It is hard from the comfort of a car to imagine traveling on foot or horseback the winding roads we traverse so easily. As we traveled south from our visit to Heysham through Lancashire, I tried to see the landscape as tenth-century Aldred might have viewed it, slogging along, looking for paths and markers. How exciting a crossroad might have been, or the sight of a hearth fire’s smoke! A riverside would be a comfort, as well as source of water, no matter how winding the path along it.
We did stop once for me to get pictures of the River Wyre at Garstang, an area where I have Aldred unsuccessfully avoiding the Battle of Brunanburh (location unknown). The roads don’t make it easy for us to follow the river, which meanders from two sources converging at Abbeystead (the middle dark blue line on this map) westward to Dolphinholme (I love that name!), then south through Scorton and Garstang, before turning west again through St. Michael’s and Great Eccleston, and then north to the coast at Fleetwood. This Wikipedia map of Lancashire rivers also shows the Lune to the north and the Ribble to the south.
The only point where our more direct (and perhaps Roman) road intersected the Wyre was at Garstang, so I got out to take two pictures just for the atmosphere of the river. However, in my current storyline for Aldred, I have him heading west into the Wyre lake area north of here, then getting taken forcibly to somewhere near Garstang before the battle. So I am left with this feeling of almost, but not quite, glimpsing the landscape Aldred might have seen.
The next day, we explored some stunning areas of the Peak District (I will leave the Anglo-Saxon stone monuments for a separate post). Near the end of the day we went through Castleton (brief view of Peveril castle, too modern for our early medieval tastes) westward to Blue John Cavern, arriving too late to go inside but with enough time to admire the views. Above us was the Pennine Way trail, with hikers visible. As we drove west on the A618, an interestingly looking northward road took us into what seemed a high and secret pass. I wondered if the road even went through to anywhere or just dead-ended in a crevice. But it (Mam Tor Road) did go through the vale of Edale. It reminded me of some kind of hidden path to Rivendale, but it also made me wonder who, in the tenth century, might find their way through these paths, and why.
Remoteness has advantages and disadvantages. Lower agricultural land is highly productive, long-tilled, and subject to high traffic (and invasion). Higher grazing ground, less accessible, with scattered human populations, is a bit lonelier. Then there are the uninhabitable peaks. Although I did not see any, I can imagine that a religious hermit or community might find these hills a solitary place to contemplate the divine mysteries.