2021 – a year in pictures


Part 3 – from July to September

Welcome to the third part of Oldbury Tours’ year in photographs, a pictorial journey through the months of a second COVID struck year.

Unsurprisingly the summer months are usually our busiest; tourists fly in from all over the world to enjoy the spectacular landscapes and countless historic and prehistoric sites of the south west of England. But last year was different of course.

With far fewer tours to organise than usual and an easing of lockdown I decided it would be good to extend my knowledge and visit some places a little further from my home territory of Wiltshire. Some of these I had never visited before, others I wanted to get to know more intimately than time had previously allowed.

The sites I visited were all in the south west of England and Wales and span the ages from the Neolithic of 4000BC, through the middle ages and up to the present day. They are all significant places with fascinating histories, places steeped in meaning and atmosphere. They are places of spiritual weight that meant a huge amount to the people that constructed them. Most present something of the belief systems of their constructors or of their relationship with Nature, the more remote they are from us in time the more enigmatic they become. Many of the oldest are associated with legends and myths, attempts by more modern people to give meaning to their mystery.

Through the following photographs I hope you enjoy ‘visiting’ these wonderful places as much as I did.

At this point I must say a big thank you to Wilshire Council whose grants throughout the Covid period have enabled Oldbury Tours to keep going and remain optimistic that soon our tours will be running in a more sustainable pattern.

I’m always looking to increase the scope of our tours and one expanding interest I have is into the Saxons of Wessex. So July 1st saw me at the heart of their kingdom, Winchester, and that is where we start now.

The towering nave of Winchester Cathedral is as impressive as any in the UK
Many Saxon kings were buried at the two minsters of Winchester, their bones now lying in medieval wooden mortuary chests high above the choir. Included are those of Cynegils and Cenwahl from the 7th century and Alfred the Great’s father and grandfather, Aethelwulf and Ecgbert
Nearer home a crop circle appeared in a wheat field owned by The Gourmet Goat Farmers of Avebury. They welcomed visitors and asked for a donation to Wiltshire Mind Charity
Viewed from the Ridgeway the crop circle can be seen just outside the massive bank of Avebury’s henge
With the summer at its height common lizards can be found basking in the sun along Wiltshire’s Ridgeway path – a national trail that follows the chalk ridge for over seventy miles
Next, a visit to the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire, a collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments
‘The Whispering Knights’ is how this Neolithic burial chamber is known. The stones huddle together allegedly to plot against the king, or so legend has it
A few hundred metres away is this Bronze Age stone circle known as ‘The King’s Men’.
And so down to Cornwall to see more prehistoric sites. But first I paid a first visit to the Eden project, a modern day celebration of Nature, on a beautiful July day
The ditch and bank protecting Castle Dore is still impressive…
…and the Iron Age hillfort, associated in legend with Tristan and Isolde, has wonderful views.
A trip to Bodmin Moor and a greeting from some belted Galloway cattle, the youngster on the right being particularly eye-catching
There are no less than three stone circles in a line up here on the moor. Known as the Hurlers, legend has it that the stones were once men playing a local game on a Sunday who were turned to stone as a result
As is usually the case, the natural setting chosen for these monuments was evidently all important
Nearby the Cheeswring stone stacks are awe-inspiring. Natural rock formations these extraordinary features may well have inspired the megalithic builders of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age
It is hard to comprehend that these are actually natural…
… and I’m sure our ancestors felt the same. On top of one of the stacks these ‘cup marks’ as they are known date from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age and hint at a connection felt between the people and the site
10 minutes away by car Neolithic man produced his own improbable balancing act. One of Cornwall’s best preserved tombs, 5,800 year old Trethevy Quoit, whose capstone is pierced near it’s up tilted end, is a joy for me to see for the first time
Back within day-tour reach for Oldbury Tours, Glastonbury Abbey has a wonderful collection of legend and history. The Lady Chapel seen here stands on the site of the earliest church which dated from about 700. Popular belief in the medieval period was that this was the earliest Christian site in Britain established by followers of Christ in the 1st century AD
Here, medieval monks claimed to have found the graves of Arthur and Guinevere. Glastonbury is more reliably known to be the final resting place of the Saxon King Edgar the Peaceful (959 – 975) and Edmund Ironside, briefly a king in 1016
Back on my home patch at Avebury the National Trust and English Heritage have provided terrific new information panels at all my favourite sites, including West Kennet Long Barrow…..
…a long barrow it certainly is!…
…and Silbury Hill
It’s hard to imagine this without the grass but it was once a pure white chalk pyramid. You are not allowed to climb Silbury Hill but nevertheless some people have (top left) and they do help give a scale in this photo
At the Stonehenge Visitor Centre are these full size representations of how the Neolithic houses excavated at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge would have looked in 4500BC, With few tourists around these reproductions were also given a good tidy up.
Back ‘on the road’ again we arrived at Corfe by steam train. The town’s magnificent Norman castle can be seen on the hill behind
The impressive ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset…
…it was here, before the castle was built, that the Saxon king Edward the Martyr was killed in 978, allegedly on the orders of his stepmother
And on to Manorbier in Pembrokeshire to visit another Neolithic burial chamber or Portal Dolmen as they are known
Back in Wiltshire, a few tours did happen. A family group enjoys West Kennet Long Barrow…
…some work colleagues pose in front of the Devil’s Chair, Avebury…
and a group of students enjoy perfect weather at Stonehenge
The stones look stunning on a late August evening.