It seems difficult to remember now, that forty years ago Avebury and its stone circle were almost unheard of.
Only archeologists and hippies in search of some sort of mystical experience ever visited the place.
You could drive into the village, park for free in the little car park, and think it crowded if there were more that a dozen other visitors.
Now things are very different. The National Trust charge an arm and a leg to park in a field on the edge of the village,
and most of the visitors appeared to be more interested in finding ways to keep the kids amused than any kind of mysticism or archeological curiosity.
And there is nothing wrong with that. People relate to the stones in their own ways, and the site is big enough to absorb hundreds of visitors without feeling over-crowded.
In fact it is huge; Iʼd forgotten just how big it is and how impressive the banks and ditches are.
Iʼm sure that on a misty autumn morning it would still be possible to feel somehow in touch with the original builders;
on a busy afternoon in the school holidays, itʼs a bit more of a challenge.
Up until 1988 Avebury Manor led a fairly uneventful life
as the family home of a succession of different owners and tenants,
the most famous being Alexander Keiller the archeologist who dug most of the site, re-erected the stones,
and is responsible for the concrete pillars marking the missing ones.
Then it was bought by a chap named Ken King, who tried to turn it into an ‘Elizabethan Experience’,
destroying the garden and causing much local controversy.
He went bankrupt in December 1990 and the manor was bought by the National Trust who rented it out for the next twenty years.
In 2011 the manor was subject to an extensive, but slightly less controversial, themed makeover by the Trust and the BBC.
It would be wrong of me to comment, as it was far too nice a day to spend time indoors at the time of my recent visit.
Most of these photos date from a previous visit in 1996.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the National Trustʼs official site detailed below.
Most of the real villagers departed long ago to nearby Avebury Trusloe,
either as a result of the deliberate demolition of the cottages within the circle by Alexander Keiller (and in the early days by the National Trust),
or when the remaining properties became far to 'desirable' for local people.
Nowadays there is a rash of gift shops in what used to be private houses, but otherwise little has changed from forty years ago.