Saturday, 28 February 2009

A bridge over the Winterbourne

The Winterbourne viewed from the foot bridge, looking towards Silbury Hill

The little bridge that connects Avebury Trusloe to Avebury. Although there are several small foot bridges crossing the Winterbourne this is probably the one most used.
The Winterbourne is a beautiful river that meanders from its source somewhere near Winterbourne Bassett through the village of Winterbourne Monkton along the edge of Avebury, past Silbury to meet up with the river Kennet and eventually the Thames. The Winterbourne is joined by the Sambourne and today, for the first time, I saw the spot where they join. I have walked across the small bridge in the photo many times but have never viewed from afar before.
The river is called the Winterbourne because traditionally it dries up in the summer though with our recent wet summers this has not been the case. The Winterbourne has been written about extensively elsewhere so I can only write from a personal perspective. I understand this little river renowned for it 'magical' quality is linked to goddess worship of old when sources of water were equated with the life giving aspects of Mother Earth.
Thank you to the small group of people I walked with today. Pete and Steve, both local to Avebury and very knowledgeable about the hidden elements of the landscape. Rose and Sue, two lovely nurturing women, thanks to Sue for her truly sublime muffins. The two children that walked with us and who searched for flint arrowheads in the mole hills on Windmill Hill - I was pleased to find I am still in touch with the 10 year old within as I joined them in this activity. And last but not least, Betty the black labrador who jumped in the Winterbourne to chase a stick just before we returned to Avebury.
I close this piece with a reflection on the well known adage 'water under the bridge' - meaning, I believe, having the wisdom to know when something that once seemed important is now finished business.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Walking to Swallowhead Spring

Swallowhead Spring - the source of the river Kennet

Where the rivers Kennet and Winterbourne meet

Silbury Hill from the top of Waden Hill - the grass looking somewhat sad after the snow.

Walking up Waden Hill - I was not alone, nor ever am on this mystical hill.

Setting off and returning - through the south east quadrant of the Avebury Henge

Yesterday, I was in one of my favourite hilltop places in my north Wiltshire town - the snowdrops had survived the snow and the sun had just come out. In the distance I could see the snow covered downs and I was suddenly filled with a curious happiness which is perhaps better described as the joy of being alive.

So today I headed for those misty, distant hills - on a bus out to Avebury. I was surprised at how much snow still covered the downs. It started out as a cold, clear morning though soon started to cloud over - the above photos track my walk from Avebury, along West Kennet Avenue of Stones and up Waden Hill, where the snow was still untrodden and frozen in places. Stopping at the top to take in the land/skyscape, I then had to choose between walking to West Kennet Long Barrow or to Swallowhead Spring - I chose the spring with all its symbolism of new life.

As I retraced my steps back to Avebury, I climbed Waden Hill and was thrilled to see a large hare appear. It loped downhill in no particular hurry, stopping to just sit and look for a few moments - another sign of the imminent arrival of Spring.
Over the land freckled with snow half thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

(The poetry of Edward Thomas has featured on this blog before - sadly many of the elms have now gone from our landscape.)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Solitary stone in snow

Solitary stone
Stands alone
A lone monolith in the snow. However this stone is not out at Avebury or the Marlborough Downs but very close to where I live near a town centre. It feels like 'my' stone and I suspect no one else cares about, or even notices it, as old stones have a way of becoming invisible. I know nothing of the stone's history except that it is ancient and probably local sandstone. It stands on the side of a hill in a small Victorian cemetery - I do not know if it stood there before the land became a cemetery or whether it was placed there subsequently. It is in fact aligned with the morning sunrise (though this could be coincidental) and I haven't been able to test whether there is particular significance to certain times of year such as midsummer, as the hillside cemetery is surrounded by Victorian streets and houses. The stone is still, and holds fast its secrets.
Sand and Water
Solid stone is just sand and water ......
Sand and water and a million years gone by .....
I will see you in the light of a thousand suns
I will hear you in the sound of waves .....
(Beth Nielson Chapman)
People are often flawed; we pursue goals with single-minded determination until one day something happens to wake us up and see the beauty of nature around us. One day we wake up and to our surprise we are no longer young and, as with some ancient stones, we find we have become less visible.
But old stones can survive thousands if not millions of years; they deserve our homage.

Location of the lone stone

A peaceful little cemetery, also designated as a local nature reserve - today covered in virgin snow ..... and silence. When the snow finally melts the wild primroses will appear.