Historian Dan Snow puts his walking boots on and sets off to see what the great British landscape can teach us about our Norman predecessors.
Shown earlier this year on BBC4, anyone with a passing interest in British history (or landscape for that matter) will be gripped by this entertaining and educational series. Dan Snow separates myth from fact as he explores the legacy of the 11th-century Norman invasion of the British isles.
Dan Snow begins his exploration on foot through the remains of Norman Britain on the Sussex coastline, where William the Conqueror first set foot on British soil in the run-up to the Battle of Hastings. The historian traces the period of time from the landings to the armed confrontation itself, speculating about what both armies did during those two weeks, and tries to separate myth from fact concerning one of the most famous dates of British history.
Dan's second walk explores what the invaders did next, as they aimed to cement their rule across a diverse nation. Despite William the Conqueror being confirmed as king, the Normans had only completed stage one of their colonization, and few areas were as unstable as the Welsh borders. Challenging topography and a multitude of local chieftains made for an uncivilized region and Dan's walk around the Monnow river system is dominated by the motte and bailey castles that sprang up throughout the Norman era. These were the handiwork of ambitious barons who made their mark on the 'march' - a border zone from which the Normans pushed their influence west into Wales and Ireland. Dan's very rural walk is still touched by the agriculture, forests and common ground established by the Normans, and he discovers that one of the present-day landowning families has held its lands for almost a thousand years.
On the Sussex coast, along the Welsh border and on the edge of the North York Moors, Dan explores the landscape and whatever evidence might remain - earthmounds, changing coastlines, viewpoints, and the giant stone castles and buildings that were the great symbol of Norman rule. All these elements offer clues as to how the Norman elite were ultimately able to dominate and rule our Anglo-Saxon kingdom.