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Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 12:21 pm
by Boreades
I'm adamant the Dandy Highwayman costume doesn't fit me any more. So, sadly, we will have to wait for another day to handsomely hijack Hattie on her hilariously harlequinade hobby-horse, however honourable or heinous her historic hike over hills and hummocks has held to be.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 10:07 pm
by Boreades
Over the last 25 years, I've walked through nearly every clump of trees, copse, wood, and forest near Avebury and on Overton Down, Fyfield Down and Marlborough Downs, to show visitors the various attractions and noteworthy features.

In particular (and in no particular order)
- Savernake Forest, with (some say) the biggest collection of ancient oaks in Britain.
- West Woods in May to show them the famed bluebells as far as the eye can see.
- Overton Down and Fyfield Down, with smaller sarsens scattered everywhere
- Totterdown Woods
- More recently, since the BBC article, the northern part of West Woods where there are still big untouched sarsen stones lying in the woods (twelve feet long or more)

And, by the way, a few more small but very prized copses where an experienced dog with a good nose can help you find £100s worth of Fresh Black Summer Truffles. No, I'm not saying where they are. ;-)

In every one of these woodlands, even days after it's been raining, one will encounter a wet and slippery mush of chalk, clay and silt. It seems to be feet deep in places. Locals with farming ancestors tell me it's always been like that. Grass and crops won't grow in it, so nobody tries to farm the land. Only trees grow there, hence the woodland areas in the first place.

One young farming lad told me this wet and slippery mush of chalk, clay and silt has got a name. It's called marl. He reckons there used to be so much of it, that's where Marlborough got its name from. Sorry folks, nothing to do with Merlin after all. The truth is always boring.

My first thought was that a wet and slippery mush of chalk, clay and silt would also be pretty good as a lubricant for sliding heavy megaliths around. Certainly as far as Avebury (mostly downhill).

But according to Wikipaedia
Marl has been used as a soil conditioner and acid soil neutralizing agent

is used for the manufacture of cement ... /marl.html

Could megalithic people have been using this marl to make sarsens as well? Or "concreted alluvial deposits" as the geologists prefer to call them.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 5:21 am
by Mick Harper
Highly interesting. Possibly epochal. My first thought was not 'what were they using it for?' but 'what were they doing that produced it?' But before any of that we have to discover whether 'they' were involved in the first place. To answer that we need to know whether 'marl' is peculiar in any way. Now I agree with Wiki in the limited sense that I have heard the expression 'marling the fields' so often that it hardly seems possible that Marlborough would be named after marl. It would be like finding a place called Mulchester. Though didn't Roy of the Rovers...?

Of course this doesn't rule out the use of marl, or the exploitation of local deposits of marl, to move megaliths around. Though by the sound it, it doesn't sound like the sort of material that can be shifted long distances as a general megalith-lubricant. One provisional line of enquiry therefore is to look for other local geographical peculiarities that might be implicated, and again my first thought was 'chalk streams' that we previously discovered are in fact very rare and limited to this area of southern England and (I seem to remember) Belgium.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 7:10 am
by Mick Harper
Don't forget to include a bit of etymological speculation Your piece included Overton and Totterdown. A bit self-explanatory maybe but there is always this
There are various references to where the name 'Savernake' originates from, with one suggesting it comes from the Old Cornish word 'saran', meaning savour, in reference to a sweet smelling fern found in the forest, or the word 'savhr' (savern-acre) signifying sand or gravel relating to the geographical nature of the ...

Oh, yes, and before I forget, you must find out the significance of bluebells.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 12:40 pm
by Boreades
Bluebells are indeed a bit peculiar.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (formerly Endymion non-scriptus or Scilla non-scripta) is a bulbous perennial plant ... H. non-scripta is particularly associated with ancient woodland where it may dominate the understorey to produce carpets of violet–blue flowers in "bluebell woods", but also occurs in more open habitats in western regions.

Where is it found?

Hyacinthoides non-scripta is native to the western parts of Atlantic Europe, from north-western Spain and north-western Portugal, to the Netherlands and the British Isles. It is found in Belgium, Great Britain, France, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain

Where is it most often found?

Despite the wide distribution of H. non-scripta, it reaches its greatest densities in the British Isles (and) bluebells are often used as an indicator species to identify ancient woodland

Sounds like it's also an indicator species for megalithic zones?

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 1:17 pm
by Boreades
By the way, re this:

various references to where the name 'Savernake' originates from, with one suggesting it comes from the Old Cornish word 'saran', meaning savour, in reference to a sweet smelling fern found in the forest, or the word 'savhr' (savern-acre) signifying sand or gravel

Thereby hangs another walkie-talkie tale.

Anyone used to walking woods and trails across Wiltshire will quite quickly develop a keen eye for the type of ground and surface underfoot, including the colour. Especially the colour.

Why? (you might ask)

On the Downs, the most-regularly used tracks usually wear away the grass cover, down to an exposed surface. Which is usually a mix of gravel or white chalk and loose grey/black-coloured flint. You don't want to walk on the lumps of flint, they're like marbles. You either skid off them or hurt your foot (or both).

if it's dark brown or black, it's a sure sign of wet mud. You don't want to walk on that, you don't know how deep or squelchy it is, or how wet it will make your feet.

But the Savernake Forest is unusual (for that part of Wiltshire). The main road through the forest is used for heavy machinery, with an artificial road-grade lumpy gravel topping (i.e. irrelevant to this story). But everywhere else, many of the side tracks and old paths are a reddish-brown colour, with sand and gravel on the surface. That drains quite fast after rain, so reddish-brown tracks are usually a good bet for walking on. Also, where old trees have blown over and pulled-up their roots, the exposed soil is often reddish-brown sandy stuff.

So I'm going with the 'savhr' (savern-acre) signifying sand or gravel

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 9:13 am
by Mick Harper
Having passed on your observations, Borry, to a coupla family members I judged knowledgeable in this general area, I got back
I seem to remember the term 'hangers' for groups of trees growing on boulder clay deposits on chalk downland. A combination of chalky boulder clay mixed up through the processes of solifluction and soil creep could help to develop these 'marls'.

I trust this is more helpful to you than their generally dismissive remarks were to the common weal.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 6:22 pm
by Boreades
We (TME-folk) already know that half-way in between the two famous henges of Avebury and Stonehenge, is an even bigger henge. But it has no megaliths to attract attention, and it's almost completely flat now.

As there is almost bugger-all there, and there's very little in the way of physical evidence for anything, Trad.Archeos. have had great fun spectulating what it was for. Their favourite guess seems to be some kind of transit camp for people working on Stonehenge.

Except, the 2010 excavation work found:

they covered the whole surface with a thin layer of clay

The local clay is "Marl" and the place is "Marden Henge".

Maybe it used to be called "Marlden Henge"?

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 6:37 pm
by Boreades
Mention of
boulder clay deposits

has nudged a memory of a little-known place in North Devon, where ball clay was excavated. It's another example of "Marl".
Marland Cream brickwork is a feature of North Devon. The hard cream bricks were made at Marland Moor by a succession of companies using stoneware ball clays dug from the Petrockstowe Basin.

Old OS map of the location: ... rs=168&b=1

There was sufficient volume and demand to built an industrial railway. Originally the Torrington And Marland Clay narrow gauge railway, but then upgraded to standard gauge as part of the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway.

Nowadays people know it as the Tarka Trail, another walkie talkie route.

Re: Walkie Talkies

PostPosted: 11:22 pm
by Boreades
Back to Totterdown.

It's a little bit off the usual walks, like the Ridgeway National Trail, but well worth a visit.

Within a small radius of the Totterdown Brickworks (less than 1/2 a mile) there were at least six clay pits. It's difficult to find them on modern OS maps, that have been much-simplified. It's best to look on 100+ year old OS maps like these: ... rs=178&b=1

The nearest recognisable location on modern maps is the Berwick Basset Dewpond, which is one of the old clay pits.

A kilometre south-east, and an easy walk, takes us to Totterdown Woods, and more clay, with many withered old trees. ... rs=178&b=1

A kilometre south, Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve ... rs=178&b=1

That gets us onto Green Street (or the Herepath) and from there, it's a nice walk back to Avebury, 3Km to the west.