When I was invited to a wedding in England, I figured I might as well add a couple of days on to the trip to visit some of the sites where the novel I am currently working on, A Wasted Land, take place. I decided to base that part of the trip in Salisbury, because it was closest to two of the main places I wanted to see: Amesbury and the hillfort there (for the first time), and Old Sarum (for the second). It also isn’t far from two other sites I was particularly interested in visiting: Winchester (Venta) and Silchester (Calleva).
For the most part, the trip to Salisbury went smoothly, except for the very first leg. For some reason, my plane sat at the gate for about fifteen minutes. Since I only had 50 minutes to change flights in Frankfurt, I was already imagining how I would work things out when I finally got to England and where I would have to spend the night, since with a later flight I probably wouldn’t make it to Salisbury at anything approaching a decent time. But with no line at passport control and a lot of hurrying, I made it to my gate while they were still boarding.
The rest of the journey was a breeze. London City Airport is nice and small, the lines for customs were short, and the trip via DLR and Tube to Waterloo Station was easy. I got my Britrail pass validated in no time, and actually managed to get a train earlier to Salisbury than I had originally hoped, which gave me time to do some shopping on my way to my AirBnB rental.
My rental was in a quaint little house not far from the center of town and the cathedral. The first evening, I walked there and took some pictures of the cathedral from the outside, since it was already closed.
The next day, I rented a bike and rode to Amesbury, the site of “Vespasion’s Camp” — Caer Emrys in The Pendragon Chronicles. The theory goes that Amesbury got its name from Ambrosius (Aurelianus). In Welsh, a descendant of the old Britsh tongue, Ambrosius is “Emrys.” There are a number of place names in Britain that are derived from a combination of a Celtic name and a Germanic description which has replaced the original British. Thus Amesbury is “Emrys’ burg” — the fort of Emrys. Cadbury is another such name, most probably the “fort of Cador” (or Cadwy). In Yseult and Shadow of Stone, Cadbury is still Din Draithou, but in A Wasted Land, people are beginning to refer to it as Cador’s fort.
While I went to Cadbury many years ago when I was researching Yseult, I had not yet been to Amesbury. The site of Vespasian’s Camp or Caer Emrys is now private property and not accessible to the public. So I rode around it and took a couple of pictures from whatever vantage points I could find.
From there, I continued on my bike to Woodhenge, a prehistoric monument with much the same design as Stonehenge, only in wood. Of course, all that was left when archeologists found it were the post holes where the wooden columns had once stood. These have been filled with short wooden markers to give visitors a feel for the site.
My ride also took me past the back side of Old Sarum, but I will talk more about that in a later post, when I go into the site in more detail.
The ride back was slow. I haven’t been on that long of a bike ride in years. But at least I beat the rain.