In my last post, where I described the forests of ancient Britain which covered and dominated the landscape, I made no reference to the swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers and streams which were the other dominant feature which confronted the Romans.

Again ancient Britain is very different to the the land we now inhabit.  Modern Britain is remarkably dry.  Since the late 16th century a great deal of work has been done to navigate the rivers, that is make them navigable such as the Weaver Navigation in the 18th century impacting on the flow of water, the draining of fens, marshes and swamps to make farmland and protect population centres from flooding.  The impact of these industrial marvels has changed the nation beyond recognition in many different ways.  Diseases like Malaria once prevalent in the Oxford fens now has no foothold, marshland has retreated revealing ancient settlements and ancient victims in peat cutting operations.

Without these improvements the landscape had to be used differently and impacted people both culturally and materially.  Movement around the country was restricted to roads at high altitude avoiding the damp dark marsh haunted valleys.  The most ancient of these is the ridgeway which has been used for at least five thousand years.

The marshes provided natural fortresses for the defeated celts.  After the revolt the celts were driven to the forests and also to the marshes where they held off the heavy infantry of the Romans.  Just like the Saxson king Alfred the marsh became a well provisioned refuge from attack.

Finally it can not go without saying that water was a significant religious inspiration for the ancient celts.  I am not prepared to join in meaningless speculation regarding the religion of the Celt but it must be noted that marshes, rivers and lakes had a special significance for the ancients.  At flag fen alone hundreds of votive offerings have been recovered.  The idea that water was route to the other world was continued far into the Romano-British period evidenced by curses and requests written in reverse on lead and dropped into the hot springs at Aquae Sulis

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