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Monday, 25 November 2013

The bloody legend of Bloods Dale

Bloods Dale 002

I GET the impression that many people who live in Drayton don’t really see much of the River Wensum. Busy commuters could be forgiven for not  even realising it’s there, hidden beyond the Low Road while they take the High Road to Norwich. Perhaps the legend of the bloody battle of Bloods Dale can tempt them. Here’s my first draft:

The land climbs steadily from the Wensum between the Low Road and the High Road in Drayton. A footpath bisects the two roads and just to the north lies an idyllic spot at the centre of a grisly legend.

It’s a field, trapezoidal in shape, with the unlikely name of Bloods Dale. And local tradition maintains that this was the site of an epic battle between the Danes and the Saxons in the Dark Ages.

“In a plantation near the road are traces of an entrenchment; and at a short distance is Bloods dale, said to be the scene of a battle in the Saxon era,” wrote one Victorian chronicler.

Notice how we all say “said to be”. No-one has the remotest bit of evidence, but tantalisingly 13 skeletons were dug up a short distance from here by navvies digging the Midland & Great Northern railway line in the 19th century.

All that we can be sure of is that the “Bloods Dale” name has a long lineage. A 15th century document talks of land called “Blodeshille” and “Blodisdale” owned by a Walter Nich of nearby Taverham. The first edition of the OS map from 1884 shows it as a large field running from Low Road to the brow of the hill, while a 1913 edition adds the wood we still see today.

And look again at your current OS Explorer. Bloods Dale is picked out from among all the other dozens of field names the cartographers could have chosen in the area. Well done Ordnance Survey for helping to keep this faint historical whisper alive down the centuries.

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