Luckily, anthropologist and Time Team regular, Mary-Ann Ochota is here to offer you a hand. Hidden Histories is an accessible travelogue through time from prehistoric Britain to recent history. With the easy style of a handbook, it will help you become a Sherlock Holmes of the landscape, able to decipher clues and annoy your friends with factoids about British history. Ochota’s observations cover the specific, such as recognising the different types of ancient barrow, to the more general, such as the difference between the open, planned countryside of the midlands compared to the more enclosed, ancient countryside of lowland Wales and the South. Some of the most remarkable clues are those embedded in place names, and a useful dictionary reintroduces us to old meanings such as ‘aber-’a Welsh prefix for the mouth of a river or stream and ‘-caster’, ‘-chester’ and ‘-cester’, which indicate old Roman fortified sites.
She also delves into the rich history of pub names, which have been controversial for longer than you may think. ‘An editorial in The Spectator in 1710 bemoaned the fashion for foolish pub names, like Blue Boar and Flying Pig,’ she writes. However, she discusses the central role of pub signs too, which once were more than just festive decoration. ‘Pictoral signs were important in times when many people were illiterate – a crow, bull’s head or star were easy symbols to depict and recognise’. Overall, this book is a pleasure for anyone curious about the outdoors.