GEOLOGY GROUP VISIT AVEBURY’S ANCIENT STANDING STONES

Members of a Crewkerne geology group visited the ancient standing stones in the village of Avebury in Wiltshire. Thirty three members of the group, which is part of Crewkerne & District U3A, were taken around the site by National Trust volunteer guides. The Avebury site dates back 6,000 years to the Neolithic Age. The hour long tour saw members of the geology group, led by Mike Wroe in the absence of group leader Val Watson, walk around the henge which comprises of an extensive circular bank and ditch with several arrangements of stones inside. The outer ring of stones within the bank and ditch is the largest megalithic stone circle in the world.

National Trust guides explained that the sarsen stones, like those at nearby Stonehenge, came from a bed of really tough sandstone laid down in the Cretaceous period on top of chalk, which predominates on Salisbury Plain. The henge was built about 4000 BC for a ritual purpose and early sketches of Avebury show the circles of standing stones different from how they are today. Geology group member Liz Randall said: “How the original builders dug the henge ditch and moved the massive stones is mind-boggling.”

Group members learnt that many of the massive stones were pulled down and buried or burnt and broken up to use in building houses, barns and a pub in the village, during medieval times. The 1,000 acres of land at Avebury was acquired by Alexander Keiller, heir to the family marmalade business, who in 1938 began having the fallen stones re-erected in their original places. A process which was stopped during World War Two and never completed. In 1943, he gave Avebury to the National Trust.

Some members of the geology group also visited Avebury Manor – a surprise and very different from the usual National Trust houses. Nine rooms were decorated and furnished by the BBC for its 2011 TV series The Manor Reborn. Today these rooms and part of the garden are decorated and designed in five different period styles covering Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and the 20th Century. Liz Randall said: “They told us you can handle everything, try on clothes and lie on the beds, so we did and really enjoyed our time there.”

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