Tag Archives: salisbury

Old Sarum

I went to Old Sarum on the same day as Stonehenge, but I’m devoting a separate post to it, since it is actually part of my research for A Wasted Land, and not just something cool I took advantage of seeing while I was in Britain. The tourist bus makes a stop there on the way back to Salisbury from Stonehenge.

Old Sarum
Old Sarum

I’ve been to Old Sarum before, when my husband and I were traveling around Britain and I was researching sites for Yseult, the first book of The Pendragon Chronicles. I wanted to visit it again, though, both to refresh my memory and to get digital pictures this time — that trip was so long ago, it was before I got my first digital camera. 🙂

Old Sarum
Defensive earthworks at Old Sarum

Old Sarum is an ancient hill-fort that was in fairly continuous use from the Iron Age to the high middle ages. The Roman name for the site was Sorviodunum, which over the centuries was simplified to Sarum. In the Roman period, it was important because it stood at the crossroads of two major streets, and a market town grew up around its base. Little is known about actual Roman use of the hill-fort, since the pre-medieval levels have not been extensively excavated, although digs in the 50s discovered evidence of Romano-British occupation. More is known about the Roman settlements outside of the ramparts to the south-east and south-west of the hill-fort, which were both still flourishing until at least the fourth century.

Old Sarum
Within the ramparts of Old Sarum

Sarum was obviously a significant site in the post-Roman period, because the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles bother to list a victory there over the British in the year 552: “In this year, Cynric fought against the Britons at the place called Searobyrg and put the Britons to flight.” (Cynric is the son of Cerdic from A Wasted Land.) 552 is several decades after the period I am writing about in this book, which means Sarum most likely was still in British hands at that time — otherwise, there would hardly have been any significance to chasing the British away, after all.

After the urban center followed the new church to Salisbury (as I explained in my previous post), the site became known as “Old Sarum.” By the fifteenth century, it was largely abandoned.

Old Sarum
View of Salisbury from Old Sarum

Old Sarum is much bigger than I remembered. I think the confusion came from my memories revolving around the ruins of the medieval castle in the middle of the site. But the hill-fort was large enough, after all, to contain a complete medieval town. I will have to find out the exact size, do some math, and figure out how many stables it might have been able to hold.

It is definitely horse country around there, though. On my bike ride, I passed racing stables, and horses were a common sight in the rolling fields. Celemon’s legacy lives on. *g*

For the curious, you can see the rest of my pictures of Old Sarum here.

Previous posts:
Indulging in a research trip to England: Salisbury and Amesbury
Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Rain was forecast for my second day in Salisbury, so I didn’t feel like trying to do Calleva and tramping an hour+ through Nomansland in search of what’s left of the Roman city, no matter how important it was during the period in which The Pendragon Chronicles are set.

So instead, I bought the bus ticket complete with entrance to Stonehenge and Old Sarum. I haven’t seen Stonehenge in over a dozen years, and while it isn’t part of my research, it is a part of the lay of the land in the region I’m writing about — and it’s pretty cool. 🙂

Stonehenge, 2014

The last time I saw it, the visitor’s center was right next to the monument, and it got in the way of the experience a bit. Now, the visitor’s center isn’t even within sight of Stonehenge. They have not yet completed the process of renaturalizing the area where the old buildings stood, but even so, it’s more impressive now than it was then.

Restoring Stonehenge

Of course, the very first time I was at Stonehenge at the tender age of 19, tourists could still wander around among the stones, and that was amazing in its own way — but I think I like this last visit best. With the monoliths constantly surrounded by tourists, they lose something of their majesty. When we the curious are forced to maintain a respectful distance, the magnificence is all the more obvious, even if you can’t experience it up close.

If you’re interested, you can see my pictures from my most recent visit to Stonehenge here.

It proved fortunate that I was at Woodhenge the day before. One of the things I learned on the audio tour while I was wandering around the big rocks is that a new theory postulates that Stonehenge is the “House of the Dead” to Woodhenge’s “House of the Living.” A number of things make this a very convincing theory. Woodhenge is near the large Pre-Roman settlement of Durrington Walls. The “avenue” which archeologists believe was the entrance to Stonehenge points in the direction of Woodhenge. And the landscape surrounding Stonehenge is littered with graveyards and burial mounds. The house of the dead built in stone, to last. The house of the living, built in wood, which will pass, just as life does.

Of course, that theory could be just as off-base as the medieval tale that Stonehenge was built by Merlin, or the Victorian theory that it was built by Druids. But it has a certain logic to it that appeals to me, given the evidence of the surrounding landscape.

When I got back from the bus trip to Stonehenge and Old Sarum, it was still early enough in the day for me to also visit the inside of Salisbury Cathedral again. I remembered it as one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever visited, and I felt that way this time too.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

The construction of the cathedral marked the beginning of the city of Salisbury. The church of the bishopric was originally in Sarum (now Old Sarum), but church authorities were interested in a new, bigger church that wasn’t on property owned by the Crown, so they started building a cathedral on church lands a little over a mile from Sarum.

During the course of the middle ages, the town followed the church, and by the fifteenth century, Sarum was basically a ghost town. Henry VIII finally gave permission for the remaining buildings to be dismantled and the valuable building materials be reused elsewhere. That’s why all that’s left of the once thriving town of Sarum, including its castle and its church, are the foundations.

Salisbury Cathedral also contains the original of the Magna Carta. The writing is miniscule, something I hadn’t expected at all. I thought such an important document would be big and flashy somehow. Instead, it’s about half the size of a movie poster, and the writing is so small, I would need a magnifying glass to decipher it, assuming I could even read the medieval script in the first place.

– You can read my first post about my trip here.

Indulging in a research trip to England: Salisbury and Amesbury

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.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

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.

Caer Emrys
Vespasian’s Camp near Amesbury (Caer Emrys)

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. 🙂

Late on stating my quarterly goals, but with a good excuse

I’m in England right now, and have being visiting sites for the next novel of the Pendragon Chronicles, A Wasted Land. Today I’m heading off to the east coast of Suffolk for a wedding. Yay! Anyway, as a result, I haven’t had time until now to get my goals for the round sorted out. Woke up early this morning, though, so I figured I could get that done before heading off for the train to London.

Salisbury, where I am now


– Write 500 words a day, five days a week, for an average of 2500 words a week.
I’m going to start out on this one with a deficit, since at the moment I’m too tired in the evenings from running around to get any writing done. That’s ok. I’m seeing lots of cool sites that will feed into my writing. And when I get back, I’ll blog about it (see below).

– Write a detailed outline of Facets of Glass

– Integrate critiques from the Villa Diodati workshop into Recontact (novella with Jay Lake)

– Write 2 new short stories


– Write a series of detailed posts about the sites I visited and the research I did while here in England.

– Start a series of blog posts for beginning indie authors (per a friend’s request)


– Go through the edits of the translation project and get it back to the client.

Writing business:

– Submit Recontact (novella with Jay Lake) to traditional magazine markets

– Publish Island of Glass as ebook

– Publish “The Shadow Artist” as ebook

– Publish Chameleon in a Mirror to Createspace

– Publish more of my books to Xinxii

– Get Amazon to price match “The Leaving Sweater” for free

– Publish “Mars, A Traveler’s Guide” to Amazon and make it free

– Submit 10 short stories to traditional markets during the round

– Start marketing my ebooks again

Wishing everyone great luck with their goals this quarter!

Learning to make selfies in England

I realize that I’ve promised posts about my travels while here, but at the moment I’m too busy running around, and too worn out in the evening when I get back to the BnB. But never fear, I am taking notes and composing posts in my mind and on paper, and I will post some of the results of my research when I get back, at the latest.

In the meantime, here are some of my attempts to make selfies with my relatively new smartphone. You can’t really tell, but this is me in Salisbury Cathedral:

Dark blob in Salisbury Cathedral

Here’s one on a bike ride on the one really lovely day:

Bike tour to Amesbury

And here are two in Stonehenge:

Me at Stonehenge

Me at Stonehenge

More when I have more time and brain cells. 🙂

Facing the enemy for #WIPpet Wednesday

I’m crazy tired right now — watched the US – Belgium game last night, which went late, and I have only just now finished packing for my flight to London tomorrow. But at least I *am* done now, and since I know I will not be posting next week — Wednesday is the Wedding! — I figure before I trundle off to bed for my much deserved rest, I will post another snippet from A Wasted Land for WIPpet Wednesday. My math for today, 7/2/14, is to add up all the digits, giving me 14. So here are 14 short paragraphs from the same scene as last week. Taliesin’s plan has worked, and they have been called into the presence of Cerdic, the enemy they went to Venta to spy on:

Cerdic called Taliesin forward, the ostensible head of their troupe of musicians.
Taliesin bowed in front of the King of the South. “How may we serve you, Lord?”
The corners of Cerdic’s mouth turned up in a surprisingly charming smile. “Serve me? Is that what you want to do?”
“Certainly. That is what bards and minstrels do.”
“And do you know where you are, bard?”
“Why, we are in Venta, Lord. Our most recent stop was Leucomagus, and before that, Cunetio. In Cunetio, our audience was generous, in Leucomagus not so much, so we decided to continue on.”
“And do you know who rules in Venta?”
“You?” Taliesin ventured.
A wave of barely repressed chuckles could be heard around the room. Kustennin found himself in awe of Taliesin’s spontaneous acting ability.
Cerdic shook his head, and his lips twitched — it appeared he too was repressing laughter. His son Cynric was grinning as well.
Kustennin gazed under his eyelashes at the British leader of a largely Saxon army. Arthur’s former general appeared to possess a rare combination of character traits — ruthless ambition and the ability to laugh at himself. But that might well explain much of Cerdic’s talent for drawing men to his cause.
You must shield your thoughts more, came Taliesin’s whisper in his mind. I feel the presence of magic in this room.

This time tomorrow, I should be much closer to Winchester / Venta, where this scene takes place — Salisbury, to be precise:

Salisbury Cathedral by John Constable
Salisbury Cathedral.

Depending on how much time I spend running around the Wilds of Wiltshire and the surrounding area, I may try to blog a bit about the research half of my trip while I’m there, so watch this space. And I think I’ll also try to get to Stonehenge again, just for the fun of it. 🙂

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.