Locations



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Created On 22 October 1997
Last Updated On 22 October 1997
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1997

Britain after Rome was very different from Britain today. The Bronze Age folk had begun farming on the Downs and Highlands where the forest cover was not great. The Goidelic Celts had begun farming in lower land by clearing forests and using a heavier plough. The Romans had improved things, clearing some forests and draining some marshes, but there were still problems.

In the time of the Robin Hood legend, the Forest was so large that a squirrel could leap from the fens to the south coast and not need to touch the ground. Things were worse 800 years before. The Great Wild Wood was still in existence. It covered all of the Midlands, apart from the highland band running through the Midlands, and reached almost to London. It stretched to the South Coast and reached as far north as Yorkshire and Lancashire (these areas were only cleared by the Normans, and were blasted by William the Conqueror when he punished the North for an uprising), donít forget that Sherwood Forest reached Sheffield 800 years after the Age of Arthur. The Wild Wood probably reached the Welsh Mountains and merged with the forests there.

On the coast were great marshes which covered large areas - the Fens of East Anglia are the most obvious example, but there were also marshes in the South West around Glastonbury, in Cheshire and Lancashire (where Blackpool is a reminder of the marshes that covered the area) and the Wirral (which is described in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle as a wasteland of marsh and forest full of bandits and thieves, not much has changed there, then), in the South East around the Kent coast and the River Thames (Isle of Thanet, Isle of Sheppey, Romney Marsh).

Many of the highland areas were covered by peat bog and moorland and were considered impassable.

The most convenient ways to travel around were by boat along the navigable rivers, by foot or horseback long the old droversí ways across the chalk downs or along the highland areas in the Midlands, or by the Roman road network which still existed. (In fact the Roman road network only fell into disuse in the times of the Black Death in the Middle Ages). People could also travel by sea from one of the many ports the Romans had set up.

Given this, how is it possible to place people and events in the Age of Arthur? The best way is to get a map of Roman Britain and look to see where the centres of population were. Failing that, get a map of Britain and see where the Roman towns were (often they will end in -caster, -chester, - cester for fort, or will have roman roads running through them).

I placed the main areas as follows:

Place

Location

AvalonGlastonbury Tor
CamelotLake District(1)
Badon HillNorthamptonshire(2)
Grail CastleBlackpool (3)
Castle PerilousEdinburgh (4)
Sir Ector North Welsh Borders
Lady of the Lake Lake District
Obviously there are many more things to be placed on the map, but this is a start. A surprisingly large number of locations have already been worked out.

Notes

(1) The Lake District seems an odd place for Camelot, but it is a place ruled by the Men of the North in a British stronghold, near the Ladyís Lake, at the crossroads between the Men of the North and Wales and in a good position to mount attacks on the Midlands. Also, one of the fantasy books on Arthur places it here and I liked the idea.

(2) Why there? Several reasons, firstly it is where I come from and I thought why not? Secondly, several theories place it in Northamptonshire, thirdly, it needed to be in a Midlands area with a highland ridge in a Roman settled area that would be pivotal to the outcome of the war. Northants fills each category, being also the centre of Mercia in later years and clearly a pivotal county.

(3) Yes, I know, Grail Maidens wearing "Kiss me Quick" hats, loads of drunken yobboes wandering around trying to get laid. Doesnít sound too good, does it? However, at the time the whole of the area was one huge marsh, Blackpool itself was based around a sacred pool where druidic sacrifices have been found as Bog People. I needed a place to the North, away from most areas, in marshland and carefully placed it in Cheshire/Lancashire and chose Blackpool because it was funny.

(4) I think that Castle Perilous was placed here, but my memory is fading. One of the Arthurian Castles is placed at Edinburgh, anyway, and I am fairly sure it was Castle Perilous.