APPROACHING THE village of Avebury the stones that make up its famed circle stand like gnarled sentries, watching over a landscape that has hardly changed in centuries.
While the site now enjoys all the trappings of a modern heritage attraction, including a gift shop, visitor centre and excellent café, there is something delightfully untamed about the village and its environs.
Like so much of Wiltshire, wandering the lanes of Avebury and browsing through newly renovated Avebury Manor is like entering a time warp, for this is a part of the country seemingly untouched by the vulgarities and brutalities of the modern world. So many and varied are the treasures of Wiltshire that one feature, alone, is not enough to do justice to the county’s attractions, so in future editions of the magazine we shall be highlighting Salisbury, Stonehenge and the county town of Trowbridge. Here, however, is a brief guide to just some of the attractions that are well worth a visit.
Avebury and its stones It was, perhaps, appropriate that we chose to visit Avebury with October storms on
the wind, for there is something primal, mysterious and elemental about this, the largest stone circle in Europe, comprising 200 standing stones arranged in inner and outer circles. In the Thirties, Avebury was witness to the excavations of archaeologist Alexander Keiller, who displayed his finds in the museum that bears his name, housed in the old stable building of Avebury Manor, Keiller’s home for many years. In re-erecting many of the stones, Keiller uncovered the true wonder of one
buildings in The Shambles, a 14th-century timbered tithe barn on the banks of the canal, not to mention the majesty of Trinity Church and muchadmired Saxon church of St Laurence’s. One of the most photographed parts of Bradford on Avon is the old Town Bridge, which was erected in the 13th Century, and widened n the 17th Century, when a lock-up was also added. The wharf on Frome Road is a short walk from the centre of town and it’s here that you can take a short boat trip on the Kennet and Avon canal or, for that genuine “messing about in boats” experience, hire a longboat to explore the canal at your leisure. The canal towpath is an attractive route for walking and cycling through the town and if you want to venture further afield, it is an easy walk or cycle ride down the towpath to Avoncliff Aqueduct, an impressive stone structure that carries the canal over the river and the railway line.
Caen Hill Locks A unique feature of the Kennet and Avon Canal is its remarkable, and fitness-inducing series of locks known as the Caen Hill Locks. This incredible feat of engineering, built in the late 18th Century, is a collection of 29 locks between Rowde and Devises that, although packed into a distance of just two miles, takes hardy boatmen and women between five and six
of the most important megalithic monuments in Europe and you can see his fascinating finds on display in the museum, still housed in the stables but now also in the 17th-century threshing barn, where there are interactive displays and activities for children. The manor itself was built in the 1500s, on the site of an old priory, and two years ago was the subject of the BBC series The Manor Reborn, which saw a team of experts refurbish and restore the building. Imaginative use of interior design brough the lives and stories of the house’s many owners vividly to life, and many new pieces were created, reflecting the skills of contemporary craftsmen. Unusually for a heritage property, visitors are actively encouraged to relax during their visit to the Manor, be it reading a book in the armchairs, listening to the gramophone or even trying out the beds for size.