Friday, June 15, 2007

Back to England

After arriving back in England, I headed to Dartmoor National Park to do some hiking and letterboxing. I found it interesting that most of the public footpaths I walked were on private land. I was walking next to houses, like this thatched house, and through fields with sheep and felt like I was trespassing. What a different experience from hiking in the US.

This was the area that I had come across the standing stone in the middle of a field where I had stopped for lunch.

I spent a few days hiking and exploring the area before heading to Bath.

I spent a few days in Bath exploring museums, Roman sites, and gardens. There was so much to see and do and I wish that I had more time to spend in and around the area of Bath as I found it to be a beautiful area.

While some of the things that I did were rather "tourist-y" (like the Bizarre Bath Tour and the Ghost Walk), I made sure to get some advice from locals about where to go and what to see. This was how I ended up a college performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

From Bath, I was able to take a tour that went to Avebury and Stonehenge. At Avebury, we were able to walk around the circle. It was an interesting experience, as most of the circle was within sheep fields. Our tour guide took us to one of the quarters (the circle is divided into to four quarters by two roads that run through the middle) to show us how dowsing works and explain about the lay lines in the area. He then set us loose to find the lay line that the circle is on.

Stonehenge was an interesting experience as it was both a powerful experience and a disappointing one at the same time. Why two seemingly conflicting feelings? Well, when first walking up to the structure, I realized that the structure was not as big (as in bigger circle, not the height of the stones) as I thought it was. I had a moment of "This is it?" I got the distinct impression that if Stonehenge was used for religious ceremonies, it was only a privileged small group who would have been directly involved with the ceremonies within the circle.

What made it a powerful experience was that I realized that there is much more to Stonehenge than just the stone circle. The surrounding landscape is full of sites that have associations with Stonehenge, but hardly any of it gets any attention from the thousands of people who visit the area each day. With the focus on burial sites (called barrows) in the area, it's not to difficult to come to the conclusion that this area had associations with death. As these barrows are the burial sites of the community leaders, it made me think more on Chas Clifton's comment when I mentioned Stonehenge before I left. As I walked around, I realized that even though we don't have the whole story regarding Stonehenge, there is something that continues to attract people to the area today. (Besides the tourism advertising, that is.)

I finished up my trip spending a couple of days in London, where just a few hours before flying home, I walked by Buckingham Palace just in time to see the Queen leaving from the main gates.


Erik said...

OK, now I'm *seriously* homesick for England! We were all over Bath and Avebury... did you have a pint at the Red Lion?

Sojourner said...

Unfortunately, because the tour was on a schedule we only had about 45 minutes to walk around Avebury so I didn't get to the Red Lion. Next time I go to England, I will be renting a car to explore the area on my own schedule.

Mo said...

Absolutely wonderful!! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, here.

I've always been fascinated by Stonehedge; is it true that they no longer allow you to go 'into' the circle? (I've heard its been roped off, as tourists were taking chunks as souvenirs)

Very kewl pic of the pentacle on the church facade in Germany too, BTW!)

S. Nichole said...

Mo- It is true that the stones of Stonehenge are roped off, but you are still walking within the circle (the ditch and bank). Look at this aerial view to see what I mean.

The roped off area goes all the way around the stones from the paved path in the picture inside the ditch.

I'm guessing that it is still possible to get special permission to go inside the circle of stones. The day I was there, they allowed a group of people inside due to their disability (some were blind), so that they too could experience Stonehenge.