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In Search of Sir Francis Drake
by Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan England on Britannia
Twenty Miles South-East of Cheltenham
Once a Roman stronghold, Cirencester is now a bustling town. We strolled through a flea market and stopped in a pub, and at some point discovered there are Roman ruins of an amphitheatre just outside of town - the perfect picnic spot. It was a bit difficult to find, and we ended up approaching it through 'the back way', which would involve climbing over a low stone wall and then over a good-sized hill.
Just as our feet landed on the other side of the wall, it seemed that our string of good luck was about to end. A group of the largest sheep I have ever seen started hammering it down the hill - right at us. Clearly the sheep were stampeding us. I took a good grip on Lawrence's arm and since I considered him to be the expert in this situation, I asked him, "What should we do?" He calmly replied, "Let's just stand here and see what happens." As they got closer, the sheep did nothing but get bigger. I held my breath and tightened my grip. When the charging sheep reached a distance of about ten feet - just when I was sure they'd begin their final lunge - they slowed to a trot. What are they up to? At four feet, they stopped. Now what? They looked at us - eye to eye. After a pause of a few pounding heartbeats, they lowered their heads · and started grazing.
So, Lawrence's instincts had proved correct. At that moment, I was certain if we had run, the sheep surely would have been stimulated to attack. Relieved that the moment of danger had passed, and delighted that we had stood our ground against these formidable foes, I proudly hiked the hill to the amphitheatre, as Lawrence rubbed the circulation back into his arm.
For its amazing antiquity, this is now a place where people run their dogs. Grassy mounds are all that remain of a place where Romans once had their sport. Despite the chilly and windy wintery afternoon, we enjoyed our delicious picnic. As I sat in that place of unimaginable history, I wondered what locals would have thought of this place 450 years ago· an already-ancient relic of a time long gone.
We packed up the remains of our last outing in the Cotswolds, hiked back to our car, got on a highway for the first time in days, and headed towards Heathrow.
Photograph of Cirencester's Roman Ampitheatre by Lawrence Ross.
Next Stop: Traditional Pub Evening
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