A site visit
Since there has not been a site visit by any of the expert panel or the designation reports writer, this is provided to contradict the claims that the site has been substantially changed. The captions for the landscape images reinforce the literature and landscape research and belie the view presented in the designation report.
A site visit is very strongly recommended to confirm how much of the site can be enjoyed.
Fig 1The battle site is very accessible as there are many paths, tracks and roads. There is good parking both at the park & ride and at several other places along the smaller roads and tracks. There are footpaths and cycleable routes to provide safe links to many parts of the city. The site is already wonderfully accessible and also easy to understand as there are few modern buildings.
How much of the battle site has survived?
The contradictory messages given by the developers and the planning authorities that the battle was not along the line of Germany Beck or perhaps, that the battle site had been destroyed by changes over the years, all went un-remarked during the planning process.
When asked during the initial planning hearing why the developers had proposed a battlefield trail while arguing that the battle did not take place there, the council officers mumbled. So it became a nature walk in later documents. So if this road is ever built, there will be a battlefield trail along Germany Beck as part of the plan. But it will start just beyond the place of the two shieldwalls clashed as that will be buried below the access road.
In fact the site has survived remarkably well. It is possible to use public footpaths to walk all the way from Riccall, to the fording place at the heart of the battle. You can walk along both shieldwalls without moving off public paths. Many of the paths are suitable for push and wheel chairs and they link the site to a nearby Park and Ride. The battle site is already well served with buses and has excellent foot and cycle access to the city centre. It is ready made for visitors and I have conducted over 100 parties round the site and organised four re-enactments.
It is possible to give an excellent tour and in many places to stand on the surface where the battle lines were drawn up in 1066. So I really feel the term ‘cultural crime’ can be applied to those who conspire to remove this option by making this precise area into an access road.
The landscape changes are;
· The place where the English shield wall formed up is as it was in 1066. Only the A19 and the stone bridge, which cuts through the two lines, his changed. A terrace of five houses has been built beside the road.
· The space where the Norse shield wall formed up has not been built over. But the land has been filled to make it a flat playing field but the land that slopes down to the old ford can be observed all around.
· The redirection of Germany Beck between Fordlands Road bridge and the A19 Stone Bridge removes the lazy loop beneath the playing fields and it has been canalised to the north.
· A cemetery occupies the Norse right flank.
· There is one old folks’ home built along the beck.
· The ditch that separated the two armies can be clearly seen to the east of the ford although the water channel is now along one edge rather than meandering across the peat.
· The right flank of the English, beside the river Ouse, is still open ground as are the Ings.
· The trackway through Water Fulford that leads down to the ford is still there.
· These changes are small. It is easy to point to the 1066 landscape and the few modern intrusions could easily be excluded when, for example, the BBC even made a short film about the battle. The context has survived well so there is much to preserve.
These are some of the few buildings on the battle site. This is the junction of the A19 and Fordlands road. This small cluster of houses stands on the English side of the ford near the place where Earl Morcar might have stood overlooking the ford. If the access road is eventually built, a new road will run at first floor level just beyond these houses and then follow the line of the beck which was the space between the opposing shieldwalls.
These images cover the battlesite from east to west (left flank to right flank from the English perspective).
The retreat field with the centre of the battle 300m west.
The retreat field looking east away from the centre of the battle. It shows the waterlogged nature of this land. Two of the areas where reprocessing material were identified lay either side of this paleo-channel. This is still a waterlogged area, as noted in the literary sources.
This is a view of the left flank bank taken during one of the floods in 2012 when the level of the water is close to the level calculated for the peak tide in 1066. (This view is taken from the ‘Norse side’ – see below for English view)
Left Flank bank rests on the solid moraine and hedge dating theories suggest that this line of trees existed in the 11th century. The previous view (taken at another time of year) is looking at this hedge from the other side.
A view over the battlesite from the English bank with the fording area just beyond the trees on the right. The beck now runs this side of the treeline starting on the left but used to meander through a layer of peat. The Norse army had to cross the beck and peat-bog to reach the English side which is on the moraine.
This composite image overlooks the old ford. The land was filled to create a playing but the old surface is 3.8m below this. This would have been the place for the opening act of the battle, once the peak tide on the day of the battle had retreated, with the English ‘advancing bravely’ from the right to meet the ‘weakest troops’ advancing into the ford, according to the Norse sources. The buildings in the first b/w image are just visible in the trees at the top-right.
Right Flank where the beck flows into the Ings (the Ouse is 300m to the west/right) with the fording area in the previous image to the left.
A view over the Ings looking towards the river from the English side – The rising ground conceals both the river and, according the several sources, King Harald and his ‘best men’ were assembling there. The retreating tide would have given the attackers dry land, and recent research suggests a path, along the river bank while the English were denied access until the water retreated (see below).
The Fulford Ings are often wet with water being trapped behind the levee which runs beside the river Ouse which runs about 50m to the right of this picture. This image is looking south with Germany Beck on the horizon, about 1500m away. York is about 2km behind the back of the picture taker.
Because the site along Germany beck floods so often, it has not been subject to extensive housing or other development and it is still possible to walk (on well made public paths) round the battlesite to follow the action described in the literature.
Since writing this, the developers have cleared the trees ready to start work. So we can now see the whole 'ditch' in which the battle was fought.
This images capture almost the full extent of the ford and ditch where the battle was fought. In the foreground is part of the ford area. The ditch area is visible through the gap in the trees. The beck runs along the right. The only building on the site is the now redundant old folks home.
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The author of the content is Charles Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated April 2015
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