Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roads, gates and winter views

click photo to enlarge
Newcomers to the Lincolnshire Fens often comment on the word "drove" that frequently forms part of the name of a road. Thus, a road leading north out of a settlement may be called "North Drove". I've written elsewhere about the derivation of this word and how it tells us something of the Fens' past. In fact, names of all kinds are often of much longer standing than is generally appreciated and can tell the inquisitive researcher much about the people who lived in an area long ago.

Today's photograph shows, in the foreground, a road that goes by the name of Low Gate. It runs from Quadring Eaudike to the village of Gosberton. In the vicinity are other roads with the word "gate" as part of their name: Sarah Gate, Bow Gate, North Gate, Water Gate, etc. The word gate in this context doesn't usually have the meaning that we would expect today. Rather, it comes from the Old Norse word, "gata" meaning "a way, a path or a road", and was brought to the area by Scandinavian settlers who arrived in the ninth century. Its definition was later expanded to include "a right of passage". Some field names also include the word. When I lived in the Yorkshire Dales, an area that was settled by Norwegian Vikings from Ireland, I knew a street called Kirkgate. This is a combination of Old Norse"kirkja" (a church) and "gata" (a street). In other words the incoming Viking settlers' equivalent of what is now the most common road name in England - Church Street.

I took my photograph from this particular point where vehicular traffic had gouged out depressions to left and right of the road because it gave me some foreground interest. The fact that water had collected here and nowhere else by road sides probably reflects the accurate naming of this road: here the land is likely to be lower than the surrounding area. In the flat expanse of the Fens the early farmers would have been very attuned to the slight depressions and prominences ("holmes") in the landscape. The former would have standing water in winter whilst the latter would be dry and suitable not only for livestock grazing in the colder months but also for siting permanent dwellings.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/50 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On