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Saturday, May 28, 2011

MAKING TRAVEL PLANS: Second Stop: SALISBURY, OLD SARUM, STONEHENGE and AVEBURY

OLD SARUM Iron Age Hill Fort
On my second trip to England in the late '70's I visited an elderly friend who was the last remaining member of a coven in Bournemouth.  I said I was going to visit Stonehenge, and she suggested I go into the inner circle and see what the spirits brought to me.  On my way to Stonehenge I had a stop-over at Salisbury and while waiting at the bus depot, I noticed a sign pointing to an Iron Age Hill fort, Old Sarum, some 4 kilometers down the highway.  It happened that at that time I had been planning a novel with a Celtic theme.  I already have written some of it, a story told to me by a young girl named Olwen who was an acolyte of the Druids, but I wasn't exactly sure of where the story took place. I just knew it was set in the Iron Age somewhere in the south of Britain.

OLD SARUM ( Caer Gwyn, in Olwen's time)  (watercolor painting by me)
What happened next was one of those powerful deja vu moments that you remember forever.  As I walked down the road toward Old Sarum, it became more familiar to me and when I finally arrived at the earth mound and began exploring, I realized that this was exactly the place Olwen had 'told' me about.  This was the setting of my novel, "Dragons in the Sky".  Since then I have made two other trips back to the earth mound, one the following year and another two years ago.  And this year I am returning to revive my research because I have taken that old half-finished novel off the shelf and I'm starting to work on it again.

Here is a description (in Olwen's voice) from "Dragons in the Sky":
West of the muddy river, the downs unfolded into grassy slopes. The meadows were thick with goldenrod and clover. There were farmsteads scattered all along the boundaries of our tuath, fields tilled by the yeomen and seeded with barley and wheat and grazing lands for our herds. The pastures were fed by little springs and the streams flowed into a muddy brown river that separated the pastures from the enclosure of our village. At the edge of the downs were beachwood groves where men hunted deer and wild boars. Beyond this, the Plain stretched out on the horizon.  These were the tribal lands of the Atrebates. No raiders could steal our stock, nor cross our borders, without being sighted from the ramparts of Caer Gwyn’s hill fort.

STONEHENGE
I went to Stonehenge on that first trip and back then you could still stand in the inner circle. What a thrill to be there!  And yes, the 'spirits' did speak to me,  and most strongly, the voice of Olwen.  I've always wanted to make a return visit to Stonehenge, and two years ago I intended to, but a series of mishaps with travel plans caused me to miss going.  So this year I am going back again, to see if I can conjure the spirits of those olden times, and hear Olwen's voice speak to me.
AVEBURY STONE CIRCLE
One place I've never visited is Avebury, the largest stone circle in Britain.  So this year I have planned a visit there and fortunately I have been offered to be tour-guided around all these areas by a local man who often writes for my Travel Thru History ezine.  Keith Kellett lives in Avebury village, and has offered to drive down to Salisbury and escort me to these sites.  I'm just thrilled to be able to visit these amazing historical sites in the company of a local expert! And a big thanks to Keith for offering to chauffeur me around.









Photos of Old Sarum, Stonehenge and Avebury courtesy Wikipedia


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