Albion, Art, Don and Wen

Rooted in the Land – Of Staff and Stone

Birds SE Ilkley 2015 uffington avebury hackpen worcester (23)

A leisurely evening working on the new book was the prelude to our adventure. My companion had, quite logically, travelled down to my home in the south from his home in the north… prior to heading north again together…via a trip further south… before we went further north ready for me coming south.  It all made perfect sense…

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The following morning I headed in to my son’s before stuffing random articles of clothing in a bag, forgetting most of the things I would need, including the legendary pocket handkerchief, whilst taking a good many things I would fail to use. The bags went into the car and we followed, glad to be back on the road, turning south and west toward Uffington. We wanted some pictures… as if we didn’t have enough from previous trips. Of course, we hadn’t taken these pictures… nor had we previously been greeted by a low-flying red kite on arrival. For that alone the slight detour would have been worth it, but we had another call in mind. We needed to go back to Marlborough to visit a church.

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Not, I should add, just any church… one that sells things… hand carved things… and which, quite apart from its ecclesiastical history, also does a nice cup of tea with a toasted teacake. A staff was required and while their tall, slender forms were considered, somehow or other a shorter staff… sort of hobbit sized… found its way into my hand and seemed reluctant to leave it. Continuing the hobbit theme, the staff became a birthday present and would eventually give rise to photographs that would make Peter Jackson do a double-take. Carrying our staffs through the town, feeling ever so slightly out of place in the busy street, we headed back to the car. The labels fluttered gaily from the polished hazel, almost as if apologising for intruding their ancient purpose upon the modern business of shopping. They were as out of place as we felt amongst the cars and determined consumers.

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As the road leaves Marlborough you cannot help but pass the mysterious Merlin’s Mound hidden within the college grounds and though the White Horse looked grey after all the rain, we paid our respects as we passed. Heading out towards Avebury, you could feel the land ‘humming’. I know, that sounds odd and ‘New Agey’… but it was an unmistakable thrum, as if the air was electrified. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it; this landscape, sacred for thousands of years and now so familiar to us, always seems to be waiting … poised…

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We stopped at our accustomed place to pay our respects also to the greater mound that is Silbury Hill. We took a different path around the base this time, seeing the great pyramidal mound rise from its erstwhile moat and tracing the shadow of a spiral pathway around its sides. At our feet, large black beetles imitated their Egyptian cousins, reinforcing the inevitable parallels drawn by the imagination and the quest for understanding.

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A short drive, a quick flirtation with Old Rosie in the pub, then, duly refreshed by the cloudy cider, into Avebury itself. We had some more items to acquire ready for April… but first we would greet the stones. If our staffs had felt out of place in the town, then here they were at home as we introduced them to the circling stones and the massive henge of the south-west quadrant from where the only glimpse of Silbury can be seen. They felt right here…their presence eminently practical on the steep slope of the henge, yet dictating a cadence of grace across the green of the inner circle. We were in no hurry…

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Click the highlighted links in the text to read more about the ancient sites we visited.

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