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Friday, 2 August 2013

One Girl and Two Dogs on the Bummel: stone circles, sheep and a scare.

Missed the beginning? The bummel begins here

Salisbury. Considering how late the children next door went to bed, they were up bright and early and, consequently, so was I. The sky was grey and the air cool, much cooler than yesterday, so I dressed warmly- noticing just in time that my jumper had a splash of last night's Ovaltine down it. That would have been embarrassing! Just because I'm living like a hobo doesn't mean I should let standards slip!

I needn't have worried so much about keeping warm; by the time I'd finished walking the boys around the barrows at Stonehenge, the sun was starting to peek out through the clouds and looked set to continue as another glorious day.

Queuing in traffic on the way to Stonehenge, it felt most bizarre to crawl past the ancient monument, the road brushing the shoulders of the stone giants. It made me smile to see it; so familiar yet new, much like when I saw the Taj Mahal. So out of place amongst the congested roads, yet knowing it had been there first and would most likely remain when mankind has gone. Stone endures.

I parked up and took the boys to stretch their legs, knowing I would have to leave them in the car while I visited Stonehenge. The sheer number of people means that dogs are not allowed close to the stones, which is fair enough, but I hate leaving them in the car and avoid it whenever I can. We walked around and even on the barrows, which were interesting in their own way but, as disrespectful to the ancient kings as it sounds, I was impatient for the main attraction! I put the boys in the car, promised to be quick, and rushed off to buy my ticket.

Thankfully, it wasn't too busy yet, and I popped out of the walkway in less than ten minutes after I'd left the car. I'd been nervous, the night before, about my reaction to Stonehenge; it was, after all, the main reason I'd headed south-west in the first place. The German couple I'd met yesterday had been underwhelmed by it; they said it was small and not worth the entrance fee. I'd worried that it would feel like a let-down after the excitement I'd been feeling for weeks.

I needn't have worried. I was glad I'd come, in the end. The size of the slabs was breath-taking, especially when I considered how they got there, and the sun burst out just in time to light up the whole scene magically. I walked around the monument twice, taking it all in. Magnificent. In its day, all those years ago, it would surely have inspired as much awe and wonder as a cathedral.

I tore myself away and back to the car, anxious not to leave the boys unattended for too long, especially now the sun had got into its stride and was beaming happily down again. They were pleased to see me and eager for the next adventure- hopefully one that they could join in with this time. I told Gladys to take us to Avebury, and off we went, Stonehenge in my rear-view mirror and Harvey sticking his head out of the window.

In Avebury, I found the car park, although it was rammed full. I managed to squeeze in by a car with a bumper sticker proclaiming, "My other car is a broomstick" which I thought was amusing. But then, I have a bumper sticker that says, "A dragon is for life, not just for Hogswatch", so each to their own. The boys and I walked down a lane into the village and on to the famous stone circle. In a way, this was even more fun than Stonehenge, because these stones were all accessible; some people I noticed touched each one lovingly as they passed it, listening for a second before moving on to the next.

Harvey and Alfie enjoyed the fact they could join in with this part of the bummel, although Alfie was more excited about the possibility of putting the bitey on some sheep than he was about the stones. I held him tight, so he had to make do with rolling in some sheep poo instead. His rolling and wriggling got a good laugh from one lady, until I explained what he was doing, and that we still had another week in the tent left to go. She still chuckled, but it now had a sympathetic edge. He really is a little hairy (and now smelly) monster.

I met a chap who knew Lincolnshire very well, and even knew GDE, which surprised me as some people in Holbeach couldn't find it on a map. Small world, indeed. When we stopped at a pub for a drink, I got chatting to another chap who makes cakes and is going to be on a Channel 5 program in a few months, baking a wedding cake for a young bride. He was a Wiccan, and was here for a ceremony with a load of others (which probably explained the unusual bumper sticker). He explained to me about the ceremony that had taken place the previous day within the stones and, simultaneously, on Silbury Hill. It was quite interesting, and I should have liked to have seen it. He was quite interesting too: a bit of an aging-hippy vibe with a bandanna and an Ankh around his neck.

Time to move on, so after one last walk around the stone circle, we headed back to the car. On the way out of the village, I saw a sign for the Silbury Hill the chap had mentioned so I pulled over to go and take a look. It was mammoth, and would have provided a great view but, unfortunately, climbing it wasn't allowed. I was half-considering whether to give it a try anyway when Alfie had one of his funny turns. It was terrifying. He's had them before, but I was on my own in the middle of nowhere with no idea where the nearest vet was- and this was the longest one he's had so far. I picked him up and carried him into the shade, propping him against my legs to hold him steady while he trembled and coughed, giving him sips of water when he was able to manage it. Harvey was frantic; normally, he keeps away when Alfie is poorly- I think it freaks him out- but of course I had to keep him on the lead while I stroked and soothed Alfie. When he seemed better, I picked him up and cuddled him and told Harvey he was a good boy too. Although Alfie returns to normal quite quickly, his turns seem to take a lot out of him, so I thought it best to head back. No illicit hill-climbing then! 

We did stop off to take a quick look at Woodhenge. I'd seen it on the map and was intrigued, and it was on our way home. I wanted to find the mysterious "Cuckoo Stone" too, but it seemed like a bit of a trek and, seeing as Alfie had recovered sufficiently, I wanted to get up to Old Sarum again and take a look inside the actual castle. Woodhenge was a bit puzzling; I didn't understand if it was a sort of practice run for Stonehenge or a completely separate thing. (I've linked to a page explaining it because that's where I looked once I got home).

At the castle entrance, we were greeted by a lovely chap who fussed Alfie in particular and pulled burrs from Harvey's fur. Once again, I loved walking around the ruins and imagining what it must have been like. It really it a superb view from up there, although rather windy today! I imagine it's vile in the winter.

Harvey climbed the steps to the King's Tower and looked very proud of himself as he surveyed the land below. Alfie, with his natural shiftiness, looked more like a pauper caught in the Queen's bedchamber...

Back at the site, I resisted the temptation of the visiting chip van, and instead opted for pasta and yesterday's ham. The noisy family have moved on already, replaced by a quieter one whose Dad has the most extraordinary beer belly. I keep sneaking glances at it, to see if he's puffing it out on purpose to make his children laugh, but no... I think that is actually how it looks. Poor chap.

I'd quite fancied walking into Salisbury tonight but I don't think the dogs could cope with more walking today. They are already asleep in the tent and one of them is having yappy dreams- probably Alfie, dreaming of the sheep he wasn't allowed to chase. If I'm honest, I don't know whether I could cope with more walking today. I think we'll go tomorrow, before we pack up and move on to Wincanton. That's enough of a plan for now.

The bummel continues tomorrow...

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