Along The Moors
Several modern day roads onto the Weald Moors follow the course of ancient causeways once used by farmers from surrounding villages to drive their cattle into the area for grazing. The riverside settlement of Rodway probably takes its name from just such a thoroughfare, which linked the nearby settlement of Cherrington to the River Strine. According to the former Rector of Kynnersley, Rev Philip Kynaston, the Rodway had a history of attracting far more than wondering local cattle and their drovers and was once infamous as a last resort of ‘footpads and lesser breeds of highwaymen’! It seems the track was a favourite getaway route for scoundrels and outlaws, who were able to make good their escape across the moors to Kynnersley ‘by ways unknown’ to their pursuers, whom they presumably left stranded on the boggy wetlands!
Thankfully, Rodway has far loftier connections than its associations with local criminals. An early 17th Century estate map of the area (dating from around 1608) records a large, wayside cross supported by an elaborate foot to the west of Rodway Bridge on the north bank of the River Strine. It has been suggested the cross (through its ecclesiastical connotation) may have lent the settlement the name ‘Rood Way’, of which Rodway may be a simple derivation; although no trace of the structure has ever been found.
It seems probable the cross was more likely to have been a simple earthen boundary marker between Cherrington and Meeson moors and it was mentioned as such in a legal dispute of the 1630s — between Sir Henry Wallop, Lord of Waters Upton, and Sir Richard Leveson, the lord of Cherrington Manor. The ‘Cherrington Cross’, as it was also referred to, marked the eastern boundary of the said manor and was described under deposition by Phillip Gravenor of Stirchley as ‘a cross dug in the earth’ and made solely for the purpose of delineation between the two estates.
The presence of people disturbing the earth around Rodway is nothing new – it appears to have been going on for thousands of years! In February 1998, a burnt mound measuring 0.2 metres in height was excavated after being exposed during the course of pipe-laying work in the area. Such features are generally thought to be the remnants of prehistoric cooking sites, consisting of a heap of cinders and discarded stones that fractured after being heated on a hearth and dropped into a water-filled trough in order to boil meat. A sample of burnt deposits from the mound itself was carbon dated to 1000BC and the remains of a probable trough were located nearby, together with a grinding stone that would probably have been used to grind meal and sharpen tools. At least 12 burnt mounds are recorded around the moors (mostly on the boundaries of the island settlements and the watery peat deposits) while ploughing has levelled many other sites where burnt stones are concentrated.