GE Map of Prehistoric Berkshire Canals (Dykes)
|Name||Entry Ref:||NGF||Length (m)||Overall Width (m)||Ditch Width (m)||Bank Width (m)|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 560yds (510m) in Pennsylvania Wood, Ufton Park||1003769||SU 63244 66255||505||23||9||8|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 300yds (275m) in Church Plantation||1005373||SU 63481 66693||262||15||9||6|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 880yds (795m) in Old Warren||1005374||SU 61252 64083||772||25||8||8|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 470yds (430m) in Little Heath||1005375||SU 61023 63798||423||25||8||8|
|Grim's Bank: section extending SW 900yds (825m) from New Plantation, Ufton Park, to a point 250yds (230m) SE of Rectory||1005376||SU 62201 65782||830||17||10||7|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 420yds (400m) in Old Park and Raven Hill, Ufton Park||1005377||SU 62716 66066||388||17||10||7|
|Grim's Bank: section extending 240yds (220m) E of Padworth Gully||1005389||SU 61696 65154||202||17||9||7|
|Grim's Ditch: section 1 mile long E from Southfield Shaw to Streatley parish boundary||1006981||SU 55318 78452||2237||18||8||6|
|Grim's Ditch: two sections in Portobello Wood, Holies Shaw and High Holies Wood Gap||1006982||SU 59382 79568||865||22||8||6|
Dykes Ditches and Earthworks
Indeed, the modern term “dyke” or “dijk” can be traced back to its Dutch origins. As early as the 12th century, the construction of Dykes in the Netherlands was a well-established practice. One remarkable example of their ingenuity is the Westfriese Omringdijk, stretching an impressive 126 kilometres (78 miles), completed by 1250. This Dyke was formed by connecting existing older ‘dykes’, showcasing the Dutch mastery in managing their aquatic landscape.
The Roman chronicler Tacitus even provides an intriguing historical account of the Batavi, a rebellious people who employed a unique defence strategy during the year AD 70. They punctured the Dykes daringly, deliberately flooding their land to thwart their enemies and secure their retreat. This historical incident highlights the vital role Dykes played in the region’s warfare and water management.
Originally, the word “dijk” encompassed both the trench and the bank, signifying a comprehensive understanding of the Dyke’s dual nature – as both a protective barrier and a channel for water control. This multifaceted concept reflects the profound connection between the Dutch people and their battle against the ever-shifting waters that sought to reclaim their land.
The term “dyke” evolved as time passed, and its usage spread beyond the Dutch borders. Today, it represents not only a symbol of the Netherlands’ engineering prowess but also a universal symbol of human determination in the face of the relentless forces of nature. The legacy of these ancient Dykes lives on, a testament to the resilience and innovation of those who shaped the landscape to withstand the unyielding currents of time.
Upon studying archaeology, whether at university or examining detailed ordinance survey maps, one cannot help but encounter peculiar earthworks scattered across the British hillsides. Astonishingly, these enigmatic features often lack a rational explanation for their presence and purpose. Strangely enough, these features are frequently disregarded in academic circles, brushed aside, or provided with flimsy excuses for their existence. The truth is, these earthworks defy comprehension unless we consider overlooked factors at play.
One curious observation revolves around the term “Dyke,” inherently linked to water. It seems rather peculiar to apply such a word to an earthwork atop a hill unless an ancestral history has imparted its actual function through the ages. Let us consider the celebrated “Offa’s Dyke,” renowned for its massive linear structure, meandering along some of the present boundaries between England and Wales. This impressive feat stands as a testament to the past, seemingly demarcating the realms of the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys during the 8th century.
However, delving further into the evidence and historical accounts challenges this seemingly straightforward explanation. Roman historian Eutropius, in his work “Historiae Romanae Breviarium”, penned around 369 AD, mentions a grand undertaking by Septimius Severus, the Roman Emperor, from 193 AD to 211 AD. In his pursuit of fortifying the conquered British provinces, Severus constructed a formidable wall stretching 133 miles from coast to coast.
Yet, intriguingly, none of the known Roman defences match this precise length. Hadrian’s Wall, renowned for its defensive prowess, spans a mere 70 miles. Could Eutropius have referred to Offa’s Dyke, which bears remarkable similarity to the Roman practice of initially erecting banks and ditches for defence?
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