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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rome Sweet Rome

"O to be in England now that April is here", so lamented the poet Robert Browning, in 'Home Thoughts from Abroad' He could have said May too, as both months England comes bursting out all over. Hedgerows become plump and weighed down with white Hawthorn Blossom, Chestnut Trees sway with candelabras of flowers, and hillsides yellow with swathes of Buttercups.

So dawn rise Sunday...I'm thinking I need to do some final training for the sponsored walk I registered for next weekend in London, and what better way than to sally forth into the 'Church' of Nature.

So I flipped opened a local map, and lightly penciled a circle out five miles from home.. looking for an interesting destination to make a bee-line for. On the circle I noticed the ruins of the Roman Villa at North Leigh stood out, deep in countryside to the north west, and I hadn't been there for a few decades, plus I figured it would make some interest in a blog.

Not that it would have changed since I last went there, twenty five years out of one thousand six hundred years since the owners shipped out is a mere drop in time here.

The Roman empire had been sniffing around this northern Celtic Isle since 55 BC but they didn't get around to getting their sandals muddy till 43 AD.. and when they did they found it exceedingly verdant and fertile so stayed on till 413 AD

As I set off, I mused on the fact that now we have "Fashion" Changes every decade or so...back then, they had Cultural changes every half millennia. I suppose the same could be said today for the vast bulk of the native rural fellaheen the world over, China, India South stays the same pretty much as it ever was.

The Brit's tho weren't slow in knowing a good thing when they saw it, and like the great "what have the Romans ever done for us" sketch in Monty Python's "Life of Brian", The ruling elite here stopped fighting and took on the cultural appearances of the Romans and by the time the high class Villa that I was visiting was built in 400 AD; roads, education, bath houses, under-home heating were well known in the very best country residences.

I put one foot in front of another, passed Bladon Church, where Winston Churchill is buried, then Long Hanborough's thatched houses and topiaries, till a few miles on I reached a turn off down a quintessential English track, where the trees close down a slope to a tunnel shape........

and leads you a further mile into a sweet river valley, till you can glimpse the archaeological remains of the villa peeking through gaps in the trees.

The Villas were high status places of their day, and we are talking 400 AD here, before the Brit's failed to pick up on all the brilliant things the Romans left behind when their Empire crumbled when it got unsustainable, and they left, and England slipped back into the Dark Ages.

Today, the Foundations and floor plan still exist in detail, and you can walk from room to room, with its bare under floor heating ducts openly visible. The damp and cold of England was something the Romans didn't really appreciate, coming from Southern climes.

An even more evocative reminder of the lavishness that must have been surrounding them is there, when a beautiful mosaic was found on the bath-house floor, and has now been reset under a roofed gallery. its astonishing design speaking volumes for the Romans attitude to life in general.

Stepping out of my shower onto something like this now, I would considered very luxurious, and for a moment there, with the whole complex to myself, I could imagine how the Romano - British Owner of this estate must have thought, that Life couldn't really get better than this, and you know, he probably was right.

As a keen metal detectorist I'd have loved to have toted my gear along with me that morning... but such sites are "Verboten" in a big way here, and only fields away from such hot spots can ever be considered for searching, so who knows what treasures lie tucked away on the fringes of the estate, where owners would bury their riches, in case they were attacked by a horde of Saxons.

On the way out of the valley homeward, I couldn't resist doing what most detectorists do when doing a survey to see if a site is worth getting their kit out, and I stepped into a harrowed earth field , and after fifteen minutes of hard searching amongst the swirl of stones I'd found several good pieces of Roman pottery, thrown away when originally broken and further churned to pieces by the plows over the years,... but still with that human touch that potters leave behind, evident in the shards I brought home with me to show you.

On the left, the inside of the bottom of a basic kitchen storage pot, still with its indentation where the potters thumb pressed the revolving clay out to form a flat base.

Above the rim of another terracotta jar, with its final little rim, scored out with a flourish by a Roman nail all those years ago, and below two shards of smooth almost shiny Samian-Ware, high status pottery ..the fine china of its day, showing that the people who lived in the valley, probably had a sign on the wall that said;

"There's no place like Rome"

Sir Dayvd (whose ankles held up during the return) of Oxfordshire


  1. Excellent Blog! First, I want to know that in your training hike, which is well documented here, did you wear your bra?!

    Second, we are jealous that you are surrounded by so much history. Of course we have our fair share here in the States, but no Roman ruins. However, just a few miles down river on the Ohio River we do have Angel Mounds, where once a great Mississippian Indian Culture flourished in a significant city here between 800AD and 1450AD.

    Third, your Tunnel of Trees picture reminds me of one of our favorite drives...the 15 mile stretch on John's Island between Charleston, SC and Kiawah Island...lined with gigantic Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss! Truly inspiring...I call it my Tree Cathedral Drive!

    Finally, you are correct...there's no place like Rome! No offense...London is nice...Paris is nice...but ROME...nothing like it!

    Basically, we're all Roman in one way or another. Whether it's government, religion, Christianity, Paganism, law, culture, war, sex, art, buildings, roads...we all have been touched by ROME!

    Carpe Diem!

    Sir Hook the Caesar of Warrick

  2. I'll be keeping Power Bars in my Bra.

    hehe..there won't be any photos of me in a Bra on the net i can tell you.. actually the whole event has to be careful ..The meeting and start off place is a security heavy Area in Hyde Park...all the photography is done by professional bodies.......and the route not documented till the night all, i presume, to keep the more lary of the male population from taking photos and getting them on the net.

    It takes place after dark, there are over 15.000 women involved and men are allowed in to..but you have to wear a Bra to complete the course.

    anyway, its just a cool way to spend a night in London.. then ache like i've been beaten with baseball bats the next day. Ying and Yang.. If i can do three hours i'll be well pleased.

    Sir D( whose boots are made for walking and thats what he's gonna do ,,etc ) of Oxfordshire

  3. I would say, "Break a leg!" But it's not theater and appropriate for a, Good Walkin'! Of course, it might be considered Theater with the wearing of the Bras. And...what if a woman doesn't wear bras? Are they allowed to walk anyway? I smell a sexism case lurking in Hyde Park!

    Finally, come on and be a Bloody Knight of Moleskine, Spirit and Ale and show us your BRA!!! Shyness is not an admirable quality for a warrior!

    Sir Hook the Jeckyll at Hyde of Warrick

  4. I see bebo made valiant attempts to censor your lewd perversions..LOL... i know you just want a picture of me in a Bra for your screensaver... nice try... LOL..
    The mind boggles to how many other Hookys are going to be in that dark park that night... LOL.. ...In fact i need to ask Aileen if you are wearing a Bra right this minute...

    Sir Dayvd ( the Dignified English Gent....a gentleman will walk but never run.. ) of Oxfordshire

  5. There may be many perverts...but there is only ONE HOOKY! I can see that I will have to be the Brave Knight to break the BRA Barrier. After all, a good leader will only ask his troops to do what he would do!

    Still, it was good British Gentleman who made dressing in drag famous!

    Sir Hook the 44D Cup of Warrick

  6. By the did we get onto the subject of Bras about a post on Roman Civilization in Britain? Last time I checked they didn't wear bras either!

    Sir Hook Who's Breast Are Free But Mind is Perverted of Warrick

  7. hmmmm let me my effort to drag the blogs back to culture , erudite thinking and education...

    I wonder who did mention ladies Undergarments... ..... humm de humm de hum...ah here we are ...begins with H and has five letters... lol

    watch out Lady Tammy this man is coming down your turnpike very soon....

    Sir Dayvd ( who knows that Hooky will be wishing he was in Hyde park on Saturday Night ) of Oxfordshire..

  8. The Tunnel photo could be one of my all-time favorites! (favourites?)

    We get excited here in the States if we're lucky enough to dig up a rusty beer can from the early 1970s (at least I used to).

    It's a shame you couldn't dig away at treasure, but it sounds as if you walked away with good "riches" and memories.

    Sir Bowie

  9. Ah Good to have you back at the Round Table Sir B..

    Yes.. youre not allowed to dig as obvious heritage or pronounced "ancient " sites.. but you are allowed to search around there are thousands of "ancient sites that show up in crop markings that are not "Verboten" so there is plenty of choice. As i said..often the owners wouldn't keep valuble stuff on the actual site anyway in case of raids.

    Most fields throw up some interesting non valuable artifact from the past. My favourite piece that i found was a small ( 40mm) medieval bronze rattle bell, shaped like a ball with sound slots.

    Unfortunately a 1000 years of being knocked around by a plow meant it had cracked enough for the small ball inside to have fallen out. Still it looks real cute with its fish scale decoration on the outside. The bells would be tied round animals like Goats that would wander off into the undergrowth.
    I'll show it you when you come over when we are sat in some medieval Pub.

    That tunnel track was soo neat,, it had birds singing in it and everything. Like something from a C.S.Lewis childrens story..

    BTW i am sending a package to your house for Sir james. Its his Wolf stencils.

    Is your computer back up and running now?? or are you doing all this from an Internet cafe.

    Sir dayvd.

  10. we are connected to the real world again!
    I love the tree tunnel picture too

    and the lunch bunch went on another walk today - check another one off in the Evansville in Motion book : )

    Lady Suzanne
    going to visit Sir Bowie's bonfire now...where are those hot dogs and marshmallows?!

  11. Ah...the Gang is all here! Does anyone have a Bra?

    Sir Hook the Strapless of Warrick