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Posts Tagged ‘roman’

Along the Darent Valley to a site of Roman domestic bliss

Sutton-at-Hone to Otford, Kent

The 'bridge' - probably a cattle screen - on the Darent at Farningham

The 'bridge' - probably a cattle screen - on the Darent at Farningham

I recently treated myself to annual membership of English Heritage which for the reasonable sum of £46 gives 12 months’ free access to over 400 of the country’s most fascinating historic sites (although when I signed up on a recent visit to Pevensey Castle, I took advantage of a 15-months-for-the-price-of-12 offer – which was just as well, as many of the most tantalising properties I found when leafing through the guide book seemed to shut for the winter just as I’d joined). Along with the grand honeypot sites such as Stonehenge, the site of the Battle of Hastings, Audley End House or Dover Castle, there are hundreds of lesser-known properties giving a fascinating insight into how Britons lived their daily lives, a visit to any of which brings history to life far more vividly than dull words on the pages of a history book. Lullingstone Roman Villa, in Kent, is one such site, its stunningly well-preserved remains giving a remarkable glimpse into Romano-British life over 3 centuries. Like many of English Heritage’s properties, Lullingstone is a little way from reliable public transport links, and for the car-less involves a walk from the nearest station. But what better reason could there be for heading out into the countryside on foot? Especially as the way to Lullingstone is along the very pleasant Darent Valley Path which follows the course of the Darent (or Darenth) River along a gap in the North Downs through beautiful landscape and picturesque villages.

Start: Farningham Road Station TQ556693

Finish: Eynsford Station TQ532593

Length: 9½ miles/6 hours (including 1½-2 hours to explore Lullingstone Roman Villa)

How to get there: Both stations are served regularly by trains to and from London Victoria: timetables can found on the Southeastern website.

Note: entrance to the Roman Villa costs £5.30 for adults & £3.50 for children (at the time of writing), but is free for English Heritage members. For more information go to the English Heritage website.

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Further exploration of historic London

Walking the London Wall – Cripplegate to Blackfriars

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort, in an underground car park below London Wall

The second part of my walk, in which I continue to follow the line of London’s Roman and mediaeval Wall, finding monumental stone towers amongst the modernity of the Barbican, and discovering impressive and well-preserved subterranean remains of a Roman Fort and Amphitheatre, both astonishingly rediscovered after centuries of burial. Then past landmarks synonymous with London’s criminal past, before twisting and turning through narrow lanes and alleys to meet the Thames at Blackfriars.

Part 1 of this walk, from Tower Hill to Cripplegate, including travel information, can be found here

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Tracing the boundary of historic London in search of a dirty Roman ruin (no, not Silvio Berlusconi)

Walking the London Wall – Tower Hill to Cripplegate

London Wall at St Alphege

Salters' Hall Garden and a section of London Wall: originally Roman, but incorporated into the 11th Century church of St Alphege, and with 15th Century brick battlements.

I recently attended a tour at the Museum Of London, of which more later, which (together with my recent visit to Reculver) inspired me to try and trace the line of the Wall that originally surrounded the City of London to see what remains. Roman in origin, the Wall has seen a swelling City burst its bounds over the following centuries and has at various times and in diverse places been altered, added to and obliterated. Yet, despite the phenomenal change the City has seen in the two thousand years since Roman invaders first settled there, some surprisingly large chunks of the Wall still remain, in wonderful juxtaposition to the modern office blocks. And its legacy can also be seen in any A to Z, in many of the street names and landmarks so familiar to modern Londoners, many of whom are likely to be entirely unaware of the history beneath their feet, or, as I discovered, tucked away around a corner or down an obscure sidestreet.

By and large, I followed the Museum’s ‘London Wall Walk’, originally devised in 1984 and marked with plaques along the route, some of which are in poor repair or have been removed as the City has rebuilt itself. The booklet that accompanied the Walk is out of print, but can be downloaded in sections from the Museum’s website; I’ve merged the separate sections into one handy pdf file which you can download here.

Start: Tower Hill Station TQ335807

Finish: Blackfriars Station TQ317808

Length: 1¾ miles; allow plenty of time for exploring

How to get there: Plenty of options! Tower Hill is on the Circle and District Lines and is also within a few minutes walk of Tower Gateway (Docklands Light Railway) and Fenchurch Street (National Rail, served by c2c). Currently, Blackfriars is a little more complicated in that the Underground station is closed while the National Rail station (served by First Capital Connect) is open on weekdays only while extensive engineering works are carried out as part of the Thameslink Programme. However, nearby alternatives are available – City Thameslink (National Rail) and Mansion House (Circle/District Lines) amongst others – and this being London there are plenty of buses serving both start and finish.

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Along the wild & windy north Kent coast

Herne Bay to Birchington-on-Sea, Kent

The towers at Reculver

The towers of the church of St Mary the Virgin at Reculver

The day after completing Stage 1 of the London Loop, I headed further east beyond the Thames estuary into Kent proper for a stroll along the coast, following, as I had before, the Saxon Shore Way. ‘Bracing’ is, I think, the usual term for such an expedition, as there was a bitterly cold biting wind whipping up the sea into white-crested waves. But then the main reason for my visit was to explore Reculver, somewhere enigmatically isolated; the tempestuous weather could only add to the atmosphere.

Start: Herne Bay Station TR171674

Finish: Birchington-on-Sea Station TR297694

Length: 10¾ miles/4½ hours

How to get there: Start and finish are both served by Southeastern services from London Victoria to Ramsgate via the Medway Towns, an hour and a half or so from London. It’s also possible to travel from St Pancras International on the whizzy High Speed train, changing at Faversham, but the journey time is roughly the same.

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