Sunday, 15 August 2010

Walking Lansdown (Off Topic #16)

I had a copy of The Battle of Lansdown by John Wroughton for my birthday and last weekend finally managed to get out and do the full battlefield walk it describes. I had done part of the walk many years ago but that was before the recent signage had been put in place by the Battlefield Trust that makes understanding the landscape a whole lot easier.

One of the signs erected with the aid of money from the Lottery Heritage Fund

My companion for the morning was Andy who is a keen walker rather than a military history buff and who kindly put up with my ill-informed historical ramblings as we trudged across the field. Being a proper walker Andy also came prepared with a supply of Eccles cakes to stave off hunger and I was pretty glad of this by the time we got half way around.

Andy enjoying the historic Lansdown trail

We parked on the road near the monument and followed the lane to the left that leads to Hanging Hill and the extreme left of the Parliamentarian position. The view from this point takes in the whole valley below and Freezing Hill beyond where the Royalists were initially encamped.

Looking from Hanging Hill towards Freezing Hill

Cutting across the field to our front the footpath dropped off quite steeply down towards the valley where we joined the lane that leads to the foot of Freezing Hill. On the morning of 5th July 1643 Hopton’s Royalist army was entrenched on the top of this hill facing Waller’s Parliamentarians across the valley.

Looking up Freezing Hill - it looks a lot steeper on the ground!

We climbed to the top of Freezing Hill through the site of the old earthworks and I admit I found it pretty hard going carrying a small rucksack and an Eccles cake, just how you would carry a sixteen foot pike up that hill I really don’t know. From the top it’s hard to understand why the Royalists ever decided to quit the position and attack the enemy on the other side of the valley but that’s what they did and with some success.

Looking from Freezing Hill towards Lansdown

Descending Freezing Hill we took a left and, crossing the main road, (do be careful it’s a very busy road) followed the lane to Lower Hamswell then up again by a path to the point where the extreme right of the Parliamentarian line had been. For a while here the path forms part of the Cotswold Way and the views of the surrounding countryside are fabulous. Finally we ended up at Waller’s wall, which was the scene of the final act of the battle where Waller’s men made their last stand before slipping away to Bath under cover of night. The battle was claimed as a Royalist victory but was really pretty much a draw.

The view from Waller's Wall looking towards the Royalist line (those trees weren't there in 1643)

The whole walk took about three hours and although there are some steep bits there’s nothing that the average fifty-something can’t manage without lots of stops, a litre of water and, of course, an Eccles cake.

If you’re tempted to have a go then you must buy John Wroughton’s book, which comes with a separate waterproof laminated map of the walk. The correct sort of Eccles cakes can be obtained from any branch of Sainsbury’s.


Anonymous said...

Reading between the lines you enjoyed the Eccles cake?


Fire at Will said...

Excllent, I keep meaning to walk the area "the next time I return to Bath", but never seem to manage it

Stryker said...

Matt - after an hour and a half those Eccles cakes were the best thing I've ever eaten (except of course for Mrs S's home cooking!).

Will - you must do it! The walk was very atmospheric and I think a lot of this is to do with the fact that the Landscape is pretty much untouched and as it would have been 360 years ago. I don't think there are many battlefields left in the UK that haven't been partly built over or have some socking great motorway running through them. It's a walk that even "other halves" could enjoy!

Rafael Pardo said...

It is very noce and instructive to walk around the historical battefields

lewisgunner said...

Roundway Down at Devizes is another good walk. From where you are Ian Dyrrham is a good walk too.

Stryker said...

Roy - Roundway Down is on my list but to be honest I'd never heard of a battle at Dyrham until you said. From a quick Google it sounds interesting not least because it was near a village called Hinton!

lewisgunner said...

Yup. Dyrrham 577AD The Saxons beat the kings of Cirencester and Glocester and split the Britons in Wales from those in Devon and Cornwall. Its a major strategic victory for them. Has a neat hillfort too.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I have been to Lansdown a couple of times when in Bath and am never less than amazed when I stand at the bottom of that hill and look up the slope that the Cornish regiments charged up behind their beloved leader Sir Bevil Grenville - awe inspiring... in your area I'd also recommend Langport (a half eccles cake battlefield)( and also Sedgemoor (a two eccles cake battlefield) ( as well as Roundway Down (a one eccles cake battlefield)... :o))

Stryker said...

Thanks for that Steve - looks like I'm going to have to lay in quite a supply of Eccles cakes then...

Springinsfeld said...

I've just discovered your blog via an image search and have spent a happy half hour goggling at the vintage figures.....lovely. Seems we share an interest in Lansdown as well!
many thanks

Stryker said...

Cheers Mike - glad you're enjoying the blog!

Springinsfeld said...

Added to which the MRS is a crochet fanatic so we may be putting in an order for wool soon!!