I’ve previously covered the main reason we went to Avebury: the stones. If we had just gotten there in time to check out the stones, I still would have chalked our visit up as a success. Anything else would just be an added bonus.
And we got our added bonus. We arrived in Avebury in plenty of times to tour the two museums dedicated to the stones and their restoration as well as Avebury Manor itself.
Touring old stately homes and their gardens is a popular pastime [if you ever read any old Austen novels, this should be quite familiar (recall Elizabeth’s tour of the countryside with her aunt and uncle and their eventual visit to Pemberley, the home of the illustrious Mr. Darcy)]. Indeed, during my student days in the UK, we had the opportunity to tour a few different stately homes. I don’t know if it’s more proper to actually know something about the house and its history before your visit, but Joe and I knew very little of Avebury Manor when we got there. Still, when in Rome…
As it turns out, Avebury Manor has stood for hundreds of years and was recently featured in a BBC special in which they restored the manor, taking each room and outfitting it in a different period style. One room, for example, was Tudor-themed; another was modeled in a kind of art nouveau theme, recalling styles popular at the time that the stones and the sites around them were being excavated by Alexander Keiller. Far from being “stand off and observe” kind of museum, the rooms are interactive, for the most part, with period costumes and laminated sheets to aid in your exploration and interpretation. In the kitchen, there were even signs encouraging visitors to open drawers and examine what they found inside. Although it wasn’t very crowded overall, each room seemed to have at least one family whose children were excitedly exploring the objects. It was an interesting, immersive way to teach children (and adults!) about history.
The rain, it seemed, kept everyone inside. With no clear signage on how we were supposed to get back to the other museums, Joe and I found ourselves lost. A steady mist made it difficult to see [glasses are a pain sometimes] very much at all, and the tall, sculptural hedges complicated matters even further. The weather having drawn people inside, the only sounds we heard were the hush of precipitation and our own. Rather than let it get us down, we seized the opportunity to explore the gardens. If you ever read “The Secret Garden” and wondered how a garden could be secret– well, just visit an old English manor garden with quadrants walled in by stone and impenetrable 12-foot hedges. I wasn’t sure if I should watch out for the Red Queen or for Jack Nicholson.