29 September 2017

Tree Flowers: September 2017: Red Horse Chestnut

Ths is a very variable hybrid between Common Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia). It varies in the quality of the flowers, but more importantly can suffer from a genetic abnormality that can cause the branches to swell create far too many buds and can lead to the death of the tree.

The one photographed has been in place for many years in between a main road and a road that leads to the driveways of the houses on the left. Apart from keeping it away from the telephone wires, I doubt much attention has been paid to it since planting.

The flowers are interesting, but they don't last long. While they are around, they appear on upright panicales that grow up to 20cm in length. The flowers vary between pink to deep red.

There are a few cultivars around, such as the French 'Briotti', a compact, but strong growing tree, and 'Plantierensis' which is similar to the common horse chestnut. I'm unaware of any real use for these trees, after the flowers are gone there's not much interest. Before I sign off, let's have a look at the flowers:

Flowers on the panicle.

A group of stacked photos to show an individual flower.

25 September 2017

Book Review: Exploring Avebury by Steve Marshall

I've always wanted to learn more about Avebury stone circle, a site that I've visited a few times and these days is less than 20 minutes away by car. However, until now I hadn't found a book that made learning about the more than 200 stones accessible and enjoyable. Now, I've found that book!

This book is packed full with photographs and importantly maps - lots of lovely maps - that are the key to making such an impressive site accessible on the written page. Many books rely on description, but unless you're as familiar with a site as the author, this often doesn't work.

Sites like Avebury are complex and seem to be a piece of a greater whole, also they were made within the environment of the group of people that lived in the area over the time it took to create these impressive wonders. It's all about connection. Connection to place and people.

With that said, I think someone who has never visited the site could read this book and walk away passionate about all the information learned about the stone circle and the 10 square miles around this site. That's the genius of this book, the words provide the detail while the amazing photographs, diagrams and maps help provide the context, put together this package creates an immersive book.

Other sites include West Kennet Long Barrow, which has a diagram numbering each stone and then numbered photographs of most of the stones. Also, Silbury Hill receives a detailed account including construction and why it is the shape it is, along with, of course, illuminating photographs throughout the seasons.

I am very taken with this book (if you hadn't guessed), but it doesn't end here. The author's years of research were too much to contained within a book and has provided a website for anyone to use: Exploring Avebury - this is a sensible move as there is still much research in and around Avebury, so additional information will be added by the author as it comes available.

I wish more books were as detailed, yet as accessible as this book. For anyone interested in Avebury or this exciting period of time, then it won't disappoint.

18 September 2017

Alton Barnes White Horse

LocationAlton Barnes, Wiltshire, UK
OS Grid RefSU10676373
CoordinatesLatitude: 51.372529N Longitude: 1.848101W

Alton Barnes White Horse was cut in 1812 on Milk Hill, which beats Tan Hill by one metre to be the highest point in Wiltshire at 294 metres above sea level.

The hill figure was designed by John Thorne, who was an inn sign painter, under commission of Robert Pike, a local farmer. John Thorne was supposed to cut the horse too, but ran off with his advance money (£20) and left John Harvey, a local resident, to cut the horse. Thorne was later hanged for a series of crimes.

This must be one of the best known white horse's of Wiltshire, not only because it is easily seen from the Devizes Road, but also because the fields below often feature crop circles, which bring in people from around the world. The horse is often featured in the photographs and documentaries about crop circles.
The white horse with the Milk Hill Bowl Barrow at the top of the hill above the horse.
As a side note: In nearby Alton Priors is a stone that has been carved with a replica of the Alton Barnes white horse, signed PRS 1995.

The horse is quite a way from the car park (detail below). It can be reached over the downs and through some gates. I don't think it would be suitable for push chairs or standard wheelchairs.

There is a small car park up the hill and to the right of the horse, called Pewsey Downs Car Park, then cross the road andfollow the trail. I haven't been able to find the name of this road, the OS Grid reference is SU11586380. The satellite view below shows the car park:

Street View

See my Alton Barnes White Horse page on Megalithic.com for lots of links and maps and nearby sites, click here.

15 September 2017

Book Review: Red Squirrels by Tom Tew and Niall Benvie

I first read this a few years ago, but it's been sat, unloved, on the book shelf ever since. As we were going to Brownsea Island (one of the few places to see red squirrels in Britain these days), I packed it in the car.

I didn't actually expect to read it, perhaps just thumb through it if I had the time. But as I began to thumb through it, I started to be pulled into the book and read it properly.

I'm really glad I did. The book is aimed at a general reader that's interested in the red squirrel. There are lots of great photographs and quite simple text - but this works to the book's advantage. Being only 48 pages long, the text is well written and at the right level.

The book provides an Introduction to Red Squirrels, followed by Historical Distribution and Abundance, Biology and Ecology, Conservation, and Red Squirrel Facts.

Without this book I would never have thought of looking for squirrel dreys (a nest for squirrels) and therefore wouldn't have enjoyed spending time photographing them.

The photographs show squirrels throughout the year in wild and domestic environments - like the photo of the squirrel sharing a bowl of food with a pheasant!

If you have any interest in the red squirrel, then this is the book to start with. It certainly provided me with enough information to be going on with and some enthusiasm to look further into red squirrels when I have the time.

11 September 2017

Box Rock Circus

LocationBox, Wiltshire, UK
OS Grid RefST823687
Coordinates51.417036N Longitude: 2.255916W

This modern stone circle, completed in 2012 and officially opened by Prof. Iain Stewart in May 2013, is an installation of different rock types and sculptures. It was built as a learning tool to tell the story of the ancient stories of the rocks, minerals, and fossils.

To this end, there is an information board (below), a stone that provides opportunities for fossil rubbings (casts of real fossils), and two sets of dinosaur footprints that allow the visitor to decide if the big dinosaur was chasing the little dinosaur, or just had a baby in tow.

This site is a wonderful addition to the stone circles of Wiltshire, and this must have been in mind when a circle was decided upon.

A closer look at the stones and sculptures.

For more information see the following website.
There is also an Earth Geocache at the site, information here.

Google Map

There is very good access to this site. A car park is on site, near the end of Valens Terrace (off the High Street), and the grass is flat and level. Between the car park and the stone circle is a picnic bench.

See my Box Rock Circus page on Megalithic.com for lots of links and maps and nearby sites, click here.

08 September 2017


For quite a few years now I've used a site called Megalithic.co.uk. It is a website that crowdsources (although it was around before the term was coined in 2005) information about ancient sites around the world. The aim of the site is to document these sites in the hope that this will provide publicity and protection from development and agriculture, especially for little known sites.
I really liked the stamp Andy (Founder and Editor-in-Chief) had put on the envelope:
Maiden Castle hillfort, Dorset, 400BC
The site types range from ancient crosses and artificial mounds to burial chambers and hill figures to marker stones and stone circles.

While I've been using the site for years to find sites and learn about them, I didn't start contributing my images and adding sites to the website until June this year. That's when I decided to become a member.

For my £10 a year I get:

  • full length Satnav / GPS downloads for the sites, 
  • 20% discount at their online shop, 
  • full voting rights as a member of the society, import/export of logs, 
  • removal of ads (I have to admit, I never knew there were ads on the site due to Adblock) 
  • access to a members' only discussion forum
  • a free download on the iPhone / Android app. I tried this on Android and it's pretty pants and crashes a lot. (No development has been done to the Android app for nearly a year at this point and, sadly, the developer didn't seem interested when I emailed him.)
  • a very cool pack of Megalith Playing Cards. Which I think are really interesting and a great addition to the membership pack.

I really enjoy reading the entries on the site and checking out all parts of the forum. You don't need to become a paying member to use the site - or even need to create a free account. There's also a free newsletter that you can sign up to.

It's certainly a site I use when looking for day trip material and has introduced me to a whole host of new places that I never knew existed.

You may have seen a few posts that I've published to this blog, which are versions of the pages I've uploaded to the Megalithic site, these are tagged with the 'Megalithic' label, if you wanted to check them out. It's worth checking out this site as there are bound to be entries in your country - and if not, please start adding them!

04 September 2017

Langford, Brough and Glebe Farm sites on the A46

LocationBrough, Nottinghamshire, UK
OS Grid RefSK833584
CoordinatesLatitude: 53.116285N Longitude: 0.756878W

This is a collection of previously unknown sites that were discovered during construction work along the A46 for the Newark to Lincoln Improvement Scheme, Nottinghamshire. The excavations were sponsored by the Highways Agency and after work completed an information board was sited at the northbound Brough Bypass layby, which I have used for the OS grid reference.

A summary of the information board:

At Langford, pits and gullies were found that contained Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery (2400 - 2000 BC). Additionally a ring ditch cemetery was found near Langford Hall. This contained cremation burials of Middle Bronze Age (c. 1700 - 1500 BC). 8 cremation urns were found, 3 enclosed by the ring ditch and 5 outside of the enclosure.

The line of the bypass at Brough was marked out around 100 BC by fields that were defined by ditches. These were laid out following a east-west/north-south alignment. It is thought that the larger ring gullies may represent roundhouse foundations, while the smaller rung gullies may have provided drainage for haystack stands. The pottery here shows that this site was in use until 1 AD, but was then abandoned.

Glebe Farm
An Early Bronze Age cremation cemetery aged between 2000 - 1700 BC was found to comprise of cremation burials in urns which were set inside an oval ditched enclosure.

Further south on the A46 similar excavations were completed during construction work near Stragglethorpe. You may wish you view/read about that site too.

At the site of the information board are 2 benches to sit at. There is a slight incline to the board, which may not be accessible for wheelchair users, especially in summer when the grass is long. The street view will give you a better idea of accessibility.

Street View

The wild flowers seem to be left alone at the site with some ragwort and lots of mallow, as seen below:

See my Langford, Brough and Glebe Farm sites on the A46 page on Megalithic.com for lots of links and maps and nearby sites, click here.

01 September 2017

10 Years in Wiltshire

Today marks the 10th anniversary of me moving to Wiltshire. It all began when I was studying online for an AS in Business Studies and asked on the forum for a study buddy. A certain lass from Wiltshire, who goes by the name of Lucy, replied and we started emailing each other.
Lucy and myself in Bruges, 2012.

At first it was just a study relationship, but this became friendship and we'd video chat on MSN Messenger (remember that!?). March 2007 was my first visit to Wiltshire and after a few visits of me to Lucy and Lucy to me in North Lincolnshire, we decided it was time to move things along. On the 1st September 2007, I made the 200 mile trip from North Lincolnshire to Wiltshire to move in with Lucy at her parent's house.

We found our first place in Chippenham and moved there in October that year. Such a short time of chatting via email to living with each other made for a steep learning curve and the first year of living together was pretty tough. But so are we! After 2 years we moved to Melksham, which we bought with a mortgage and then last year we moved to Calne.

For me, the move to Wiltshire was difficult and it's only in the last year that I've felt that Wiltshire is now my home.

In some ways the last 10 years has gone by so quickly. But in others, I can feel the passage of time.

My son investigating a bee orchid, 2017.
Now that Wiltshire lass is my wife and we have a son who's now over 2 years old and, even with my chronic illness, life is great. I'm really happy I made such a life changing decision and get to spend every day with my best friend, the love of my life. Who knew that first email, that first phone call, that first visit, would lead to a totally different life than I had lived previously.

Here are some of the photos I took on my first visit to Wiltshire:
Silbury Hill, 2007

Cherhill, White Horse and Monument, 2007

West Kennet Long Barrow, 2007

Stonehenge, 2007