One of the many things that the Romans did for us was to leave us with a great many souvenirs of their 400 year occupation of Britain. Some have been discovered and made accessible for visits by those of us who take an interest in such things, others lie beneath the earth awaiting discovery in years to come, and a very few have been discovered and, well ……….. just left!
One such site is Spoonley Wood Roman Villa which sits in the grounds of Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire – about 15 miles from home. Discovered and partially unearthed in the 1870s it’s largely been left for nature to once more reclaim and is sufficiently remote and inaccessible that it now receives very few visitors. In fact you could quite easily walk within yards of the site and never know it was there. Having been alerted to its existance by a mention by Bill Bryson’ book ‘Notes from a Small Island’ we decided to take a look.
The walk from Winchcombe is just over a couple of miles and on a fine day you could probably do the return trip in not much more than two hours – unfortunately, whilst the day we chose was bright and sunny, the ground underfoot was extremely wet and in many places the path (such as it was) was a quagmire. When the mud starts to go over the top of your walking boots you know its wet!
When you eventually get there the site itself is at first a little underwhelming. You can more or less make out the outlines of some of the buidings (partialy reconstructed by enthusiastic Victorians) but the woodland has largely overwhelmed their efforts at conservation and the structures that they erected to protect some of the finds have, in the main part, long since disintegrated. There is, however, one small ‘lean-to’ structure doing its best to protect a small patch of floor and beneath a piece of rather grotty plastic sheeting is ……………….. a wonderful roman mosaic! Lift the sheet and there, covered with mud and definately not looking its best , is a floor that was apparently laid by a Roman workman some 16 or 17 centuries ago. Who said the Romans never did anything for us?