Christine Finn

Ground Force

Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain


William Collins 332pp £20 order from our bookshop

There were times, reading James Canton’s companionable Ancient Wonderings, when I was reminded of the television programme The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s banter-filled restaurant tour. Here, for instance, are Canton and his pal Paul walking the ancient Peddars Way from Norfolk to Suffolk:

The path had forced us to walk Indian file.
‘These are spindle shrubs,’ Paul said.
‘Oh, right,’ I said.
They were certainly quite a startling sight, drooping with lurid pink colour.
‘Erm… Euonymus europaeus, I think,’ he added.
‘Impressive,’ I said.

Canton and Paul spend their time trading not local oysters but humbugs, passed ‘like a baton in a relay’. Canton proposes they imagine they are Bronze Age kinsmen, ‘just as a bit of a laugh; a way of trying to get into the mindset of those who walked this path in prehistory’. He is channelling the Amesbury Archer, the so-called ‘King of Stonehenge’, who lived in about 2300 BC and, as we later learn, was dug up under cover of darkness in 2002, courtesy of the headlights of a Peugeot 205.

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