This is Erin blogging from Morgan's account, as mine still thinks I'm trying to hack into it as someone from England. Clearly I don't take enough vacations for it to recognize this and accept it. :)
Anyways, today was jam-packed with new places, English culture, and of course history. We took a tour with a company named Mad Max Tours, which lasted nearly all day. Our driver/guide was John, and he was full of information, fun facts and jokes too. As we left the city of Bath around 8:30 this morning, John filled us in about the landscape we were seeing around the town. Nearly every building is built with limestone, as it sits on a bed of it. This gives the whole city a pretty yellow tint/glow. As we moved into the Downs area, the landscape changed quickly. We could see almost exactly where the switch went from limestone to a chalky pale soil that looked white. We passed a clay hill, which is apparently a 4,000 year old burial site and a current UFO landing and spotting hot spot (if you believe in that sort of thing).
Our first stop was really exciting and a crowd favorite as it was flooded with people, even so early in the morning. It was the historic Stonehenge. This stone circle is nearly 5,000 years old! It's still not clear what exactly it was used for, but it seems to have been used at least in some way for astrology purposes. It also may have been used for religious purposes or rituals of some kind, although nothing is absolute. The way in which the top cross stones are held to the base stones was very smartly designed. It resembles woodworking techniques, obviously making it very sturdy as it's stood this long. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.
Next, we stopped at Avebury. These Saxon stones looked similar to Stonehenge, although there were far more of them and they were more spread out. These stones had actually been buried in the ground and were resurrected in the 1920s and placed above ground in the position they are now. Some were not put underground back in the day, and they were broken down and used as stone for buildings in the town, which can still be seen today. According to John, there are still about 40 stones buried, but they are being left alone as they will be safe and unharmed underground. Again the use of this area is unknown, but the most likely use was something related to fertility, because some of the stones resembled fertility symbols.
We then made our way to Lacock Abbey in the town of Lacock. This was a originally a church, but then was inhabited by a family for many years before being turned over to the Royal Trust. A fun fact about this abbey is that in 1837, the first negative of a picture to ever be taken was photographed by a man named Talbot. He chose his subject to be the windows above one of the doorway arches of the abbey. While in Lacock, we took a short tour of the town, where John enlightened us with a lot of information once again. A few things that stood out to me were that there were no electrical wires or TV antennas visible. This is because the wires are buried and the antennas are inside the homes, making the town more likely to be filmed. The technique apparently works, as a few Harry Potter scenes were filmed in the abbey and around town. Although not unique to just this town, another interesting aspect is that if a town has a tannery, it will always be on the east side of town. Since winds are usually westerly, this blows the smell out of town instead of directly into the noses of the people in town.
The final stop of the day was in a tiny town called Castle Combe. It consists of one main street and about 50 homes. Despite its size, it has been named the prettiest village in England, and I agree that it's very beautiful. Since it's so gorgeous, it is also a hot spot for movie filming. The original Dr. Doolittle and War Horse were filmed there. So after exploring the town briefly, we made our way back to Bath, but of course not without the most narrow and winding roads I've ever been on. It's a common occurrence on this trip.
Today was a great sightseeing and informational day. Only a few more of these left, and then we are jumping on a plane and heading back to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Good bye for now!!