Taking five…

Glaston2 010Stuart arrived late Tuesday evening and the Burgundy ensured we talked till the small hours as usual. We were, however, ready to roll early next morning. By the time my son phoned to ask if we would be calling in before we left we were already in Marlborough and parked. Yes, I know we were heading for Glastonbury, but you know well enough by now that we are easily sidetracked by archaeology and churches. And Marlborough has both. In abundance.  And coffee too.

Glaston2 037Glastonbury is 120 miles away and Marlborough, a beautiful little town by any standard, lies almost exactly at the halfway point. An ideal place to stop. Not only it is the mid-point of the journey, it is also the gateway to the ancient landscape of stone and barrow that encircles Avebury. We had been promising ourselves a stop there for a while, so Wednesday seemed the perfect opportunity. Which is how a mere 120 miles took five hours…

Glaston2 031We walked through the pretty town to the college. There is a large and lovely church there, but more importantly, behind it there is Merlin’s Mount, an ancient earthwork hidden within the college. Buildings have grown up around it, encroaching on the sacred space. Previous generations have altered and sculpted it, making it a pleasure garden rather than preserving its sanctity… even so, even having glimpsed it from the road in passing, the first look at this incongruously sited hill is simply awe-inspiring.

Marlborough Mound, William Stukeley 1723

Marlborough Mound, William Stukeley 1723

Of course, when it was first built, some four and a half thousand years ago, there was no enclosing college. It now stands some 62 ft high, though it is not really known how much the mound had been altered over the intervening millennia. It was once the motte of the Norman castle, some fifty years after the invasion of 1066; it has been at the heart of a 17th century garden, and now it is hidden within the private college grounds and is being restored. Those who have seen Silbury Hill some six miles west of Marlborough can imagine, though, how it may once have looked.

Glaston2 033Were the terraces always there? They are said to date back to the 17th century, but who knows whether once the spiral path was a processional way such as that seen on Glastonbury Tor? Roman coins have been found there… in a place already nearly two and a half thousand years old when the Romans set foot there. The Romans themselves are closer to us in time than they were to those who raised the mound. There can be no doubt it was an important place, a sacred place… why else would so much effort be made to build an artificial mountain so close to the source of the sarsen stones that still stand in enigmatic silence at Stonehenge… even closer to the majesty of Silbury and the ancient circles within circles of Avebury?

Glaston2 002The Mound has its place in history; the oath of allegiance to King John was sworn there in 1209 AD. It has a place too in legend, of course. The motto of Marlborough is Ubi nunc sapientis ossa Merlini ‘Where now are the bones of wise Merlin?’ It is said that here was the place of Merlin’s imprisonment by the Lady of the Lake… and although that particular telling may date back only as far as the Arthurian romances, who knows upon what older legend that too now rests? Long before Merlin became known, an older Myrddin walked the landscape of legend here.

Glaston2 036Whatever secrets the Mound holds close, it is undoubtedly a magical place. The veil is thin here between the worlds and setting foot upon the spiral path many things that logic deems impossible can become reality.

Glaston2 027We left reluctantly; that heady feeling, the sparkling air and whispering of the trees made elevenses a necessity for grounding. The old church we had passed offered the promise of coffee and cake, so we headed back towards the High Street, little knowing what else we were to find. And the adventure, of course, had only just begun….

Glaston2 033

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Ancient sites, Avalon, England, Glastonbury, Landscape, Merlin, Mythology, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Taking five…

  1. As always, I love your pictures


  2. trentpmcd says:

    Nice photos and stories. In my only trip to that corner of your country I think I missed Marlborough. I did stop at Silbury Hill and Avebury – I liked Avebury better than Stonehenge. We also visited some long burrows that were open to the public,but I don’t remember he name. Fascinating area.


  3. fransiweinstein says:

    Glorious photos! You’ve made me want to visit …


  4. Pingback: Six miles | Daily Echo

  5. Pingback: Six miles – France & Vincent

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