|West Kennet Avenue is thought to have been a 2.3 km long Neolithic processional way between Avebury Henge and the stone circle known as the Sanctuary (see Avebury guide page 3: Sights and sites of Avebury) on Overton Hill, although it is not known in which direction the processions proceeded. Constructed around 2400 BC, long after the Sanctuary and the Henge, the 15 metre wide Avenue was lined by 100 pairs of large standing sarsen stones, between 1.2 and 4 metres high, arranged along roughly parallel rows.
At the time of John Aubrey's visit in 1643 nearly all the 200 stones were still intact, but by the 1720s, when William Stukeley came here, only 72 had survived destruction or burial by locals. In the 1930s, when Alexander Keiller began excavating and restoring the Avenue, only 4 stones were left standing. It is thanks to Keiller's work that today's visitors can appreciate something of Avenue's original grandeur.
Walking northwards along the Avenue towards Avebury Henge you pass through a broad valley, with the 191 metre high Waden Hill (Saxon for Heathen Hill) to the west and to the east Overton Down (called Hackpen Hill by Stukeley and subsequent cartographers) along which the ancient Ridgeway passes.
The footpath along West Kennet Avenue starts at the southern edge of Avebury Henge on the west side of the modern B4003 road to West Kennet village. The road follows the downhill route of the Avenue southeastwards, but crosses it just before West Kennet. It is then crossed by the main A4 road and the smaller road to East Kennet. This all means that to follow the West Kennet Avenue path from Avebury Henge to the Sanctuary you have to cross the road four times.
The A4 is a particularly busy road, so take care crossing it. Those of us who do not live in Britain (or other countries which drive on the left) keep having to remember to look right before stepping off the curb.
Signpost near Silbury Hill showing the way from the A4 road, over Waden Hill, along West Kennet Avenue to Avebury.
West Kennet Avenue