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Stonehenge and Bath: A step back in time

For a couple of Pounds to cover for transport, guide and entry to Stonehenge and the Roman Bath Museum, I could afford to travel from London into a journey back in time to see the stone circles, the magic, the mysticism, the legend of King Arthur, and many other stories that accessorizes the perplexing mystery of the 5000-year-old World Heritage Site; Stonehenge! Not done yet, I would equally get the opportunity to proceed into the city of Bath; a golden-hued civilization settled in a stunning valley, garnished in such a pretty artistic mien that is capable of taking one’s breath away. I would drink from the fountain of the famous healing waters of the Roman Baths and would not miss following the footsteps of Jane Austen; the English novelist famous for her works on romantic fiction. Austen was also eminent for her avocation on literary realism where she netted some historical dominance among scholars and critics of her time and of the contemporary.

It was on an unusually chilly morning in February that we met at London’s Embankment underground station, boarded the coach, and set forth for Stonehenge; where we would see the puzzling monument that had been standing even before recorded history, erected by the Neolithic peoples, in the present-day English county of Wiltshire; 2 miles west of Amesbury, and 8 miles north of Salisbury. The site and sight of Stonehenge is not only spectacular, it remains one of the most famous cultural sites of the world that bespeaks the style and framework of a ring of rigid, massive stones positioned in such that it becomes an archaeological feature to behold. Although it is a subject of controversy as to how, why, and for what reason the Stonehenge came about, what is certain is that scientists (thanks to radiocarbon dating) have been able to determine for sure that the first stones of the Stonehenge were raised between 2400 to 2200 BC, and that the Stonehenge must have been built anywhere between 3000 to 2000 BC.

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While driving to Stonehenge, we caught sight and appreciated the beauty of a typical English countryside; the hills, the grasses, the shrubs, and the trees, all underlain by a massive chalk formation that makes farming unfeasible because of the pH value that chalk is known to impact on soil. However, what remains etched in every observer’s mind is the overall mysterious befuddlement that delimits the circumstance of the Stonehenge. Archaeologists are still unsettled as to what the Stonehenge was used for by the Neolithic peoples who built it; it could be a clock, it could be a calendar, it could be a burial ground as evidenced by the randomly scattered large and small mounds around the vicinity.

The road to Bath from Stonehenge was even more enthralling than it was in the first half of the journey; that is, London to Stonehenge. In Bath, we went straight to the Roman Baths complex located near the famous Bath Cathedral. Building the Bath Cathedral was said to have started in 1499 and is one of the most important medieval churches of England. Of all parish churches in England, the Bath Cathedral receives the most visitors. The Roman Baths, as we would see, was another World Heritage Site. It was built by the Romans as a bathing compound in an overwhelming temple from where flows the natural hot water; one of England’s only hot spring. The warm and equally mineral-rich water (I tasted it and could feel the presence of its mineral content!) was a favourite bath and spa for both the Romans and the Celts who bathed in there for hundreds of years. Not to forget, the spa and the hot springs is perhaps the only natural thermal spa in England.

As an earth scientist, not only did I appreciate the magnificence of Bath as is visibly engrossed in its cultural history, I also treasured the fact that the whole city of Bath is built with a certain symbolic icon; the oolitic limestone of granular fragments. The calcium carbonate that characterised the limestone gave the city its warm, golden colouring, as well as its distinctive appearance. But there is more to Bath than its Roman Baths. Its ancient stone pavements walked on by the Romans; its warm, golden colouring; and, the spiritual whisper that comes from its beautiful religious and cultural exegetics. Bath, is, thus, for most people, an architectural heaven. There is the Royal Crescent, designed and built by John Wood the Younger, which comprises 30 houses built between 1767 and 1775. There is also the Circus; another architectural masterstroke designed by John Wood the Elder and is one of the justifying reasons Bath gained the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Bath and Venice (Italy) are, as I was told, the only two cities on the planet that received the status of World Heritage cities.

Still not enough; in Bath lies the Pulteny Bridge, over the River Avon, built in 1773. Isolated from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that was erected over the Arno River in Florence, Italy, Pulteny Bridge in Bath is the only bridge in notable memory that has got shops constructed into it. And what’s with the many pigs reared in the pigpens of those rolling hills of the country that we saw as we headed away from Bath, back to London? But thanks to Alan, the ever-cheerful tour guide, for I now know that pigs have a gestation period of three months, three weeks, three days. That is such a funky gestational figure, one might say.

 

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