My Easter weekend in England was spent in Norfolk, mainly near and at the historic city of Norwich. It's a part of England I have always wanted to visit, specifically for its historic significance. Aside from the medieval relics and shrines which pilgrims from far and wide would visit, such as the Our Lady of Walsingham shrine, Norfolk contains sites where some of the most dramatic moments in English history occurred - one of which is Mousehold Heath.
Arriving at the site, I felt a rush of anticipation and excitement at the thought of walking in the footsteps of thousands of brave men who camped and fought as part of a rebellion in the name of the common man against the forces of repression. In 1549, during the reign of Edward VI, Robert Kett and his men numbering in the region of 4000 engaged in a massive rebellion which verged on civil war against enclosures erected by the aristocracy and the landed gentry. Mousehold Heath was their camp site. Here they remained for weeks, camped in defiance of the law and the army. They slaughtered local livestock for their survival and organised their next plan of action. Ultimately, their rebellion was crushed under Protector Somerset's leadership by the Earl of Warwick and an army of 14,000 men including foreign mercenaries. The men were slaughtered and those who were captured were hung, drawn and quartered.
As I walked with my family and friends through the woodland, I knew they were oblivious to my thoughts and sentiments. I felt a sense of detachment and isolation in my preoccupation as I contemplated the magnitude of what had once occurred in this beautiful and peaceful woodland park. Ghostly apparitions - products of my over-active imagination - presented themselves in various spots. Here they lit a fire. There they slaughtered a cow. Around the corner they trained in armed combat, while next to them men sharpened their weapons. These ancient apparitions seemed somehow strangely tranquil and benign in the peaceful serenity of Easter Sunday, 2013. Their presence was not one of turbulence and anticipated doom, but one of hope and liberation. In my romantic mind's eye I envisioned Spartan-like brave warriors preparing for the ultimate sacrifice.
My family's laughter and chatter rudely interrupted my pensive mood, when a friend discovered a rope attached to a tree branch with a piece of wood tied at the end in the shape of a swing's seat. They took it in turn to jump on the rope and swing before jumping off. Such happy, frivolous playfulness - similar to countless other examples of families and children who grew up in the area and have visited the site for leisure and exploration. I wondered how many of these casual visitors ever stopped to contemplate the plight of Robert Kett and his rebels? Or is it just the indulgence of the occasional sensitive history enthusiasts, who seek to walk in the footsteps of ancestors while recreating dramatic moments in their mind's eye?
Robert Kett and his rebels.
Mousehold Heath Woodland.