Driving through history

flying solo 415It is after ten and it has been another long day after a night of little sleep. I couldn’t settle for some reason, tossing and turning and listening to the bangs and rumbles in the street as the wind whipped anything that was loose into motion. I could have done with the sleep to as there was to be a long drive ahead this morning. For the second time in as many weeks my son and I were heading into London and once again there would be no museums, just an appointment with an orthotics company. This time, however, we did manage to see some wonderful bits of British history as we drove. Of course, with both hands on the wheel and a fixed appointment time, I couldn’t take pictures, though many of these places I know well and have visited before.

the triumph of horsenden 065

The Ridgeway

It is quite amazing really… over the distance we covered, we saw remnants and majesty from so many periods of time. Our journey ran alongside the Ridgeway to begin with, a prehistoric high way, stil in use today.  The first landmark to greet us was Cymbeline’s Castle, a hill that is a very special place for me and Stuart France, and central to the story of The Initiate. That one small patch of landscape alone holds traces of Man’s presence from the Iron Age, through the Roman and medieval, right up to the present day.

Whiteleaf Cross

Whiteleaf Cross

A few minutes later and we passed the huge symbol cut into the chalk of the hillside known as Whiteleaf Cross… a deeply trenched artwork of uncertain age that looks like a triangle surmounted by a cross. These figures are strange and mysterious; needing to be ‘scoured’ every few years to preserve the whiteness of the chalk, the figures change over time… sometimes deliberately being altered by the prevailing faith of the region. Here too are burial mounds and aeons of history and mystery. And it was probably here that Stuart and I had realised for the first time that something really odd was going on with the red kites… And there were kites soaring there again today, in spite of the gales and rain.

Dashwood Mausoleum and Golden Ball

Dashwood Mausoleum and Golden Ball

A couple of miles beyond Whiteleaf we passed ‘Hawk Hill’… which plays such a huge part in the adventures recounted in the books. On its summit the Dashwood Mausoleum poses its questions with every glance. Behind it the enigmatic Golden Ball atop St Lawrence’s church, where Dashwood and his cronies are said to have held card parties. Having climbed that tower and seen the steps, no-one in their right minds would attempt that ascent… and especially not after wine… Beneath the hill are stranger things still, hidden in the chalk-cut maze of caverns known as the Hellfire Caves.

Red kite over West Wycombe

Red kite over West Wycombe

We pass through High Wycombe, past the site of the old castle, and on towards another, still a royal residence after a thousand years. Windsor Castle dominates the skyline, no matter from which direction you approach. One of these days I will get that shot from the end of the Long Walk. Not today, however, as time was ticking on.

Windsor

Windsor

Instead we stopped at Runnymede for a late breakfast. Here alone the history of the Isles can be traced in many directions. On the hillside opposite where we parked is the Memorial to John F. Kennedy and the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial. Close by is the river crossing of the old Roman Road. Near the ruins of the Benedictine Priory, a victim of King Henry VIII’s religious reform, is the place where he is said to have met the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. And there, on an island on the Thames, is the place where what was arguably the first ever charter of human rights was signed in 1215 by King John… Magna Carta. The Ankerwycke Yew looks on serenely… these are recent events in its history, after all. The tree is thought to be up to two and a half thousand years old.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta

The last leg of the journey passed through those small villages that spread and joined long ago to form Greater London, passing the houseboats on the Thames and actor David Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, built in 1756, before glimpsing the magnificent Tudor edifice that is Hampton Court Palace, built in 1529 for Cardinal Wolsey and seized by Henry VIII for himself when his cardinal fell from favour. Through all this the Thames rolls on unperturbed except by its own eddying currents, tracing the flow of history and carrying its memories to the sea.

The flow of history

The flow of history

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Ancient sites, England, History, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Driving through history

  1. So much history in such a small area. Wow. Walking with the ghosts of time. And it’s beautiful too.

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  2. davidprosser says:

    A wonderful journey Sue.So nice to be able to take it at a more leisurely pace sometime with camera in hand.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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  3. How gorgeous, as usual…. I have been watching “Through the Wormhole” with Morgan Freeman. Wouldn’t it be amazing to go back in time and see these areas in prehistory? I would LOVE to see the Library at Alexandria . . .

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  4. England is such an amazing country for history – and sadly most people ignore it, or are ignorant of it. The photos are superb – hope all went well with your appointment and that your son makes good progress…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is, and I agree; we are so used to its presence that we don’t even see it… yet I can’t think of a single patch of land that doesn’t have a story to tell.

      Seemed to go very well… the results will mean another couple of trips, so fingers crosssed!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jenanita01 says:

    Sounds like a good trip, one way and another, Sue. I remember walking the Ridgeway once, when I was a lot younger. It seemed to go on forever, but was worth every step!

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’ve walked a fair bit of it now, but not all in one go! There are still nearly ninety miles of the original track left. I would love to walk it for a holiday one of these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. evelynralph says:

    Reblogged this on evelynralph and commented:
    Certainly a rare journey through England’s history and heritage. Great photographs too. Evelyn

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Smith says:

    Wonderful post – a history lesson and lovely photos. I’m woefully ignornat of the history of that part of the country so I enjoy your journeys.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. TanGental says:

    tremendous; the best was the last, the quiet flow of history – perfectly put.

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  9. noelleg44 says:

    Taking a trip with you is such a delight! I feel a need to look up all the history!

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  10. Ali Isaac says:

    Gorgeous images and beautiful writing, as always Sue! And so much history in one post!

    Like

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