Twenty-five years ago, give or take, the Oxford Arthurian Society used to hire out the Yellow Minibus of Doom and tour the country admiring miscellaneous castles, stone circles and anything that seemed vaguely related to King Arthur. We did this for a day in Michelmas Term, a weekend in Hilary and then a full week at the end of Trinity. The day trip was always the same itinery - White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy, West Kennet Longbarrow, Silbury Hill, Avebury Stone Circle, Winchester (if we could squeeze it in) and then ending up at Stonehenge around dusk because some bright spark had discovered, at some point, that if you wrote to Stonehenge and claimed to be a terribly serious student society, they would would let you in after hours and you would be free to wander among the stones.
I'm not sure quite when and how the idea arose to re-create this experience for the primeval_denial
crowd. The Yellow Minibus of Doom has long gone to the great Yellow Minibus in the Sky but we had enough drivers that it was feasible to attempt the trip in cars. Being rather wealthier we also opted to book ourselves in to the Amesbury Travelodge and make a weekend of it.
Investigation revealed that one can no longer write to Stonehenge and claim to be some kind of earnest society (we were going to go with "writers' group" which excuse has served us well in the past) but instead there is now procedure and anyone can get in for the coughing up of £35 per head. We also discovered that if you want to wander freely among the stones at about 5.30pm on a Saturday in July you need to book your slot considerably earlier than January. After a certain amount of emailing back and forth it was decided that 6.30am on a Saturday morning was the lesser of the various evils on offer.
So we started the day at Stonehenge under the watchful eye of two security guards who had instructions to expel us from the site if we had the temerity to touch (or lick - they were very specific about the no licking rule) the stones. fredbassett
are currently on a quest to collect as much ancient graffitti as possible and so spent a lot of time peering closely at the stones and consulting with the security guards (who might not have been historians or archeologists but who had heard an awful lot of historians and archeologists go around the site) who were obviously only too happy to give up on the lurking and staring and instead talk about graffitti. fredbassett
found a cock and balls on a fallen menhir and pronounced themselves thoroughly satisfied with the trip. Apparently there is an ancient graffitti facebook group and they were looking forward to posting their up close pictures from Stonehenge.
We then went to the Little Chef next to the hotel for breakfast and returned to Stonehenge after it had opened in order to check out the new exhibition and extensive gift shop.
We then went on to Avebury, where fredbassett
found more graffitti and the sun rather unexpectedly came out and shone fiercely, revealing how woefully unprepared we all were in terms of sun hats and sun cream.
After lunch at Avebury we headed for West Kennet at which point it became clear I had broken some of the party (too tired to look for graffitti) and wasn't going to be allowed to do more than look wistfully in the direction of White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy.
On the Sunday we headed in the opposite direction towards Old Sarum which would bring various people closer to their trains, had lunch in the pub by the castle and then went our separate ways.( Photos under the Cut )