Golding Dowsing


All roads lead to Slimbridge - Peter Gibson, 29th November

The whole of Britain is literally criss-crossed with Roman roads, built to last during the Roman occupation from AD45 to AD430, and last they have.

There is a particularly fine 2000-year-old example near Manchester, but in his talk on Saturday 24th November, Peter Gibson described dowsing several in the Slimbridge area.

One of the main features of Roman roads is that they are usually remarkably straight. There is a theory that this may be because the Romans used dowsing to plot the route in the first place. If you stand in Bath and ask your dowsing rods the whereabouts of Salisbury, you will get a one-direction straight answer.

Originally built 8 or 9 metres across, these roads gave marching Roman legions clear passage, and allowed carts and wagons room to pass with ease.

The manpower must have been impressive. They would first remove the topsoil, dig one or two ditches either side for drainage, protected by kerb stones, then build up layers of hardcore, shale and sand. Creating a good camber called an ‘agger’ to aid drainage, it was then covered with flat, dressed stones called pavers (hence pavement).

Peter then went on to show us the sites of six Roman roads in Slimbridge itself, including Moorend Lane and Longaston Lane, and one crossing the River Cam. The A38 was a Roman road too, although the Romans probably didn’t call it that, and originally went from Gloucester to Bath.

Roman roads around SlimbridgeRoman roads around Slimbridge. Click for larger picture

The River Cam at Cambridge, where three roads join the A38, was an important junction in those days. Today the river goes under the road, but in Roman times there was a bridge (hence Cambridge). It would have been a lot deeper and easily navigable, and there would have been a wharf too. Note Wharf Farm nearby.

roads around Slimbridge Peter Gibson with dowsing rod during his talk on Roman Roads. Photo : Patrick Callaghan.

By dowsing in the Cemetery field behind the village hall car park, Peter found indications of Roman occupation, including a well, stables, a fuel store, and a food store with no doorway but steps going up the outside, which would have deterred rats. There was also a large building with a furnace, possibly used as a bath house. All this was mostly built in the early Roman period, i.e. first and second centuries.

Archaeologists investigating the Forge orchard beside the village hall also produced finds dating from the same period, some of them imported continental items. Peter has also found indications of three Roman villas in the Parish.

Dowsing has also indicated another Roman road heading north-west towards Arlingham, where there was an important ferry service from Arlingham Passage and, as we discovered earlier this year when dowsing St Augustine’s farm, a ford across the river at low tide too, no longer usable today.

There is so much history beneath our feet, and dowsing helps us find it.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 13th December, when we have our Four Tables Christmas Party. All welcome. Contact or telephone 01452 614345 for details.

     Share this page with friends on facebook