"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Sioux under General


I had a short break after Lenham, and then headed to a new short-term assignment in the Oxfordshire countryside. The area looked divine with loads of long quiet roads, lanes and fields – perfect for exploring! 

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On one of my walks I discovered the ruins of the North Leigh Roman Villa, a large country house built during Roman times and lived in for at least 300 years. Built in the peaceful landscape on the banks of the River Evenlode, near the hamlet (a small settlement which is generally smaller than a village, and strictly (in Britain) one without a church) of East End where I was working, this ‘courtyard villa’ was considered one of the larger villas of Roman Britain. The family who lived here were probably wealthy members of the native British population who had adopted the Roman lifestyle. This grand, luxurious courtyard villa would have been the centre point of a busy community, including servants and slaves, many of whom would have worked in the surrounding farmlands. 

Heating a villa of this size would have been done using hypocaust heating systems, whereby hot air from furnaces was drawn along channels under the floors and up flues in the walls. Although these systems would only have been used in the main living areas and bath suites, only the very rich could afford them as they required large amounts of fuel, burning constantly. 

I was finger alone at the site and walked around listening to the bleating of nearby sheep being carried on the wind blowing across the farm fields. The sheep seemed calm as I approached them and were happy to pose for photos. A very therapeutic afternoon, I got back to the house feeling totally relaxed. 

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At its most extensive in the early 4th century, it included four bath suites, 16 mosaic floors and 11 rooms with under-floor heating. The rectangular arrangement of the villa is still visible. Excavations indicate that the site was first occupied during the Late Iron Age, with the first villa building being built in the 1st or early 2nd century AD. Additions were made during the 3rd – 5th centuries. 

The most important remains of the site is a nearly complete mosaic tile floor dating to the 3rd century, in what is believed to have been the dining room. This floor was lifted and re-laid in 1929, and is now protected by a purpose built shed. 

Although the snow was gone, the weather wasn’t great and we had many rainy days, so while my client slept, I played around with close-ups of the flowers she had in her lounge. 

A walk in a different direction on another day yielded some horses grazing peacefully. When they saw me watching they started chasing each other around the open field, which gave me a few chuckles. It was almost as if they were play acting for the lens.

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During the taxi drive to the house when I arrived, I noticed a bicycle, adorned with flowers, locked onto a street pole on the corner of a road. I never got to ask anyone about it, so when it was time to leave, on my way back to the station; I asked the taxi driver if he knew the story behind it was. I was told the rather sad tale of a young man who chained his bike to the pole every day and got a lift into work, fetching his bike each evening and cycling back home. About a month before I saw it, he was involved in a fatal car crash and never came back for his bike. Once the local residents realised who the bike belonged to, they placed flowers in his memory. The bike remained untouched and fresh flowers were added regularly.  

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2 responses to “Escape to the country”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    OMW – those faces on those animals ….

  2. Chez says:

    How interesting thank you! Love the horses running freely beautiful! you might want to edit your short story re the sheep :o)

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