To the south-east of Silbury is the “Long Barrow,” one of the most famous in England. This tumulus is over 330 feet long and about 60 feet wide. When the stone chamber was opened some years ago, four skeletons were found within. Vestiges of a small stone circle remain on the South of the Bath road, between it and the Kennet, and almost on the track of the Ridgeway. If the Way is followed northwards towards the slopes of Overton Hill we reach the “quarry” where most of the megalithic monuments of Wiltshire originated. These extraordinary stones, thickly scattered over the southern slopes of the Marlborough Downs, are generally known as the “Grey Wethers,” or “Sarsens.” At one time supposed to have been brought to their present position by glacial action, they are now said to be, and undoubtedly are, the result of denudation. They are composed of a hard grey sandstone which once covered the chalk; the softer portions wearing away left the tough core lying in isolated masses upon the hills. Not far away in Clatford Bottom is the “Devil’s Den,” a cromlech upon the remains of a long barrow; the upper slab measures nine feet by eight. The Downs above Fyfield form a magnificent galloping and training ground for the racing stables near by. Our road, the Bath highway, now follows the Kennet into Marlborough, six miles from Avebury.
THE BERKSHIRE BORDER AND NORTH HAMPSHIRE
Marlborough is in Wiltshire, but it will be legitimate to start a slight exploration of the middle course of the Kennet from the old Forest town. Here the clear chalk stream, fresh from the highlands of the Marlborough Downs, runs as a clear and inviting little river at the foot of the High Street gardens. For Marlborough is a flowery and umbrageous town in its “backs,” however dull it may appear to the traveller by the railway, from which dis-vantage point most English towns look their very worst.
Although the river was never wide enough to bring credit or renown to Marlborough, the borough had another channel of profit and good business in its position on the Bath Road. The part that great highway played in the two hundred years which ended soon after Queen Victoria commenced her long reign seems likely to have a renewal in these days of revived road travel. Ominous days are these for the iron ways that, for almost a century, have half ruined the old road towns of England, but at the same time left them in such a state of suspended animation that they are mostly delightful and unspoilt reminders of another age.
The fine and spacious High Street that once echoed with the horns of a dozen coaches in the course of an afternoon now hums with the machinery of half a hundred motors in an hour, and if they do not all stop, some do, and leave the worthy burgesses a greater amount of wealth and a cleaner roadway than their more picturesque predecessors.