22 November 2014

Wolds

Carved stone face at Somerby - St Margaret's Church
There's a big arc of chalk to the east of England. It rises gracefully above the surrounding flat lands as it curls from the white cliffs of Flamborough Head, embracing the Plain of Holderness, plunging under the River Humber and then curving southwards through the heart of Lincolnshire towards The Wash. We call these gentle chalk downs The Wolds. North of the Humber they are The Yorkshire Wolds and south of it they are - can you guess - yes - The Lincolnshire Wolds.

Can you imagine what the landscape of England was like before we were invaded by Romans and Vikings and then Normans? The population would have been much lower than today - less than one million. The flat lands of eastern England would have been undrained and marshy with reed beds and forests and rivers that simply spread out because there were no artificial  banks. One of the best locations for settlements would have been chalky downs like The Wolds. They drained naturally and allowed views of the surrounding flatlands. It would have been a good place to graze animals and raise crops, a good place to live and feel safe.

There were many small settlements up on the Lincolnshire Wolds but new approaches to farming in the Middle Ages began to change the landscape. The flatlands were being drained and their silty soils now offered greater fertility and better opportunities for successful sustenance. People began to move down from the Wolds. Sheep moved in. Today many of those original woldland settlements can only be seen in aerial photographs but on the margins various small villages remain and they can trace their origins way back in time.

On Thursday, I caught a train to Barnetby-le-Wold and undertook a long walk in the north western sector of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Five solid hours of plodding. Sadly, the sunshine that had been promised by the weatherman on Tuesday never materialised but at least it was dry and perhaps typically Novemberish - slightly chilly with thin white cloud and a mist that never fully disappeared.
Abandoned chalk quarry near Bigby
I walked from Barnetby to its abandoned Saxon church on the edge of the village before striking out to Bigby, then Somerby and Searby. The -by ending of place names is Viking in origin and this ending is predominantly restricted to Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. There are 171 settlements in Lincolnshire ending in -by.

Up to Searby Top where the fields are still speckled with bits of chalk and flint, then along to Mealand Hill and down to New Barnetby. I was back in Barnetby-le-Wold just before my train arrived at 15.53. It had been a wonderful walk even though the light was not conducive to stunning photography. It is hard to fully comprehend that those chalky wolds were once the floor of a prehistoric ocean that existed for an estimated 80 million years during The Cretaceous Period which drew to a close some seventy million years ago. Such mind-boggling periods of time.
Barnetby's old church - disused since 1972
Old chalkstone barn at Searby Top
My best photo of The Lincolnshire Wolds - taken two years ago near Caistor

15 comments:

  1. The barn is a gem. It has been a dismal month so far.

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    1. When all is said and done we camera bearers need good light to illuminate our targets.

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  2. So much information Sir ~ what will be on the test on Monday?

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    1. As I said in class Carol, the test will be on the geology, settlement and history of The Lincolnshire Wolds, If you spent less time chewing gum and looking out of the window you wouldn't have had to ask for a reminder! See me in my study at lunchtime!

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  3. What a wonderful photo that lady one is !

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    1. The lady was on the other side of the door Helen.

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    2. Actually, if your left hand shifts one key to the right you get 'lady' when you try to type 'last'. Drr?

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    3. Exactly AJ !Thanks !
      Note to self. Proofread !!

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  4. The photos are still very good! I wonder which one Helsie is referring to in her comment, but I find the first one captivating. The face of that bishop (assuming it is a bishop, by the looks of his headgear) is so lifelike, never mind the chipped nose.
    Also, the winter one with the two riders is fantastic.
    Was the church always like that, without a proper tower, or was it taken down at some stage?

    Yes, geological time scales are truly mind-boggling. I am at the moment reading a collection of scientific essays from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. One essay explains several ways of determining the age of our planet. That one is rather mind-boggling, too.

    Glad you can do such long walks again! Sounds like your knee is perfectly alright now.

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    1. Do you know Meike - I asked myself the same thing about the abandoned church. It didn't look right but old postcards also show a squat tower. My knee is good again but now I have a cracked rib which makes each step a little uncomfortable. I didn't walk at my usual fast.pace. Thanks for calling by again. I always appreciate your comments.

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  5. I love the old barn...It wasn't immediately recognizable to me as a barn - here they're usually wood. I really like the old church yard, too. I want to solemnly slip in and study the tombstones and try to imagine who they were and how they came to rest in that little church yard.

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  6. Actually I love the first one too. I wonder how old it is? He looks like he was a man of the church, do you think?

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    1. The headgear is definitely a bishop's.

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  7. The Lincolnshire Wolds is not an area with which I am really familiar so it's good to look and learn. I agree that the first figure must be a bishop but can't decide whether he is smiling benevolently or slightly cunningly or whether he just has a beautiful face. I would very much like to look inside the church. Yes, the last photo is ethereal and beautiful.

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