As we drove through Avebury to our next destination, we were more than glad that we had been prompted to stop at the Waggon and Horses instead of our usual port of call. The Red Lion, crammed full of people, was ringed about and protected by metal grilles. It had not even occurred to us that the summer solstice celebrations would be having that level of effect on the tiny village that is encircled by the stones.
Hundreds of people descend on the stones to watch the solstice sunrise, the party lasts all night and there is music, dancing and rituals of all kinds. The atmosphere is reportedly good there, but it is for this very reason that we try to schedule our events for a weekend close to, but not on the solstice or equinox. We did not stop… it was too busy. We know the henge and circles well and we had already been granted an amazing gift that day in a place we thought we knew. But there is always more to see and discover and we have yet to spend a night amongst the stones…
Instead we drove through, heading for Hackpen Hill, where a white horse graces the hillside… though this time, we were not on an equine quest. The Hackpen Horse is a modern creation, ninety feet long and was cut by a parish clerk, Henry Eatwell, in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria, with the help of a local pub landlord. It is possible that they simply recut an older figure, though no evidence remains if that is the case.
There is a good bit of lore here though. A field of sarsen stones close by may have provided some of the stones for both Avebury and Stonehenge. The prehistoric track now known as the Ridgeway runs just behind the horse… and if you are walking there, it is as well to beware of fairies:
“That the Fairies would steale away young children and putt others in their places; verily believed by old woemen of those dayes: and by some yet living.
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