Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A sunny interval!....

I gave Jenny a lift to work today, and as it was near Sutton Park and remarkably not raining, (It's rained pretty much everyday for over a month, wheres my summer?) I decided to go for a walk. I headed for this little tree overlooking Longmoor valley. It's quite open here, and when the weather's like this, likely to shower at anytime this fir makes a great regular bolt hole. Surveying the sky, I thought I'd venture further and ambled downhill, past the old world war 1 zig zag practice trenches and on to Rowtons Well.

Rowtons well is a natural spring. It is reputed to have been regularly used by the Romans who camped near here up on the hill. The wells waters were famous for curing 'inveterate, cutaneous and chronic ailments' in 1762. In Victorian days it was known for its purity and water was collected daily to be taken to Birmingham eye hospital. You can still see the rut marks left across one stretch of the moors from the wagon used. Ladies of the time believed it was good for the 'constitution' to bathe in its cold waters, and a flag pole was erected to warn when it was in use. The stream below this is full of wild watercress and was often taken by the locals to sell. Nowadays the water isn't so clean. I still use it to make a cup of tea while I'm out, but I give it a good boil first!

Further on I came across the old 'shooting butts'. This is where the targets were held up by soldiers hiding in the trench. This continued until well after the first world war, but ceased after complaints from members of the public suffering near misses!

This whole valley is rich with history. First world war prisoners of war were held here and discovered flint arrowheads, post holes and an ancient wooden trackway across the marshes while digging peat. The Romans built a road and a section of it has become encompassed in the park. When the Romans left, this road was ignored and not used by locals as it only went from one old fort to another and served no useful route. Because of the unique nature of the park, (given to the people of Sutton Coldfield in a Royal charter for use as agistment, pannage and estover etc) this area was never built on, and so the road survives intact. As you can see the road presents itself as a raised strip, proceeding straight as a die all the way to the still remaining fort at the village of Wall.

In some places the surface stones are still in place. 1600 years on and this is still a good dry track across the marshes of Longmoor and in better condition than some of the local modern roads!

To each side of this are lines of Sweet Chestnut trees. These were introduced by the Romans as a food source but were cultivated extensively in Sutton not only as food but for the wood which was particularly suitable for splitting into fencing pales. These fences were used to top the mounds above the ditches around the deer park and royal chase from the 1100's onwards.

I was uncertain what the weather had in mind, and the cows were being no help. Lying down is supposed to mean rain. Some were standing, some lying, one stood up (hooray, sunshine), but then lay down again (boo). I surmised rain with sunny intervals!

The railway line cuts straight across the northern part of the park. It should never have come this way, but was pushed through by surrounding rich land owners hoping to make a quick buck. The poorer locals were promised cheap coal, which did come, and then continued on past in order to supply the industrial revolution in nearby Birmingham!
I waited ages for a goods train to come so that I could take a photo, but nothing. As soon as I stood on the level crossing to take this shot I became paranoid that I was going to be run down.

On this side of the park there is a herd of wild ponies. They are the same breed as found on Exmoor. At weekends they hide away from people in the less accessible areas, but during the week they venture out closer to the fence line where the ground is dryer and the grass greener.

Sleepy and relaxed they let me get quite close. I love these chaps, their coats change season to season. In winter they go pretty fluffy and much darker.

You might think they're dozing, but they've always got an eye on you!

I ended the walk with a flask of coffee while swinging in my small hammock. Gosh I look severe in this photo.....I'm having fun, honestly!


Lesley said...

The wild ponies are adorable!

That is how I look when I am having fun too.

Elisa, Jarrod & Thomas said...

You know such a lot about the history of the area...I am learning lots.

Looks like you had a great day out!

Margo said...

Really enjoyed your blog about Sutton Park. I knew a fair bit about the Roman road and camp but you certainly have a way to make it so much more interesting.

The local papers should use you as a columnist....

Margaret - Elisa's Mum

Anrosh said...

The post was a good read. It was quite an education. Thank You.

Blue the Spa Girl said...

Smile, Barky, smile!!! LOL ;P
Great post. Thanks for the walking tour through the old Roman stuff thingies. Loved it. I wish Canada had more historical things. We have, newer stuff. Newer country though right?