March 25, 2008

Change of Plans - Stonehenge!

Pauline was sick and couldn't make our planned adventure so instead I took a London Walks tour of Stonehenge and Salisbury. I've taken these walks before - in fact when Marlene and I went to Bath, England it was with this company. Our guide today, Hillary, was particularly expert.

We started out by train from London and then transferred to coach bus when we arrived in Salisbury. The landscape had so much history, especially when we passed Old Sarum, the original town built around a cathedral on a hill top. The Cathedral was moved in the 13th century to Salisbury and Old Sarum is now just a hill with ancient landscaping.
From there we went through the villages of Upper, Lower and Middle Woodford. On our journey we passed many cottages with thatched roofs which are still in use today. But the highlight on our way to Stonehenge was passing the estate of Sting, the pop star. What an amazing house. I only got a photo of his property across the way because his house was on the other side of the bus - so, it will remain a secret unless you take the tour!
As we approached Stonehenge Hillary had us pay close attention to the landscape. It is dotted with over 600 Barrows which are Bronze Age burial grounds across several miles of fields. This set a context for Stonehenge which seemed more like a movie set having seen it in so many images. I couldn't get Spinal Tap out of my mind.

The real Stonehenge (or is it a fake?) was all I expected - mysterious. I was able to get a close up of The Kneeling Stone on the outer edge which our guide said historians thought was some kind of entrance to the area.

Our tour continued with a walk through Salisbury. The town has many medieval features still intact including a wall around the Salisbury Cathedral and its close. The gates are still locked every night at 11pm.
The Cathedral celebrates its 750th anniversary this year and was recently renovated in the 1990s. The outside is nice but the inside is really something special. It is bright and cheerful. Perhaps I was influenced by Hillary's enthusiasm or the organ that was playing lovely modern pieces throughout our tour. Hillary pointed out many wonderful details such as this clock which is supposed to be the oldest on the planet.

There are also remnants of British battalion flags that were carried into battle. These particularly tattered ones have a special significance for Americans. They were the flags
carried into war against the Americans in 1814-1815 as you can read in the details on this memorial.

This final image is of the High Altar at the East End of the Cathedral, with the Prisoner of Conscience Window by Gabriel Loire. It was installed in the1980s and is particularly pertinent considering what is happening to the people of Tibet today.