It’s nearly Christmas 1066
and the Conqueror is getting anxious.
More than just footsteps on a path.
Walks, Talks and Books for 2018
A walk inspired by Duke William’s advance on Senlac prior to the Battle of Hastings, 1066.
For more information and where to buy visit:
1066 William’s Way is now available at The Plough, Crowhurst.
1066 Harold’s Way Walk 4
Dartford is 1066 Harold’s Way gateway to the Downs and the Weald.
Crossing Watling Street, now Dartford’s High Street, we can say our goodbyes to London. Away from the River Darent, 1066 Harold’s Way climbs up to give a first taste of the North Downs and the beautiful views south over the Darent Valley and west along the line of the Downs towards Surrey. There is just the hint of a hidden population amidst the rolling hills and valleys, lush fields and rows of trees, as far as the eye can see.
The landscape changes as we pass under the A2 and then the M25 and the noise of the traffic gives way to the solitude of a church built from the rubble of a Roman villa 1000 years ago. It stood as Harold passed. This is old Saxon land that we are walking and Harold would have drawn support here, and on the rest of the march, for his important battle ahead.
For Harold and his army, there were only 12½ miles to march to Rochester but our quiet meanderings, away from speeding Motorway traffic, will add another 6 miles to the journey.
It is good to walk across grassland, by paddocks and fields of crops, through woods and country parks, past the occasional farm and into villages that were once prosperous but seem to have now lost their heart, with the closure of pub, post office and shop.
Despite the changes, their character still remains, from the quarry houses of Bean to the ‘crinkle crankle’ wall at Betsham.
Southfleet is different. It is old with a long history and equally important an old pub, ‘The Ship’, to savour 1066 Harold’s Way.
Southfleet is in stark contrast to the ‘new’ village of Istead Rise with its estates, shops and important bus links but it is without a pub to provide a toast at the end of the walk.
Watch ‘Memories of 1066 Harold’s Way on You Tube
Link: The Ship, Southfleet
1066 Harold’s Way is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles as well as good book shops and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk
For details of how to buy: Click Here
History Walks, 1066 Harold’s Way and The Saxon Times
1066 Harold’s Way Walk 3: Lesnes Abbey to Dartford
This is a mixture of the wild and desolate and the urban and industrial, of old paths and new roads, old bridges and new bridges, meandering rivers and canals built in hope, Saxon Manors and concrete architecture. We pass the detritus of modern urban and industrial re-development and the solitude of a Church that figured in history during King John’s reign.
It is a walk that reflects the dreams of men and often their failure, from the monks of Lesnes Abbey who fought to hold back the Thames to the navigators and entrepreneurs of Dartford, building a ship canal that could not cope with the pressure of the tide.
Erith belies its history and its royal connections. Once it shaped England with a Council between King John and the Barons to avoid further civil war and a French invasion. Later, it was to build ‘the greatest ship ever known’, the ship that took Henry VIIIth to France, to ‘the Field of the Cloth of Gold’. Now it is a modern town with little of the past on show. Its closeness to the Thames has left it with factories and depots obscuring the river but Erith leads to the wilderness of the Cray Marshes with the QE2 Bridge soaring above the landscape. Even with power stations, breakers yards and flood defences there is still a beauty about this salt marsh.
The land has been farmed for centuries and at a curve in the River Darent, a path leads to Howbury Manor, less than half a mile away and mentioned in the Domesday Book. It would have stood at the time of Harold and with the Roman road only 1½ miles to the south – perhaps Harold dropped in for a ‘beer or a wine’ with the owner.
Follow the Darent to Dartford with its industrial heritage of paper production and engineering. Although the factories and paper mills have gone under the breakers ball there is now space for new dreams to be fulfilled and the herald of a new age for Dartford.
1066 Harold’s Way is a 100mile long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex, inspired by King Harold II’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The guidebook is available from good bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and by mail order from History Walks.
Two Great Walks inspired by the Battle of Hastings 1066.
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Rotherhithe, July 1620
Men women and children clamouring excitedly waiting to board ship, their usual demeanour forgotten in the face of persecution and the opportunity for a new beginning.
What few possessions they owned were already loaded and as the tide rose, the ship creaked and rocked in the water and a few goodbyes were made as the last of the 65 passengers boarded.
Rotherhithe was the Mayflower’s home port and she had been carrying wine from the continent but, curiously and unusual for a ship trading to London, there was no record of any voyages of Captain Jones’s Mayflower from 1616. Such a ship would not usually disappear from the records for such a long time and one wonders what cargo she had been running but in any event, Captain Jones found time to take these Pilgrims to the New World.
Other ships lined the wharves, loading and unloading cargo and the noise of men and carts and horses, oaths shouted, orders given and the smell of the Thames would almost be the last that these people would remember of their capital, although they would have a final stop at Plymouth before fleeing England.
Next to where the Mayflower lay was The Shippe, a beer house, ignored by the Brethren for they did not drink, but much enjoyed by sailors and traders. Deals were done in the small dark candlelit rooms, buying and selling who knows what in this remote wharf, downstream from London Bridge and the city. Beyond the few houses that made up Rotherhithe were streams and marshes that drained into the great river and it would not be until the end of the century that great man-made docks would begin to be built that would transform the riverside.
Eventually, after being rebuilt in the 18th and 20th centuries and renamed The Mayflower, the pub remains a lure for regulars and visitors and for walkers along the Thames Path and 1066 Harold’s Way.
There are still small rooms, wooden floors and tables were the day’s events can be readily discussed but now the sunlight streams through the windows and those dark days can only be imagined.
Walk 1066 Harold’s Way to one of London’s great pubs and share in its history.
950 years ago, Westminster Abbey was at the centre of events that would change England forever. New Year’s Day, 1066, and Westminster Abbey was newly consecrated but within days there would be a royal funeral followed by the coronation of Harold.
Later in the year, the King would set off from the Palace first north to York and Stamford Bridge and then south towards Caldbec Hill and to face William’s Norman threat.
Imagine following in Harold’s footsteps to walk along the same Roman roads and ancient ridgeways, through the great forest of the Andreasweald, crossing rivers and valleys, to pause at the old hoar apple tree on Caldbec Hill and look out over the battle field at Senlac Hill, now the site of Battle Abbey.
The road from Westminster to London Bridge would have followed the high ground of The Strand. There was possibly a second crossing, a causeway or ferry at Thorney Island where the new Westminster Abbey had been built next to the Palace. This link to Watling Street would have been across the marshy south bank of the Thames and it seems likely that Harold would have taken the high ground if only to gather support from the City.
The River Thames was lined with safe havens for shipping of all sizes, the safest of which were the inlets of rivers that flowed into the Thames and we pass Billingsgate, Dowgate and Queenhithe remnants of London’s wharves.
In Saxon times, the wooden London Bridge was still firmly linked to the old Roman road network and especially with Watling Street, the road to Canterbury and Dover along which Harold and his army are most likely to have marched to Rochester.
Today, the Embankment and the Thames path provide an easier walk to Greenwich with a pint at The Mayflower at about the halfway mark or The Dog and Bell a little later on. What could be better on a glorious but cold January day.
CAMRA WhatPub: https://whatpub.com/