Whenever I go walking I usually partake in two of my favourite pastimes. Obviously walking is the first and the second is invariably Amateur (ham) Radio from the hill tops. Well today I decided to enjoy my third favourite pastime Archaeology. I have a Master’s Degree in Landscape Archaeology and have always had a passion for the ancient and prehistoric and the impact they have had on the landscape we see around us today. What they have left is but a snapshot in time, but it allows our minds to wonder and speculate – what, why, who, when, how!
Todays walk started from the car park below Knap Hill (SU 11584 63800) and headed north up the Ridgeway, through East Kennet. Along the Avenue to Avebury, then south to Silbury Hill and a small detour to take in the West Kennet Long Barrow. continuing south to Tan Hill and then east along the Wansdyke on the Mid Wilts Way to Milk Hill (the highest point in Wiltshire) and finally back to the car via Adam’s Grave Long Barrow.
Neolithic causewayed enclosure covering an area of 2.4 ha, probably constructed between 3500 – 4000BC. Later Bronze Age round barrows are located inside and outside the enclosure.
The East Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic burial mound or tomb. It is slightly longer than the one at West Kennet measuring 105m long and 6m high. It is obscured by trees and has never been excavated. The summit of Silbury Hill can be seen rising behind the barrow. It is probably of a similar age and associated with the Neolithic settlement at Windmill Hill.
The Avenue connects the Sanctuary on Overton Hill to the Avebury Henge 1.5 miles away. The Avenue was the last component of the Henge to be built and dates from around 2400 BC.
Unlike Stonehenge where very few visitors actually see the henge, the henge at Avebury is massive (the henge is the ditch and embankment surrounding the stone circles). Construction is believed to have started around 3000 BC and completed around 2400 BC. The circle covers 28.5 acres and consists of an outer stone circle with 98 large sarsen stones, within which stood two smaller circles. The northern one had 27 stones and the southern 29 stones. The stone circle at Stonehenge would fit into Avebury 130 times!
Along with Stone Henge, this is one of Britain’s most iconic images and is the largest man-made mound in pre-industrial Europe. It is of similar age to the Avebury Henge having been completed around 2400 BC. It is not a burial mound, though its actual purpose and significance remains unknown.
A Neolithic burial tomb constructed around 3650 BC it is contemporary with East Kennet Long Barrow and Windmill Hill. The barrow is 104m long and contains a series of stone chambers at the eastern end. It appears to have gone out of use by 2200 BC
Throughout the entire Marlborough Downs and surrounding areas there this a lot of evidence of our pre-historic ancestors. The way that the land was divided and the outline of small settlements can be seen in the form of crop marks created by differential growth of the crop. Burial mounds or Tumuli are scattered across the landscape and with numerous earthworks.
One of the largest earthworks in this area is the Wansdyke. Dating from the 5-6 centuries AD it runs east – west through Wiltshire and Somerset and faces north. It consists of a linear defensive earthwork made up of a ditch and embankment. It is thought to post date the Roman occupation and to have been built by local tribes to prevent the invasion from the north of the Anglo-Saxons.
Neolithic long barrow, 65m long, 28m wide and 6m high. It sits on open chalk downland on top of Walker’s Hill. Directly across the valley from Adam’s Grave is Knap Hill a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure.
This is a beautiful area to walk in and with so much to see and do it is one that I will be returning to very soon. Even if you cannot walk very far, this area has numerous car parks close to the various prehistoric monuments allowing the sites to be virtually accessible to all. As a bonus I also ticked off the highest point in Wiltshire – Milk Hill.