Author Archives: Tasha Winton

Human Henge: Historic Landscapes and Mental Wellbeing Conference

Historic Landscapes and Mental Wellbeing Conference

Friday 13 April 2018

10:00  – 17:00

Fusion Building, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, BH12 5BB

Using historic landscapes and heritage resources of various kinds to promote well-being represents one of the most significant advances in archaeological resource management for many years. Its potential contribution to health-care and wellness initiatives is boundless. Prompted by the ongoing HLF-funded Human Henge project, this conference provides an opportunity to hear about this and work going on across the country and at many different scales, share experiences, and to discuss the outcomes, implications, and theoretical underpinnings of heritage-based well-being projects.

Please use the Eventbrite link to book a place at this free conference


09:30-10:00       COFFEE (Poster displays available for viewing throughout the day)

10:00-10:15       Dr Sara Lunt (Chair, Human Henge Board) and Professor Timothy Darvill (Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Centre for Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University)

Welcome and introduction

10:15-10:30       Liz Ellis (Policy Adviser Communities and Diversity, Heritage Lottery Fund) and Alice

Kershaw (Head of Business Process Review, Heritage Lottery Fund)

Mental wellbeing and historic landscapes: the heritage context

10:30-10:50       Dr Toby Sutcliffe (Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust)

Therapeutic landscapes past and present: the mental health context

10:50-11:10       Laura Drysdale (Director of the Restoration Trust)

Walking with intent in ancient landscapes

11:10-11:30       Professor Timothy Darvill and Yvette Staelens (Senior Teaching Fellow, Bournemouth University)

Monuments for life: Human Henge at Stonehenge and Avebury

11:30-11:50       Dr Vanessa Heaslip (Principal Academic in Adult Nursing, Bournemouth University)

Human Henge: Stonehenge as a healing environment in the 21st  Century

11:50-12:10       Martin Allfrey (Senior Curator of Collections, West, English Heritage) and Briony Clifton

(Assistant Archaeologist, National Trust)

Past Perceptions: people changing places changing people

12:10-12.30  Discussion

Led by Daniel O’Donoghue (Wiltshire Locality Manager, Richmond Fellowship) and  members of Human Henge.

12:30-13:30       LUNCH

13:30-14:00       Claire Nolan (Department of Archaeology, University of Reading)

Therapeutic landscapes of prehistory: exploring the therapeutic value and potential of prehistoric landscapes for the present day

14:00-14:30       Dr Ellie Williams (Lecturer in Archaeology, Canterbury Christchurch University) and Dr

Lesley Hardy (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Canterbury Christ Church University)

‘The People Before Us’: exploring heritage and wellbeing in coastal Kent

14:30-15:00       Mark Evans (CEO Waterloo Uncovered) and David Ulke (Welfare Officer, Waterloo Uncovered)

Battlefield archaeology and recovery

15:00-15:30       AFTERNOON TEA BREAK

15:30-16:00       Helen Johnston (Thames Discovery programme, Museum of London Archaeology)

Messing about on the river: Volunteering and well-being on the Thames foreshore

16:00-16:30       Rebecca L Hearne (University of Sheffield)

The archaeological imagination: alternative ways of seeing for mental health recovery

16:30-16:45       Discussion


16:45-17:00       Alex Coulter (Director of Arts and Health South West)

Summing up

Avebury Session 4: Lockeridge Dene – 9 Feb 2018

With the alarm set for 7:40am, I went to sleep with the anticipation of tomorrow’s adventure. All
prepared the next morning, I awaited pick up by my personal chauffeur (he never wears a suit and tie?). We set off to pick up someone else in a nearby town. In passing along the roads to Avebury, taking in the scenery of deep rural Wiltshire, there is always time to contemplate life’s important things. Like, how will the day’s challenges go? What are my goals in life? Where do I want to be this time next year? When will spring arrive? Did I turn the grill off and lock the front door!? (We’ve come too far too turn back now!).

The weather man had forecast wintry showers for today and on arrival there was a keen chill to the wind. On passing the barn gallery, I could not miss the looming storm clouds brewing up from the north. Was that rain clouds or snow clouds I wondered, as I headed inside?
Today in the Ed. room, archaeologist Dr Sara Lunt, Assistant Archaeologist at Avebury Briony Clifton & voice practitioner Yvette Staelens got down to talking about many topics with a central theme around stone. We talked about the sarsen stones that are very numerous in this area and there significance to prehistoric man. We also talked about prehistoric axe heads, with an example passed around for us to examine. This axe head example had been reworked then discarded during the rework. It was a heavy, polished stone with an obvious cutting edge.

During the Neolithic period, agriculture and improved settlement created time and need for
specialisation of tools. These tools were used for cutting wood and clearing ground, for skinning, scraping, butchering and for protection. A high level of workmanship went into making the utility tools. Tools were discarded if impurities or weaknesses were discovered. Axe heads could be made from hard stone and flint which would be chipped, (called knapping) flaking pieces from the main body to create a sharp edge. These tools were often traded or passed within families, generation to generation.

This topic led onto the mention of the ‘Polissoirs’ or polishers. Polissoirs are hard stones that were used to shape and polish flint & stone tools, for example the flint axe heads. Within the Avebury area, sarsen stone was used due to its hard abrasive nature. There are some good examples of Polissoirs to be found locally. Some Polissoirs were later incorporated into the building of the monuments themselves. The stones are generally large and flat, with highly polished indentations being seen running across then. An example of a polissoir made by a student was shown and the smooth surface was very obvious to the touch.

The Preseli Bluestone was also mentioned and passed around. The bluestone comes from
Pembrokeshire, Wales and was used in the construction of some of the inner sections at
Stonehenge. Being igneous in form, the bluestone can be traced back to a precise origin. This
bluestone contains spotted dolerite, local to these Welsh hills. We talked about the movement of this stone and how that may have happened. It was nice to see people discussing the subject
matters with a real honest passion. A level of passion I could relate too with my core interests.

…Then all of a sudden and in answer to my earlier thought, outside it had started to snow!
Eventually turning into proper thick snowflakes too! With the inner child in me brimming, I wanted to go outside and run about in it. I believe at least one other person in the room was feeling the same thing too – (You know who you are). After some more informative talks we headed out to see some sarsen stones in situ. The snow had now stopped but the wind chill was still felt.

We arrived in the picturesque village of Lockeridge to explore the sarsen stones of this area. We
entered Lockeridge Dene by the gate at the front of the site, stopping to read the info board.

We passed many examples of sarsen stones, the whole valley was speckled with them. After a
short time, the sun started to emerge out of the snow clouds, creating a good opportunity for
photographing the stones. As we walked along we listened to talks given about this site from
National Trust Ranger, Peter Oliver.

The sarsen stones are a siliceous form of sandstone called silcrete. Owing to the high composition of silica the stone is very hard. The name ‘sarsen’ is usually said to have been derived from the word ‘Saracen’, meaning foreign/alien (i.e. the Arabic/Muslim peoples mentioned in the crusades). I also came across a different origin relating to the Anglo-Saxon word ‘sar stan’ or ‘sten’ which translates as ‘troublesome stone’. Another more contemporary name for sarsen stones is Grey wethers, (relating to the stones likeness from a distance to grazing sheep). The sarsen stone was created 30-40 million years ago, when this area was said to be a tropical wetland ecosystem. Sand and silica mixed under these water habitats and over time, cemented & solidified. Some sarsen stones still have the holes remaining where tree roots and trunks grew within the sands. This layer of sarsen stone was broken up around the last ice age and deposited predominantly within the valley areas by glaciation. These deposits being specifically known as sarsen drifts. This process, as well as heavy melt waters, finally created the landscape we see today.

Personally, I have always found the stones owning a unique presence and awe within the landscape. Their feel, texture, patterns, the holes, the weathering, the lichen and the puddles, all owing to this uniqueness.

(At another nearby site, called Fyfield Down, the largest concentrations of sarsen stones in the
vicinity can be found. Having visited Fyfield Down on many occasions over the years, I never tire of walking in this somewhat other-worldly setting. So if there is anyone reading this that has yet to visit Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve, then I highly recommend it. A spring visit will see lots of bright yellow gorse out in flower. The smell of these flowers, is to me, reminiscent of coconuts).

Lockeridge Dene is also an important chalk grassland site with examples of many chalk grass related animal and plant species. The site lies on a south/south-east facing chalk hillside and can be a warm sight during the summer months. This warmth is loved by the Yellow Meadow Ant and much of the hillside is scattered with ant hill colonies. Whilst standing on the slope, we heard a brief talk about the chalk grassland ecology and talked about the flowers and butterflies seen here. We then talked about the lichen communities that are found on the sarsen stone. One particularly rare species being only found on this type of stone. I enjoyed photographing these sarsen stones decorated with colonies of lichen. Each stone has a unique pattern and composition of species.

On the sunny walk back through the valley, I noticed and snapped this cheeky blue tit eyeing me from a bush.

We ended the session back at the Ed. room for a chat and some lunch. One member had brought back some tree lichen for us all to look at. They had also brought with them a nifty little hand lens so we could all see the lichen and stone examples up close and personal. Very cool!

I must say the project is something I look forward to every week. It is a nice place to meet interesting people, with the added bonus of lots of fresh air, scenery, history and nature. There are good conversations to be had and, of course, there is always something new to learn. Being involved with the project gives a sense of purpose, an act of doing and achieving. Granted, it may involve many great challenges, however, there is a huge potential of satisfaction waiting to be gained from it.

Next Week: The Sanctuary & Ridgeway Barrows.

Avebury Session 3: West Kennet Long Barrow – 2 Feb 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

A lovely start to session 3 with clear blue skies, sunshine and good company.

We all met at the education room for our weekly catch up and chat. We gorged ourselves on
another tempting array of nibbles, which included chocky biscuits & Jaffa cakes. The nibbles were all washed down with hot beverages. After a while we were told two guests were waiting for us at the barrow, so we made our way out to the cars. It was decided that people who didn’t know one another were to go to the barrow together. Along the way the driver and I got chatting and before we knew it, we had ended up going completely the wrong way, being alerted to the fact by a fellow passenger! But not to fear, a quick 360 at the Red Lion pub and we were back on track down a sun filled West Kennet Avenue, happy days.

We again parked at the roadside car park at the base of Waden Hill. It was a bit of a tight squeeze getting us all in, but it all worked out in the end. A sunny stroll by the water meadow took us over the River Kennet and up to the metal gate. The gate being kindly held open by one member for everyone to pass. Our group then walked up the hill path to the barrow, the path having become very muddy by so many visitors.

The long barrow was now becoming dominant on the crest of the hill. On approaching the barrow we could hear ethereal tunes riding on the breeze. These tunes were of the flute being played by Maxence des Oiseaux, a French musician, who was standing by a large sarsen stone. The group gathered around to listen to the music and take in the views.

A short while later we were joined by Professor Timothy Darvill who gave a talk on the peoples of the barrow. The individuals discovered in the barrow all died within a short space of time, perhaps over six generations. However, the barrow remained open for ceremonial deposits for over a 1000 years. The long barrow may have been used as a way of marking a family owned territory. A place to celebrate the lineage of the families present. The large size of the barrow making it a prominent and noticeable land marker to other peoples for miles around.

There is evidence of transference of bones from here to local Windmill Hill at certain ceremonial
times of year. One time of year being that which we now celebrate as the pagan Samhain (1 st Nov) or the Roman All Hallows. Said to be the time when the worlds of the living and dead come together. The professor coined a term ‘the night of the living dead’ referring to the barrow as a burial place for the living. The ancestors of the peoples, through ceremony, were seen to be eternal, forever alive. This talk really set the scene for our entrance into the dark unknown chambers of the barrow itself.

The West Kennet Long Barrow was constructed around 3700-3635BC and is 104m long, making it one of the longest barrows in Britain. There are over 1000 barrows that have been discovered in Britain. West Kennet Long Barrow is of a type called the Cotswold-Severn and is similar to others within that area. The mound was formed by the digging out of ditches around the sides. Additional material was brought in from elsewhere. Only around 10% of the length of the barrow was used for burial. The rest of the mound contains a line of sarsen stones, a layer of chalk rubble and earth. The barrow contains 5 burial chambers. The chamber structures is supported by huge sarsen stones in a corbelling fashion and filled in with dry stone walling (oolitic limestone). The limestone was sourced from nearby calne but also near Frome. The chambers were thought to contain at least 46 individuals ranging from 3 – 50 yrs old. West Kennet Long Barrow was restored in 1956 to its present state by archaeologist Stuart Piggott.

We entered the 9m long central passage of the barrow waiting for our eyes to adjust to the dark
before making our way to the end. A few people were fearing the dark and closed space within. We passed the side chambers and entered the larger western chamber. Here we stood in a circle with Maxence and Professor Darvill in the middle. A few candles had been placed around the chamber giving it an eerie feel. The professor gave a small talk about the barrow and Maxence began playing a tune. Personally, I have been in the barrow many times before but I have never experienced an atmosphere quite like it when the different music was being played. It really did transport you elsewhere and made you contemplate a far off time, surrounded by distant ancestors. It was a special, somewhat meditative moment. The long barrow was being brought back to life!

Maxence first played a ceramic harmonic instrument that had no tuning holes. It played only one tune so the sounds created were made by the player’s mouth. We then listened to a hollowed out bone whistle, similar to one found at a long barrow. This whistle had 5 holes, whereas modern examples typically have six holes. A large horn of antelope was next up, which played a deeper, hollower sound.

We then moved to the forecourt of the barrow to hear some more instruments being played. Shown next was a llama bone flute, a traditional instrument from Peru. The flute has 4 holes and is embossed with precious stones and topped with a carved jaguar head motif. Other instruments included a swan bone flute & longer antelope horn.

Emerging out of the barrow and back into the world of the living, we were greeted by sunlight and the song of skylarks. We all got into a line for a group photo along the stone façade and then preceded to sing the Human Henge classic, “piggy pig, dog dog”. We followed some steps up to the top of the barrow mound and walked its length. From here great views were had. We came around the flank of the barrow chatting as we walked. One group member noted how the meeting of people on this project really brings her out of herself. It is a way of escaping other things going on.

We all walked back the way we came to the parked cars, chatting as we went.

The day’s session ended back at the education room where we were treated to more of Maxence’s unique music. Thanks to a member of the group being fluent in French we were able to fully understand Maxence’s crafted instruments and passion for music. With music of a
medieval/renaissance style we were played out with a flute made from an elder tree and a large
antelope horn to finish.

What a lovely day!

Next Week: Lockeridge Dene.

Iron Age Malham Piper by Peter Dunn, 2008

‘One of the secondary burials in the Seaty Hill Bronze Age Barrow on Malham Moor contained Iron and the pipe. This may be one of Max’s  musical ancestors and he invoked the sounds of that time and many other periods. I imagined the piper living on in the beautiful Dales landscape through his music as his body was interred in the barrow.’
Peter Dunn

TAG 2017: Human Henge Presentation by Dr Vanessa Heaslip

This is a presentation made by Dr Vanessa Heaslip, Deputy Head of Research Department of Nursing & Clinical Science at Bournemouth University, at TAG 2017 about her research into Human Henge’s health and social outcomes for participants.

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Avebury Blog: Session 2 – Swallowhead Springs – 26 Jan 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

Today at the education room we were given an interesting talk about geophysical surveys and pottery.

A number of geophysical surveys of the area have been carried out with many potentially interesting results. Archaeological geophysics (sometimes called geofizz for short) is a non-invasive, non-destructive method of collecting ground based data associated with subsurface features. The final result being a mapped image of the area for interpretation. We were given copies of an image map of survey results for the general Silbury Hill/West Kennet area.

The whole area is covered in intriguing subsurface features relating to differing time periods. Most notable of these are features discovered just south of Silbury Hill. Here, survey results showed the presence of rectangle enclosures and buildings as well as roads, indicative of Romano-British settlement. Roman artefacts had already been found in the immediate area and were the initial pieces of the puzzle. The site is suggestive of a small Romano-British town, which would have overlooked Silbury Hill.

There is also a natural link for the location of the site and the presence of nearby springs. The association of springs and religious worship is well known (for example the Roman Baths) and the presence of the water systems provided such space for ritual practises as well as being crucial for agriculture. This in turn meant this was a rich area for growth & prosperity.

We then had a talk about pottery. A lot of the pottery vessels found at Windmill Hill were Neolithic round based bowls with some having lugs for suspending. It has been discovered that a small proportion of pottery found at Windmill Hill originated all the way from the gabbro outcrop on the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall. The specific composition of this clay means we can locate it to a small area of the Lizard around St. Kerverne.  This clay, named gabbroic clay, was gathered to make most of the pottery within Cornwall. The clay shows specific inclusion of gabbroic rock such as feldspars, pyroxene minerals called augites and mica. This gives the gabbroic pottery a flecked appearance. This got us all considering how things were moved around during the Neolithic period. Did the clay travel out from Cornwall, or were the pots made in Cornwall first then travelled out on trading routes?

We finished the meeting by writing a personal message on a ribbon to hang from the willow tree at Swallowhead Springs; our next destination.

Our small convey headed down West Kennet Avenue to the roadside car park to walk to the springs. Furnished with cold weather clothing, boots, wellies & ribbons, we set off down the track towards the River Kennet. We crossed the bridge over the chalk stream and took in the surroundings. From here are great views of Silbury Hill and you can also see the top of West Kennet Long Barrow just noticeable on the hill ahead. The long barrow will be next week’s destination. 

We detoured away from the barrow path, walking alongside the Kennet and past a small copse. On the track was noticed a deer print. Too small to be from a Roe deer it had to be a print of a Muntjack deer. On reaching the field corner we descended down a very muddy and slippery slope. After nearly losing a few fellow companions succumbing to the slopes’ wrath and passing an ill-omened dead bird, we all came out through a multi coloured willow arch, renewed and reborn on secluded sacred ground. 

This sacred ground being the location of Swallowhead springs themselves. The site of two natural chalk springs, which at certain times of the year feed the River Kennet. A site revered for its sacredness, many people visit the springs to worship and partake in ceremonial practice with ritual offerings.

Here, worship of the Celtic goddess Bridget takes place. Bridget is associated with the return of the flow of life-giving waters and the return of spring. The sacredness of the site dates back far into the past, but how far is not certain. More recent lore highlights the importance of the spring’s sacred waters for religious ceremony. It is also interesting to note how over time the site has changed considerably, looking different to how it does for us today.

An excerpt from William Stukeley’s Abury (1743) reads,

The country people have an anniversary meeting on the top of Silbury-hill on every palm-Sunday, when they make merry with cakes, figs, sugar, and water fetch’d from the Swallow-head, or spring of the Kennet. This spring was much more remarkable than at present, gushing out of the earth, in a continued stream. They say it was spoil’d by digging for a fox who earth’d above, in some cranny thereabouts; this disturb’d the sacred nymphs, in a poetical way of speaking.”

Another interesting fact about the site is that the water from the chalk springs can remain a steady 10C all year. Due to this the grasses and other vegetation around the springs often stay lush and green all winter. At the head of the spring lie some stones and on these all types of offering get placed. There were hope stones, crystals, coins, flowers and small wreaths as well as other symbolic offerings.

Hanging over the flowing waters from this spring grows a large willow tree. From this tree many personal items hang. We all tied our ribbons, also known as a cloutie, to the great willow as an offering, wish or prayer. We then listened as a prayer was made to the Great Goddess. 

We partook in our own spiritual ceremony in an exercise of standing silent for one minute taking in our surroundings. We also had to guess when exactly we thought the minute was up and to contemplate on time itself. With the birds singing and the trickling of the Kennet in the background, a beautiful song was then sung. The song really made the sacred site come to life, evoking all sorts of emotions and linking the present with the past. We separated, with women on one side and the men on the other, all held hands and sang our own songs in coordinated fashion.  A very uplifting moment.

Across the River Kennet have been placed large crossing stones and this was to be our way back. It was time to sharpen our senses as the crossing was a precarious one with some wobbly moments. With the imaginary soundtrack to Indiana Jones playing in the background, we all made it across the river safely. Admittedly, the water was only knee deep at most but I’m sure I spotted some crocodiles! 

We all walked back to the car park across water meadows and headed back to Avebury education room feeling tired yet revitalised by the cold fresh air.

Another lovely, in depth, educational session.

Next Week: West Kennet Long Barrow!

A view beyond the stones

By Mr BPD, our blogger for Human Henge at Stonehenge in 2017

I have started to write this several times and I have come to realise that I really hate self-promotion, although this is more about how I got here than slapping myself on the back. But I am very happy and proud of how far I have come and what I hope to achieve.

My story starts in 1971 the year I was born, and one day I plan to write it; but this is about life after Human Henge, so let’s start my story when I arrived in Wiltshire.

I realised after moving to Trowbridge that mental health service were much worse than in the tiny village of Sherborn. Services were limited or miles away and I knew that something was needed and from my experience of mental health services I knew that it had to be service user led and ongoing.

I tried to set to things with up with mental health agencies. I found not that they were resistant. it was more an issues of resources or they were more interested in services that provided projects that were geared either to returning to work or to what I refer to as basket weaving (projects are run for limited time offering no real structure).

I never gave up on the idea of starting something but although I asked for help I could not get the support I needed. Time moved on some, and well I really had become isolated and needed something to give a reason to leave the house and interact with other human beings.

Luckily the Human Henge project came along which gave me a chance to rekindle a few skills, it allowed me to write under the name Mr BPD and reconnect to my spiritual side. After the project ended, which is always a sad part, the group stand together and in touch and meet up regularly.

This connection is the most important part of any project and it only comes when service users invest in a project. I mentioned about setting up a sort of project based around a magazine and the feedback was good and lots of people were interested but sadly the service provided only wanted a basic writing group that I could see would just become a basket weaving group. S I declined the offer to run it as I did not have the skills I believed were needed to make the project a success.

After a change in care coordinator who had different knowledge I was introduced to the person in charge of service user involvement in the mental health trust.

After a few conversations it was very clear that we both wanted the same thing, a user led project that would grow into the service that is needed. I had been let down a few times so did not let myself get too invested.

Just before Christmas we met once again to talk about a venue and thought about Tesco Community Room so we made some enquiries. We found out that we met the requirements to use the room but the person in charge of the diary was not available and would not be back till the New Year so we left our details and waited for a call.

On the 11th January I got a call. Tesco had a cancellation and they had a four-hour slot on Monday and could we meet on the 12th outside Tesco.

We met and agreed we would go for it for four-hours on a Monday, we walked and met with the person in charge of the room. Within minutes we had agreed to take the room on the coming Monday on a long-term basis and came up with the name Trowbridge Users Group (TUG).

We then went off for a coffee and realised what we had just agreed to: it was lunchtime Friday and the first group would be on Monday. There was no time to get the word out but we would try.

So I rushed home to get the word out and by Saturday morning TUG had a functioning website, FaceBook page, Twitter account. The rest of the weekend was propagating content and making posters. And trying to put together a mission statement and a framework of ideas of how the group would run and how service users could be actively involved.

We agreed to starting group as a coffee and chat drop-in and let the group grow organically after finding out what people wanted. I thought it would be good to involve as many service providers as possible, not to run the group but to come in as guest speakers and say what they do and how they can help and how to access the service. This way service users could take a more active roll in their recovery. We all know that the mental health service across this country has been starved of resources and staff are under a deal of great stress and many service users are not informed about services available, so by inviting service providers users can take a proactive role in their recovery.

Trowbridge Users Group (TUG) has one main aim, which is to involve as many service users as possible and become a voice for change within mental health. We are actively encouraging service users to get involved in planning events and running on line services as FaceBook and Twitter Admin and as blog writers. We hope in time to have service users sharing their skills and business ideas and acting as mentors to others. The possibilities for this project are endless and one day I hope it becomes the gold standard for service user involvement and will shape mental health services so they are more service user led.

Things are still in their early days but we have booked the Restoration Trust, Health Watch Wiltshire, and The Wiltshire and Swindon Users’ Network to come in and talk and explain what they do, in time I will be inviting more. And if you’re reading this and feel you have something to offer the mental health service user of Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) I would love to hear from you.

I will not devalue the work I have put and will put into Trowbridge Users Group (TUG) but I will say if it was not for the confidence and friends I gained from Human Henge I’m not sure I would have had the guts to push forward. They are a constant source of support and encouragement and have assisted in the launch of the Trowbridge Users Group (TUG) with help proofreading content and joining and sharing the TUG FaceBook page and retweeting news.

If you would like to more about Trowbridge Users Group (TUG) please visit



Twitter @AdminTug


Trowbridge Users Group (TUG) runs every Monday 1 to 5 at the community room, Tesco Extra

County Way


BA14 7AQ

Avebury Blog: Session One – Windmill Hill – 19 Jan 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

The session started within Avebury Education Room, where we all congregated for formal intros and to chat about the day’s proceedings. A tempting finger buffet was placed before us with red & green grapes, satsumas, fig rolls, garibaldis, biscuits etc. Just what we were going to need for a mornings walk in the chill fresh air.   After filling our pockets with the remaining offerings (ok, just me then) we set off out to the car park. It was a lovely, sunny, crisp and frosty start to the morning which meant for lovely views over the whole area. On walking to the cars, we passed the Alexander Keiller Museum and dovecot, (which will be the focus of a later session) and were able to briefly walk alongside part of the banks of the North West & South West sectors of the henge.

After we did the maths and managed to get everybody into vehicles, we set off for Windmill Hill. Out of the car window, there were fantastic views of Silbury Hill in the near distance. On driving through Avebury Trusloe we arrived at some farm buildings which was to be our rendezvous point. Whilst waiting for all peoples to be ferried up, I took in the view of Windmill Hill ahead. Once we had all arrived, we commenced our walk on up the gentle slope of the hill itself.

We walked along the hedge lined track until we reached Horslips Bridge on the first bend of our path. Under the bridge slowly flows the River Oslip.  The river is said to be fed by springs around Windmill Hill and may have been a primary supply of water for Neolithic peoples of the hill.

On passing the Oslip, I noticed two roe deer in the adjacent field and stopped to take pictures. Further along the path some more deer started to show. We all stopped to take a look at these graceful animals. A total of ten deer emerged and started to walk away from us to the far end of the field.

Slightly further along a volunteer pointed out the location of a long barrow, Horslip Long Barrow. The earthwork, though not fully visible from the path, made its presence known by an area of longer, rougher grass.

After what was a moderate walk for some and a huge walking achievement for others, we reached the start of the enclosed area of Windmill Hill itself. On arrival, I myself was met by the occasional dulcet sounds of song (wink). Some of the group had started to sing a tune and others joined in on arrival, finishing in a crescendo of carefully orchestrated vocal harmonies, at one point out competing the resident skylarks! For me personally, the singing was a great way of releasing certain pent up energies and emotions as well as allowing the opening of the rusty gates of self-expression.

On top of the hill views were fantastic, with a 360 vista of the surrounding downland scene.

One of the leaders gave a talk about the history of the site. Windmill Hill is a causewayed hill enclosure constructed during the early Neolithic, c 3680 BC. It is the oldest site within the Avebury complex.  Covering nearly an estimated 21 acres, the enclosure has three concentric ditches, with the area between these known as the causeways. Believed to have been a more seasonal rather than permanent site, early Neolithic farmers lived in the general area and the use of the enclosure was perhaps more of a meeting place with ceremony, feasting and trade. Within the enclosure are several very distinct Bronze Age round barrows.  From a vantage point on one of these, many of the local prehistoric monuments can be viewed, albeit at distance.  

Looking towards Avebury the henge bank is visible as well as some of the larger standing stones (Stones 50, 201 & 206 which make up the Northern Inner Circle, and 46 the Swindon Stone).

Also visible is West Kennet Avenue, East and West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill as well as the Ridgeway, Barbury Castle, Oldbury Castle and many other sites.

With sunny blue skies and singing skylarks to lift the spirit, we made our way back to the cars, returning the same way we came. Walking along the track I saw around 60 tree sparrows feeding in some set aside field margin. This was a lovely example of how the local conservation effort by groups/landowners is paying off.  I also noted a few nest boxes put up to help this species, so thumbs up to the landowner.

A great morning of fresh air, exercise, lots of history, beautiful scenery and some lovely nature.

Looking forward to next week!