Road Walk Day 1: Bexleyheath to Dartford

Leaving David in Bexleyheath, I head towards Crayford. The road runs straight, though up and down little humps and bumps. Watling Streets gives way to London Road, and just behind is Bigs Hill Park – possibly where the Roman Road used to run. It’s full of grey squirrels and no people at this time of day. I wonder at these conjectures about where the road is really.

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I find the first road give a Roman name in Crayford – it is a ring road. Certainly not the Roman way, but it’s off and towards Dartford. The road inclines slightly till I reach the top of West Hill, and can see Dartford. It’s a good parallel to Shooters Hill earlier today, with its view of London. Here I can look out into Medway, having passed from the official outer suburbs of London and into Kent – though it’s simply a case of passing signs these days, rather than disparate settlements as it would have been in Roman times.

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I get to Dartford Museum and meet the Curator, Mike Still, who has opened his archives and display cabinets for Lloyd, who is busily scanning objects. I get to have a go on some tiles from a nearby villa – including one piece with Roman graffiti on it in vulgar Vulgar Latin. Poem idea there I think. Mike tells me about his excavations, local finds and shows me a stone Roman coffin. He tells me about a theory to do with the Road – that perhaps later builders used it as foundations for buildings, moving the road away from its original route.

Day 1 done – tomorrow a day in Rochester at the Guildhall. Now to write some of my own stuff. Another poem by and English poet – The Roman Road by Hardy. I’ll post some Roman poets tomorrow, and maybe something I write too.

The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmed legionaries, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmed legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother’s form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

-Dan

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