It’s one of the most beautiful churches in London; a replacement for the original St. Bride’s, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Designed by Christopher Wren, the church we see today opened to the public in 1675 (although it remained incomplete builders added that distinctive steeple in 1703).
St. Bride’s has often been called “the journalists’ church.” In 1501, Wynken de Worde, an apprentice to William Caxton, set up England’s first printing press (with moveable type) in St. Bride’s churchyard. Since then, the church has been associated with the media.
The church’s website details its rich history (beginning with Roman construction) here. The briskly written chapters make a satisfying read. And you’ll discover wonderful nuggets of information–for example, although the traditional wedding cake is (allegedly) modeled after this church’s steeple, “St. Bride” is actually another name for “St. Brigid.”
If (when) you’re next in London, St. Bride’s is well worth a stop. It’s lovely interior provides a welcome respite to the City’s frenzy, and there’s a crypt to explore as well.
We arrived at Avebury in mid-afternoon. The #49 bus lets you off just across from The Red Lion (“The only pub in the world inside a stone circle”).
We opted to enjoy a pint before heading to the B&B. A coach had dropped off a load of German tourists earlier, and we arrived at the pub just as these travelers queued to order their afternoon beers, teas, and coffees. Service took a bit of a wait, so we walked about the pub’s car park to get our bearings. Stones ranging from the size of a billboard to that of a La-Z-Boy recliner dotted the gardens and fields around us.
Divided from the circle by an A-road, some monoliths stand isolated in a neighboring field. Behind the car park, an arc of stones curves from the A-road’s boundary beyond the pub and associated buildings.
We sat outdoors, on a patio facing green space across the A-road. Sheep grazed and people strolled about the megaliths. Some folks touched or leaned heads against stones, some simply walked happy pups in the sunshine. We nursed our pints.
Aside: if you enjoy an ale, I recommend Abbot Ale or Avebury Wells, both brewed by Greene King (the brewery owns the pub). The beer was surprisingly inexpensive (compared to prices in London and the southeast, at any rate. We assumed it has something to do with the amount of custom the pub receives daily).
We wanted to drop our luggage before any exploration, but, being a bit lost, we calledDorwyn Manor (for our experience of the B&B, please see this post). Happily, the young woman who answered the phone offered to the 1/2 mile to pick us up from the pub–a good thing as well because the A-road was particularly busy with day-trippers and commercial traffic at the time, and we were nervous about walking on the verge.
After we’d divested ourselves of baggage, the young woman drove us back into the village. After enjoying the pub’s “ultimate fish and chips,” we walked across the road, through the gate, and among the stones. We stayed close to the pub—no use rambling off onto the public footpaths until we had some idea of the layout—and went only so far the ditch that surrounds the stone circle.
We opted to walk back to the B&B as the road had quieted. Walking through the stones at dusk, well, that’s when we decided to skip Stonehenge and spend more time at Avebury.
When we began planning our recent trip to Britiain, my travel partner expressed interest in visiting some of Wiltshire’s Neolithic sites. Originally, we anticipated spending two days at Salisbury / Stonehenge and one day at Avebury. Plans changed the moment we arrived at Avebury; it’s where we spent all of our time in Wiltshire
Stonehenge and Avebury, separated by just 26 miles, belong to the same Unesco World Heritage Site. Yet while Stonehenge is treated as a museum piece (most visitors are guided, at a distance, around the monument), Avebury’s megaliths remain completely accessible. You wander about them freely and can touch them. In fact, people live within the stone circle—centuries ago, a village cropped up in its center. The village pub seems to stand at the very center of the stone circle. Moreover, other significant Neolithic sites (including Silbury Hill and the West Kennett Long Barrow) lie within an easy walking distance to the village. Consequently, once we stepped off the Swindon-to-Avebury bus we decided that Stonehenge could wait for a different trip.
To detail our Avebury journey would take far too long for one post. Instead, I’ll break it up into several. In these other posts, I’ll touch on transportation, lodging, and rambling. In brief:
Unless you are walking, cycling, or driving, Avebury is accessible only by a single bus route. (Seethis post for transportation information)
There is a magnificent pub, The Red Lion, and there are a few guest houses in/near the village. We stayed at a wonderful B & B called Dorwyn Manor, which is approximately half a mile from the pub. (See this post about our B&B experience)
You are encouraged to interact with the landscape and its monuments. You can peer into each stone’s divots, touch each megalith, and even clamber atop and nose within a 4,000 year old barrow.
We spent a day exploring the area outside of the village. We did not bring a proper survey map, so we got lost more than once while traipsing about the landscape. Thankfully, other ramblers would appear and advise us on directions. Even so, Wiltshire is not so uninhabited that one can be lost for very long.
I hope you enjoy these posts. If you have any questions or points you’d like to contribute, please feel free to let me know.