Taking Harriet to Stonehenge
Well, not quite, but we took Harriet to Salisbury.
Recently, the children have learned about the Stone Age, including a HE visit to Conkers where they took part in a Stone Age theme day. They learned a lot about Stone Age life, and heard mention of Stonehenge – enough for them to ask if they could visit. So over Easter weekend, we took the opportunity to take Harriet on our first trip and we all went down to Salisbury.
First, I have to say, I slept better on the rearrange-the-front-and-back-seats-into-a-bed in Harriet than I usually do at home. And that’s saying something, because we decided not bother trying to put the double bed up and Stonelaughter and I used the very narrow singles instead. This is a good thing. The children all shared the double bed above the cab. There’s loads of space up there for all three of them, although Bean definitely needs to refine his climbing technique and Plum and PK need to grow a bit (a lot) to be able to get up and down on their own. But they all slept soundly too. I mean, eventually they did – Plum and PK were *very* excited about it all and took forever to settle down!
We were very impressed with Harriet on our first trip, though we do need to make better use of the cupboard space, and it took us a while to remember what we’d been told about using the water pump etc. And we initially had trouble getting the awning to fit. But eventually we had it all sorted.
And so on to Stonehenge. I’m the only one of the family who had been before and I was a child, so it was something we were all looking forward to. When we arrived, we were shocked by the admission prices – around £50 for our family! This includes the exhibition, the audio tour and the shuttle bus to and from the Stones themselves though. The queue was immense and it was so cold, and staff were taking English Heritage members and those who had pre-booked out to the much smaller queue, so I went online to see if we could “pre-book” whilst we were in the queue. Online it tells you that numbers are limited for each time slot, so if you don’t pre-book there’s no guarantee you’ll get in. I looked at pre-booking, but the only slots available were 5 hours away. I decided to look at membership instead. Just as I was reading our options, a staff member took us out of the queue because I was on my mobility scooter, and said they’d sort our tickets in the membership office where it was warm. We asked about membership and he sorted us out with a great deal. Because I’m disabled, I can take another adult with me for free. We ended up with yearly membership that covered all 5 of us, for the same cost as a single adult, and even better, it cost us no more than the day cost of visiting Stonehenge! So we only needed to use the card once more to have gained on the deal.
Anyway, Stonehenge itself. We took the audio tours with us – they do a child version and an adult one – and they tell you about the history, construction, use and excavation of the henge and stones as you walk around the site. Safe to say we all learned a lot.
The next day, we decided to visit Old Sarum, an Iron Age hill fort visible from Harriet – we were on a site almost right next door! As it turned out, Old Sarum is also managed by English Heritage, and so we got in free courtesy of our sparkly new membership card (and so less than 24 hours after joining EH, we’d already saved money). They had a treasure hunt on for the children, and it was something all three could access – around the site they had placed boards which each had a question and a simple picture. The pictures had to be ticked off on the answer sheet, bingo-style and the little two were able to do that themselves. The questions were trickier. All around the site there are information boards about life at the fort and these contained the answers to the questions – but the questions were never in the same place as the board which held its answer!
It was a good system, it meant we had to cover the whole site and read every board and all five of us leaned a lot about the place, including the fact the Salisbury Cathedral as we know it is the second Cathedral – the ruins of the first one lying on the site at Old Sarum and abandoned after the King was ex-communicated. A new Cathedral was built within view of Old Sarum and a settlement established to support it. And so Salisbury was born!
Once we’d found all the answers, we had to take them to Henry II. The children approached him cautiously, and all bowed and curtsied before speaking to him. My scooter couldn’t make it up the bank to him, so after a chat with the children, he came down to talk to me too! And then the children were rewarded with enormous “Coins from Flanders” from the King;s moneybag. Those coins from Flanders didn’t even make it off the site (and I didn’t get a single bite!)
We went for a late lunch at a local hostelry and browsed the guide-book from EH, discovering lots of places we wanted to visit, and the bare bones of road trips to come started to form. Harriet will be taking us to visit lots of historic sites, I suspect!