The Sanctuary



Three thousand years before the Romans arrived, the Og valley was already used by the Megalithics (the people who erected megaliths). Whoever the megalithic peoples were, they may well pre-date both the Druids and Celts/Britons.

What language did the Megalithics use? It’s often said that they (like the Druids) had no written language. But this is a misunderstanding of a passing remark by Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War). Caesar said the Druids considered it sacrilegious to write down their teachings. He goes on to say “But for all other purposes they use the Greek alphabet”. A few Roman visitors were surprised that these people could speak Greek as well. All of which indicates (at least) a trading/historical connection between Britain and the Mediterranean that pre-dates the arrival of the Romans.

The Ridgeway Trail crosses the Og Valley to connect the megalithic sites at Silbury and Avebury to those at Wayland's Smithy, Uffington and Dragon Hill. The head of the Og valley is flanked on both sides by two hill tops. Just to confuse visitors, they are both called Castles (Barbury and Liddington). Where they really castles? Ah well, no. But if they weren't castles, what were they?

The usual reflex answer from orthodox historians or archeologists is that they were hill-forts. Castles, forts, wars, battles and deaths sounds a lot more exciting, doesn't it? Which is great for academic careers, books and TV series. But how much evidence have we that they were military forts or places for battles? Outside of a few known battles between native Britons and mercenary Saxons, there is surprisingly little evidence. Instead the bulk of evidence suggests something much more mundane and peaceful. That is, the Ridgeway Trail is an ancient trade route, used for thousands of years, connecting a string of enclosures that were only rarely used for military purposes as well.

Locally, what we know now as Gypsy Lane was one of the most direct routes between Barbury and Liddington. It passes close by the head of the Og river, near a location initially said to have been a "pre-Roman temple", except the largest room in this "temple" was found to be a large malting oven for roasting barley. Which is, of course, a crucial ingredient in brewing beer. If it was a temple, it was one devoted to the gods of brewing.

The other crucial ingredient of good beer is good water, which suggests a plentiful supply of fresh clean water from a spring or well. Roasted barley has an acidifying effect on the beer mash. Because of this, modern-day brewers tend to treat the mash with calcium carbonate to keep the pH in the proper range. The chalky Og water would be slightly alkaline, and perfect for a naturally balanced brew.

The Ridgeway Trail is mostly on chalk uplands, with few rivers, and these are mostly winter bournes, which means rivers that usually only flow in winter time. Victorian era maps of Ogbourne St.George show many wells in the area, so that villagers had a dependable water supply all year round. So for most of the year, every year, the Og valley would have been a special place on the Ridgeway, as one of the few parts where travellers could depend on finding water for themselves and their animals. The most famous example is The Inn With The Well, which is still refreshing weary walkers to this day, and may be carrying on a local tradition which has lasted for five thousand years. Cheers!

The churchyard of Ogbourne St.Andrew contains a barrow and sarsen stones.

Ogbourne St.George features as the first walk on The Megalthic Empire.