Posted by: travelrat | January 3, 2014

The Avenue

Stonehenge from the Avenue

Stonehenge from the Avenue

If you dig down to bedrock on Salisbury Plain, you will find a natural phenomenon called Periglacial Stripes. These were probably caused by the action of meltwater from retreating glaciers during one of several Ice Ages. One set of stripes was of particular interest, for they lined up with the sun on the longest day. Above them, they built The Avenue, thought to be processional route to Stonehenge, and also suggested as the reason the stone circle is where it’s at.

To the untrained eye, the Avenue is almost indiscernible today, but in its heyday must have been quite a sight. It would have stood a blinding white against the grassland, with ditches dug on either side, exposing the chalk beneath. And’ it’s thought to have had a surface paved with chalk and flints, using a principle still used today, rediscovered in the 19th Century by engineer John MacAdam!

Probably it’s best seen when there’s a light dusting of snow on the ground … I have a photograph somewhere, but can’t lay my hand on it right now.

However, the Avenue doesn’t align with the midsummer sunrise for all its length; after some distance, it heads down towards the River Avon, where evidence of another stone circle has recently been discovered; formed, it’s been suggested, from the Welsh bluestones, which were subsequently taken to Stonehenge.

So, the theory is that this was a ceremonial way to Stonehenge from the river, designed to show the circle at its most imposing. But, I emphasise, it’s only a theory. Maybe someone has a better one?

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