In 2009 my first walking book was published, a book which is virtually a prequel to my series on the origins of place names for it was my interest in ley lines which resulted in the eventual books on the origins of place names. It was probably only a matter of time before I turned my attention to the ancient trackways of England and, in particular, to my native Midlands. For those who may want to explore this further, I reproduce the introduction here. Copies are, of course, available in the time honoured 'all good book shops' or directly from the author if you drop me a line. Any comments would be appreciated..........
"Within these pages we will tread the paths walked by our ancestors some 4,000 and more years ago. The routes will take us through some of the loveliest countryside to be found anywhere, some with breathtaking views from the summits of hills, doen to the valleys below. Sometimes the trackways still pass through woodland, as they did when created to provide safe passage from one hill fort to another.
None of the original markers have survived or, if they have, cannot be shown to be originals. However, the markers which have replaced them are still seen, providing a history lesson everywhere we look; not only cultural history but natural history too, for a wealth of flora and fauna have made these regions their homes. Yet were it not for man's creation of these environments, England would still be one vast woodland; if so many of the plants and animals would never have thrived here, whether they had made their way to our shores or had been introduced by man. This book will have something for thise interested in history both ancient and modern, the natural world, walking, or even those who simply delight in this green and pleasant land.
Having walked these ancient paths for the most part, I was forced to walk them twice - from the car and back again. However, this provided me with the opporunity to see everything from both aspects, which revealed many things I had not noticed on my outward journey - and these pathways were traversed both ways.
I have no idea how many miles I walked in preparing these pages, although my level of fitness has improved beyond all expectations. My thanks are due to all those who rediscovered the trackways I trod and pointed me in the right direction. Furthermore, without all the establishments that provided a meal for a hungry man and a bed for his very weary legs, I would still be walking today.
To experience the feeling of standing at the site of a hill fort which would have been a hive of activity for centuries was very moving. This path was one which others had walked almost since mankind had abandoned the life of the hunter-gatherer, forming permanent settlements and adopting the farming life. Images formed of the landscape around me as it would have appeared before Stonehenge and the much earlier Avebury circles were even thought about.
When I walked the land the changing images of Saxon, Romano-British, Iron Age, Bronze Age and Neolithic times were remarkably easy tos ee. As you follow my journeys in the ensuing pages I hope you are able to glimpse some of the things I saw."
Tracing the ancient trackways provided me with an avenue to explore pre-history from a very different perspective. I climbed a few hills, walked many a mile and, owing to the obligatory 'instant energy rations' strapped to my back (courtesy of the Cadbury organisation) never managed to lose more than the odd pound or two - in fact I just got very hungry!
Much of the early travel was for trade, a bartering of commodities in which they were not self-sufficient. The one item very few were able to produce for themselves was salt, scarcity made it valuable, and increased demand. Today the salt roads still exist and it was natural that after following the early tracks I then turned to the first trade roads and thus produced The Salt Routes. It is to this subject that I will turn next time.
Ley Lines Across the Midlands is available from the author or direct from the publishers:
Incidentally, for those who will be in the region of Ryton XI Towns in Shropshire this coming Wednesday 15th September, I shall be speaking on the subject of Shropshire Place Names. All visitors are welcome and books will be on sale (at a reasonable discount). It would be a pleasure to meet you.