Background to the Dark Ages series
It was the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, something not lost on the ancient peoples.
There is a small hamlet in the north east of England, in Northumberland. At first, it doesn't seem so special. It is by a fertile valley beneath the northern edge of the Cheviot hills and is dominated by an Iron Age fort. But is a very special place indeed. It is arguably one of the most important Anglo-Saxon sites in the country.
"Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race ... The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets." (Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar.)
Xi'an is a massive city half a world away from England. It seems bizarre to think that folk from the Dark Ages were connected. This ancient city's name means 'Peace in the West'.
In my hall there is an oval frame containing a lace stork. It was a present from my mother that she gave us to commemorate the birth of our daughter. She bought it in the lace capital, Bruges, in Belgium.
For some unknown reason, the Anglo-Saxons kept well away from from Roman towns and buildings. It was as if the spirits of the centurions still guarded the city walls and stood by the gates, spatha swords unsheathed. And so it was with Canterbury.
There is a public school that looks a little bit like Hogwarts and an ancient church, Saint Wystan's, with a crypt.
Sometimes we all need to get away for a bit. We need a place that is safe and out of reach, far from busybodies and those who bring us down. A refuge. All fugitives need a refuge. Actually - especially fugitives.
Decades before the Battle of Hastings, the English and the Normans were uneasy neighbours.The Vikings were at the height of their raids, robbing the rich monasteries and murdering the monks and priests.
And the Normans were helping them.
There is a place that conjures up everything that is magic in forests. If you have the gift, you can see it too. J.R.R. Tolkien had it and so did J.K. Rowling. And so do I.
At school I remember learning about the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes but as I grew up I forgot about the Jutes and where they lived. Well into adulthood and research, they came back to me. They were the folk who inhabited the first 'Anglo-Saxon' kingdom (although they were not from the Angle nor Saxon tribes!)
In 1939, a self taught archaeologist, Basil Brown, said that he had made "the find of a lifetime."
He wasn't joking.
Some places seem to have it all. In the comparatively short time it existed, three hundred years, the Dark Age kingdom of Northumbria certainly left its mark on British history.
One of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdoms based in the English Midlands.
Probably the most famous of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and one of the oldest. Wessex - 'west Saxons'.