Into the Wychwood
by the A361, a mile or two South of Churchill, lies the remains of Lyneham Camp, a Roman military fortress. Perhaps young Warren wandered over here from time to time, and it was here that he began to dream of greater things than sheep-farming. Perhaps William Smith chipped away at the deposits, and realised the relationship between depth and date.
Perhaps not; history is seldom so tidy. How many people know any of the history of their locality, even today? Myths and legends, perhaps; oral traditions to fill the dark hours of winter, tall tales to bolster prestige, ogresome fables to warn children away from perilous nature.
This is just the place for all that. Continuing South, over this saddle of broad fields, the road falls down to the valley of the Evenlode, and we encounter one of the most evocative of English names; we are in The Wychwood.
In fact, we've just passed Shipton-under-Wychwood railway station, so we're -under- rather than -in-. Just as well, because there aren't a lot of trees about. But Shipton is another of those gorgeous Cotswold stone villages, with a village green, a fine church, a good inn and a Victorian mill building up-river.
But, The Wychwood.... What a place of wonder that must be! A wild forest, old, unchanging, primeval - a link with the Old Days, when you either had Magic, or you had nothing.
Ancient this place certainly is. The Wychwood was one of the Royal Forests, a status held under Saxon, as it was under Norman kings.
Once it stretched for miles and miles over these rolling hills, down into the lower valleys of the Evenlode and Glyme, a dense presence in the middle of Southern England.