Back to the future

Enough of politics (almost); I thought I would comfort myself by taking a longer view, and spending a little time considering the Neolithic age. I don’t remember visiting Silbury Hill since we climbed it as a family towards the end of the fifties (and probably picnicked on the top).

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Silbury Hill

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Not Silbury Hill

You are now discouraged from climbing it (rightly, in my view) though thankfully there is only the barest suggestion of a fence – a tactful reminder rather than a barrier.

I wanted to visit in winter, since this is when the River Kennet (or Cunnit) reverts to its old course and floods the meadow around the base of the Hill, so that it is reflected in the shallow water.44483This literal isolation seems to return a little of the sacredness the Hill must once have possessed. Nobody knows, of course, what it really meant to its builders or why it was built. However we do know that it was deliberately sited on wet ground, near the source of the river, and also that when first built from rubble and heaped chalk it must have been a dazzling white for many generations, until eventually the grass was left to grow over it. Imagine this vast mound, bone white under a full moon, doubled by its reflection in the surrounding lake. It would have drawn people as Mecca does today.

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Evening, Silbury Hill

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Moonrise, Silbury Hill

The road from London to Bath and Bristol runs beneath the Hill, as it has done since long before the Romans came. Traffic howls past at rush hour but somehow at a remove. The light trails left by a long exposure provide a convenient metaphor for the flicker of our brief histories compared to the more than four thousand years of the mound’s existence. This is a place for perspective.

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Silbury Hill by moonlight, with Venus and light trails

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Moon and Silbury Hill

    • Francesca Bingham
    • January 24th, 2020

    Alex, our family also climbed Silbury Hill around the same decade as we lived in West Berkshire and explored with picnics and freedom. Thank you for these images and the commentary. Franny

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