Keeping an eye on the Welsh

In the hiatus that occurs between sending off a manuscript and getting the comments back from the editor, there are many useful things a writer should be doing. Like clearing up the raging chaos in the house, or getting on with the next book, or – and this is really impressive – writing that modern thriller you’ve always meant to get round to.

I shall not reveal which – if any – of these activities has been going on at Downie Towers, lest the editor should read it, but it is safe to say that no thriller will be appearing any day soon. Meanwhile, walking is supposed to be good for getting the creative juices flowing, and what better place to walk than to one of these?

Signpost to Roman Fortlet Viewpoint Only

‘Viewpoint only’ is perhaps a warning to anyone who might be expecting to see… well, something that looks Roman. This is what’s actually up there:

View of grassy slopes once ramparts

Yep, the usual shot of grass with lumps underneath. And it takes quite a lot of walking around to find a view that impressive. This is all that remains of the Roman fortlet at Martinhoe, on the north coast of Exmoor – and a bleak spot it is, even on a relatively mild January day.

It’s commonly thought that men were stationed there not to keep an eye on the Devonians, but on the Silures, the rebellious tribe across the water in South Wales. This must have been an interesting challenge because on most days, Wales is barely visible. It’s too far away. Even on a clear day they would have needed high-powered binoculars from the future to see anything other than mountains and beaches – or the odd bonfire by night.  They might have had more luck spotting shipping, although how would they have identified it? And what would they have done about it if they had?

Were the Romans afraid that the Silures would invade Exmoor?

These are the sort of questions that occur to someone currently reading a book about Roman Military Signalling.   People whose interests are less abstruse might like to imagine the chaps up there on a fine day enjoying the views:

View of clifftop fields in sunset

View of headlands along Exmoor coastline

and perhaps wondering what the Silures were up to over there:

View of walker looking out from clifftop across hazy sea

while the locals got on with the daily challenge of finding food in unlikely places.

Sheep on steep crags overlooking sea

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