Monday, August 21, 2006

Crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle

The title of this post is a total lie - when I got to the bike hire place, I found it was cheaper to go on a bus tour than hire a bike. When I considered that the bikes had no locks, no baskets and no carry racks and observed that the sky was a rather ominous gray colour, it became a bit of a no-brainer. So on the bus I climbed and out I went to Stonehenge (

On the trip out, the guide pointed out a number of burial mounds. I'd have thought they were just leftover earthworks from dams, that's what an Aussie country upbringing does for you. We arrive at Stonehenge, which is about 100m away from three major highways. I am not sure whether to laugh or spin out. During the tour, the guide sets out all the theories about the why and how of Stonehenge's construction, including the theory that the stones were levitated into place by Atlanteans.

Way I figure it, the simple fact that the thing exists is magic enough for me. I walk around it twice and get some great photos - the passing traffic is not as intrusive as I expected. On the verge of the road, a small group of tight bastards try to get photos without stumping up the admission fee. Inside the fence, the tour guide pulls out two dowsing rods and gives us a basic demo of where the leylines are around the Henge. We must look a bit sceptical because he offers us a turn. I accept. Now, an explanation. The rods are two brass right angles, sort of like two largish Allen keys. To hold them, I curl my fingers around until they are nearly touching the heels of my hands (sort of like a Lego person) and the guide sits the short end of the rod down inside my palm. I can't move the things voluntarily without dropping them - the short ends are wedged against my palms and the long ends are balanced (precariously) across my fingers. I walk to and fro across the leyline, and the rods dutifully move in and out. It is a bit freaky, because I know that I'm not doing a darned thing but the rods are moving quite definitely in and out as I move around. Everyone else has to have a turn and we get quite an audience, despite the pouring rain.

Mystical experience over, we are dropped back at the Cathedral. I go in to see the Magna Carta and the frieze, which I missed because the tower tour went over time. It stops raining.

My tour includes a free bus trip to Old Sarum, a ruined castle just out of town ( As the weather has cleared up, I catch a bus. By the time I get to the ruins, it is raining again. I enjoy the ruins anyway, it is quite atmospheric out there - a bit creepy to think that these people built a massive castle, a cathedral and a whole township, and now there's nothing left except some walls, a mound and the latrine pits (can't think why no-one wanted to pinch the stone from them!). Rabbit holes dot the sides of the defensive earthworks and the locals walk their dogs across the ruins of the Cathedral. Old Sarum is apparently on the same leyline as Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral - unfortunately, I don't have the wherewithal to do any more dowsing.

I contemplate catching the bus back and trying to take in a museum, but it's just too hard - I walk back to the B&B to collect my things, then on to the station to catch a train to Penzance!


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