Friday, 19 February 2010

Essex historical land and seascapes

Kat has challenged bloggers to post a photo of a place they like, depicting spring or summer. My first thought was to check through my files and post a spectacular and atmospheric scene, maybe from Scotland, Germany or Arizona. A photo with a wow factor. Then I thought I'd do something different and show some very local Essex land and seascapes; a couple of plain scenes that make superficially dull photograhs, but with great tales from history to bring them to life. Let's be honest, it's not the spectacle of the Grand Canyon sunrise round here, or the Champs Elysees in the spring. It's Colchester, and some of it's very flat; but there's plenty to inspire, and lift the heart.

The top picture was taken at the Gosbecks archaeology park, so it's not your average flat Essex field. Look carefully and you can see some diagonal marks in the grass. These show the outline of the vomitory of a Roman-celtic theatre that stood on this spot. (Note: this is an alternative meaning to the word vomitory, not to be confused with the vocabulary associated with contemporary late night excessive drinking events.) All that's left to see of this 270 feet diameter Roman theatre is a D-shaped mound. All the stone and timber has disappeared.

Imagine this scene nearly 2000 years ago. Hundreds of Romans and Britons milling around, waiting for the show. We walk a few paces forwards and we enter between the pillars of the gate, and pass under the upper tiers of the several thousand seats. The feint horizontal lines show where the rows of seats were. Ahead of us is the plain stage, (in the middle distance of the photograph), probably walled at the back. Around the theatre, a range of buildings, including a massive temple. Nearby maybe a horsefair and marketplace. Just to our right, the palace of King Cunobelin, now unmarked above ground.

And here is the River Blackwater estuary taken from the Monkey Beach at West Mersea. The low land on the horizon is the Dengie peninsular; even now, remote and sparsely populated. In the centre of our horizon are a few trees, and the site of Othona. This was a Roman fort of the Saxon Shore, only a short low section of wall now being visible, and most of the site eroded away by the sea over the last 1800 years. In AD 653 St Cedd arived by boat from the north east of England, and founded Britain's oldest surviving church, now known as St Peter's on the Wall, Bradwell on Sea. He built his Christian church on the foundations of a ruined Roman fort gateway. I challenge even the staunchest atheist not to be moved on entering this ancient building, in a silent corner of the Essex marshes.

Essex may be flat in parts, but it certainly isn't boring. A pair of walking shoes, and an imagination, and it becomes a time machine. Hope you enjoyed our journey.


  1. facsinating!

    Nuff Cedd?

    cheers......Al. {lol}

  2. Great job! The photos are atmospheric and your words bring them to life. Thanks for sharing. I will be posting links to everyone who has participated soon, but I am working this weekend so all else goes on hold.



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