Tuesday 20 June 2017

Pit Stops

In order to wring every minute of time out of my precious holiday I have, these past couple of years, incorporated a short visit to somewhere en route to our main destination. It just adds a little something extra to our experience. This year we tagged a week's leave onto a weekend away with Mythago...for reasons I can't explain it was very important for me not to travel too far away from GBT with our son still being in Bangladesh. You would think that as he's 5000 miles away it wouldn't matter would you. Ah the vagaries of parenting!

With the pit stops programmed into the sat nav before we left these were my destinations of choice both outward and coming home.

Maiden's Castle, Dorset. Now I've explored a few of these Iron Age hill forts in my time as there are a handful of remains on the South Downs. With a leap of imagination you can sort of see how they might have looked when they were in use, but I suspect that they always look better from the air. Nothing had prepared me for the magnificence of this one though...the biggest one in Britain. It started out as a Neolithic settlement and then underwent several transitions under the stewardship of the Iron Age tribes before a period of Roman occupation [the foundations of the Roman temple remain above the ground]. It is a hugely impressive monument,but when you factor in that the massive ramparts would have been white in its heyday the mind boggles. It must have stood out in the landscape for miles around.

Now if you were me and obsessed with all things prehistory would you not have pleaded your case for taking in a stone circle too if you discovered that it was only just up the road? Thought so! Thankfully Mr GBT is a laid back sort of fellow when it comes to my whims and he indulged me. This is the Nine Stones [only seven are here now] and you can see from my head just how much variation in size there is. Although it is next to a busy road somehow it manages to retain its intimacy. The Dolmen Grove Druids observe their rites here.

Yesterday the homeward journey provided us with the opportunity to experience another well known sacred site. This is the ruined Norman church of Knowlton built slap bang in the middle of a late Neolithic henge. It's been known for a long time that the transition from Paganism to Christianity was often done by inhabiting the same places which were special to the people and I've been to more than one church which has either been built on top of a suspected pre Christian earthwork or retained a burial mound in its churchyard. This example though makes the connection plain and simple. One of the entrances into the henge is via an archway of yews decorated with clooties and other blessings. I left a small gift of a beautiful snail shell for the guardians which I had found the day before as it's important to me that  it will biodegrade and leave no lasting litter. It was a very peaceful spot, bar the panting sheep lined up on the other side of the fence staring at us!

For any fellow travellers all the places I've mentioned belong to English Heritage, but are free of charge.



  1. for a small country, it has many corners filled with history from all ages


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