Monday, 26 March 2012

Tribal scars

I've scratched old England on the back and her's gived us wealth untold
                                                                - Mont Abbot

So - I freely admit I'm not going to win any photojournalism awards, but I snapped the picture above and managed to get it on here, which believe me, is some achievement...

England's green and pleasant land - no doubt. But this little bit of it has some scar tissue.

Back in February I travelled up to North Leigh in West Oxfordshire - or Nor Lye as the natives say. A mile over several stiles  - and there she was: Grim's Ditch! ...albeit the least impressive end of her. If you look at the smaller tree on the centre right of the photo, can you see a faint diagonal line extending slightly upward toward the middle left to the branches of the larger tree? That's her. Grim was one of the names the Anglo-Saxon's called Woden, but the Ditch herself dates from the Iron Age. She may have demarcated the border between the Ancient British/Brythonic tribes of the Dobunni and the Catuvellauni. In fact this part of the world remained border country in Saxon times, forming the frontier between Wessex and Mercia.

Look on any good map of England and you will see these tribal scars - some real war wounds like Wansdyke - others, like Grim's Ditch, more of a scratch. Either way they are ripples that echo down the ages from our ancestors. From great hillforts to burgh defences and to medieval ploughing ridges still clearly seen undulating over our green fields - they can remind us of who we are and where we came from.