Yesterday was a great day. I got to cross off one of the Seven Wonders of the World off of my bucket list! Yay! A coach bus met us at the front walkway of Oxford and about 20 of us hopped on for a field trip to Avebury Stone Circle, Stonehenge, and Salisbury Cathedral.
First was Avebury. Avebury is set in a beautiful countryside full of sprawling hills with little houses with thatch roofs dotted throughout. I felt as if I had been sent back in time. Sheep farming is pretty prevalent here so there were naturally lots of sheep roaming in the fields. They were lambing so we got to see lots of little ones as the bus sped through the countryside. We stopped and everyone piled out. Our instructor- Dr. Allan Chapman, a little old man with white flowing hair and a three piece suit told us that little is known about Avebury. It’s a stone circle which was built during by the New Stone Age people. “They’re not the type that beat on their chest and look half ape. These people were incredibly intelligent to built this ring of stones.” The stones were all pretty tall- most about twice the height of me. They stretched around a large perimeter where sheep grazed in the fields. The mystery was in how they constructed this stone circle. How did they cut out these giant stones, drag them miles upon miles, and then erect them in a perfectly circular shape? It’s absolutely amazing. How did they dig such deep ravines that are still there over five thousand years later? They built structures deep in the earth to prevent erosion and the fact that they even knew to do that was mind blowing. Surely they were just as- if not more intelligent than you and I. There is a legend that goes with the stone circle. It goes something like this:
There was a wedding held at Avesbury on a Saturday evening. After the couple was wed there was a crazy celebration with flowing wine and dancing. The fiddle played and circle dances spun around and around under the stars. At midnight the fiddler stopped playing for it was now Sunday- The Lords’ Day. The people began to get ready to go home to their surrounding villages but then the fiddle started up again. They looked to the player and it was a man in a long black cloak and hood. They began to dance again. Round and round and round. As first light the fiddler removed his hood and revealed horns. He removed his cloak and cloven hoofs were exposed. It was the devil. The people gasped in horror but it was too late. They were turned into stones. Legend has it that every spring there is one night where the stones are allowed to walk down to the nearby river and drink water.
Stop #2 was at the famous Stonehenge. It seemed like a dream when we hopped on the little shuttle that took us up over the hill to the famous rocks. I was told that not too long ago you could simply drive your car right up to Stonehenge. In recent years they decided it would be better to have parking lots and a visitors center across the way and have a shuttle to take you there. This is definitely a good idea to conserve Stonehenge and make sure it’s treated right. When the shuttle crested the hill I saw the famous rocks in the distance. I had mixed feelings about it. I think people are too focused on looking at Stonehenge as a tourist attraction and less about marveling about the amazing history and mystery veiling it. There were people all over the world there but everyone was more concerned about getting a good picture than appreciating it for what it really is. I wish I could have just sat at Stonehenge for a couple hours with a journal and let it all soak in. Instead I had to dodge tourists who were posing for pictures like their life depended on it. I shouldn’t judge though. I obviously took pictures with it too. I just wish it was a little more of an intimate experience.
The last stop was Salisbury Cathedral. I cannot say I’ve ever been in a more beautiful place. It was opened for use in 1320 and I’m am blown away that it’s still standing! Architecture that old gives me a strange feeling. Those bricks have seen so many things… So many thing have happened in there since it was built. Babies were baptized, couples were married, funerals were held. People grew in their faith. Others fell away from their faith. The walls are chock full of secrets I would pay so much to hear…
Inside the Cathedral was the world’s oldest working mechanical clock. (Bottom right pic) It was constructed in 1336 and is still working to this day. There was also a copy of their Magna Carta there which was spectacular. We were really rushed through seeing it because the room it was kept in was closing. So… I got to see it for approximately ten seconds. There were beautiful courtyards around the outside of the cathedral which were full of very interesting modern art sculptures which looked like a cross between rabbits and humans. They were absolutely fantastic. I obviously liked the inside of the church more but there was something about those sculptures that was entrancing.
Clearly, my first field trip was a rousing success! I am exited for our next one. (Which will be seeing a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.) Till next time!