References and further reading - In Search of Alfred - CycleBlaze

References and further reading

There's loads of stuff online about Alfred the Great, but you could do worse than read the novel that got me interested in him, Bernard Cornwell's 'The Last Kingdom' (and its follow-up, 'The Pale Horseman').

Apparently there is also a TV adaptation of these books, which I haven't seen, again called The Last Kingdom. I gather it's all a bit Game-of-Thrones-lite, with no dragons and, disappointingly, a much lower nipple count.

The main scholarly sources for the period are the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and Bishop Asser's 'Life of King Alfred,' which may have been written at the time, or possibly forged up to 100 years after he died. The modern book, 'Alfred, Warrior King' by John Peddle, uses these sources and others to construct a very readable account of the events I mention in this journal. You can pick up a second hand copy very cheap.

In Our Time: the Danelaw: BBC R4 programme and download - Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how a series of Danish invasions, settlements and battles with Anglo-Saxons changed England in the 9th and 10th centuries.

There used to be a Time Team programme up on Youtube featuring digs at the site of the Athelney Monument, but that appears to have fallen foul of copyright issues. Could be worth looking out for on streaming sites, though.

And, finally, what about the legend of Alfred burning the cakes? Again, loads of stuff online (this is a good summary), but unfortunately the event isn't mentioned in any of the primary sources written at the time. It seems to have been bolted onto King Alfred's story much later in history. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, there was a lot of interest in Alfred's role in the development of England. It was at this time that all the statues, white horses and follies such as Alfred's Tower were constructed. It seems likely the legend of burning the cakes was formulated around then, something that happened quite a lot (as a kid, I found the pathos of the story of Gelert almost unbearable...).

Overall, a good 2-3 day trip. The offroad sections were all pretty easy. You don't really need a mountain bike; one of the new gravel, adventure, monstercross* bikes (*choose your favourite niche term) would be perfect.

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