Well, I did Avebury to Stonehenge, yesterday (27th) and today. Mixed fortunes, but interesting....
An hour late reaching Swindon; thank you GWR, the claim form is in the post, meaning it was 1140 by the time I reached Avebury, when it should have been 1040. Still Avebury always a delight, free to wander among the stones and the village is in harmony with a site 5000 years older.
I left down the Stone Avenue and then round a field edge till I almost reached Silbury Hill. Then across the road and up to West Kennet Long Barrow, followed by a short trespass directly southward along the edge of a field, over a dilapidated barb-wire fence, easy to press down, and onto a long bridleway up to the downs. Bridleway is what the map said, but anyone who rides a horse will need a good steelechaser. Big swinging double gates were all padlocked and irritating to climb with muddy slippery boots.
Finally reaching the top and the Wansdyke. Did Arthur's retreating Briton's build it? Or the Saxons? Either way, it's ancient and massive. But the barrows and circles were already 3500 years old when it was built. Over the top of the downs. There used to be a trig point here, at 294m, but only the plinth is left. And some rubble. Beyond, down past Rybury - ramparts from the Bronze or early Iron age in a ring round the hill top, all in beautifully soft light.
Past Canning's Cross Farm 'Site of the earliest Iron Age Village, furthest extent of the Viking Invasion of 1010 and site of the the original Mooonraker's Pond, 1790 (what the hell is that?).' Over the Kennet and Avon Canal, where a large canvas notice offered me the opportunity to 'Put Loved Ones' ashes in a new long barrow'. Do passing walkers really take a fancy to this idea? Or bargemen?
After this it deteriorated.... through All Cannings, I was forced onto the tarmac and forced further west than I wanted, because I could only find a hotel to book in Devizes. I marched along thinking up rude rhymes for Devizes. Through Etchilhampton and Stert which rhymes with pert and has magical thatched cottages. Beyond Stert got lost trying to find pathways to Devizes, ending up doing a southward arc around the town, adding a mile..
This morning I caught taxi back to Stert taking no chances, and picked up the Wessex Ridgeway south to Urchfont and up Urchfont Hill to the range perimeter road. From here, east till I came to the top of Redhorn Hill. Here the byway signs point east and west and a tiny little sign acknowledges that you can go south too, straight through the ranges, so long as red flags aren't flying. They weren't and the barriers were all open. So, south I went, starting from 060550. It's a strange ungrazed landscape of long dry grass, scattered hawthorn and undulating ridges. Mist in the valley bottoms. Every hundred yards there, a sign to remind you, lest you've forgotten, not to stray from the track and not to touch military debris. 'It may explode and kill you'. I saw none. Six miles down I did find the Old Bustard Hotel, but it has been taken over by a religious group, whose notice informed me that god loved me. Maybe so, but His love no longer extended to selling me a pint.
Instead I turned east for Larkhill. My feet hurt; too many of the tracks, including the range road, had been hard surfaced.
My old map, which I must replace, showed a path down through the middle of Larkhill camp, but this I failed to reach, instead being forced by high fences onto the main road at 121444. There followed a vile quarter mile, balancing on the roadside bank whilst traffic hurtled past. Frequent drainage ditches had to be jumped. It was the most horrible section of any walk for a very long time. Once in Larkhill I found a worn out wooden fingerpost that said 'Stonehenge 1.5 miles' and thought all problems were over as I wandered down a road that turned to a track. Hippies' vans and buses were parked. Also a Range Rover with a posh caravan. A small dog flew at me and it's owner, more hipster than hippy iaimed a kick at it. 'Sorry' he said. I wasn't sure if this was to me or the dog, which hadn't looked a very serious threat.
The Stones appeared on the horizon and grew larger, till I reached the road up to them. Buses ply up and down this, between the Stones and the Visitor Centre 1.5 miles West. An officious man at the entry demanded my ticket. I pointed out that I'd walked from Avebury and that this didn't involve passing his visitor centre, but that I'd happily pay him. This didn't work. He insisted that he couldn't take money and that I should get his bus to the visitor centre, buy a ticket, then catch another bus back. I couldn't see much point to that and said I'd look from outside.
Having frittered away time taking photos, I then made a really bad mistake. Walking to Amesbury, as I'd intended, involved more road and, as I, my feet hurt from too much hard surface. Amesbury has a good bus service. The alternative was to walk down a nice grass path to the visitor centre and catch a bus there. Reaching it I found traveline had provided the wrong timetable and there wasn't one for an hour. This didn't bother me much.... the problem was a huge crowd turned up and the bus driver insisted on prioritising those with returns. So, despite the hour's wait, I failed to board the bus.
Instead, I found two other strays --- Indonesians who'd dawdled on their way to the car park and had been left behind by their 'Stonehenge and Bath' tour bus and caught a taxi down to Salisbury.
So, some advice for anyone who cares to do this route --- and it does have lots of interest, especially if ancient history appeals. DO IT IN REVERSE. You'll start from the visitor centre and have a ticket if you really want to joint the horde round the stones, you won't have the sun in your eyes for 6 miles down the range road, and you'll end up in Avebury, which is a much nice place to end up!