Kathy was having a week off work and had suggested a trip down to Avebury in Wiltshire. As a fan of history, big stones, country pubs, and days out I of course accepted. I took the tube over to Gunnersbury before Kathy picked me up in her silver Seat and we sped off down the M4 to Junction 14 before passing through the picturesque market towns of Hungerford and Marlborough on the way to Avebury.
You see your first stones before you enter the village proper. It's a very small village with a population of just over 500 but these stones bring in huge numbers of visitors and so The Red Lion, the village's only pub and, so it boasts, the only pub in the world inside a stone circle, was doing a roaring trade. History enthusiasts were supping ales before noon. I wasn't going to join them but when Kathy said we might not get back until fairly late in the evening I realised I wouldn't be going for a run that evening so decided to try a pint of the local ale, Avebury Well Water.
I was glad I did. It was lovely. My nachos and wild elderflower bubbly were good too. We'd hoped to have 'luxury' mac'n'cheese but Kathy had asked if they used rennet in its preparation and they said they did. As strict veggies we had to change our plans.
Fed and watered Kathy downloaded a map on her phone and we set about trying to get our bearings. Seemingly not an easy task. We chatted to a friendly National Trust volunteer who seemed nearly as clueless as us but eventually, between us, we worked out what direction we needed to be heading in.
It was only a six mile walk but it was a very picturesque one. Gentle, rolling hills rather than anything too taxing. We walked along the West Kennet Avenue. The cows ignored us as we admired the huge stones, some smoothish, some nobbly, all really quite spectactular. Where original stones are missing they've been replaced by some kind of, much smaller, placeholder stones. I wasn't totally sure if I approved but they did give us an idea of what Avebury must've once looked like.
It was getting pretty warm, butterflies were fluttering by, and only a couple of miles from the village there we hardly any other walkers to be seen. We asked a local farmer (a sexy farmer according to Kathy) what the yellow leguminous looking crops growing were. He said it was rapeseed which I believe is non-leguminous so I was bit confused. I asked if later in the summer it would take on its very bright yellow colour and he said it was too late, that'd already happened.
Under a clump of trees we saw an ancient burial ground, before we strolled briefly along aforesaid Ridgeway, and descended into the village of Avebury again. A farm, perhaps owned by the sexy farmer, seemed to be making the milk for Cadbury's chocolate!
The next field had sheep in it (which we were warned not to 'worry') - and, of course, more megaliths. There's been a huge amount of study into why the stones were there, what purpose they had, and what purpose to some they still have (there seemed to be a druid on one of the stones though others were being used as benches to relax and read books) but there's plenty of other, better, places to read about that (I'm sure my friend Jack, responsible for the Daily Megalith on Twitter, could point you in the right direction). We were very much casual visitors.
I'd love to go back, I'd not been since the late eighties and Kathy, perhaps due to being from Sunderland, had never been, and if I do I'll hopefully learn, and write, more about the experience. We wandered the outer ditch, apparently excavated by hand, and the outer circle, and marvelled at the stones known as the cove that make up one of the set pieces of the inner circle.
With more time we'd have taken in the Alexander Keiller Museum, near the Anglican church, which tells the story of the stones and the Scottish archaeologist who worked on excavations there until World War II so rudely interrupted his studies.
Instead we sat in the glorious sunshine, I had a Marshfield Farm mint choc chip ice cream, we jumped in the car, headed the same way back, and I arrived back in London pondering a wonderful day out and looking forward to the next one.