Nature and Neolithic

 Returning from a family visit near London, we split the journey back to Hereford with overnight stays in Holybourne (visiting Jane Austen's House and Gilbert White's House and Gardens) and Marlborough. On the journey from Marlborough to Hereford, we stopped off at the Avebury World Heritage Site cared for by the National Trust and English Heritage. While looking around Avebury Manor we came across this article of furniture...

Guess what?
More on that later.

On route from Holybourne to Marlborough, we visited the houses and gardens of Jane Austen in the morning and Gilbert White in the afternoon.

Gilbert White (1720 - 1793) was one of a long line of ordained naturalists or natural theologians who observed and wrote about nature when not performing their day job. White is best known for his magnum opus: The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. First published in 1789, the book has always been in print. Wikipedia casts doubt on the claim by the Gilbert White Museum at Selborne that the book is the fourth most published book in the English language after the Bible, Shakespeare, and John Bunyans 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.

The museum is excellent and includes the Oates Collection which tells the stories of explorers Frank and Lawrence Oates - Lawrence was a member of the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole led by Scott of the Antarctic. Lawrence Oates famous last words were, according to Scott: "I am just going outside and may be some time" as he sacrificed himself (forlornly, as it happened) so the others could survive.

The gardens at Gilbert White's House were interesting and obviously cared for but would have benefitted from a little more investment - bearing in mind his interest in the natural world. 

Autumn Crocus at Selborne

This artifact, known as a wine pipe, was designed and built by Gilbert White. White built a haha in front of the house and used the excavated soil to form a mound on which this contraption sat. Made from an old wine barrelon a rotating base, it gave White a 360-degree view whilst remainng hidden. 

Wine Pipe at Gilbert White's House and Garden

Gilbert White's Wine Pipe

After enjoying tea and cake at Gilbert White's House, we moved on to Marlborough and an overnight stay at the Castle and Ball Hotel, a Grade II listed building. The River Kennet, a tributary of the River Thames, runs through Marlborough...

River Kennet at Marlborough

The River Kennet is an example of a chalk stream, one of only 200 in the world - and 170 of them are in the England!

The journey from Marlborough back to Hereford included a stop at the Avebury World Heritage Site

Avebury Stone Circle

Arriving at the car park, just time for a veggie sausage sandwich, cooked in the campervan, and a cup of tea...

Preparing breakfast at Avebury Car Park

...that proved fortuitous as the catering facilities at the Herotage Site were closed.

First port of call was Avebury Manor where a timed ticketing system was in operation. This 16th Century manor had many different occupants  before it was bought by the National Trust in 1991. Very few, if any, historical artifacts came with the building. Under such circumstances, the National Trust would bring in period items to furnish the house. An approach by the BBC to refurbish the house/garden for a TV programme was too good to turn down. The Manor Reborn was aired on the BBC in December 2011. At the time of posting this blog, it was not available on the BBC but you can find the episodes on YouTube. One of the stipulations made by the BBC was that artifacts could be picked up, touched, sat on, examined and, generally, wo(man)handled. You could even pot a few snooker balls if you wished. Though you might be escorted from the premises if you were found using this...

18th Century Commode

Rooms are furnished in five different styles: Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and 20th Century.
This particular item was from the Georgian period...

...and is an exercise chair or chamber horse. The sprung seat was meant to simulate horseriding so you wouldn't miss out on your daily exercise if the weather was inclement. A forerunner of the Pelaton, I guess.

The Avebury Manor Gardens are very good and we had the benefit of a sculpture exhibition when we were there.

Grape Vine in Avebury Manor Gardens

Finally, a walk around the largest stone circle in the world with its impressive ditch and bank - originally, the ditch was 6 metres deep and bank 6 metres high - built using Neolithic tools.

Avebury Ditch and Bank

The largest Standing Stone?

As you walk around the circle, you will come across four copper beech trees; supposedly the inspiration for JRR Tolkien's walking trees (Ents) in The Lord of the Rings. The network of roots is mesmerising...


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