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Arlingham's Mysteries



There are more questions than answers in Arlingham: mysteriously numbered stones (#1), a swerving Roman road with no beginning or end (#2) and a cattle track that stops before it gets anywhere (#3,4). (But there are plenty of milestones which told the distance to Gloucester – until the plates were purloined or fell off.)


The numbered stones first: we were told by Pat Turner, who used to farm at Milton End, that they were markers to identify which stretch of the Severn bank or wall each household had the responsibility of maintaining. Your number came with your property. You can see the line of stones near the Severn on the old map (#5).  Low numbers were for the bank (bottom of #1) and high ones, 500 yards apart, for the wall (top).  The Big Society – remember that? – in action.


Pat told us lots more: for instance, it was a 27-day drove from Arlingham to Barnet Fair.  He also (partly) explained the Roman Road, which you can see as “Netting Lane” on #5.  Some of it is still “Silver Street”, which (said Pat) is a corruption of Via Silvana = Road to the Forest [of Dean].  The Romans used to haul wood and iron ore across the Severn; fair enough, but why does Via Silvana seem to be going northwards?  The only answer I can think of is that the Severn took an entirely different course in Roman times1.  It’s certainly Roman: the agger, or bank on which it’s built, the drainage ditches either side (where the spoil for the bank came from) and the width2 all point to it.


Then there’s the cattle track.  The Council information boards show the way eastwards but forget to say that it’s impossible to walk along the actual path the beasts took: that begins with a slurry pit (#3) then becomes a fenced-off hollow (#4).  The nettles are a sure sign of cattle passing through.  You can walk by the side of it as far as Barrow Hill, where it stops altogether.  The rest has all been filled in, but why?  Seems a lot of trouble for a little extra land.


We must return to Arlingham to try & solve these mysteries.  Meanwhile, if anyone knows anything, please email me.

1 It’s changed course considerably just in the last few hundred years: the tidal surge of 1607 wiped out entire villages.

2 Three chariots/carts wide, so that traffic wouldn’t be held up when there was a breakdown.

Arlingham's Mysteries image 2
Via Silvana
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Start of the Cattle Walk...
Arlingham's Mysteries image 4
...and it doesn't get better.
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1880's 6" Map