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The Beautiful Little English Village With Its Own Incredible Little-Known Stonehenge

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Stunning aerial footage shows off Avebury stone circleIf you drive 17 miles due north from Stonehenge through the Wiltshire countryside, most people would be surprised to find an equally, if not more, impressive prehistoric marvel.

This little-known henge – the term for a vast circular bank surrounded by a ditch – happens to contain the largest megalithic stone circle in Britain, originally counting some 100 separate pieces.

Avebury’s cultural significance has been cemented by UNESCO and the National Trust, as the charity is fighting hard to preserve the 8.7-square-mile site.

Until recently, the residents of the village at Avebury’s heart regarded the pillars of rock as either a nuisance or construction material, but now they relish in its unique position.

Since the 1970s, roughly a quarter of a million visitors have flocked to the site each year.

Avebury henge from above with the village at its core (Image: GETTY)

Although the chronology of its construction still baffles archaeologists, Avebury is thought to be the result of various projects over the course of the third millennium BC. Best radiocarbon dating guesses pinpoint it to between 2850 and 2200 BC.

The monument consists of a circular bank with an internal ditch 347 metres in diameter. Within it is a large outer stone circle and two concentric smaller ones. The whole is part of a broader prehistoric landscape including nearby treasures at West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill.

Like Stonehenge, its original purpose is unknown but it is believed to have served in rituals and ceremonies. It remains a place of importance to contemporary pagans.

Containing around 100 stones to begin with, around the 14th century locals began dismantling them to clear land, to build houses or just to erase the area’s pre-Christian roots.

In the 20th century, the National Trust stepped in designated it a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In 1986, alongside Stonehenge, it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

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The giant stones are thousands of years old (Image: GETTY)

By dint of being entirely encircled by the site, Avebury village also falls under the National Trust’s protective wing. The national conservationist body has discouraged commercialism in the area to keep the area free from the “customary gaudiness that infiltrates most famous places” in the UK.

Just two shops cater to the tourist market as a result, one of which the National Trust’s own, the other selling New Age paraphernalia and books. 

Alongside its business acumen, the Trust also has a sense of humour. For an April Fool’s Day prank in 2014, it claimed on social media that it was moving one of the stones for it to be realigned with British Summer Time.

The village watering hole, sitting atop millennia of history (Image: GETTY)

Just under 500 people live in Avebury proper and the associated settlements of Avebury Trusloe, Beckhampton and West Kennett.

The village pub, The Red Lion, was built around the 86-foot-deep village well and declares itself the only boozer in the world to be enclosed by a stone circle. 

Among the 200-odd charming houses and barns that dot the picturesque landscape are the Grade I listed St James’ church and the Great Barn at Manor Farm – whose nine thatched-roof bays now serve as the Alexander Keiller Museum and display many of the finds from digs around Avebury.