Alfred the Great: The Truth Teller, Maker of England, 848-899

By Beatrice Adelaide Lees | Go to book overview

a direct result of the Cynwit victory that in the last week of the March of 878 he took up an actively aggressive attitude.

It was at Easter-tide that King Alfred with his little band (lytle werede) wrought a "work" (geweorc) or fort at Athelney (Æthelingeigge), and from this fort strove without ceasing against the army (here) with the help of those men of Somerset who were near at hand. In the twelfth century William of Malmesbury described Athelney as "not an island of the sea, but so inaccessible from flooded swamps and marshes that it can only be approached by boat." All overgrown with alder, it was full of game, stags and goats and other wild animals. The stags and goats have given place to the pigs and sheep of Athelney farm, but even now the description is faithful enough in the winter season, when, in spite of dykes and drainage, the country is almost submerged by floods, and Athelney is reached from East Lyng by a causeway raised above the level of the swampy fields. The tidal river Parret, turbid and sluggish, crawls westwards past muddy banks to Boroughbridge, where it is joined by the silvery waters of the Tone, which flows northwards from Taunton. Between the two streams, on the left bank of the Tone, about halfway from Taunton to Bridgewater, lies the isle of Athelney, a low rise crested with trees, not the highest ground in the neighbourhood, but well suited for a camp, communicating easily with Lyng in one direction, and with

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