If I had five pounds for every person I’ve met who’s been complaining about belches and farts caused by sitting in front of the television hour after hour watching the Olympics, I’d be a rich man. Happily, while the rest of the nation consumed crisps and lager in front of their screens, I was strutting Directorially around a Roman fort on the Saxon Shore. In the last week of the lead-up to the Games, I was above the clouds in Cumbria, doing my best to investigate Tudor copper mines. No chance of flatulence with me. Oh, no. And then suddenly it came to me: We all know that travel broadens the mind, but it can also get the digestive juices coursing through the intestines – and that’s what cures wind and eats up the calories. So my advice to anyone whose system is in need of a quick boost: get off your arse and be out and about.
I think I must have been put in mind of this sound advice when I was emailed by a nice woman at the Guardian. For many years I used only to read the Graun, as it coincided (and still does) with my general political leanings; but then I became more and more involved with the farm and rural affairs and slowly realised that the dear old Graun was hopelessly urban. It was at its East of Islington nadir during the Blair – surely our most urban if not urbane PM? – years. I went on the great London Countryside March when they banned fox hunting, not because I was particularly pro hunting (which I’m not), but because it didn’t seem right that a bunch of people with no knowledge of, or interest in, rural affairs should dictate how other people lived their lives. If cruelty were indeed the motive, then why do they still allow religious butchery rites that involve animals being bled to death without stunning? The answer is, because these are essentially urban rites and to ban them would upset thousands or core voters… Politicians, grrr… But I digress.
Anyhow, it would seem that next Saturday’s (August 18th) Guardian’s Travel section is doing a special issue on Britain, with emphasis on historical places. I’ve done some notes for them on prehistoric sites. I’d loved to have done Flag Fen, but someone else is doing the Bronze Age. Anyhow, I’m doing the Neolithic and Iron Age and have opted for Maes Howe and Orkney, The Ridgeway near Uffington (now in Oxfordshire), Avebury and Maiden Castle. I was a little over my word limit, so one of these might get dropped. Anyhow, do buy it: it should be well worth a read (apart from my efforts, that is). And it should give you inspiration for future trips out and about.
As I said, I wasn’t able to plug Flag Fen, but they’ve just completed the first season of a ‘crowd-funded’ project. It has been a huge success and although I couldn’t visit as much as I wanted (being away doing two episodes of Time Team, plus making hay), we were able to have the professional archaeologists who worked there over to our place for a bite of lunch after the last week-end of the dig. And they were wildly enthusiastic. They have the highest standards and they seemed wholly relaxed about everything. So that’s wonderful. Congratulations all round. For an excellent overview of the project go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19192220
Why oh why is a ‘staycation’ seen as preferable to contracting skin cancer in the Costas? As the Olympics have surely shown, Britain has a huge amount to offer. So get out there!