A ewe crops the grass at Avebury on the Autumnal Equinox, oblivious to the celestial significance.
I had houseguests this past week, and so of course I drove them to Avebury and Stonehenge. This time we stopped in Hungerford, where we browsed in some of the antique shops, looking for old stuff, before heading out the A4 to see the really old stuff.
When we neared the carpark at Avebury, we saw a sign that said the carpark was full. I didn't expect this; I've never been unable to find a parking space in the large National Trust carpark there. As we drove around, hoping to find an unoccupied corner to park in, an older gentleman stopped us, a National Trust volunteer. I asked him what was going on.
"It's the Autumnal Equinox," he told us. "All the pagans, druids, and goths are here."
Crap. I just wanted to show my houseguests the rocks, not goth out with the druid drumbeat.
We spent some time idling while the man told us about off-road parking a ways off, "a quarter hour walk," he promised. I knew better. Brits are famous for underhandedly underestimating distances. I've gone off on wild goose chases before, searching for Robin Hood's sycamore tree on Hadrian's Wall for an hour after being told it was just over the hill. They call 20 mile hikes "walks" or even more deceptively, "rambles". So I didn't want to subject my guests to a long walk when we still had to make it to Stonehenge before sundown.
Fortunately the druids, who I'd dissed, were a forgiving lot and one of them pulled out just as I was about to give up on the Autumnal Equinox experience at Avebury. I slid my car into the space and we set out to tour the National Trust manor house (a real treat since its refurbishment) and take a peek at the stone circle.
As always, a flock of sheep were grooming the grass, keeping it trim while offering up copious amounts of fertilizer. I've become adept at dodging sheep droppings, but my guests were a little fazed. Thank goodness we didn't have to suffer that "quarter hour walk"; I'm sure our soles wouldn't have survived, despite pagan interference.
When I was at Avebury earlier in the summer the lambs were still hovering around their mums. But there seemed to be only lone ewes now, like this one munching on autumnal grass. The lambs are probably at Waitrose by now, sadly.
Next time I go to see ancient stone circles I'll check the calender first. Equinoxes and solstices are no time for non-pagans to venture out to sacred sites, I've decided.