“If I had to mark Her out of ten, I would score Her a resounding twenty one”.
When we first moved to Salisbury, Old Sarum did not mean that much to us, it was an old hill fort north of Salisbury, a nice place to walk the dogs and that was about it. It was on those many dog walks that bit by bit we started to get a feel for the place. And now with hand on heart, I would have to say that by a substantial margin this quietly spoken ruin on top of a hill is my very favourite historical monument in all these lands.
I feel it to be a microcosm of British history; all the years this mighty nation has been making history, Old Sarum has been there quietly and sometimes not so quietly looking on, rarely has it had the starring role but it has always played its part with great aplomb. Kings have held court there, Queens imprisoned there, highly questionable political careers have been forged there (the most notorious of the Rotten boroughs), as wars have torn through these lands Old Sarum has been at the crossroads, perfectly located on two busy trade routes and on the banks of the river Avon. It was always said that for the Kings of old to hold England they must first hold Warwick, I feel it was equally true that to hold Wessex and the south, you must first hold Sarum. All the major players in our history have spilt blood on its ramparts, Druids, Saxon, Celts, Roman, Viking, Normans etc.
Archaeologists now think there is evidence of ‘The Beaker people’,the most ancient settlers of these lands there too, making it hundreds of years older than Stonehenge. In fact whose to say that the people who build the henge did not come from Sarum. The more you look at this place the more it amazes. But what I really love about Old Sarum is the fact that it does not shout about itself, it sits there quietly waiting for you to uncover her secrets. Stand and look down from the old castle walls and try to imagine yourself as an invading army, you will then see why Rulers of old had to hold this mighty ancient city, quietly spoken, yes, but she carried a very large stick with which to beat off those who fancied their chances.
Old Sarum has done with warring now, it is now just a wonderful place to take a picnic, to walk and soak up the stunning views of New Sarum (Salisbury), to walk through the old Cathedral ruins and Bishops Palace, or even to view the crop circles that magically appear most years.
In short, if you are coming to the Salisbury area, do not miss Old Sarum. If I had to mark Her out of ten, I would score Her a resounding twenty one. For me it gets no better than this. I just love the way she ticks!
As will always be the way with Old Sarum there is just one more thing. For me as a lover of maps this really was the Coup de gras. When making modern accurate maps cartographers use a series of equilateral triangles to build up the maps. In 1794 Ordinance Survey chose the starting point for the first line of the very first triangle of their mapping of the British Isles, and yes you have guessed it, Old Sarum was that place.