Monday, 14 April 2014

roundheads and cavaliers

I've planned this ride for quite some time and the inspiration for it is really quite remarkable. On previous rides I've talked about Northants role in WWII and bits of hidden history. Well this is bigger than that. Because a few miles from my house the decisive battle in the English Civil War took place.

Luckily for me I rode to work again today so I was able to finish at 5 and get straight out for a couple of hours. I spent the day looking after other peoples mental health and then I got the sort of therapy I need. Two wheels and country lanes. Perfect.

It's bizarre to think that this chunk of rural middle England, bisected by the A14 was the site of such an important battle. This part of the country is so rural that between Great Oxendon and Clipston I was on a gated road (that's a road with a gate they they shut off when there's livestock in the field,) and I was having to dodge sheep and lambs. It's now all pretty villages, farms, oil seed rape fields, sheep and cattle. In 1645 it was erm...just like that apparently! So when the Royalist forces marched south from Leicester under Prince Rupert's command to engage the New Model Army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax advancing North from Oxford, I presume the good folks of Northants hid in their barns until the silly buggers had finished their squabble.

This battle was a big deal. Long before the American War of independence, or Monsieur Guillotine won humane psychopath of the year in the French Revolution, our MPs, mostly Protestant, decided our King, a despicable Catholic wastrel, had to go. We invented chopping kings heads off and republics and all that. However after the Parliamentarian leader Cromwell turned out to be a despicable tyrant, banning dancing and Christmas and treating the Irish so appallingly that his place in history ranks along side Pol Pot or hitler. So we went back to having a King. We just don't let them make the rules and stuff so everyone stays happy. Anyway in terms of modern democracy people point to this bit of history and like to selectively remember old potato face Cromwell for the good things he did and ignore he was the 'all Britain biggest git' winner two years running. So that explains his statue outside the Houses of Parliament (my history is sketchy but I think he tried to ban that too!)

Rightly Northants is proud of this piece of history. It's well marked with lots of informative signs. The viewing platforms are a nice feature and I guess they're sort of set at 'view from a horse,' height. There's even a campsite for the Sealed Knot, the English Civil War reenactment society. They meet regularly and I've even been held up on a ride once as they marched down the road.

The sealed knot

Sign for Prince Rupert's view, in Northants we have brown signs whoever decided that wants shooting

Authentic civil war bike rack

Explanatory sign pointing out some stuff

The view looking directly at the village of Naseby and Thomas Fairfax who was looking this way!

What it says on the sign

If you expand this it's readable

So is this

The church at Marston Trussell where bad stuff happened

More info

Explanation of the slaughter at pudding bag end

On one website I've read about a different slaughter at this pretty church. The Royalist baggage train was caught here and a group of cooks were apparently slaughtered, totally against the rules of war. Yes that's right whilst perfectly sane religious men, all believing God was on their side hacked chunks out of each other, blasted each other with muskets and impaled each other on massive wooden pikes there was an atrocity. This one shows how messed up these times were. The two theories are the soldiers mistook Welsh cooks for Irish and therefore it was perfectly ok to kill them or they wanted to rape the cooks who defended themselves with knives and of course were asking to get stabbed to death.

One of the monuments, a closer picture would be better but I wasnt riding up there or walking up in cleats

The bigger monument on the site of the windmill at Naseby

It's quite good to do a compare and contrast of the two views

The victorious geezer

Handy map

Authentic English Civil War chilli con carne almost exactly what cyclists ate to recover in 1645

Frankly the whole thing seems a bit mad doesn't it and some of you might be thinking: "enough of this history nonsense tell us about the ride!" Well it was fabulous. The site is like a bowl surrounded by typical rolling hills. It's a combination of ups, downs, flat bits and rollers. I loved it but I would wouldn't I? If your wondering how I managed to get PRs whilst only having a 13mph average, well it's the scenery isn't it. That and stopping for pictures. 

Happy pedalling

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