On Watling Street (II)

Paved ancient route

Artery of trade and war

Unites and divides


n.b. The Romans built on, upgraded and extended the established thoroughfare, (only known as Watling Street from medieval times, long after the Roman retreat), that conveniently led from south of the Thames, through a ford and on towards the north-west of the island of Britannia.

Of all Britain’s ancient roads, this one probably has the richest history. Battle-fields lie adjacent to it, market towns decorate it, canals and railways run in alignment with it. Watling Street is in many parts identified as the A5 highway.

Watling Street also acts as a border. Now used in parts along its length by various counties, parishes and districts, the street was agreed to be the south-western edge of the Danelaw; with the invading Vikings to the north-east of the line and the Angles, Saxons and assorted settled tribes of the island to the south-west.

In Atherstone, that sits along the spine of Watling Street in Warwickshire, the old route is labelled Long Street. This label could just as easily be applied along the thoroughfare from tip to toe.

I could go on a lot further, but will rest here at Atherstone for now. The Atherstone Ball ball game takes place on Shrove Tuesday, this year on 24th February. This violent, rolling, riotous ritual has been played out here since medieval times on Long Street.

It is now used as a way to raise funds for charity, but still serves as an excuse to settle scores and leave a mark on rivals for the town’s ruffians. There are no rules, so no referees, but three ambulances and numerous police officers will be in attendance.

Unfortunately I will not be here to witness it this coming week. I feel that the forthcoming knockabout in this former millinery town could be a metaphor for the post-Brexit era; a lot of pointless tussling, with several unnecessary injuries, just for the hell of it.


CLP 22/02/2020