Sunday, January 15, 2006

A walk on the battlefield side

The first battle of Newbury: Wash Common, 1643 to be precise. That's not when we did the walk by the way - it was last weekend. There's nothing quite like looking at a piece of history to bring it up to the minute and alive again, so that's what we did.

We set off from Essex Street, which is named after the Earl who commanded the Parliamentarian forces. I am indebted here to David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History site, linked in the title. It must be said that this walk is best undertaken in a flaming day in July, rather than a slightly damp one in January, as the scenery would really come alive then.

We tracked down the eastern edge of the battlefield with the backs of houses to our right, and the open field to our left. It wasn't much of a stretch to imagine what it must have been like back in 1643 as the Royalists blocked the Parliamentarians route back to London and forced them to fight. There was a eerie stillness which hung heavy with all those souls that perished here.

We continued down from the vantage point enjoyed by the forces loyal to the Crown and swung west, where we could look back up the hill and wonder how much of an advantage they ultimately squandered. Occupying the physical if not the moral high ground is one way to win, but Essex's forces managed to overcome this.

Passing Skinner's Green Farm and heading back uphill, where the original path is stunted by the controversial bypass, which ruins the calmness and tranquility of the scene, we came up past Round Hill, where Essex had held firm and withstood waves of attack from King Charles. It was difficult to see how this tiny point of a hill jutting out from the main site could have afforded the Parliamentarian forces much protection, but it was enough, with some tactical skill, to ensure that the Royalist forces were depleted enough to cause them to slink away overnight, and leave the way clear again.

We trekked back towards the road named after the victorious leader and home again. It was only an hour, but transported us centuries.

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