fairy enchantments.       Bluebells carpet the woodland in late spring creating a shimmering azure haze and to have them in your ... Read More

Part 1 My first memory of Hengistbury Head is a childhood school visit and I recall huge banks of large pebbles on the beach, not unlike those on Chesil Beach further west along the south coast. I have visited the site probably thousands of times over the years for walks and occasional jogs along the seafront. I have also researched the archaeology of Hengistbury and its environs a little over the years, especially during my visits to the excellent Red House Museum who kindly allowed me access to their archives some years ago, before my local studies took a backseat to my Stonehenge-related activities and other projects from December 2013. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the history on one's own doorstep, and to date ... Read More

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