“The ancient stones watch silently in the still light of the early morning; this is one of the best times to visit Avebury and absorb the magic wisdom of this temple, so very different from the grim gloom of Stonehenge.” These were words from “Mysterious Britain” by Janet & Colin Bord that I’d poured over since buying the book years before.
I’d grown up being regularly taken to see air shows, zoos and sites of geological or archaeological interest so it was inevitable that I’d pick up on some of those things later in life. An interest in stone circles and burial mounds had resurfaced whilst at college after lengthy discussions with a girl called Angela and more recently with the albums “Peggy Suicide” and “Jehovah Kill” by Julian Cope. His latest, “20 Mothers” continued in a similar vein, including songs called “Stone Circles ‘n’ You” and “By The Light of The Silbury Moon”. Having grown up in a house where the kitchen regularly smelled of photographic chemicals and with both a mum and dad who always had a camera with them, it was perhaps also inevitable that I should become interested in photography at some stage. It was only a matter of time before the stones and the photography collided. The words from the book kept coming back to me, Avebury at dawn it had to be.
I borrowed my dad’s camera, a Canon EOS 650, and loaded it up with Kodachrome 64; I’d read that that was the best film to use for landscapes. I planned my route, got my gear and set off at two o’clock in the morning, having estimated it’d take me about three hours. It’s always quite exciting to be out and about when everyone else is still in bed but once it started getting light, I realised I’d have to get a move on if I wanted to see the stones at dawn. Soon, I was racing the sun as it started breaking through the early morning mist. I sped past the impressive Silbury Hill (vowing to come back there later) and went past the official car park to get into the village where I’d read the stones were and then…whoa! Two huge monoliths reared up in front of me. I screeched to a halt in the car park at the side of the cricket club hut, grabbed my camera stuff and scrambled over the barbed wire fence and up the steep bank of the henge. In front of me was a more astonishing sight than I could ever have imagined and I stood taking it all in. I was the only person there. It was mine. For the next couple of hours I rushed around breathlessly setting my camera up at various places; in the stone circle, on the Avenue, at the Cove, everywhere. I laid down, knelt and crouched, trying every possible angle. At one point, the mist rolled in making the sun appear as a mysterious, hazy disc low in the sky but then it burned through and the rays shone gloriously onto the craggy, ancient stones. In the whole time I was there, I only encountered one lady walking her dog. Eventually, I ran out of film and even though I was sure I’d got the shots I wanted, nothing could ever convey the truly magical experience of that first visit to Avebury.