Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Old Way

Roads and pathways obviously connect one place to another, but also they connect us through time with those who travelled this way before. How long before? Well, who knows , for once a track is established it's difficult to imagine why people would abandon it and set about making a new path.



I've been walking a leafy track near my home. It leads from the village, crosses the busy modern road, passes a big house called Melbourn Bury, then shortly afterwards it peters out, but seems to be heading in the direction of the Bronze Age burial mound on Greenlow Hill and on towards the chalk ridge beyond.



This row of chalk hills stretches, with a few gaps, from the south coast in Dorset right up to the North Norfolk coast. England's oldest road The Icknield Way followed the crest of these hills because, it used to be thought, everywhere else was thickly forested. Early archaeologists found much to interest them on these bare hills and concluded that this relatively treeless land was easier to settle than the wooded land to the north.



They'd forgotten one important thing - water. And there's very little surface water up on the chalk hills.  Water is not only essential for everyday life, it's also heavy and awkward to transport, especially uphill! It seems likely that people would have lived near to a source of water, such as the clear springs which issue forth from the base of the hills.


Although they may have grazed their animals and buried their dead high up on the hill, they probably lived lower down. What's more we're now not so certain that the lowland forests were quite as continuous and impenetrable as we once believed so they may have used this land too. It seems probable that some sort of track would exist between the hills and the village at the spring and perhaps leading on into the woodland.


Now that big house, Melbourn Bury, was built in the mid-nineteenth century, but on the site of a medieval dwelling. Close by is the source of the little River Mel that flows through my village. Whoever lived in the area at any time in the past would have been attracted to it as a source of pure spring water. So is it too fanciful to believe that people have lived here for even longer, stretching back deep into history?



And those people would have needed a track to lead up to their grazing lands and perhaps towards the more wooded area too. They'd have walked up to their herds and perhaps brought the animals down daily to drink. They'd have gone north into the woods to gather berries and firewood as well as hunting trips. 



If this assumption is true then could this track which I'm walking lead us all the way back, past the Bury, past the Bronze Age tumulus and right back to the first people who settled this land. In other words did men, women and children from the Old Stone Age tread this same path I'm walking today?


Take care.


19 comments:

  1. What a great post! I often wonder about the people in the past who have used the local ancient pathways that I walk along. There are many ancient paths over the moors round here that were used by jaggers and pedlars in past centuries - routes that often claimed lives in harsh winter weather. Your path looks a much gentler and friendlier place.

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  2. I love to think about that when I'm walking, too, those whose feet have trod the same path, their thoughts, how they might have looked. I love the first photo that appears to lead back into another time.

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  3. I love that first shot, the way the plants have grown so close it looks like a hidden tunnel leading off into a fairytale world! I love just getting out and going for a long wander along leafy pathways like this, it's always so refreshing. I love the little bit of history behind it all too. - Tasha

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  4. It would be such a thrill to walk those paths and think about those came before.

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  5. A great post and lovely photos. It's fascinating to think who might have walked before us!

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  6. Good blog post John!
    Am reminded by that old hymn 'and did those feet in ancient time...." yes of course they did the greenways, green roads,and paths were made by those who came before us. Whenever I'm on ancient sites or walking I start thinking of how lucky we are to have lightweight warm clothing and boots plus all the amenities of modern life - there is no comparison is there?

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  7. Fascinating thoughts. I often think similar when I'm following a packhorse route around here (there are many), imagining people carrying their goods to and from market.

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  8. I often wonder about the ones that have gone before. But with me, I don't think back that far...I think back to the pioneers and wonder what they thought when coming to this land. And I think about how long it would have taken them to travel the distance I am going that particular day....

    anyway, I sure wish I could follow your path...beautiful they are.

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  9. Fascinating perspective on old roads! I must consider that as I'm out exploring...

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  10. That first photo really draws you in. All superb, lush and green surroundings.

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  11. I'm another one who really likes that first photo! I need to take a woodland walk soon!

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  12. Wonderful photos!
    My favourite is the third one, with the magnificent light and so many shades of green.
    But oh how I'm envious of all of you that live in such fascinating places! I live in an area where a hundred years ago there wasn't anything apart from woods and bears. It's beautiful in its own way, but one so enjoys seeing houses and gardens and fields that people have tended for centuries.

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  13. Just came back over to say thank you for the lovely comments! - Tasha

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  14. It's indeed wonderful to think of all the people who have lived in the area and walked along the paths that are still used today. We don't have any ancient paths here. Most woodland paths appear in cottage country as a quick route from a cottage to the lake. All of them are relatively recent and with no interesting history, but it is still great to feel the springiness of the earth under your feet as you walk along them.

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  15. Wonderful old tracks leading from one place to another and very Interesting to ponder who has walked these ways before. Great pics John.

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  16. It is a shame there you didn't come across a tardis to enter and take you back in time to find out for sure.

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