Coronavirus Diary 32 – Exploring Grims Dyke

Following on from my post on Monday and indeed April and March, I thought I would finish off this walk with a visit to Grims Dyke.   Grims Dyke is an iron age or possible older earthworks that at one time stretched for 6 or 7 miles.

Some people think it may have been some sort of defensive work others more likely that it was some sort of tribal boundary involving the Catuvellauni and another tribe or indeed between the Catuvellauni and the Romans.  Given the successKing Cassivellaunus had,who can rule them out being some sort of defence against Julius Caesar?   Originally they were thought to date from around 600AD but archeological finds of pottery have been found from 50BC – 50AD leading to the possibility the titch is older still.

The Obelisk is between the H for Hospital and Grooming Marvellous. The old Roman town of Suellani is in the field from the red marker on the right up to the M1 motorway and its possible some field markings can be seen. You can see Caesar's Pond centre bottom under the accountants of Charterwell Accountants and my March Post Peeking Over London was at the Wood Farm viewpoint. My house is in the far left and in the bottom left is RAF Bentley Priory, the famous headquarters during the Battle of Britain. You can see even when I have a sore chest, my little walks aren't so little.

The Obelisk is between the H for Hospital and Grooming Marvellous. The old Roman town of Suellani is in the field from the red marker on the right up to the M1 motorway and its possible some field markings can be seen. You can see Caesar’s Pond centre bottom under the accountants of Charterwell Accountants and my March Post Peeking Over London was at the Wood Farm viewpoint. This stretch of Grims Dyke is in the woods to the east of Wood Farm viewpoint and west of the red marker.  The long 1 mile stretch starts to the woods just to the left of the Jewish care home in far left bottom corner.

The best preserved section is 1 mile long towards the centre whilst the bit I am visiting is at the north-east corner.  The earthwork is denoted by a bank, about 15m wide and 2m high, with a ditch to the south, about 4m wide and 1m deep.

I’d always wanted to visit Grims Dyke; it is possible I had seen other sections before but it can be hard to tell when you’re young and the woodlands around here being so full of historical quarries, mounds and what have you.

If I wasn’t that certain about finding the obelisk, I was less certain that I’d find this stretch of Grims Dyke in woods I had never ventured into before and that I was entirely convinced I was allowed in at all.   I decided to sneak in through a broken piece of fence and head in what I hoped was the right direction.  It being early April, the woods were just coming to life and the glades were beginning to show off their beautiful carpets of bluebells.

A woodland glade

The beginning of Bluebell season.

After a while I came to a trackway which I thought must surely lead to where I wanted to go or to trouble.  After walking around all morning I wasn’t too fussed either way! As people don’t have guns in the U.K. and there are very strong rights to roam, I was confident the worst that would happen would be a gentle talking too from 6 feet away of course!

All roads lead to Rome

All roads lead to Rome? except on the boundary of the Roman Empire.

And there it was right in front of me.  Pigeon brain Stephen had once again got his sense of direction 100% accurate.  I was ever so pleased to find it, how lucky to have an almost prehistoric monument, almost on your doorstep and again seemingly not known about by 99.9% of the population.

Grims Dyke ditch

I knew that the trees are always kept thinned out so as to try and protect the ancient monument as much as is possible.  Of course having found it, I then had to walk along it.

The Dyke

Grims Dyke ditch

As you can see some areas of Grims Dyke even on this stretch are more pronounced than others but when it was constructed it would have been a huge undertaking and a very prestigious accomplishment often festooned with adornments of illustrating the power and sophistication of the tribe who built it.

Grims Dyke Sign

I sign which had just been put in days or weeks earlier.  As alluded to on the plaque, when the Saxons first arrived here and found this ditch in the middle of a then vast forest they both couldn’t comprehend its purpose and found it terribly forboding and they had a habit of labelling such places as ‘Grim’ (yay I just re-discovered this myself) which is very old English for the Norse God of war which they knew as Woden or Odin as Scandinavia knew him.

IMG_2590

I don’t generally take selfies but standing in an over 2,000 year old monument ticks all my boxes!  Here I am where my hair was merely out of control and my face wasn’t completely Chewbacca.

I hope everyone enjoyed this particular series of posts on the walk.   I have another series planned in the near future.  I love just finding these amazing places; it’s hard to imagine that 2,000 years ago you’d likely be killed if you strayed the wrong side of this ditch and here I am admiring Bluebells.

 

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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12 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 32 – Exploring Grims Dyke

  1. conniefromla says:

    Fascinating stuff! Here in the US we DO have guns and strong trespassing laws. I envy you that freedom. What a lovely, somewhat serendipitous walk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes some of the routes here are thousands of years old and though it’s more complicated than that, it can be summed up as “The right to roam”, so one can own the land but not necessarily bar people from passing through it. Every now and then some big Hollywood type star will purchase a big old house or estate and be horrified that people can walk right by their door! It’s something very basic here that most learn in the early years at school. Walkers are not allowed to damaged property or crops or livestock but even if you accidentally trespassed on some country estate where you aren’t allowed, they would absolutely not be able to any more than ask you to leave or threaten to call the unarmed police. If someone shot someone in the driveway of a regular home (or stabbed them come to that) it would be murder. It does give everywhere a laid back feel.

      Like

  2. Contractions of Fate says:

    LOL! “the possibility the titch is older still” That one got past you! flipping Spell Checkers!

    Excellent stuff again! Any relation to Grim Reaper? I am sure there is a place called Devil’s Dyke in Mid Glamorgan, where I am from. Probably not built by Saxons, though… 😀 In Welsh it would be “Clawdd Diafol”.

    In the days when I could drive, somewhere to the North or Northeast of London, more remote than Stanmore or Pinner, I think it was in farmland way out past Tring or somewhere and I saw a sign for an historic monument, so I got out to take a look. It was an iron age or Saxon earthwork, very steep on one side and now overgrown with trees. It was not as pleasant as the area in your photos, and had a very strong spell of canine lavatorial deposits. At the top, the fields were all ploughed up, so no sign of any hill fort, but it was fascinating to think of ancient warriors trying to get up the side of that to invade whatever settlement was beyond.

    I’ve missed a few recently, so i am off to read about the obelisk!

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • These spell checkers don’t even make sense half the time. What on on earth could they be thinking. I know sometimes in my Apple Pages, it actually changes correct words for words which make absolutely no sense at all. I hope you enjoyed the obelisk one, I managed to sneak some welsh in there 🙂 I think it is really interesting how messed up the British Isles is in the old days. Everyone always see the English as the aggressors but for long stretches it was the Welsh raiding the English, the Irish raiding the Welsh (and English), the Scots raiding the English and the ancient Irish supplanting the ancient Scottish. Was the mound you’re thinking of https://stephenliddell.co.uk/2020/01/13/ivinghoe-beacon-from-the-bronze-age-to-a-galaxy-far-far-away/ at Ivinghoe Beacon? which is near Tring. There is also the old Berkhamsted Castle where the Anglo Saxon aristocracy and unrecognised successor to Kind Harold surrender to William the Conqueror. There are just so many old ruins, I found 3 new ones myself this morning over breakfast near Stonehenge. Apparently our ancestors would label anywhere they though mysterious as being ‘Devil’. There is the huge Devils Punchbowl near Portsmouth which was created by the Devil shopping up a huge load of earth to throw at the old god, Thor. Apparently in the old days if people were having problems having a child, you would come here at midnight and soon you’d have a child but its soul would belong to the Devil. A new tour idea I guess 🙂 Have you ever been to Offas Dyke?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Contractions of Fate says:

        Oh, no, it was not Ivinghoe Beacon. Nowhere near as nice. I have been there, though. I checked the maps and Tring is up between Saint Albans and Ayelsbury, and I’ve driven up round there many times. But that is more Northwest of London, rather than Northeast.
        So the place I found may have been more towards Essex way. But it really was just a deep ditch steeper on one side than the other in some woodland, and beyond the steeper side were ploughed fields.
        But thanks for that link!
        😀

        Like

  3. Thanks for taking us all on your walks and educating as well. Your hair looks fine…lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoy them. I think that photo is a month old but thank you! I think no-one is bothering too much about their appearances these days 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I do enjoy them very much. I guess now Im stuck full time i this chair Im living vicariously thru your blog. Wishing I could get back to the UK one more time. But with our orange leader the U.S. is meting. He hates nature, id cutting down the forests, digging more oil and gas wells, and killing off the wild mustangs while destroying the Indian lands, not nice.

      If I read way back here, do you tell us what happened to get you wounded? I have missed so much when our WiFi went down for almost a year!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh for the wound, I was with some tourists on a tube train at about the quietest station on the London Underground when some idiot passenger started shouting and pushing his way to the doors which there was no need to do as it wasn’t that busy on the train. The doors opened and I had just about time to make sure my tourists were safe when this oddball pushed me backwards out of the train and I fell in the gap between the train and the platform and at a funny angle so half of me landed head first on the platform and one leg got wedged between the edge of the platform and the undercarriage of the train. It was a miracle I didn’t get killed and I still walked on it for 5 hours before I think my tourists realised I wasn’t going to quit before they did. For some reason they decided to get a taxi back to their hotel 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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