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Stonehenge On The Cheap, Salisbury On The Hoof

Ride Date 9 May 2022

By Ren Withnell

As I sit in my comfy camping chair in the kitchen of "our" building I'm thinking about today. The plan is to visit Stonehenge then Old Sarum then Salisbury. I have a cunning plan... I put my very big bag and a security wire thing into the top box.

The low sun shines in clear skies over a farm track with Teepees and trees nearby
It looks like we're on to a good start for today.

Sharon is on the back of my bike today. This is becoming her default plan of attack - ride between places on her own bike then going pillion when we're exploring. It makes sense on several levels. For her this means she can relax and look around rather than having to focus on the road and dodge errant motorists. To be honest it's good for me too. I don't have to keep checking we've not gotten separated and when I cock up my navigation I don't lose her. 

Stonehenge charges £22 per person. For this you get to look around the visitor centre and the use of the bus that runs the short distance between the centre and Stonehenge itself. What their website doesn't tell you is there's a public footpath right next to the path that paying visitors walk along. There's also a dirt track where you can park which is close to the public footpath. I know this thanks to the power of Google.

Finding the dirt track is easy as the traffic past this famous monument runs slowly. I turn in, fearing I'll see a "no motorised vehicles" sign or other such restriction. Nope, in fact there's a number of other like minded folks parked along the broad track. Phew.

I find a suitable spot to park. We lock the helmets to the bike with the security wire, stuff as much as we can in the top box and the rest, mostly jackets, goes into the very large bag. The very large bag goes onto my shoulders and off we go.

There's an English Heritage chap in attendance, ensuring we non-paying folk aren't using the private path to the monument. Mind you there's no malice or meanness in his demeanour as he politely guides us to the public path with a smile and kindly hello. Refreshing I must say. 

And there it is, Stonehenge, in all it's glory. We are a goodly few metres back from where paying folks can reach but none of them are allowed in amongst the stones. Never the less we have a good view. It looks exactly like I'd expect, not bigger nor smaller, no more and no less mystical. I'm glad I've been and seen it for myself, I didn't expect this to be an enlightening or life changing experience. For once my expectations have been as I expected.

Stonehenge with people a little closer than we can get from the footpath
Paying folks do get closer, but not by that much.
We can clearly see Stonehenge and there's no people in shot
Sharon still manages to get some excellent shots.

We return to the bike and return our biking gear to our various body parts where they belong. So far the big bag and the wire are working as planned. We ride along the dirt road to the other end, take a left and after a couple of miles we stop once more - this is Woodhenge.

The current thinking is Woodhenge predates Stonehenge and was likely some precursor. Today there is a collection of plain concrete stumps rising but a foot or so from the thick grass, these mark the post holes found during the original excavations. Sharon skips gaily between them, relishing the wildflowers and reading the various information boards. I'm sorry, but, well, yes I can appreciate things were different once but they're concrete stumps to me right now. Hmmm.

Ren, with a massive bag on his back, looks over the concrete stumps of woodhenge
The BIG BAG and the pack mule. Oh, and the conrete stumps.
Sharon stands on a concrete stump and stretches to the skies while smiling
"I'm a tree!" Someone is loving Woodhenge.

Nest stop is Old Sarum. With the sun beating down and more walking to be done I choose to stay here with the bikes while her Ladyship goes to have a look around. In truth I'm saving the £7 entry fee and my tired feet. She goes off and I settle in. I position myself between jackets and helmets and relax.

The next thing I know is I'm being nudged with a small tub of ice cream in my face, I nodded off! That's not like me but I'm glad - Sharon's had a look around, I've not been bored and I feel much refreshed after my nap nap. We enjoy the ice cream sat on the grass in the sun. Apparently Old Sarum is, well, much as to be expected.

The ruins at Old Sarum are low and rounded by the passage of time
Old Sarum's walls are not quite that which they once were.

Finding the motorcycle parking via Salisbury's one way system is proving troublesome. I've missed the turning (again) and I'm unsure of how to go around again. I think I've upset sat nav as she's sulking, saying I've arrived when I haven't. Fortune favours the idiot and I find the parking on my 3rd time around. I'm glad Sharon's on the back seat, she'd be bewildered by now if she were following. 

Again the helmets are wired to the bike, the back box and big bag are loaded and we set off. Salisbury so far is nothing special, a mixture of buildings from the pre-industrial through to the fairly modern. All the shops you'd expect and a handful of cute courtyard corners complete with independent shops. It's a town, an old town and a busy bustling town serving the needs of the modern human being.

Along a regular town street Ren once again is laden with the big bag
Sailsbury and a pack mule.
Sharon fills a tiny door in the entrance to the cathedral area
Hobbit sized doors! Perfect for Sharon.

We're here for the cathedral, obviously. Sharon's research has prewarned us that the cathedral itself is closed today. There's a flower festival this week and today is setting up day, as such the public ain't allowed in. Disappointing for Sharon, me being a heathen I'm only slightly perturbed. This perturbation is alleviated by saving the entry fee. Yes, that's right, you now have to pay to enter this famous house of god.

The large and imposing cathedral at Salisbury, framed by the branches of a tree
Cor! Big innit.

The cathedral area is walled in - not fortified as such but obviously back in the day someone didn't want to share god's house with someone else. I find no explanation as to the whys and wherefores. 

Smart older brick houses around a green look lovely with salisbury's cathedral walls
Nice, if you can tolerate the endless tourists.
More smart houses with the spire of the cathedral behind
I wonder if the locals have to pay for entry to the cathedral?

Within the walls the character of the town changes immediately. The area is large complete with houses and roads hailing from hundreds of years ago and the vast cathedral dominates the centre. It is impressive, a fair piece of work to be sure. I contemplate how a society could build such a thing amidst farming and hunting and foraging for survival. How the hell they raised blocks up so high without modern cranes and scaffolding. All this for the glory of god? I suppose god was more important back then.

Hang on... most archaeological types think Stonehenge was religious too and that must have taken some time, work and effort to put up. When I see the work put into a cathedral like this I can see why smart folks might think that same level of distraction from important things (like sorting out food) must have been some kind of belief system. Mind you - I think Stonehenge was a prehistoric mansion for some bronze age version of The Kardashians. Prove me wrong...

Large, complex and ornate carved stone figures on the walls of Salisbury Cathedral
More than a few days work there I reckon.

We wander with the other tourists, the Chinese bus tour groups, the hurried locals and a number of mostly elderly ladies moving flowers from hither to thither. We walk, and look, and walk and look. We sit a while then we walk some more. 

We head back to the bike and by now my poor feet are suffering. My shoulders are reaching uncomfortable too with the weight of the big bag. Alas it's not over. It is quite logical that now is the time to get supplies for tonight so we plod further into the regular town in search of Ye Olde Tesco (or similar).

We find a large open area, I later learn this is the old market square. Around the edges are a collection of cafes, restaurants and modern pubs (aka "bars"). With weary feet Sharon and I select one at random and order tea for me, coffee for her. Sipping drinks alfresco on a warm day, sat here on outside tables it all feels rather cosmopolitan. I could just as easily be in Honfleur, Amsterdam, Millau or Potes. 

If I'm honest with myself these are the moments I enjoy the most. I am glad I've seen Stonehenge and Salisbury cathedral. I find it worthwhile to see things for myself and form my own impression of them, I view this as an education. For me though sitting here talking with Sharon while sipping tea, watching the world go by and relaxing is what life is all about.

Sharon holds up her coffee cup in a cheers manner at the cafe on the market square
I say, how civilised. Cheers!

This pleasant interlude can't last forever and soon we're doing battle in Tesco. Food is purchased and loaded into more bags and the leg-busting walk back to the bike is endured. We load up, kit up and ride away from Salisbury and back towards the campsite.

This evening after dining things get all weird. Sharon, in her infinite wisdom, decides a game of table tennis is in order. There are several bats and one serviceable ping pong ball. We spend the best part of an hour pretending we know what we're doing. Actually... errr... well... while we're far from professional or Olympic level it appears we are not anywhere near as bad as we thought.

This tomfoolery is followed by Sharon taking penalties with me in goal. We are definitely better at ping pong, that's all I'll say about that. After walking so much, carrying the big bag and now a sporty evening there's one thing I'm sure of - tomorrow I'm going to be sore one way or another. 

All in all another good day. You might notice I'm not a big fan of "must see" places, and you'd be mostly right. I suppose I'm a bit of a heathen or a pleb. Yeah, that'd be mostly right. That's not to say I'm not interested in Stonehenge or cathedrals. Much like museums I enjoy learning about these places via TV and video rather than needing to be there and see them for in the flesh. I'm thankful for going to see them, it's not all that important to me though.

So what do I enjoy? Being a curmudgeon not a lot obviously, bah HUMBUG! For me, I suppose it's the travel rather than the destination. It's the joy of being somewhere else, anywhere else. It's the exploration and the curios that we stumble across. It's sitting in a cafe and being around random folks. It's being alone. It's challenging myself. 

Sleeping in a tent always was and I suppose always will be a challenge for myself, and not one I relish. But that's what I'm going to attempt once again folks. Wish me luck.

Share your own tales - click here.

Prologue - It's Not Up North Happenstance and circumstance is the driving force behind this trip's direction. Ren explains it all.
Down To Akeley It's the first day of the southern adventure and already Ren is reclining in sumptuous luxury. So, err... what's changed?
A Look Around F1 Country Ren offers an all too lengthy explanation of his uncouth approach to museums before taking in some quintessentially English countryside.
Stones and More Comfort It's time to depart the rally and head even further daaan saaaf. There's plenty of time for tea and to explore some ancient standing stones. What will the next 3 nights' accommodation be like?
Stonehenge On The Cheap, Salisbury On The Hoof It's time to take in Britain's most famous monolithic structure - Stonehenge. Salisbury is also going to endure a good dose of looking at as well.
A Walk In Dinton There's a simple and lazy day ahead of The Dynamic Muppets today with not much planned. This eventually leads Ren to his new career as a Surrealist Artist Extraordinaire. Soon he will be famous and rich?
Off To The New Forest It's time to move on once again and head even further daaan saaaf. The New Forest might be quite lovely but given the foul weather Sharon and Ren won't be finding out today - in fact they are struggling to see the road ahead.
Exploring The New Forest With better weather and a tank full of fuel it's time to look around the New Forest. There's a risk of trees and horses and tractors.
Half Way Home Oh no! Disaster! The weather is just right, the trip goes well and even the accommodation is lovely. Surely there must be something Ren can find to moan about? It's all going terribly wrong.
Homeward Bound And Thoughts There's not much to report on the final leg of the journey - in a good way. Ren shares his thoughts on this adventure in that there daaan saaaf.

Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
A sporty evening?? and you're going to be sore???? Ooh err Missus. Please spare us any further sordid details.

I've ever been down Salisbury way and ref Stone Henge. Personally I'd give it a miss. Unless you can get right up to the Stones, I don't see the point.

14/06/2022 13:17:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The Salisbury area is lovely Bogger. The reason people aren't allowed to get right up to the Stones is the Landed Gentry don't want a bunch of clepmt pie ayters geetin theer dirty mitts all over it, not even posh'uns from Lowton.
14/06/2022 19:41:10 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I remember visiting stonehenge when it was free - a long long time ago. But £22 per person - for what exactly? Just another sign of rip off Britain. Yesterday we were in a French supermarket and bought a bottle of maple syrup for less than £3. The price in Waitrose for exactly the same thing? Over £6. And Canada is in the Commonwealth! We've just had a delicious 3 course menu du jour for €14 each. Try and get anything edible in Britain for that. Baguettes to die for for €1 - compare with the tasteless junk in Britain for twice the price.

Still we should be thankful we've taken back control.
17/06/2022 18:34:59 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Your £22 gives you "the experience". That means access to the visitor centre and a few other displays and a bus and parking (although I'd check the parking isn't extra). If that's your thing then great - and there were PLENTY of people willing to spend that money from what we saw.

Just look around the car park at your local Waitrose - and think back. Today you'll see a sea of quasi 4x4 BMWs, Audis, Mercs and top of the range Kias and Teslas. Few of them will be over 6 years old and almost none of them will be anything but clean good order examples. Think back to when you visited Stonehenge. Clapped out Hillman Imps, rusted out Austin Allegros and Ford Fiestas with gaffer tape holding the windows in. I recall a time when seeing a new car was a "WOW!" moment, today I barely even notice the new models.

I suppose my point is there appears to be A LOT of money out there. God only knows where it's coming from although I do know why I seem to have missed out on most of it (I'm a lazy git). £22 for a wander around some stones? Bargain... apparently.

As for taking back control? Yeah, that's going really really well ain't it. Hmmmm....
18/06/2022 09:23:17 UTC
Steve S. said :-
A lot of the new cars you see are mobility cars. Basically free cars for disabled people. A person I know has a £45,000 Tesla. He could only afford a basic runabout till he
apparently became disabled. There’s quite a few cars on my estate which are brand new expensive cars, and none of the owners are in gainful employment.
So Ren we poor people just have to buy what we can afford.

18/06/2022 11:24:38 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's my understanding that people in receipt of mobility payments can choose to use that money as works for them. The charity Motability is the biggest UK fleet operator covering around 10% of new car sales. That's not an inconsiderable number for sure. I struggle to see anywhere that'll supply a new Tesla on basic mobility payments though so I suspect there's other things afoot there.

If you are claiming such benefits below is a link to a "nice" car you can get... to lease for 3 years plus £3100 down and it's not yours at the end of the 3 years ie lease not ownership. It's a sweet deal in so much as Motability operate as a charity which must help. Still, given the choice (and I have been there) I'd rather be physically right and riding my bike.

I expect many new cars out there are either company cars or as many do today, "PCP" purchases. A quick look on a PCP deal for a more nice Audi suggests 5k down, 4 years of £540 per month and chop it in for another new one at the end of it all.

I talked with a Kwakker dealer a while back. He said I could have this shiny new Z900 for a couple of grand! Wow! Of course that's £2k down, 36 months at £110 then £6k at the end if I wanna keep the bike. That is of course if I only do 4,000 miles a year. Snot gunna work fer me that is it :-)
19/06/2022 22:33:29 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
... and anyone thinking that claiming payments such as PIP is easy should talk to people who've been through that particular mill. A friend of my wife claimed - she's virtually housebound due to a variety of conditions and was knocked back. She did win on appeal however (as do about 80% who do appeal) but the whole process left her a wreck.
20/06/2022 11:16:36 UTC
Upt'North said :-
The prices in Spain and Portugal have been a revelation, two excellent coffee's, two free slices of cake, "help ya'selves to biccies", for €2.50.
A really good night out for about half the UK price and probably better food too.
And a large modern apartment in a stunning seaside location within a minutes walk of the sea for about €70.00 a night.
Find that on the West Coast of Scotland if you can and the Jameson's is cheaper than in blighty.
22/06/2022 23:16:15 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Where in Portugal are you Ian. I was there in January and it was 2.50 just for a coffee with 1 biscotti included in all the places we went. Everything else especially fuel was a sight dearer than Spain. Here in France an Ice cream is starting at 3.50. Good job the wife is in UK or I would need to remortgage the house.
My local bar charge me 2 euros for a large cafe cortado but as he puts 4 shots of coffee into it I can understand why. Actually 3 1/2 shots, the other 1/2 shot is for the wife's cafe manchado.
23/06/2022 16:20:16 UTC
nab301 said :-
Sounds an awful lot cheaper than Southern Ireland, hold on a minute , we're in the EU too! albeit a little further West....
23/06/2022 19:29:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
So - much like the UK it seems the EU is cheap unless it's not! I'm sure if I find the right greasy spoon I could get a brew and basic full English for around £5, normally around £6-7 and in the wrong place a tenner easily. I can spend as little as £7 camping or £35 for the night. I find when travelling save for the obviously expensive looking places prices are pot luck - as is quality. When you're not local and not "in the know" you're at the whims of wherever your wheels stop rolling.
24/06/2022 21:22:45 UTC

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