Last weekend I had my uni housemates and husbands over, and decided to show them the ultimate free way to see Stonehenge!
Apparently, the extortionate cost of paying to see the stones up close and enter the visitor centre (which I am told is excellent) is to offset other English heritage properties/sites that make a massive loss due to restoration costs. Nonetheless, this walk takes you through the historic landscape with excellent interpretation along the way.
We started at the Woodhenge carpark - here you get an excellent view of the scale of Durrington Walls - a large circular banked enclosure - and the not-so-impressive Woodhenge. This is basically a set of post holes filled with short pillars of concrete to give an impression of their positioning. In reality, they reckon the wooden posts would have been several metres tall.
Moving on, we crossed a meadow filled with singing skylarks above us, and moved onto the dismantled railway. The route then took us behind the posh officers' houses at the barracks before the Cursus came into view.
This point is marked with an information board, marking the astonishing scale of the earthwork - the end of it can't be seen from this position. It was probably a banked enclosure for ceremonial purposes but we can't be sure - part of the mystery of the place. We crossed the Cursus and several more fields, all with skylarks and sheep, being under the management of the National Trust. We could see the stones in the distance, but the undulations of the land meant it came and went from view several times. No doubt, this was planned to add to the mystery. Arriving at the stones via the Avenue processional route, we were able to get great views without paying a penny! This is thanks to the closure of the old A344, now restored to grass to reconnect the landscape. We returned via some cordoned off (to allow grass to recover) bowl barrows and crossed the Cursus (although we only realised it when we looked to the horizon!) before heading back the way we had come. In the summer, the meadows are full of wildflowers and a range of invertebrates too.
The next day we walked into Salisbury centre via the Avon Valley path - something I had not yet done despite living in the area for 5 years! The start is the usual route either to Old Sarum or to the Stratford Reserve (which was looking very sad having had no management for yet another year), but we carried on along the extensive boardwalk and then into Salisbury itself. A kingfisher was spotted and the first chiffchaffs of the year were practicing their songs. It was a surprisingly easy walk, and didn't take us that long to get into town - something I'll definitely do more of in the future.