Monday, 10 August 2009

The Herepath

The other day I came across the word "herepath" and didn't know what it meant so being a bit of a geek when it comes to words I looked it up on the internet. As a result I came across the website of the wonderful organisation The Friends of the Ridgeway. This is a great site for anyone interested in the Ridgeway, its natural history, geology, archaeology and history. They have some excellent articles on the legends and literature of the area and whilst I was browsing I came across an entire page on "The Herepath." This turns out to be an Anglo-Saxon term for Army Road and according to the article the greatest military activity near the Ridgeway in historic times was in the Anglo Saxon period because the Romans preferred to build their own army roads and did not use the Ridgeway. Indeed the road that runs from Wantage to Wanborough, along the northern line of the Downs but at a lower altitude than the Ridgeway was originally Roman in origin and called the Portway. This road, unlike the Ridgeway, was built along the spring line so that there was water available to travellers along the route. There was a Roman fort in the field to the south of Ashdown Park (which of course wasn't there at the time!) and a Roman villa was built into the Anglo Saxon site at Alfreds Castle and another only a mile to the west. These were rich lands for Roman agriculture, all part of the timeline stretching from the Bronze Age to the present at Ashdown.

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