Sunday, 7 July 2013

Old Sarum

I realised a few weeks ago that although I only live about an hours drive from Salisbury, and often pootle in that direction to visit Stonehenge, I'd never actually been to Old Sarum. (I admit, to, that having read Diana Wynne Jones's wonderful 'The Merlin Conspiracy' I am very slightly anxious about it, as deep down I know believe that Old Sarum is both sentient and a little bad tempered and unpredictable. But I digress)

So, today, after a morning which involved some baking (not, I think, 100% successful - I should have listened to my instincts, and added some more extra flour - the shortbread tastes OK but is not perfect) I made a small picnic and drove to Salisbury, and thence to Old Sarum itself.
Inner Fortifications
Old Sarum was the original settlement, later displaced by Salisbury - the archaeology apparently shows that it was an Iron Age settlement, from somewhere between 400 and 100 BC. It was  then occupied by the Romans, when it was known as Sorviodunum, and later there was an Anglo-Saxon settlement, then William the Conqueror put a castle there.
Bridge to inner fortifications

You can see, even now, what a defensible place it is - the pictures above shows the inner Motte, which is big, with a huge, steep ditch around around it, and there is then a further, outer ditch, which is huge.
Outer ditch (with Salisbury cathedral in the background)
In the 11th Century a castle was built inside the inner motte, and a cathedral was built outside, but within the outer earthworks. It was finished in 1092, and struck by lightening 5 days after it was completed, but they were not ut off, and rebuilt it bigger and better! 
However, King John (who did use the castle) and his bishops had a falling out, and by 1220 the cathedral was abandoned and they built a new one in what would become Sailsbury.

The castle is mostly ruins, now, and the cathedral has gone altogether apart from the foundations, but the original earthworks are till there, and very impressive.
Castle ruins, from gatehouse
After walking around the castle ruins, I walked around the top of the outer earthworks - you can see for miles, and can see just how huge the outer ditch is, and how hard it would have been to take this place by force.

Outer Ditch
The path was narrow, and there were lots of wild flowers and grasses, and lots of butterflies, which made me realise how few I have seen this summer - it's been so cold and wet until now.

 There were also lots of bumble bees, and other insects - there was a tiny little spider with  a lime-green body, and some beautifully iridescent beetles,which appeared to come in both green and red varieties.

Across the ditch I could see sheep, grazing in single file on the top of the far side of the ditch, and at one point I heard (but didn't see) something larger than an insect - perhaps a snake or a mouse, among the grass.

There were birds, too - lots of crows, and pigeons, but I also saw (as I walked around the earthworks) goldfinches, and blackbirds, and red-legged partridges.
It was a lovely sunny day, and I really enjoyed my visit.

And after I got home, I learned that Andy Murray won Wimbledon, which is nice to know, as it will make lots of people very happy, and I completely missed the tennis match, which is ideal for me!

A very good day. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fact that you can drive to Old Sarum (or to Stonehenge, for that matter) makes me very envious. Although I live in a beautiful area (near Glacier National Park in Montana, USA) our historical sites are very young compared to yours. Thanks for the tour.30