Crop Circles and Castles, Oh My!

13 03 2011

I’d only heard of Old Sarum through DAOC.  It was the name of the village our guild house was in, situated in Rilan.  So naturally when I began planning this trip and I saw there was a place called Old Sarum just south of Stonehenge, I had to see if it was worth a visit.  And oh my.  Old Sarum is a fort, a castle, a massive beast on the landscape of Wiltshire county.

As we approached the area, Glenn commented on the massive hill on the horizon.  I told him the primarily man-made hill was our destination and he questioned me – man-made?  Yes, the henge was dug out and the earth was dumped onto the hill, creating the massive structure as it stands today.

Glenn’s primary interest here was not of the castle but rather of the potential ability to witness a crop circle.  Wiltshire county could easily be called the crop circle capital of Britain, if not the world, and Glenn was anxious to see one.  It didn’t really matter that it wasn’t yet crop circle “season”, he was certain the aliens would leave one just for him.  The girls took turns messing with him, asking intermittently “Is that a crop circle?” and he would slow down and take his eyes off of the busy roadway to check.  After enough of my panicked screams, he instead put us all on high alert for watching each side of the motorway for a mystical circle.  There weren’t any.  But I was hopeful that one which appeared late in the season of 2010 at the foot of Old Sarum would still be visible, just to make him happy.  It wasn’t.

Historically speaking, Old Sarum is one of the oldest inhabited properties still standing in Britain.  It started out as a neolithical fortress around 3000 BCE, on the river Avon.  The Romans set up shop here in the earliest years of their British conquerings, and later the Saxon kings called it home.  The Wessex leaders and Danes also added to its fortification and you can see each level of strengthening when you examine the walls and structures there.  The modern walls were constructed around 1000 CE during the Norman invasion.

William the Conqueror was one of the first “English” kings to set up domain here and after further fortification, it became the Plantagenet castle home.  That was until King Henry II decided instead to use it as a prison for his not so beloved wife, Eleanor.  She was imprisoned here for fifteen years.

Much of the castle walls were intact, but the roof was gone and it was up to the visitor’s imagination to try to imagine how it must have once looked.  The original cathedral was in better shape than the second one, and you could see the final replacement in the town of Salisbury, just to the south.  The girls ventured around for the better part of two hours, having imaginary battles and debating whether a tumble down the moat wall like that in the Princess Bride, would be fun.  I was glad they decided against this.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was easily a fifty foot roll from the top to the bottom, if not more.  Complete with jagged rocks and bumps along the way.

As we ventured away from Old Sarum around noon, I began to feel like our trip had finally taken a turn for the better.  We were relaxed and enjoying ourselves, no pressure and no real cares.  We also decided to go ahead and try Avebury out for fun.  It had been on the list for the day initially, but killed about 4 am that morning by my desire to come back to the hotel and rest and figure a way out of that hell hole.

But the day was young and so we began the journey north.

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