People (including me) call it ‘The Stonehenge Exhibition’, but the display at the British Museum is not on Stonehenge, but about the world in which it was created. I visited it with my London friend, Mary, last Friday. (My previous post is on the Jubilee-riddled London I encountered then.)
Mary had visited the very comprehensive exhibition twice before, so went ahead to pay more attention to later exhibits. I learned from this and did not spend ages on each item, flitting somewhat. My eye – and particularly my camera – was disproportionately attracted to shiny objects. As ever, this is just a small selection of photos I took.
I was thrilled to find this. The Sweet Track, named after the person who found it when ditch cleaning in 1970, is buried on the Avalon Marshes, near to my home. It has been dated by dendrochronology to precisely 3807-3806 BC, and is preserved by the peat bogs. I have seen reproductions and imaginary pictures of it, but never a section of the real thing. I could find no suggestion that this was not part of the original …
This exhibit, using a moving light show, showed both the structure and the finished object (see header picture) of the oxen pulling the cart and cart itself. The original, excavated in Germany, was lifted as a single object to preserve the archaeological evidence.
These tiny gold pins, almost invisible to the naked eye, were attached to a dagger pommel, using techniques seen in Brittany and Mycenaean Greece.
A final comment at the end of the exhibition, which is on until 17th July 2022:
(This article explains a little more to the background to her remark. “[A 1967] article surveyed the discussion of Stonehenge as an observatory: she believed that it was not, that its significance was ritualistic and religious, and that attempts to see it as a scientific construct were as much a product of the present time as the ideas of other ages about Stonehenge were of theirs.”)
I wasn’t planning to visit The Newt in Somerset again this month, but the meet-up rules had been relaxed, and I was due to pass over my previous camera to my bridge partner, Daphne. It had been she who had told me about The Newt when it opened in 2019, but my one planned visit there in August had been thwarted by bad weather (which led to my London friend Mary and I going to the nearby Haynes International Motor Museum instead).
Daphne and I had not seen each other since 5th March, the last bridge club meeting before my Morocco trip. Greeting each other with a socially distanced hug, we exchanged carrier bags via the boot of my car, and started up the entrance path.
The Newt is now charging again, but Daphne and I were already members, so we were able to bypass the ticket building to get in.
Near the top of the path to the ‘Threshing Barn’, it was sad to see that a magnificent beech tree was being removed. It was diseased on the inside apparently.
There is still a theoretical one-way system, and we were channelled through the barn.
Along withe the charges have been restored the gift shop, and the ability to buy beverages and ice-cream.
We partook of neither, and indeed our intention was to avoid the most frequented parts of the gardens. We turned off left therefore to the Marl Pit and the Marl Pit Copse.
On a day that was to become very hot indeed, it was wonderfully fresh, with the sunlight trickling down through the trees. I hadn’t explored this area on my two previous visits.
We continued into the deer park with no real expectation of seeing any deer, but we did just get a glimpse.
We went on to the walkway to Museum of Gardening, itself closed of course. In any case I’m told you must allow at least two hours to do the museum justice. It has a refreshment area to keep you going.
From the museum, we walked to the end of the grounds of the Newt, though beyond is still part of the whole estate. I do not recall this dovecot (if that is what it is) beyond the boundary being there in January. It is built in the same style, stone and roofing as the rest of the new build at the Newt.
We ambled back. (Ambling is now allowed as ‘The Rules’ no longer require that you be outdoors only for essential shopping, and exercise.)
Returned from the Deer Park, we ventured a little into the more crowded ‘pretty’ areas, but did not plunge in.
Finally there was the ‘Woodland Walks and Mound ‘ area, which I had not seen on previous visits.
We climbed The Mound, of which I forgot to take a photo. It’s basically an upside-down pudding bowl with a gentle spiral path to get to the top.
It was time to go – once I had bought my Newt in Somerset cyder (sic) – leaving by the one way system exit, which meant passing the diseased beech on its other side. It had lost a few more branches, which were being removed one by one. No ‘Timber….!!!!’ was to follow i was told when I asked. It might have been worth staying to watch if so!
Daphne and I had had much digital and telephone contact in the twelve weeks since we had seen each other, but there is nothing like actually being with a friend and together doing something you both like. And now restrictions are to be relaxed further as from tomorrow, another bridge friend is immediately taking advantage of that and has invited three of us round to her garden, not of course for bridge – which would not be within guidelines, sensible, or practical – but for a good old chinwag, socially distanced of course. We will even each take our own beverages.
A few days ago, when the weather wasn’t as bitterly cold as it is now, a London friend came to visit me, and among other things we had a lovely walk on Shapwick Heath, part of the Avalon Marshes, also known as the Somerset Levels. The whole area has been restored for wildlife after a century and more of being worked for peat. Natural England, the RSPB, and the Somerset Wildlife Trust each manages part of the Marshes. The visitor is rarely aware of who owns and manages what, and the bodies work together as part of the Avalon Marshes Partnership.
Another feature of the place is the existence of the Sweet Track, built by people living in the area in 3807 BC or 3806 BC. How so precisely dated? By the science of dendrochronology, reading the tree rings of this wood beautifully preserved by the acidic bogs.
We walked for about two miles each way along the River Brue, straightened and canalised as part of the draining of the Levels centuries ago. To our left was the river, to the right marshland.
We walked as far as, and examined as best we could, a new hide being built,
opposite this view beyond the Brue
before turning back and along a track
to an old one, called Noah’s Hide. We stayed there for quite a while, enjoying big landscape views and smaller more intimate sights, bordering on voyeurism once or twice.
We were disappointed that no pair was formed from the three Great crested grebes we saw. Their courtship dance is wonderful to see, as they bow and weave in perfect mirrored harmony on the water.
When it was time to return to the car and home, we congratulated ourselves on the weather which had certainly been better than forecast, and felt that the exercise we had done amply justified eating the Eccles cakes we had bought from Burns the Bread earlier on in the day.