Christchurch as the Gateway to Stonehenge
The location of Christchurch has more than a nod to London or Lisbon. Those two cities sit in a sheltered location just off the sea, with a navigable river enabling trade to flourish inland. The farming upriver and the proximity of the sea ensured that the city population could be fed. You might wonder why I put Christchurch together with these two cities. I accept that this small town did not turn into a city but that was because different criteria applied in the Neolithic. It may not have grown but Christchurch as the gateway to Stonehenge was important in prehistory.
The Food Surplus
Consider where the town sits in 2200BC. A henge predates the priory and occupies the promontary between two navigable rivers and has a growing congregation farming the silt soils along the River Avon. Add in the nearby marshes and the sea beyond and you have all the ingredients that a new civilisation requires. There is pignut and gorse as well as reeds for roofing. They already have a sacred site up the river, on the chalk downs, where the open skies give them views of the sun and moon. As the food surplus grows, they have tribal labour so why not expand the sacred site and build a great stone circle.
The Bluestones Arrive
Imagine the scene. The people lining the harbour and river and cheering as the healing bluestones are rafted in from Wales. There was great joy and drama as they watched the rafts rounding Hengistbury Head and being poled up the river. Their river highway, the rafts, the paddlers, all evidence of tribal power; no other tribe could move such stones or build on such a scale. The tribal power is the valley, the hills, the magical water that heals.
I call this tribal area Avonlands in my forthcoming book My Pagan Ancestor Zuri. I accept that the town of Christchurch was not on the map; no towns then existed. Yet its geographical location, its commanding position over the junction of two important and productive rivers, cannot be ignored. The rest of tribal Britannia, to pinch our Roman name, is in awe to the achievements of Avonlands. Those distant tribes live on clay soils covered in oak trees and cannot utilise such land, cannot plough the heavy soils, or cut timber as hard as oak. They will come to dominate in time; the time of metal.
The Pagan Park
Avonlands is now broken up, divided between Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Why don’t we recover the tribal lands to form a new National Park called Avonlands, the River Avon the backbone; Stonehenge the core as the first cathedral; Christchurch the gateway to the known world. We should revere this tribal land, this pagan past, this community that really founded the first England.