Stone Circle

Yesterday we finished off the last six locks at the top of the Caen Hill Flight, stopping for water at the wharf before leaving Devizes behind again.  When we came through this section in the other direction it was very sunny and there was a lot of other traffic.  This time the weather was dull with a bit of drizzle and there was hardly anything else moving.  The few boats we did meet were all at narrow bits or blind corners naturally.

I’d remembered that there were not very many mooring spots on this section, so once we’d gone far enough we kept an eye out for opportunities.  We made a couple of failed attempts to moor at promising looking spots, but gave up when we couldn’t get close enough to the bank.  As we approached the visitor moorings at All Cannings I was surprised to see what looked like an almost big enough gap.  We still find it hard to judge the size of a gap on the bank as we approach, they never look very long.  In fact there was at least six feet to spare – not a tight spot at all.

Today’s plan was to visit Avebury, a brilliant suggestion from Margaret in Bristol.  Once I knew where we were starting from I had a closer look at the map.  It turned out there was Cycling UK route called King Alfred’s Way that went through the nearby village and thence to Avebury.  We’d been warned that there may be limited cafe options at Avebury, so we started by cycling to the village shop.  The village of All Cannings is very pretty with lots of thatched cottages.  We missed the shop on the first run through and ended up at the duck pond, but found it on the way back.

We eventually picked some goodies.  By the time we got to the counter, two local children were meticulously choosing a pounds worth of sweets each, taking even longer than us to choose.  A second member of staff served us while they were still choosing.  On the way out we saw that someone was using the milk dispenser.  He even had his own churn – he told us he was a retired dairy farmer, so he used lots of milk.

Milk being dispensed in to a small metal milk churn. The churn is sitting inside a vending machine.  A sign on the machine shows a hygiene rating of 5 (the best).
Milk Churn in the Dispenser

We set off on the recommended route which initially headed up Tan Hill.  I was pleased to see that we were directed on to a private road with an excellent surface – and no traffic.  The gradient increased a little, but with a short breather towards the top, we had no problem reaching the summit.  As I’d expected, the surface was less good as we started to descend.  I kept the speed down on a wide rough track.  I followed the track around a couple of unexpected corners – the phone on my handlebars was suggesting we should go straight on – and stopped when the track ran out.

By walking a few hundred metres across the field we were able to get back to the mapped line and found a rutted track along a hedge.  We remounted and made good progress for a while until the ruts became too deep to ride reliably (there is a warning about this on the route guide).  We walked for a short section until we reached a stand of trees.  We were on the point of remounting when we noticed a solitary pig enjoying a feed nearby.

A pig feeding at a trough.  A stand of trees stretches away on one side, and an empty field extends to the horizon on the other.
Snout in the Trough

We had to stop occasionally to switch to a better rut, but we were able to continue down the hill to Beckhampton.  As we headed out the other side, we saw two standing stones.  These two are named Adam and Eve, suitable names for our first couple.

Two standing stones in a field.  The nearest one looks as if it is pinched about halfway up with the top half leaning over.  The further one is much larger and squarer, though still irregular.
Adam and Eve

We arrived in Avebury via a footbridge over the River Kennet.  There was no sign of any water under the mass of reeds, a very different river to the one whose flow we pushed against between Reading and Hungerford.

The village of Avebury is tiny and seems to have been dropped on top of the stone circle it is famous for with little regard for the placement of the stones.  The individual stones seem unremarkable, but the sheer number of them and the scale of the site they occupy (it’s the largest stone circle in the world) is hard to get to grips with.

We did a small bit of tandem maintenance before we headed back.  The timing chain had come off when I was out with Dave in Bristol.  This is the chain that connects the two sets of pedals together.  I must have put it back on one tooth out.  When Clare raised the pedals for us to start it kept being a little too high for me. This could not be Clare’s fault – the Proper Method for Tandem Riding makes this plain.  While I was wrangling the chain with pliers a passer-by offered to help.  I declined, saying my main worry was trying to keep my hands clean.  I completed the job with clean hands!

While we were wandering around I spotted that the road I had considered as part of our exit route was marked as closed – perfect, another traffic-free option. We headed off and were pleased to find a very short section of actually closed road with an open section of tarmac just wide enough to cycle along.

This was also at the extreme end of an avenue of stones running through the field parallel to the road.  We stopped for a last look back before we headed back towards the boat.

Avenue of standing stones.  Two lines of standing stones extend to the horizon.    The grass between them is clearly walked more heavily than the rest of the field.
Avenue of Standing Stones

We were nearly back to boat when we spotted the white horse carved into the hillside.  We had glimpsed it from the canal earlier in the month, but got a much clearer view this time.

A white horse carved in to a hillside.  The hill is a long ridge with blue sky above.
Alton Barnes White Horse
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