Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fossilized Journeys at Thornborough Bridge

Last weekend (The 4th-6th June) I was telling at the Wychwood Festival in Cheltenham and on route I stopped at Thornborough bridge which I blogged about last year... For photos and blog click here.

Its a great stop off point for anyone going to or coming from Oxford from the east, for not only is there the history of the medieval bridge and much earlier Roman and pre-Roman archeology, but also its a real beauty spot and surprisingly relaxing when you take into account the roaring traffic on the nearby A421. But what caught my eye this time as I walked the length of the old bridge was the deep scoring that covers the two inside walls of the bridge and it seems to me that it can only have been made by many generations of carts that crossed the bridge long, long ago. Certainly the marks were made after the bridge was built, because many of them cross multiple stones and some must be fairly old because they are now encrusted with lichens.

Wavy scoring across the stones
Click on any image to make larger

Some very deep grooves

Lichen covering the scoring, suggesting its been there some time

Some of the marks even follow a wavy pattern, up and down and suggest that the cart wheel was perhaps damaged and a bit wonky! That's' what really caught my imagination about these marks; they really are fossilized journeys. I'm used to looking for graffiti on old structures; words and pictures scratched on stone long, long ago, and sometimes we can tell a lot about the ideas and beliefs of the people who deliberately left these marks. But what of this accidental scoring, who knows? Perhaps some were caused by an unruly horse reacting to an overzealous whip. Maybe some represent a carters attempts to avoid a drunk stumbling across the bridge who didn't have the sense to stop in one of the 3 V shaped stopping places built into the medieval bridge for that purpose. Or perhaps some were simply caused by weary travellers whose overloaded carts were too big for the bridge or who were in a hurry to get home for their tea; we simply can't know for sure. It's fair to say that many of these marks were made by local traveller. Perhaps they were peddlers, merchants and farmers taking goods to and from the local market, but other than that we can only wonder about these journeys from long, long ago. We can only wonder about these travelers and their travels set in stone!


  1. I'm lichen this Sir. As my young nephew Tristan is want to say - 'positively groovy!'

  2. How is Tristan? I havn't seen him since the incident.

  3. I share your sentiments regarding this piece Esotericus.

    +Many Coats+