Gododdin

Map-making is more than a practical exercise for me. It’s also an experiment, a learning opportunity, and an excellent way to procrastinate. Depending what mood I’m in and the task at hand I use an ancient version of Photoshop Elements—which does not allow for nifty curved text to label rivers, for example—the Mac Preview tools, a bunch of coloured pens, and a scanner. I do my best to be relatively accurate but depending on my needs at the time, some things are more important than others.

I’ve been working on two maps of the north. They are unfinished and full of guesswork. (Click through to get them full size. Apologies for the lack of visual quality. For that, blame the tools. For the mistakes, blame me.)

The first is a general map of what I imagine to be Gododdin territory. Or, should I say, the territory the Gododdin imagine to be theirs, circa 632 CE. Edwin has overlordship and considers it his territory but, working on the assumption that tribute is better than war, allows Coledauc—their leader—to tell himself he’s in charge. For the place names I’ve had to partly extrapolate from what’s known to be known and partly invent. (Present-day Peebles is Pebyll, for example. Kelso is Calchfynydd. Melrose is Mailros. At some point I’ll come up with more appropriate names for the various waterways but I haven’t got to that yet.) I was particularly concerned with travel, so I’ve focused on rivers, roads, and beaches; those things on the coastline that look like fans represent sandy beaches, the blobs are shingle—both suitable for beaching a boat in relative safety.

Gododdin territory

Gododdin territory

The second is a detail of that loop of the Tweed near Mailros and Eildon Hill. I’ve included contour lines (200 m) and a suggestion of steep slopes. (I’m still trying to work out the best way to do this; I’m open to suggestions.) Also added are the Roman fort of Trimontium/Newstead (in turquoise) and British fort (purple) on Eildon Hill north. I’ve omitted the Roman signal tower/beacon. The dotted lines are Roman roads: the one running north across the Tweed is Dere Street; the one running northwest, just south of the river, is pure conjecture.

eildon hills BW edit02

Detail: Mailros and Eildon Hill

Hild will be travelling from York to Colud by boat (I prefer boat to ship), and riding the rest of the way. I had fun with wind, tide, currents, number of oars and so on. (Oh, if you want to see some messy maps…) Then of course ran into difficulties getting the horses off at the other end, which I solved by— Ah, but you’ll just have to wait for the book.

I’d love to get input on these maps. Anything—your thoughts on names, geography, beaches, river navigability, the two different styles I’ve used for the maps—would be most welcome.

6 thoughts on “Gododdin

  1. Not much to suggest here other than that the Bowl Hole cemetery on the beach next to Bamburgh (southern side). The cemetery was in use in the 7th century, during Oswald and Oswiu’s time. Some of those buried there have Irish/Scottish isotopes suggesting that they probably returned with Oswald or came shortly afterwards. I think I read somewhere that Aberlady is about the right age too, possibly one of the routes between Iona and Lindisfarne (allowing them to largely bypass Strathclyde).

    1. Aberlady. Hmm. You made me go do more research and articulate some of the stuff I’ve been noodling with at the subconscious level.

      Apparently it’s difficult to get out of the harbour at Aberlady when the wind is westerly, and the burn dries up often in summer so fresh water could be a problem in some seasons. (There’s wells, of course, but I don’t know when they were dug.) So when the wind’s in the west, Din Eidyn, Din Baer, or Colud would be better for boats. And for the reason I set out below, I think Hild will want to avoid Din Eidyn (and possibly Din Baer) this trip.

      Here’s where my speculation will probably diverge from accepted wisdom: I’m imagining that the Gododdin split in two a generation or so earlier, with Din Eidyn being occupied by the northern branch, the Manaw Gododdin, once the Picts began to flex their muscles a little and pushed them south. So, given Hild’s visit is unofficial and on the quiet, and she’s travelling in mid-to-late April (when the winds could be gusty), and given that she has met Coledauc, so-called Prince of Gododdin (or the ragged remnants of same, who eke a living from the rougher bits of East Lothian) but she doesn’t know any of the Manaw Gododdin, I think Colud might be the best bet. (Also, we’ve been there once before, in Hild, which makes life easier.)

      Wow, one comment about Aberlady set all this off. Thank you!

      Oh, and I definitely hear you about anyone from Dál Riata wanting to avoid Alt Clut/Strathclyde at times.

      1. Right, but the other route to Iona goes overland from around Melrose to the River Clyde, I think. So passing through the heart of Strathclyde – status w/ Bernicia probably dictating the route. This underlines why Melrose was an important early monastery.

  2. This will be of no help to you in this circumstance but speaking of map making took me back 40 years.
    I worked as a Cartographer. I helped to produce maps using engravers to etch out roads, trees, rivers, mountains, and such on an emulsified sheet embedded with aerial photographs and light table underneath it. From this, printed maps were made.
    If Hild was traveling through Honduras perhaps I could better serve you…

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