This was a few weeks ago, driving back to London down the A4. It was so much more interesting than the slow procession along the M4 to Bristol the day before. Reduced to two lanes, it was being rewired as a smart new motorway. We stopped off at Avebury for old times’ sake. This lovely beech tree was beside the path from the car park to the village, on the edge of the cricket pitch.
The path emerged by this elegant old house where I imagine Ludovic Kennedy and Moira Shearer once lived, though I’m probably mistaken. They were two of the village’s most famous residents and this is the first house we see. It’s not conclusive evidence. The broken standing stone in front of it was once whole, long before the house was built. Now it’s an accidentally carved sculpture of Providence.
Look closely and you might just discern the outline of Jeremy Deller on this stone.
Front to back and back to front.
They are said to retain a memory of those who g(r)aze kindly upon them.
And they will kindly return your g(r)aze.
They stand and stare
this zone of stones
and together they dream as one.
Then around the bank and ditch, over plaited roots, to be caught by the wishing tree.
Red Lion Stone
Then back along by the cricket pitch as the rain comes down and the covers go on.
I found this book in 1982 around the time of my first visit to Avebury. I’ve not read it but I like to have the stones captured in its pages standing on my bookshelf, waiting with me and keeping me company.
“John Aubrey, the seventeenth-century biographer and amateur archaeologist, wrote that the stone circles of Avebury ‘as much excell Stonehenge as a Cathedral does a parish church’.
“By far the largest of the many British stone circles, the multiple circles and earthworks of Avebury stand on the Marlborough Downs, eighteen miles from Stonehenge. A mile away is Silbury Hill which is itself a construction as big as the Egyptian pyramids, and the largest man-made hill in Europe. This complex of prehistoric remains with its many associated tombs and relics has long fascinated archaeologists and the quarter-million visitors who come to it each year.”