The new Ashmolean Museum in Oxford was opened to the public last weekend 7/8th November.
Today, I had some spare time and as it was wet and windy it was a perfect day to visit. The ground floor is given over to the Ancient World. Unfortunately the European Prehistory room is not ready yet (I was told to give it another month)... continues...
For all my frequent trips to Uffington, Wayland's Smithy is an oft-missed destination. I've always viewed the area like a theme park of the ancient world. No matter how determined, you never really get to go on all the rides.
This time round, the delights of the Ridgeway and Wayland's Smithy were top on the list and the first thing I made for. The journey along Britain's oldest road was contemplative and inspiring enough, with the arrival at the Smithy a just reward for such pilgrimage.
My decision to go in the early afternoon on a weekday was well placed. With most folk at work I had the chance to soak in the Smithy's charm undisturbed. Free from the click of cameras and excitable children jumping up and down on the capstone.
The Smithy is a monument that commands respect. Four stone guardians stand watch over the entrance to the inner sanctum, flanked by a horseshoe of trees. To clamber at will over the monument doesn't seem right; one has to be invited to cross the threshold and experience the Smithy's secrets.
Once I'd perceived permission was given, I discovered a new secret as I passed the gateway into the cruciform chamber. An arrangement of wild flowers lay in the middle of the terminal chamber, no doubt an offering from another pilgrim who arrived before me.
It wasn't the only gift. On closer inspection, I noticed a number of coins inserted in the crevices of the pock-marked sarsen standing left to the entrance. The legend of Wayland sprang to mind, with visitors perhaps asking the smith to shod their wishes in place of the traditional horse. I left a similar offering of my own in a free space, before standing back to regard the Smithy one last time before heading back up the Ridgeway.
In the tranquility of the moment, it was almost as if I heard the Smithy speak. "Don't leave it so long next time," it said. And on such a similar well-placed day in the future, I won't.