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Landscape offers beautiful clues to the history of England

Monday, August 13, 2012

Throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland the landscape if filled with numerous earthworks, forts and henges creating a historic legacy almost unrivalled in the world.

Possibly the most famous earthwork on the planet is Stonehenge. Built about 4000 years ago, Stonehenge is a place of mystery and magic. A henge is and enclosed circular shape surrounded by a ditch with a bank on the outside. This makes them almost certainly for ritual ceremonies rather than defensive sites. Throughout Britain, there are many other henges, some aligned to the stars, some to the sun and moon but many with unknown purpose and history.

Just before the Romans conquered Britain, each tribe defended against attack by means of a hillfort. These were built in good defensive positions such as the tops of hills and surrounded by a series of banks and ditches to make attack very difficult. It is thought, that at times of unrest, people would assemble within the hillfort so providing protection.

In the West Country of England, there are over 6000 barrow mounds. These are small burial mounds where important individuals were buried. Going back further in time, members of the same family were buried in the same chamber, these are the long barrows.

The Romans created one of the longest continuous earthworks at Hadrian’s Wall. Some of this barrier between England and Scotland was replaced by stone, thus creating the monument and World Heritage Site visited by tourists today.

The Anglo Saxons also used long earthworks to defend their area of the country. Offa’s Dyke which divides England and Wales was built by the C8th Mercian King Offa. At over 150 miles and in places over 65 feet high, it is truly a wonder of the age and well-worth visiting.

When the Normans arrived, they built motte and bailey castles. Easy to construct from local materials, it is thought that over 1000 motte and bailey castles were built in the 20 years following the Norman invasion of England.

Later in the medieval period, owners of the forests and woodlands constructed permanent boundaries around their properties to protect their wood, timber and hunting rights. These boundaries consisted of massive ditch and bank systems and were designed to prevent the passage of deer and cattle over them.

Even as late a World War I a line of earthworks were constructed in case the German army managed to cross the Channel. England’s history is continually marked by the building and shaping of the land.

If you want to see some of the beautiful landmarks for yourself then Classic England are your perfect guide.

We have a range of different tours of England to choose from, or we create a bespoke guided tour that covers all the parts of this fascinating country you could want to see. Just get in contact to find out how you can be exploring a little bit of English history yourself!



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