On Friday we looked at the grey sky, shrugged, packed warm clothes and headed to Wiltshire, through the sorts of places that I always think of as the Real England: tumbledown ramshackle villages with narrow streets and thatched-roof cottages; hedgerows and woodlands where you expect to see Tom Bombadil or Bilbo Baggins, and rolling swathes of green fields full of standing stones and barrows.
Back in the car, we drove through increasingly crappy weather. Bruce the GPS refused to find our next destination, so I was given the task of navigating. I know some people will be laughing at that, but I'll have you know I can read a road map very well. We did not get lost. Not even once. The next stop was the West Kennet Long Barrow, a neolithic communal tomb, just a short walk through slippery mud next to the A4, and I got us there with no problems at all.
On the way we had a couple of brief photo stops. I had a bit of a Wind in the Willows moment when I spied these riverboats moored at Upavon (at least, I think that's where it was),
and when I saw (on my trusty road-map) that there was a village called Huish up ahead, we just had to do a little detour (Huish is my daughter-in-law's maiden name).
Eventually we got to where we wanted to go:
It's just on the other side of the A4 from Silbury Hill, which is another neolithic construction. In Wiltshire you fall over a henge or a barrow every five minutes!
After checking out the barrow we pressed on, in even worse weather, to Avebury, a little village that has sprouted in the very midst of a henge and a cluster of standing stones, and which is one of England's most important sites for modern pagans.
We were very fortunate to have the company and expertise of Gordon, who is the Wiccan high priest of Avebury, explaining the stones to us. We were very unfortunate that the weather was so disgusting - that steady soaking rain that you think isn't too bad until you realise you're drenched - so we didn't get to walk around all the stones. We did, however, get to 'debrief' at the Red Lion afterwards!