Award to Wiltshire Heritage Museum

Writing in the The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald yesterday, Lewis Cowen reports that, "The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes has been awarded £58,200 to work on plans to create new Bronze Age galleries. The money has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund and now the museum will progress to the second stage of the HLF application process. The project will cost more than £200,000 and the museum, in Long Street, will have to contribute between £20,000 and £30,000. The new galleries will feature the rich finds from burials in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. The project will feature the unique gold and amber finds that define the Bronze Age Wessex culture and are currently locked away in the museum's vaults. The most famous of these are the 4,000-year-old finds from Bush Barrow, including a gold lozenge, belt hook, stone mace and richly decorated bronze dagger. The new displays will also include objects excavated from Upton Lovell and Manton as well as recent finds from Marden Henge, near Devizes."

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Footprints through Avebury by Mike Pitts

Footprints through Avebury was written and photographed by Mike Pitts. Mike, now editor of the British Archaeology Magazine, has excavated at both Stonehenge and Avebury, is the author of Hengeworld, and was, for five years, curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum at Avebury.

Footprints through Avebury is a little book (only 65 pages) but one packed full with a wealth of information, maps, contact details and a timeline for Avebury and its environs. The timeline begins 5,500 years ago with the Windmill Hill settlement, through to the erection of the first megaliths at Avebury 4,600 years ago, the Roman settlement at Silbury 1,700 years ago, the purchase of Avebury by the National Trust in 1900, and ending in the year 2000 when visitors to this World Heritage Site topped a quarter of a million. As the name of the booklet suggests, however, it’s not just an introduction to Avebury but a well thought-out walking guide to places of interest in and around the village. There are five guides (Mike calls them Excursions) most with maps or diagrams, all with excellent photos or illustrations. A useful note at the beginning of the longer walks is the distance in kilometres and miles; the distance from Avebury to Windmill Hill for example is five and a half kilometres or three and half miles.

With its easy-to-use guides and wealth of information Footprints through Avebury is a must-have for both the first-time and the seasoned visitor to the Avebury World Heritage Site.

Avebury walks II: The Winterbourne and Windmill Hill

This walk has the advantage of offering two possibilities, both of which can be managed if you have three hours or so to spare, or in less than one hour if time is short. As with walk I below, if you’re arriving in Avebury by coach or car you’ll probably get off in the main car park and then walk along the path to Avebury High Street. Once there, turn left away from the Henge itself and walk down the High Street, past the church on your right and carry on down to the end of the road where you’ll take a sharp turn to the right and then to the left. The road has now become a footpath and, after ten minutes or so, will bring you to a little bridge which crosses over the Winterbourne stream. There’s a bench there where you can rest and, looking south across the meadows, be rewarded with one of the loveliest views of Silbury that there is.

Silbury from the Winterbourne

I’ve sat for long periods there just taking in the view and the sound of the Winterbourne when it’s in full flow (as the name suggests however the stream does not flow at all times throughout the year). You may decide that you want to stay there for as long as you can or, if you have time, walk on to Windmill Hill.

There’s a signpost close to the bench indicating a route to Windmill Hill over the fields but my advice is to avoid this as the ground can often be waterlogged or occupied by cows or bullocks. Instead carry on up the lane until you reach the end and then turn right following the lane (then track) up the hill. The original settlement on Windmill Hill is thought to have been made some 5,500 years ago, making it one of the earliest known settlements in the Avebury area (the round barrows within the enclosure however date from the early Bronze Age). Take a moment to sit and imagine what it was like to live there thousands of years ago. If the weather is fine look southwards – you should be able to see Silbury in the distance.

See also Footprints through Avebury by Mike Pitts.

On this day William Stukeley died

“Stukeley was an English antiquary and one of the founders of field archaeology, who pioneered the investigation of Stonehenge.

“William Stukeley was born at Holbeach in Lincolnshire, and studied medicine at Cambridge University. While still a student he began making topographical and architectural drawings as well as sketches of historical artefacts. He continued with this alongside his career as a doctor, and published the results of his travels around Britain in 'Itinerarium Curiosum' in 1724.”

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