Saturday, May 7, 2022—Part II, Stonehenge

From Bath, our travels took us through the English countryside with it slightly rolling hills, grazing sheep and cattle, and rape seed fields shining golden in the green landscape.

We arrived in Stonehenge about mid-afternoon. We were told to be underwhelmed: it was a bunch of big rocks in a field. However, we were quite impressed. The experience was amazing and interesting, and left us wanting to see more.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wilshire, England. It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each about 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. Inside is a ring of smaller bluestones. Inside these are free-standing trilithons, two bulkier vertical Sarsens joined by one lintel. The following photos are from a complete walk around the ancient monument.

The whole monument, now ruinous, is aligned towards the sunrise on the summer solstice.

What is really intriguing is that Stonehenge is only one of many monuments in the complex, i.e. the stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Stonehenge was the only one we visited.

Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, if not the entire world. The site and its surroundings were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986.

Saturday, May 7, 2022—Part 1, Cardiff and Bath

Before leaving Wales, the tour took us on a panoramic drive around Cardiff, and then a brief walk to see the principal areas and buildings. We then traveled back into England to Bath.

Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset, in the valley of the River Avon; it is best known for its Roman-built baths.

About 60 AD the Romans built baths and a temple at this ancient spot. However, the hot springs were known well before the Romans and were a sacred site for the local Celts.The Romans constructed a temple in AD 60–70, and a bathing complex was built up over the next 300 years. Roman engineers drove oak piles into the mud to provide stable foundations and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century, the spring was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted structure. The Baths consisted of the caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath). The town was later given defensive walls in the 3rd century. After the retreat of Roman authority in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair. The baths were eventually lost as a result of rising water levels and silting, but were eventually rediscovered and modified on several occasions. In the 17th century, claims were again made for the curative properties of water from the springs, and Bath became famous as a spa town in the Georgian era. Georgian architecture, crafted from Bath stone, together with modern streets and squares laid out in the 18th century, made the city fashionable and attracted a growing population and wealth, and today the springs are housed in 18th-century architecture. Victorian expansion of the baths complex followed the neo-classical tradition. Victorian visitors drank the waters in the Grand Pump Room, a neo-classical salon which remains in use, both for taking the waters and for social functions.

With the arrival of Christianity, Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious center. England was widespread in support of Ukraine, and many buildings and residences maintained the Ukraine flag. The day we visited Bath Abbey, a college graduation was taking place, and people in England dress ups for graduation, i.e. coat and tie.

UNESCO added the City of Bath as a World Heritage site in 1987.