Page 1. " The Great Forest "

A vision of an England covered with wildwood is not unprecedented in literature. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles refer to 'Anderida', a remnant of ancient woodland that once covered Southern England:

491: Aelle and Cyssa beseiged Anderida, near Pevensey, and killed all who were inside, so there was not one Britain left.

Although this describes Anderida as a defensible place, a hill-fort, the word refers to the Great Forest of the Weald – a place outlaws could escape to. In the eighth century, the Chronicles record that Sigebert, a deposed king of the West Saxons who had committed murder, fled into "Andred," and was slain. Robert Furley, describes the roots of the word, in his work The Early History of Tenterden:

Many places now bear very different names from those they once bore. What is now known to us as the Weald, which signifies in Saxon a woody country or forest, was known to the Britons as Coed-Andred, Coed being the British word for wood. The Romans called it Silva-Anderida. The Saxons called it Andred, Andredsley, and Andredsweald, and it retained the name of Andred for centuries after the Romans abandoned Britain. In our earliest Anglo-Saxon charters it is called sometimes Saltus-Andred (a country of wooded glades), Silva-Andred, Saltus-Communis, and Silva-Regalis. The name Andred was given to it, according to Lambarde, from its vast extent; Andred is in British "great or wonderful." One of our modern writers, Dr. Guest, says it signifies "the uninhabited district," from "an," the Celtic negative particle, and "dred," a dwelling; another modern writer (the late Mr. Lewin) says Anderida signifies "the black forest," from "an," the, "dern," oak forest, and "dy," black; while a third (Mr. Edmunds) says Andred is often met with as an owner's name. All this shews what little dependence is to be placed on nomenclature.

Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 14 -1882 p 38




Hilaire Belloc, in his poem 'The South Country', refers to this landscape:

The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea;
And it’s there walking in the high woods
That I could wish to be



An old saying states a squirrel could leap from tree to tree from Nottingham to the South Coast, and considering the vast stretches of primal woodland that covered Great Britain from the end of the last Ice Age until the millennium, this is quite probable.

It only takes 150 years for a forest to re-establish itself. If all the sheep and cattle stopped grazing tomorrow, in a century and a half the country would be covered by trees again. In After London, Jefferies estimates it to be thirty years – within a generation.

Page 3. " By the thirtieth year there was not one single open place, the hills only excepted, where a man could walk, unless he followed the tracks of wild creatures or cut himself a path. "
Ridgeway - Rodens Down
Public DomainRidgeway - Rodens Down - Credit: National Trail

This vision of a wild England would have been familiar to the early inhabitants of this land. Only high places would have been passable with relative ease, as can be seen in the Ridgeway, the 'earliest road in Europe', a neolithic trackway stretching across Central England. It is now a popular long distance footpath.

The Ridgeway National Trail stretches 87 miles (139km) through ancient landscapes, over rolling, open downland to the west of the River Thames and through secluded valleys and woods in the Chilterns in the east, following the same route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers.

Jeffries would have been familiar with it, living on its flanks at Coate. He would often walk stretches of it, his favourite haunt being Liddington Camp. After London features the White Horse of Uffington (p35), which the Ridgeway runs by.

Page 21. " Under the name of gipsies, those who are now often called Romany and Zingari were well known to the ancients. "

In their native languages, each of the groups Rom, Romanichels, Cale, Sinti, Ludar, Romungre and others refer to themselves by a specific name, but most translate that name as "Gypsy" when speaking English. The distinct groups of Irish Travelers and Scottish Travelers do not refer to themselves as Gypsies, however. Each of these groups had its own cultural, linguistic, and historical tradition before coming to this country, and each maintains social distance from the others. They differ from one another in social organization: form of marriage, internal politics and social control.

With the exception of the Hungarian-Slovak musicians, Gypsy and Traveler groups share elements of economic organization. The Rom and Romnichels share an ideology which stresses the separation of pure from impure and Gypsy from non-Gypsy. The Rom, Romnichels, and Hungarian-Slovak musicians share a linguistic prehistory, but their ethnic languages are not, for practical purposes, mutually intelligible. The scattered and, for the most part, secondhand reports of Gypsies in North America before the middle of the 19th century, while frequently repeated, have not been examined critically nor verified independently. What has been demonstrated is that the present populations of North American Gypsies and Travelers date from immigrations of 1850 and thereafter.

The terms used here, Black Dutch, Ludar, Rom, and Romnichel, are those members of these groups use to refer to themselves. In keeping with linguistic convention, the term Romani (also spelled Romany in the literature) is used to refer to any or all of the Romani dialects or languages. We use "Gypsies" to refer to the totality of all groups except the Irish and Scottish Travelers, and where the identity of the group is unverified.

In some recent works the terms Rom, Roma and Romani (as a plural noun) have been used to refer to the totality of "Gypsy" groups, that is, to replace the term "Gypsies."

from The Gypsy Lore Society