Plans All Awry

KW53 Plans All AwryPlans are laid. Troops on both sides are hidden. And all done behind King Kottir’s back. Bryony isn’t happy of that. How can she allow Kottir to walk, unprepared, into her father’s ambush . . . Read on

We had been talking a goodly distance away from where King Kottir waited with the markan and our cart. But I noticed how he eyed us cautiously. Had he heard some of our talk? King Kottir was as much a Brictan as I, with all that involved. But perhaps he was just wondering why were taking so long.

Then he asked, as Uissid Tizarn and I climbed back into the cart, what those creatures were. “Why were you talking to them? What were you saying?”

I figured truth was the best. “They are my brothers.” Which they were though they were my nephews too. Then I blurted it. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t have him not knowing. “They came to warn me about King Ithen. He intends to cheat you. He has two thousand men waiting for you at the ford.”

“Then I’m dead,” he said. “What can I do against two thousand men? We’re all dead. Queen Bregan. My child. You. All of us. It hardly seems worth us travelling further. We may as well set camp here and let it all happen.”

I glanced at Uissid Tizarn. But apart from a scowl, he said nothing.

“No, Kottir, we must go on. Who knows what Saram has prepared for us?” I couldn’t tell him of the Sprigs, and the hidden Regiment. We dared not risk that being leaked to Yewlen. “Does Beli no longer ride with the Regiment?”

It was as much as I dared say. It broke my heart to see King Kottir so despondent, yet we had to leave him to his despair.

The day had grown old before we sighted the ford. As instructed by Yewlen, King Kottir secured me to the cart.

While in close, checking my bindings, he said he’d made a mistake when he asked to wed Bregan. “I should have waited for you. You should have been my wife, not her. But what’s done is done. Now we have to live with the mistake. Maybe there’s yet a way we can be together? If we survive this day.”

“But had you not wed Bregan then we’d not have met,” I said. “We were never meant to be. But, Kottir, believe me, I shall miss you.”

“Whatever happens now,” he said, “I hope it goes well with you. May Saram protect you.” And he kissed me one last time no matter who saw it—his wife and Queen; my father.

How could I now hold back the tears? I didn’t want this parting, more difficult and painful than I had expected. It occurred to me, while I clung to the side of that trundling cart, that if I hadn’t suggested this exchange then maybe King Kottir would have kept me and let Yewlen do as Yewlen would with Queen Bregan. But that was such a selfish thought. This wasn’t about King Kottir’s choice of me or Bregan. It was about Yewlen wanting Meksuin’s Land.

King Kottir set the oxen plodding.

Ahead of me was the ford. Beside the ford there was a cart. In that cart Queen Bregan stood, tied to a pole, no more able to move than could I. I looked at her. I looked back at Kottir. Aye, we’d had no choice, this had to be. But if all went well . . . could I yet hope?

My stomach churned worse than being at sea. I tried not to think. I built an impenetrable barrier around my head, a high thorn hedge entangled and impossible to pass. Yewlen must not know what we had planned for him.

The way Yewlen had set it, when both the carts were at the ford one of Yewlen’s men would run out to bring my cart across, while one of King Kottir’s men would do the same with Queen Bregan. My cart reached the ford. Across a narrow band of water was my sister.

I waited, and waited. I wasn’t to call the horsemasters until I’d been fetched. Yet no man came for me. Something here wasn’t playing right. As impatient with waiting as me, one of King Kottir’s markan cut free. He made for the ford.

I wished Uissid Tizarn was beside me. Or at least in sight. I needed his counsel. But he, too, awaited my call. I could wait no longer. I called.

And now where were the Sprigs? I couldn’t see them. Could they be trusted? But it was too late to worry now. Either I’d survive this day or I would not. I dared give no thought to Yewlen.

I called across the river to my sister: “Is all well with you? Have you been harmed?”

“The child,” she said. “He kicks and struggles to be free. Sorrel wanted me to stay another day. She was sure today would be—” but she let out a scream.

“No!” The birth had begun. And there on the ground, so close to me, the
eager markon now dead.

The delay, whatever its cause, worked to Uissid Tizarn’s advantage. As he appeared out of the west, so did Sauën’s brightness, so low in the sky, blind King Ithen’s men. But Lady Sauën’s brilliance was in one sector only. Not so Uissid Tizarn. He had never been known to ride before, yet here he was on a horse’s back, galloping back and forth, spreading his light, strongly shining, dazzling any with Brictish blood to see him. But, alas, though a wondrous sight, not many of my father’s men were Brictan.

It mattered not. The Sprigs were here. I watched as they charged through the ranks of Yewlen’s men, invisible but for their spears. Yewlen’s men chopped and sliced at their invisible foe, hitting few of them.

After that the fighting became a confusion of men impossible to follow. I saw King Kottir leap upon some fallen man’s horse and charged directly at the ford, no doubt to rescue his Queen. But King Kailen—aye, Kottir’s Queen’s lover—answered charge with charge and slew him. SLEW HIM. I screamed.

Sliced and hacked from off his neck, King Kottir’s head rolled past my cart. My scream became sobs, crying for him, for Bregan, for the child. And despite she was but the river’s width from me, I could no longer see her, so thick was the fighting.

There were no longer any men hidden, both sides in full number now locking swords: cutting, slicing, stabbing. All around me was death, death, death, and the dying. Above me, the carrion birds circled cawing, their wheeling ushering a premature night. I could hear Queen Bregan calling for help. Such tears I cried for her. Oh that I could help her. But none could help while this battle raged on.

And where was Yewlen? Had the Sprigs yet caught him? Had they bound him? Had they built that fire to burn him on? Was he defeated? Yet his men fought on.

I saw King Kailen. He looked at me and turned away. He had lost his horse. Now he ran—ran to where Bregan was calling, yet surely unable to see her beyond all those swords clashing, those men fighting. I watched him, sure he must be with her at any moment. I wished him speed to be there for her now that King Kottir lay dead at my feet.

But what had happened? Why had our plan gone so awry? And where was Uissid Tizarn? He should be here somewhere but I couldn’t see him, not even his light. Where were the Sprigs? Had they yet found and bound our father? And who—who—would come rescue me? Was I to be returned to Yewlen after all?

I heard Queen Bregan calling to Kailen, encouraging him. I, too, spurred him on with my thoughts and wishes. He had to reach her, she couldn’t be left to give birth to King Kottir’s child in the midst of a battle. In a momentary parting of bodies, I saw him reach out to her, close enough now to touch her hand. But one of our Regiment men was upon him.

I watched aghast. The King’s Man mistook Kailen’s purpose. He swiped with his sword. The sword broke as it struck, but its work was done. Another head rolled, more life-blood flowing. I couldn’t watch it, yet couldn’t turn. Kailen was dead, his headless body still clutching at Bregan’s cart.

And still the battle raged about me. Sauën left the sky to Palamon to seek out her bed as if this day had not brought this battle. And still I asked where was Yewlen? I could see no Brictish light, not even Tizarn’s. All was dark except for Bregan across the blood-thickened water.

Again, Bregan screamed for help, so urgent. “Please. Anyone, please. Untie me. I’ve a child trying here to be born.”

A child to be born yet there she was, tied to that post, unable to help the child on its way. I longed to be with her. Ached to be with her. Was angry that I couldn’t be with her. But, like her, I was tied. Tied, and sickened at what was happening.

Yet in that darkness there came a light. Not Yewlen’s, this, not light of a Silver Fold. And neither Flame, not Tizarn’s. This was the light of a Gold Fold Immortal; a light the equal of Sauën’s.

“Who are you?” I asked as the stranger fumbled to untie my bonds. “No, go see to Bregan first. She needs your help more.”


Another Immortal walkingthrough the dead of the battlefield? Who can it be? Who has a light the equal of Sauën’s? Next and final episode, Alone, Tuesday 28th March

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Sprigs Enlisted

KW52 Sprigs EnlistedBryony has a plan to kill her father, the Immortal Yewlen, for which she requires the help of the incestuously begotten Sprigs. She has asked Uissid Tizarn to help her too. But he’s needed time to think about this. He has promised her an answer before she leaves the Highlands . . .Read on

Uissid Tizarn left it to the day before we were to leave the King’s Hold before he called for me to attend him.

“You’re to keep this to yourself,” he said. “King Kottir must know nothing of it. I cannot risk him leaking it to Yewlen. As soon as you’re clear of West Alsime Land and travelling along the Way, a full half of the Regiment will be mobilised. They are to be dispersed throughout the Northern Provinces, those that abut the Way: Un Dli, Enir Cobi and Cobi Fu. The greatest number will be in Cobi Fu. They will be within a short ride of the place Yewlen has chosen for the exchange. But for themselves, they’ll believe this is a new posting. Nothing will be leaked to Yewlen. For myself, I shall be travelling with you.”

I could have thrown my arms about him and kissed him heartily, so happy he’d made me with so few words.

“I don’t intend to risk my life,” he said. “I travel with you only to Un Dli. That’s close enough to the wildwood where your nephews abide.”

“You’ll lend your voice? You’ll call them with me?”

“I shall call them, aye,” he said. “But once they’ve answered, then I shall leave. For me to come closer would surely alert Yewlen. You understand this?”

“I understand,” I said, and spent the rest of that day in singing and skipping, and combing the knots from my wheaten hair. I was so happy; it eased the loss that loomed ahead of me, of King Kottir.

We travelled in carts with ten mounted men to guard us—exactly as my father had instructed. Did King Kottir suspect our plans? I guarded my thoughts from him. If he had any inkling then it was had from the markan. Yet the way Uissid Tizarn had worked it, that was unlikely.

We travelled through West Alsime Land. We forded the Water of Waters. We entered Cobi Go. The next day we reached Un Dli and the Way.

I began the calling then, Uissid Tizarn lending his voice as he had said, to add strength to mine. It gave me the power that I otherwise lacked.

But would it work? I’d never tried this before, and neither had he. Would my nephews hear it from so far away? Would they know it was me; would they come to me? Or would they stay away for fear of the men who travelled alongside me?

We were almost through Un Dli before I had an answer. And then, oh, the sight! I hadn’t realised how many they were—though at first it was only a handful, maybe twenty, standing upon the Way to form a barrier. Our party could not pass them. The guards at front drew to a stop.

“What’s this?” asked King Kottir. “What are these creatures? Are they dangerous?”

“They’ve come to speak with Bryony,” Uissid Tizarn told him, and in so doing quietened everyone’s fears. For even the men of the Regiment, fierce fighting markan, had been afraid of these little fellows. Perhaps their fire-sharpened spears, now ranged against our guards, had something to do with it.

I climbed out of the cart and walked on ahead. I admit to fear of the horses, but I had to walk past them. They were so big. And their hard-hoofed feet could too easily break a bone.

It was while I was greeting my nephews that the others appeared. How many? Hundreds and hundreds of Sprigs. They surrounded us twenty, thirty deep.

Belatedly, the King’s Men drew out their swords. But what use were they when answered by the Sprig’s long, far-reaching spears. One by one the men re-sheathed their weapons. In their midst, I heard Uissid Tizarn laugh.

“I like your nephews,” he called to me. They, too. liked him. He wasn’t afraid of them. Neither did he think them children because of their size, nor brutish because of their malformations.

I noticed how King Kottir looked puzzled. Yet that was as well. I didn’t want him to know too much. The more he knew the more he could unknowingly reveal to Yewlen.

I spoke to the Sprigs the way I always had done so; apart from Uissid Tizarn no others heard. I told them of their father, of his evil ways, of what he intended with this land, of what he intended with me and Queen Bregan. I told them everything I could think of that would incite their hatred of him. And then discovered that wasn’t needed.

They told me in return that our father had come to the woodland fastness that very morning and had seized Queen Bregan and thrown her into his cart, even though her belly swelled and her child soon would be born. Because Yewlen didn’t know there Sprigs were there, didn’t know they existed, he hadn’t bothered to shield his thoughts. The Sprigs found it all, his treacherous plans. They revealed it all to me.

Yewlen intended to kill King Kottir no matter what. He had hidden two thousand men—two thousand to kill only one king? And as soon as the deed was done he would march his men south along the Way, there to take West Alsime Land by whichever way but certainly by killing. King Ithen (Yewlen, our father), then would declare himself the Alsaldic King and none would dare stand in his way. He would take command of the Regiment and use them to secure the Alsaldic Lands in his name. King Kottir’s child—the one my sister was soon to birth—he would kill and give to Uät. As for Queen Bregan herself, Yewlen had no further use for her and so he intended to kill her too. As for me . . . I was to go as a gift to the Immortal Lu. Lugain—Lu of the High Places, who led the Luguish Alliance.

There was no need for me to incite the Sprigs. There wasn’t one of them who didn’t want Yewlen dead. But none knew how to do it. And they lacked a leader. But now there was me.

We quickly formed our battle plan. The Sprigs were to travel with us yet to remain invisible. I didn’t want the markan or King Kottir leaking their presence to Yewlen. At the appointed place they would wait till my sister and I had been exchanged. I then would call for the Regiment that Uissid Tizarn had stationed west of the Way. I’d not done this before yet he assured me I was able. On hearing the agreed signal—a whistle sounding insides their heads—the horsemasters would know the battle was on, and move their men out.

The one danger—the main danger—was that in calling the horsemasters I’d also alert Yewlen. Yet how to avoid it? We expected him then to reveal his own concealed men. This was when my Sprigs would come into play.

While Yewlen was their ultimate target, they’d probably have to fight their way through to him. In the process, they’d be helping the guards—those ten permitted men—who at that time would be hard pressed in defending and protecting King Kottir till the Regiment arrived.

We knew King Ithen wouldn’t be easily killed. I’d already explained to the Sprigs the processes involved, and they’d seen the problems. Strong ropes to bind him. A pyre to burn him. And they must heave him upon it yet he was so big and they were small. And all the while he’d be calling his men to come to his aid. I told them, they must divide their numbers, assign each of the divisions a process. No, this wouldn’t be easy. And if Yewlen had brought more than those two thousand men? As well that we had Uissid Tizarn on hand to help command the Regiment.

Timing would be all important, and the Sprigs understood this. I hoped the horsemasters understood it as well. I then wished my kin well, and thanked them. As far as any could see, I had sent them away. None saw their return, invisible. Their presence was known only to Uissid Tizarn and me. And Uissid Tizarn I expected to leave us any time now. He had agreed only to come this far so he could help call the Sprigs. And yet he stayed.

“Here’s the Queen’s sister,” Uissid Tizarn said with a screen cast around us. “And here’s the King. Here are the King’s Men, the Regiment, and your nephews too. I heard what the Sprigs told you of Yewlen’s plans. It is good that we have the Regiment waiting. But now I ask myself if I’m really going to leave you to fight this battle while I run home like a frightened child? It seems everyone else is turning out for it. I ought to stay and fight as well.”

I was delighted. But I was concerned for him, too.

“Yewlen will know you’re here. He’ll sense you.”

“Huh,” he said. “And what will he know? That somewhere close there is an Immortal? But he’ll not know who I am unless I touch him. He’ll make guesses, of course. He’ll probably guess right. He knows I came to this land with King Krisnavn. But you think I’m the only Immortal in this land? No, he won’t know for certain it’s me. Unless I tell him.”

“So what do you intend?” I asked him. “How to help us?”

He pulled a face, and he sniffed. “I’ve not yet decided..”


Battle plan laid. Troops in place. Approaching the ford. What could go wrong? Next episode, Plans All Awry

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At The Broads’ Edge

At the Broads’ edge is Breydon Water, the meagre remains of the once Great Estuary (See Broadly). Here the three main Broads’ rivers join (the Bure, the Yare and the Waveney) to flow as one through the port of Great Yarmouth to find ultimate union with the North Sea.

Breydon Water sea wall

Along the seawall at Breydon Water. A liminal place, where sky and earth and water meet.

Weather forecast being favourable, 7th March I took a walk out there. And there I learned a valuable lesson: As a bird photographer, I’m better at landscapes!

Bird at Breydon

Greatly zoomed, a jackdaw patiently waits for me to ‘click’ it

Thereafter I took photos of mud . . .

Breydon's Edge

The mud-preserved carcass of an ancient boat . . . and an out-of-season Broad’s cruiser out on the Water

Shelducks and boat on Breydon

Sometimes things just fall into alignment: windmill, boat, and shelducks. The shelduck (and drake) is usually to be seen on Breydon Water; it breeds across the adjoining marshes

 And talking of marshes . . .

Grazing marshes South Side Breydon

A typical grazing marsh to the south of Breydon Water.

It’s early in the year as yet but later there’ll be cattle and horses all across here. Since time immemorial, these marshes have been valued for the quality of their grasses.

Drainage channel alongside Breydon

The sun halos a pair of breeding swans . . . or is it a couple of thrown-away pillows?

The reeds that flourish in these drainage channels once supported bearded tits (I know, for I remember recording them for a BTO survey). Now those are gone, but the moorhen, coots, mallards, shelducks and tufteds, and the reed and sedge warblers remain. It’s just a mite too early for most of them yet.

Fence and reeds

Nothing to say of this. It’s just a shot I liked. A lot.

And it seems I’d collected a speck on my lens around about here! Yet when I turned my focus back to the mud, that speck disappeared . . . as did most of the birds!

The joining of Waveney and Yare.

Waders on Breydon

A small sampling of the waders that munch their way through Breydon’s abundance of juicy worms before heading north to their breeding grounds. Red shank. Curlew. Godwit . . .

I also spotted a couple of teals and some pintail ducks, but typical of my luck, they flew away.

Haddiscoe Island from across Breydon

A mist-shrouded Haddiscoe Island lies to the back of these feeding waders

It’s been called an ‘island’ since C19th when a navigation channel was cut to connect the Waveney to the Yare and thus severed this part from its parental marsh.

View from Burgh Castle Roman Fort

View of Haddiscoe Island from the ‘height’s of Burgh Castle’s Roman fort . . .

Reeds, water, windmills and sky . . . a lanscape typical of the Norfolk Broads

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Fire and Water

KW51 Fire and Water

It was Bryony who suggested the exchange of sisters. But that was before she’d found herself wrapped in King Kottir’s arms. Now when Markon Ingobo returns with her father’s agreement and the arrangements, she’s not so sure she wants to complete it . . . Read on

Though I knew it weren’t possible, I wanted to stay with King Kottir. But my sister Bregan was the Queen, she was King Kottir’s wife. And no matter what she’d done with King Kailen while my father held her captive at King Burdamon’s Hold, still she must be returned to her rightful place. I couldn’t prevent it, and neither would I want to. But to be returned to my father . . . I didn’t want that either.

Whatever his special purpose for me, it had required that I wasn’t touched, not spoiled, and I had destroyed that plan now. So when I returned I’d no longer be of use to him. However else he now might treat me it would not be with kindness. He’d probably give me to King Burdamon as another of his wives. Or maybe he’d make me a slave, a dancer to perform at his command. That would amuse him; he had disapproved whenever I danced.

I became lost in my thoughts of how to escape whatever my fate. I had invited this, I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask for King Kottir’s help. Neither did I want him to know how I dreaded my return to Yewlen. I didn’t want that in his head when he met with my father. So I went to Uissid Tizarn instead. Maybe he could help me. I told him everything.

Uissid Tizarn listened, nodding as he understood my plight, tutting at my foolishness. When I had finished the telling he asked, “Why do you tell me this?”

“I want your help.”

“Mine?” he asked. “But I’m not a warrior.”

“Were there a warrior the equal of my father, then I’d ask him, but you know there is not. Yet, like my father, you are an Immortal. You know him, I know you can help.”

“You’re asking me how to kill him?” he said.

I shook my head. No, I didn’t want to do that. But then . . . aye, I nodded and in that moment it was decided. Aye, it must be done. It wasn’t because of how he’d use me on my return. It was for what he was doing to this land, and to the men who followed him, and to those who stood in his way. Yewlen, King Ithen, was a wicked man. Evil. And I detested him. But it was not for myself that I’d kill him. I’d do it for all the unnamed others.

On thinking that, I almost laughed. How many others have said the same of the one they fear? The one they detest. The one they vow they’ll kill even if they must die in the trying. Aye, said to ease the burden of killing.

“How might an Immortal be killed?” I asked Uissid Tizarn. “Is it at all possible?”

“Oh, I have known a few who’ve been killed—or at least have died. Gimmerin, he was drowned. At the same time so was Barega, Queen Kared’s sister. And I’m sure there have been others.” Uissid Tizarn nodded.

“I am not a warrior,” I said. “But I am a Brictan of second degree, and I can command as well as King Kottir. Maybe better.”

He understood me. He wanted what I wanted. He would help.

He said. “To find a way of killing an Immortal, first you need know what keeps us alive. Light. We need the light. That’s why when Draksen brought the Darkness we were so weakened.”

Aye, I remembered those days. My sisters and I could barely move., We lay abed and cried. We wept. Terrible our wailing. And unlike Uissid Tizarn, we knew no reason why.

He said, “In that Darkness I laid my body upon a bed of grain. That is the other thing we need to stay alive. Essence of plant. And the grain contains it very neatly.”

“We sought out acorns and hazelnuts, beech mast—as best we could,” I said. “But we didn’t know why, only that we felt better for it.”

“To kill an Immortal,” Uissid Tizarn said, “you must take these things away from him. And, as you’re aware, that isn’t easy. You know how strong an Immortal’s influence. He’ll know at once your purpose. He’ll do all he can to turn you away. So why am I telling you this when Yewlen will never allow you do it? Yet there is a way. Yewlen is a Silver Fold, his element water. Deprive him of water and eventually he’ll die.”

If Uissid Tizarn meant to discourage me, then he failed. Rather, I could see the first glimmerings of a plan. Though how was I to bring it about? I lowered my screen, I opened my thoughts to Uissid Tizarn. I allowed him to see my plan. Much easier than trying to explain using words. I wanted him to see what I was seeing so he best could judge what more was needed to bring it about.

“You’ll need me to travel north with you,” he said, clearly not happy at that.

“But am I strong enough to call them?” I asked. “Will they come to me?”

He didn’t answer that, saying instead, “There are three ways of killing an Immortal. You can put him in a bound chest and sink him to the bottom of the sea. But I doubt if you’re capable of that. Besides, with Yewlen the sea will do him no harm. Though it’ll deprive him of light and weaken him some, he’ll have called someone to his rescue long before that.

“Another way: You might dig a deep pit and bind him and throw him down to the bottom then fill it in and cover it over. But again, that allows him an ample length to call for rescue. Or, again, you could bind him and put him upon a pyre and set it afire. Then let the winds take up his ashes and disperse them.

“For myself, I favour this third way. Fire opposes Water. But how do you get past his defences? How to immobilise him? He’s not going to stand still and let you kill him.”

“My nephews are invisible to him,” I said. “It isn’t just that he cannot see them. He’s not even aware of them. For him, they just don’t exist.”

“I need to think,” he told me. “I’ll give you my answer before you leave.”

And what would I do if I succeeded? Aye, dearly would I have liked to stay with King Kottir, but that could not be. The best I could think was to return to my sisters. I’d been happy there in our woodland fastness. I’d be happy to return there. Wouldn’t I?

Or had I been spoiled in more ways than one? Now I was used to living like a queen – or at least like the daughter of one and the lover of another. I was used to fine weavings and pretty bits of gold. I was used to having the finest foods and softest down beds. I was used to men looking at me with desire—which was more than my father ever had done. Could I now go back to that wildwood where the only men were my malformed nephews? Could I go back there where the finest food was the berries and honey found by Sorrel? Could I go back knowing that my father would no more bring us furs and weavings? What then were we to wear? If I succeeded in destroying my father, what would my sisters do—what would they say to me? Would they be pleased? Queen Bregan had told them of him but, unlike me, they hadn’t seen for themselves. They might be angry with me. They might try to kill me as I’d killed him. And still there’d be no King Kottir to snuggle up to at night.

Maybe I’d do better to go overseas? Perhaps in Banva Go there’d be a place for me? Perhaps there I would find a man equal to Kottir? I didn’t want to leave him yet I knew that I must.


Plans, counter plans. Which is the more daring? Which the more likely to succeed? And even if Uissid Tizarn does help her, and all goes as she’s imagined it, has Bryony sufficient resolve to kill her father, an Immortal? Next episode, Sprigs Enlisted

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The Rate of Exchange

KW50 Rate of ExchangeKing Ithen, aka Yewlen, has sent a message to King Kottir regarding his wife, Queen Bregan. Now Markon Ingobo, in company with others, is to take the reply . . . Read on

I was packed into one of the bigger river-boats along with five other markan and taken down river to the Regiment’s barracks at South River’s Gate. There we were transferred to a sea-crossing boat. Our commander, much to my annoyance, was to be Markiste Isvlenys.

He did not travel well on the sea. But what can I say for neither did I. The crew-men looked at us with hardened eyes, disapproving when we had to hold tight to the boat’s high sides and lean precariously over, up-chucking and heaving the meagre contents of our bellies.

“You need to eat more,” the boat-master laughed.

I thought, aye, and let’s see you ride on a horse. And let’s see how well you can walk when, after two days’ riding, they pull you off and tell you to go wash in the cold river water. They did that to us, the markistes and horsemasters who trained us. It had hurt at first, but once we’d done it several times we became used to it. I’d liked to have seen these sea-men riding horses!

Two days out at sea and my belly was settling. Markiste Isvlenys’ was not. Now I could use these days of sailing to watch the land drift lazily by—not that at first I could see very much as we were passing high cliffs. But as we passed the river-gates, then I saw how the land came down; there I could see.

The boat-master whose name I forget, so seldom used, said that Kelis smiled on us and favoured our errand. He said that if that weren’t so then the sea would never be so calm. Was this a calm sea? I’d not have said so. Yet even while the calm sea was supposedly a sign of Kelis favouring us—and oughtn’t we markan welcome that!—in his sending no winds to speed our way that same boat-master claimed Saram had turned against us. Aye, and his sea-men grumbled for they had now to row, the sail not enough.

I had asked—because that’s how I am: I want to know as much as I can—where King Burdamon’s Hold was set. I was told it was set back from the sea, along a river in East Isle. When I asked how this was known, I was told that King Ithen’s daughter had told our king.

King Ithen’s daughter?

The message we carried concerned King Ithen’s daughter. Each of us—all six markan and Markiste Isvlenys—had been given this same message.

“If one is killed another has it.”

If one is killed: What had Horsemaster Tanetros meant by that? I worried over that for the entire journey. We were just carrying a message, why should we be killed? And killed by whom? By King Burdamon? Or perhaps by King Ithen? Or someone other?

I marveled on crossing the sea-gate for the Water of Water. How wide it was, much wider than our South River’s Gate. Crossing it was almost like crossing a sea. But soon again there was land. And soon after that another river’s gate. Here the sea-boat took the turn. Oh, so I thought, we’re now somewhere near King Burdamon’s Hold.

To say I grew anxious—aye, my belly heaved worse than when first on that boat—but I wasn’t alone in it. I noticed the sea-men now caught hold of their spears and kept them to hand; likewise with their bows and their quivers. Yet we markan went all but un-armed. Metal blades at our waists, that was all. Although Markiste Isvlenys did carry his axe, but that was his badge of rank.

The sea-men pulled the boat into the river. The sail was brought down. Now they must use the oars to fetch us up to the King’s Hold. Now none were less anxious than me.

We passed, either side of us, pastures and meadows a’glitter with water and busy with birds that rose in great squawking flocks as we passed them.

“Huh!” Markiste Isvlenys said: “So these are King Burdamon’s guards? He needs no other.” His lips were raw from where he’d chewed them. Now we were this close he’d no liking of our errand either.

The boat-master directed his crew to pull the boat alongside a high-built platform, a landing of sorts. With trembling hands, unable to steady them, I climbed the provided ladder.

Why had I been chosen to be the first whose head cleared the top? At once I saw the men King Burdamon had sent to meet us. All becovered in thick hide plates, over chest and back. All with short stabbing spears, all pointing at me (all ten or so of them) as I emerged from beneath the landing. They had daggers, too, I could see, and swords strapped to their sides. These were big men. They were frightening.

They watched as I swung from ladder to landing. But other than to point their spears at me, they did and said nothing. Markiste Isvlenys followed me, his battle-axe stuffed into his belt at his back where it couldn’t be easily seen.

“We’ve come with a message for King Ithen,” he told these burly armed men.

There was talk amongst them but not in our speech. It was hurried and unintelligible. It gave our other markan time to climb up.

“Come,” said one of them, and divided their number so some were ahead of us, some behind. They led us along a wooden walk-way and through a great door into the King’s Hold. They took us to the King’s House and there had us wait outside while one alone went in to report our arrival and errand. But we were soon fetched into that house, though only two of us and Markiste Isvlenys. The others must remain outside, so they said.

King Burdamon looked up as we walked in. He squinted the better to see across the wide chamber. He said, “That one and that one, these men I know. Kill the rest.”

And it was done, even there in that chamber, with the markon beside me falling down dead as they cut off his head. Blood jetted and splashed, it was everywhere. I was covered in it. King Burdamon laughed.

“Markiste Isvlenys,” he greeted my commander. “Welcome to my hold. And young Ingobo—Is it Markon Ingobo now?”

“It is,” I answered, my knees a’tremble though, surprising me, my voice held steady.

“And what is your message,” King Burdamon asked.

“My orders are to give the message to King Ithen only,” Markiste Isvlenys said.

“King Ithen does not receive uninvited visitors,” the giant king said. “Either recite your message to me—I assure you I’ll pass it on to King Ithen—else leave.”

Then he smiled.

“Of course, alas, you’ll have to walk. For by now your sea-men will be as dead as your other companions and their boat ablaze. We can’t have you returning to the Alsaldic King telling him exactly where we are. You are a strategist; you do understand.”

While I don’t deny this news was distressing my thoughts were more on how now we’d return to West Alsime Land with the answer we’d been assured would be given us. What a fool, this King Burdamon, to destroy our means of return without even knowing what message we’d brought for King Ithen. I hoped King Ithen would deal severely with him. At that thought I couldn’t help but chuckle. It was impolite, I know, and I feared the guards’ swords would shortly severe my head from my neck. Yet still I laughed.

“Markon Ingobo,” King Burdamon addressed me next. “If you’ll be kind enough to tell me the message I’ll ensure that it reaches King Ithen.”

“It is true, we were told to give the message to no other but King Ithen” I said, “but if King Ithen will not receive us as visitors, then I see no other way for it but to deliver the message to you. Better that than not delivered at all.” I nodded, for I felt satisfied with what I had said.

“I am waiting,” said King Burdamon.

“The Alsaldic King—King Kottir,” I repeated as it had been given to me, “has in his guard and well-protected King Ithen’s daughter Bryony. He says he will return the daughter Bryony to King Ithen when King Ithen returns Queen Bregan to him. He says there will be no giving of land. The exchange is to be of these two women only.”

King Burdamon smiled and nodded. “Have this one killed,” he said, gesturing toward Markiste Isvlenys. “As for you, Markon Ingobo, do not fear that death is near to you too. There is always one that’s left alive to tell the tale—is that not so? Besides, on this occasion one is needed to return a message to King Kottir, is he not.”

I wanted to ask: And how was I to do that when our boat now was burned. But I wisely kept quiet.

“You can tell King Kottir that his message and offer of an exchange has been anticipated by King Ithen. His daughter Bryony is to him as precious as Queen Bregan is to King Kottir. Of course he will accept. You must tell him this: That the exchange is to be made on the eve of the Feast of Trees. To make it easier for King Kottir to deliver Bryony to him, King Ithen has chosen a place on the Way. You are to tell your King Kottir to bring Bryony to where the Way crosses the river which forms the southern boundary of the Heath. If King Kottir doesn’t know this place there will be others who do—the Heath was once part of the Alsaldic Lands. King Ithen will be waiting there with Queen Bregan. To make the exchange both Queen Bregan and Bryony must be placed in carts and secured, and the oxen left to do the rest. Under no circumstances must King Kottir cross the river. And King Ithen, too, will honour that boundary. Do you understand all this?”

I duly nodded. I wanted to repeat it all in my head but I was given no chance. King Burdamon had more to say.

“Tell your King Kottir this as well: If King Ithen sees more than ten men—he considers these ten required to protect his daughter while on her journey north—he will, with no further delay or warning, kill Queen Bregan. That is all,” King Burdamon said. “Now, you need to return to West Alsime Land and you have no boat and no crew. How will you do it?”

I opened my mouth but I was speechless. I looked down at the headless bodies of Markiste Isvlenys and Markon Dubere. How come I still was alive and they were not? Why had King Burdamon chosen me to bear this message and not Markiste Isvlenys? What had protected me? Whatever it was, I now must stay alive to deliver the message. But how was I to return to West Alsime Land? King Burdamon had asked me, yet I could think only of the dead men.

“I’ll walk it,” I said as still he stared at me. “At least till I reach the Waters. Maybe there I’ll find someone to ferry me to His Indwelling.”

“There is no need,” King Burdamon said. “King Ithen would not be pleased with me if I allowed you to go into such uncertainty. Besides, it would take you too long. And what if you lost your way? King Ithen wants his daughter back. That means you must make all haste to return to King Kottir. Even so, it will take him several days travel to reach this place set by King Ithen for the exchange. So, I’m sending you back to West Alsime Land—at least as far as East Bounds—in one of my boats. Take him,” he said to his men.

Before I knew what was happening I’d been grabbed from behind and tightly bound. What-what? Why this? I struggled of course; I kicked, I bit. But it did no good.

King Burdamon laughed. “It’s for your own good. You don’t think I’d risk having you escape? Who knows where you’d end up then. They’ll untie you when you reach East Bounds.”

So that was that. I travelled the the length of the watery ways, first the sea, then along the Water of Waters, bound with my hands behind me. It was uncomfortable and I peed myself, more than the once. But true to their king’s word, when we reached First Water’s gate, they hauled me out of their boat and untied all the ropes. They left me on the river’s bank, my limbs uselessly numb and dangling. And so I was found by the markan patrolling there, and taken to their commander.

“I have a message for King Kottir,” I said. “It’s urgent.”

He was hesitant. These markan had seen me hauled from that boat. Their commander thought I might be a spy.

“It’s very urgent,” I repeated. “It concerns the Queen.”

He wasn’t convinced.

“What’s the message?” he asked.

“It’s for King Kottir,” I said.

He nodded to his men, those standing around him. They took me away.

I told them, “I have to return to the Highlands.”

They ignored me.

“Tell your commander that I’ll tell him the message if he’ll listen. Then he’ll know how important it is.”

They threw some clean Regiment-issue at me. They placed a bucket of water before me. “You stink,” they said.

While they waited and watched I stripped down to my skin and washed off the blood and the spew and the piss.

“Now,” they said, “you can tell your story to the commander. And this time give him the truth.”

Precious moments were slipping away. Precious days wasted while they questioned me. Why didn’t they believe when I said who I was? Why didn’t they believe I had an urgent message to take to the King? Three days they held me there—three days!—till Horsemaster Tanetros could be fetched.

“Release him,” he said on seeing me.

He asked me nothing. He gave me a horse to ride. He rode with me back to the Highlands, all the way down to the King’s Hold. There he accompanied me to the King’s Chamber. He stood beside me while we waited for King Kottir to attend.

“Ingobo?” King Kottir greeted me. “What are you doing here? Are you a markon now? Is that what Saram wanted for you?”

“I have a message for you,” I said. “It’s from King Ithen, but no one believes me. King Burdamon killed the others. He killed Markiste Isvlenys. He was standing beside me. They cut his head off. It was ghastly.”

“You’d better give me the message,” King Kottir said. So I did.


So, it seems the sisters will be exchanged. King Kottir is to have back his Queen—just in time for her to be delivered of their baby. And King Ithen’s invasion of the Empire will then be delayed, at least for a year. That is . . . if King Ithen doesn’t play false. Next episode, Fire and Water

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A Hundred Walks

No, not 100 walks, but walks across, around and through an English hundred. This is something I began last summer, source of the flower photos I posted (see also The Confusing Case of the Norman Arches), and intend to resume this year. In fact, I have already begun (see Tipping a Wink at Whitlingham and this walk—From Poringland to Venta Icenorum via Arminghall Woods as in map below). The hundred in question is Henstead.

poringland-to-venta-icenorum-via-arminghall-woodsHundred

A hundred, in the sense intended here, is as Wiki puts it, ‘an administrative division, geographically part of a larger region.’

In a country’s administrative hierarchy so . . . Country [or State], County [or Shire], Hundred, Parish. Or at least that’s how it runs in England.

But the hundred can also be found in Wales and parts of the United States and Australia (whence it arrived with English immigrants) as well as in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Southern Schleswig, Finland and Estonia—it would seem there has been a certain amount of borrowing and importation.

But did the English take the word and its administrative meaning from the Scandinavian Norse and Danes who first marauded as Vikings and then settled as migrants in Britain’s eastern parts?

We might be forgiven for thinking so, for the word’s first appearance in the written record, with relevant meaning, dates to the post-Viking period, i.e. in the laws of King Edmund I (939-46) where the ‘hundred court’ is also mentioned.

Yet the hundred as an administrative unit doesn’t appear in the written records of the Scandinavian countries until 1085 (in a gift letter of Cnut the Holy). Of course, that’s not enough to deter the utterly determined. After all, fire, flood or civil unrest could have destroyed the relevant records. But I think not.

It would seem that the borrowing, if borrowing there was, was from west to east, from England to Scandinavia. And if that’s the case, then it can probably be found in the hands of Cnut the Great, King of England, Denmark and Norway, 1016-1035.

But if England didn’t have it from the marauding Vikings and Danes, whence came it? Or was it the indigenous and ingenious invention of an unnamed clerk in the court of King Edmund?

Origins and Meaning of the Hundred

Its source might be easier traced if first we understand the original meaning of this much borrowed term.

Clearly in its founding years the term a hundred referred to one hundred ‘somethings’. But here the historians lock horns in hot dispute. Was the original meaning ‘one hundred hides’ (where a hide denoted the total land required for the upkeep of one man and his family where his ‘family’ included his entire entourage—toadies, huscarls, priests, clerks, servants, slaves, and don’t forget the missus)? Or was it, rather, one hundred warriors—by which one might mean the respected and much-eared leaders of war-bands? Or could it merely denote one hundred all purpose fighting men?

Oh, and let’s not confuse the issue by pointing out that to the Germanic peoples (Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norse etc) ‘one hundred’ didn’t actually mean 100. But 120!

Mentioning Germanics . . . oddly, or not, the Roman writer Tacitus writing his Germania circa CE 98 described the traditional Germanic system of the centeni, i.e. the hundred.

Germania
Chapter 6: Arms Military Manoeuvres and Discipline.

Their number is fixed – a hundred from each district; and from this they take their name among their countrymen, so that what was originally a mere number has now become a title of distinction.

Well that explains everything.

An Anglo-Saxon hundred was a district sufficient in size to provide 100 [or 120] fighting men in times of need. Or at least, that’s what it was when it arrived in England ca. CE 450.

It wasn’t a system invented out of somebody’s head in the tenth century. It had been in use in England since before England was England.

Perhaps the same can be said of the Scandinavian countries? Although there it was mostly superseded by the term herred, a ‘crowd following’ in literal translation—as it was likewise replaced in England when the Local Government Act of 1894 introduced the system of ‘districts’.

Henstead Hundred

Henstead Hundred’s northern boundary ran along the River Yare, from Whitlingham and Trowse eastward to Surlingham and Rockland. Its western boundary was along the River Tas from Trowse to Saxlingham Thorpe and Nethergate passing by Venta Icenorum. To the east the hundred extended to Alpington, Yelverton and Howe. Howe was later assigned to Clavering Hundred despite it doesn’t even abut.

In studying Domesday Book I discovered the Henstead parishes fall into three groups, in 1086 each group paying 1 mark to the pound of geld.

  1. Saxlingham (Thorpe and Nethergate), Grensvill (hamlet, now lost), Shotesham, Stoke Holy Cross and Caistor St Edmund
  2. Poringland, Howe. Arminghall, Bixley, Framlingham (Pigot and Earl), Trowse-cum-Newton, and Whitlingham
  3. Kirby Bedon, Bramerton, Surlingham, Holverston, Rockland, Yelverton and Alpington.

In my walks I shall not keep strictly to these groupings.

The Moot Hill

An interesting fact about the hundreds is that they tended to be named for their ‘meeting place’, the moot hill—which may or may not have coincided with the location of the later hundred court. And so we see in Forehoe Hundred, the ‘moot hill’ was the ‘four hoes’ (barrows) at Carlton Forehoe. At nearby Humbleyard Hundred, the ‘moot hill’ was at a place called ‘humbleyard’ just east of Swardeston.

But what of Henstead Hundred?

The name ‘Henstead’ is formed on hen and stead. No prizes for guessing that stead means ‘place’. But what of hen?

My dictionary—which isn’t the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Dictionary but you can check it against that, online—tells me that heanis = ‘height’, while hean, heanne, from heah = ‘high’, ‘aloft’. So, Henstead, the High Place.

And where might we find this ‘High Place’ in the hundred of Henstead?

To quote from the Norfolk Heritage Explorer site (run by Norfolk County Council):

It is recorded that a site referred to as ‘Modberge’ is known to have existed in the parish of Stoke Holy Cross, and was a barrow used as a moot hill for the Hundred of Henstead. The exact location of this site is unknown.

Tithe map gives no comparable name in parish.

My guess is that ‘Modberge’ was sited towards the eastern bounds of Stoke Holy Cross, what today is better known as Upper Stoke. Here, in an area measuring fractions of a square mile, is found the joining of no less than six of Henstead’s parishes: Framingham (Earl and Pigot counted as one), Poringland, Arminghall, Bixley, Caister St Edmund and Stoke Holy Cross.) See map above

Here the land rises to over 70 meters above sea level (hey, don’t scoff, this is high in the flat-ish county of Norfolk; second only to that glacial deposit, the North Norfolk Ridge)

It was here, on 14th February, that I began my walk. And the first thing encountered was the massively tall stepped radio mast, a piercing landmark visible even through the clutter that’s the southeastern outskirts of Norwich.

RAF Stoke Holy Cross

Between 1937 and 1939 the Ministry of Defence erected eight radio towers as part of its Chain Home project—the codename for a ring of coastal Early Warning radar stations built by the Royal Air Force before and during the Second World War to detect and track aircraft. At RAF Stoke Holy Cross there were four wooden receiving towers and four steel sending towers.

Radar Towers at Stoke Holy Cross

Radar Towers at Stoke Holy Cross . . . photo kindly loaned me by joemasonspage.wordpress

(Joe Mason’s blog is worth a visit, not only for firsthand information about RAF Stoke Holy Cross, but also for his memories of the region)

While the four towers built of wood were demolished when the station closed in 1956, two of the steel towers were pressed into other uses—to carry police messages, British Telecom radio communications and to relay the Anglia TV signal.

MOD Radio Mast at SHX

MOD Radio Mast at Upper Stoke/Poringland

BT Radio mast at Upper Stoke/Poringland

BT Radio mast at Upper Stoke/Poringland, easily seen on the skyline immediately upon leaving Norwich on A140 to Ipswich

While the radio towers occupy Henstead’s ‘high place’, and offer a reminder of WWII’s place in the development of modern technology, a reminder of the hundred’s pre-Anglo-Saxon administrative history sits at its ‘low place’.

Arminghall Woods

Descending into a shallow valley I then had to decide whether to keep to the roads or to go cross country. The footpath looked dry. Deceptive. Water lay deeply hidden amongst the grasses. Squelching through the slippery grasses I climbed back out of the valley, over the road, onto a extremely churned and muddy footpath—and descended again, passing by some gnarly old trees.

Gnarly Tree 14 Feb 2017

A gnarly old tree on the way to Arminghall

Again, uphilling, and skirting a field of inquisitive sheep, I made their acquaintance.

Sheep near Armighall

Well, at least one of us is keeping warm in her woolly winter coat

And soon came to Arminghall Woods where I encountered several characterful trees.

Characterful tree at Arminghall

A characterful tree at Arminghall Woods. I think he’s smiling.

A surprisingly mudless track runs alongside it.

Backhall Lane, Arminghall

Backhall Lane as it nudges around Arminghall Woods

This track used to be a vehicular lane from Arminghall to Caistor St Edmunds. It’s now a footpath that soon disappears into a field—where the weeks of winter rain combined with the free-range pigs upon the hill created a sloppy mud that more resembled slurry. Having done my best to clean that off my shoes, I headed off to Venta Icenorum. But I took the long route, which took me uphill again.

Hilly Henstead

Hilly Henstead . . . and the sun beams down

And then, again, I had to come down . . .

Tas Valley

Looking across to the Tas Valley with the mist-shrouded power-lines and railway beyond

Venta Icenorum

Map venta-icenorum-walk-1

Venta Icenorum as seen on Ordnance Survey map of 1881

The ‘market-place of the Eceni’, serving as the Roman administrative centre for Norfolk, north Suffolk and eastern Cambridgeshire—i.e. the former lands of Queen Boudica’s Iron Age tribe, the Eceni/Iceni—Venta Icenorum was founded during the CE 60s, after Boudica’s rebellion of CE 61.

Moreover, it began life not as a town, but as a military centre; perhaps one reason it never really ‘took off’ in the way of other Roman centres. The gridiron of roads were laid in preparation, yet in the infilling remained sparse at best. However, during its later life as a civilian centre, it was equipped with all the usual Roman niceties: a forum, basilica and public baths. True, at first all buildings at Venta Icenorum were built of wood. But by the time of Emperor Hadrian (CE 117-38) some stone buildings did appear. The town even had the luxury of running water, brought in by aqueduct, probably from the high land to the west (Henstead’s ‘high place’). Wooden water pipes and drains were found during excavation and survey work.

Venta Icenorum

‘Venta Icenorum’

Map: Norfolk Archeaological Trust

Beyond the walls were other Roman novelties. Several temples to the Romanised versions of the Celtic gods (or should that be the British versions of the Roman gods?). An oval outline identified on aerial photographs may have been an amphitheatre. Though it may have served as a military facility, for exercising and training.

North wall Venta Icenorum

Atop the north wall at Venta Icenorum

The defensive walls and ditches—origin of the Anglo-Saxon place-name ‘Caistor’, a castle—are a remarkable survival from this period, possible only because, as with Silchester (Hants) and Wroxeter (Shropshire), Venta Icenorum did not become the foundation of a later town. However, they have been heavily ‘quarried’ for building material and roadstone. Dating to mid-through-late third century CE, they were raised in response to the increasing raids by Germanic peoples. Originally, tower-like bastions were attached to the outside of the walls at regular intervals—as can be seen at Burgh Castle.

Bastion at Burgh Castle

A bastion at Burgh Castle. Photo taken October 2014

Enter the Anglo-Saxons

Anyone with an interest in Late Romano-Early Anglo-Saxon Period in England will know the date 410 CE, when Emperor Honorius withdrew his Roman forces. But that was merely the final shutting of the gate. Roman authority and Roman influence had been waning since the 340s CE. A new power was in the ascendancy, and like the hydra it, too, had a ‘hundred’ heads. Now at least one of those ‘hundreds’ settled around the old Roman town—around it, not in it.

Evidence of two large Early Saxon cemeteries have been found exceedingly close to the town. Dating to the fifth and sixth centuries, they are amongst the earliest definitive evidence of the incoming Germanic peoples. Nearby, a group of sub-rectangular pits, believed to be the Saxon sunken floored buildings or grubenhauser, typical of the early years of settlement.

But evidence of their early settlement in this corner of England isn’t restricted to the Venta Icenorum environs. Other early Saxon cremation and inhumation cemeteries have been found at nearby Howe, Framingham (Earl-Pigot), Stoke Holy Cross and Alpington—all within the Henstead Hundred.

What attracted these Germanic incomers to this particular corner of the former Roman colony—apart from accessibility (the Tas gives onto the Yare, the Yare gives onto the North Sea)?

They were drawn by the same features that drew the Iron Age Celts, the same considerations that persuaded the Roman authorities to site Venta Icenorum along a small tributary, the Tas, instead of alongside the much bigger River Yare.

This corner of Britain, which soon would be tagged with the name of Henstead, was a sacred landscape with a history as ancient as the human occupation of Britain itself.

Skipping over the more ephemeral remains of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, there is an abundance of Bronze Age round-barrows, some laid out in linear cemeteries, in the Henstead parishes of Saxlingham, Stoke Holy Cross, Caistor St Edmunds, Bixley & Arminghall, and Howe. There are mortuary enclosures and long barrows from the Neolithic. And a henge at Arminghall (alas, not much to be seen by today’s visitor)

As an area rich in sacred sites it stands as equal to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. But unlike that southern chalkland, Henstead was, and is, a fertile region inviting the plough. Those remains that elsewhere stand above ground in proud display, here reveal themselves only to C21st technology. But that wouldn’t have been so for our ancestors, Celtic, Roman, and Saxon.

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First Images of Spring

Catkins Arminghall Woods

Hazel Catkins, Arminghall Woods, February 14th

Catkins in bloom Caistor SE

Hazel trees decked with catkins. A woodland ride at Caistor St Edmund, February 14th

Snowdrops, Marriotts Way

Snowdrops in woodland alongside Marriotts Way at Drayton, February 21st

Pussy willow, Cobholm March 7

Pussy willow at Cobholm common (Gt Yarmouth) March 7th

Black thorn at Breydon

Black thorn in bloom, edging a copse beside Breydon Water, Gt Yarmouth, March 7th

Black thorn flowers close up

Black thorn flowers, up close and personal, March 7th

Crocuses at Burgh Castle March 7

Crocuses line the path to the church at Burgh Castle, March 7th

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