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Late July found me stumbling down a sunken way with Martha in the pitch dark of a moonless night.
Our rough path was hemmed in by ancient yew and beech trees.
We were in the Chiltern Hills of South Oxfordshire – an area designated as being of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation about 15 minutes from our son’s house in Watlington where we were staying.
The broad bottomed ditch we were negotiating dated back to Saxon times.
In the darkness with the clinking of key chains and water bottles one could almost hear “the tramp of Saxon foemen, Saxon spearmen, Saxon bowmen” although more commonly this path would have been trampled by generations of Saxon farmers taking their animals to market; merchants with their wares travelling between settlements and woodsmen hauling timber and charcoal.
Further down, the sunken way was bisected by an old Roman road, now resurfaced and travelled by cars.
For some unknown reason the Roman routes are always straighter than most of our modern English highways.
Behind me, back up the hill, our ditch led to the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest byway dating back over 5,000 years, which stretched from the Norfolk coast to that of Dorset, linking up Neolithic sites like Stonehenge and Avebury.
It’s hard to escape history in England, but we were in search of the glow worm (Lampyris noctiluca), cousins to Fakahatchee’s fireflies in Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve.