Streams of Natural Law Diaries : No. 5 : St Albans and the River Ver

The latest instalment in our Streams of Natural Law Diaries, is St Albans & the River Ver, where the story of Magna Carta began! As we walk beside the stream, we uncover the Roman history that lies below the surface and the spring after which the river is named.

To launch our film, book and recording of Dreams of Peace & Freedom : The Humans in the Telling and preview forthcoming performances, we are walking streams of natural law in the UK. Visit our multi-media hub at www.thehumansinthetelling.org.

ST ALBANS & THE RIVER VER

In a speech prior to the dedication of the Magna Carta monument in Runnymede in 1957, David Maxwell Fyfe drew a parallel between natural law and the natural world as expressed by a Roman poet.

“You can throw out nature with a pitchfork, But she will always come back.”

Horace
From the river spring Ver
Verulamium rose
To the green river Ver
It's returned


On the banks of the green River Ver
Verulamium grew
For centuries the city was there
And a river Ver too

But were you to visit today
The Ver runs through the plain
Verulamium's vanished away
Just remains remain

And is there a moral to learn?
Poet Horace wrote truth
Disturb nature and it will return
And here lies the proof


From the river spring Ver
Verulamium rose
To the green river Ver
It's returned

A POEM BY SUE CASSON

The latest stop on our Magna Carta tour was St Albans and a walk along the River Ver, a rare chalk stream like the ones in Winchester and Hereford, that is situated in Verulamium Park.

Arriving on a grey muggy Saturday, I was surprised by a huge wave of energy that hit me as I walked through the bustling city centre towards the river. The streets were full of vendors and people out enjoying brunch. We walked past the Cathedral to Holywell Hill, which was quite a steep descent, before finding our way to the valley, and entrance to the River trail.

The River Ver is set in over 100 acres of parkland, a swathe of green that is now a magnet for families and nature lovers. It stands over what was once used the ancient city of Verulamium, the third largest in Roman Britain after London and Colchester. Although very little is visible today, there are remains breaking through the grass in places, and even a mosaic to remind walkers of its’ ancient past. A museum nearby explores the Roman history in more detail, with a collection of fascinating artefacts.

As the river winds through overgrown greenery, remembering my schoolgirl French the name seemed apt, but Ver (rather than vert) means ‘spring’ in Latin and refers to the underground Aquifer that is the river’s source. As we walked along the path, it was sometimes quite difficult to see the water as there were so many nettles! But there were breaks here and there where we could not only see water, flowing quite slowly, but several steps and falls that added charm and interest to its’ course.

We found the source, coming out of the bridge, as we made our way out the park. It made a sparkling pool, and was covered in a canopy of green leaves and branches, which reflected in the water, making it rather magical. During Victorian times, the stream was used to cultivate watercress, but like many chalk streams, the Ver has clearly suffered from pollution in recent years. It is presently undergoing a programme of ‘revitalisation’ to banish the slime and return it to its’ original health, which judging by the signs on the bank, is a project that is bringing the whole community together.

Just up the hill, St Albans marks the start of Magna Carta’s story. It was here that Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, met churchmen and barons in 1213, to discuss what could be done to limit the powers of King John. That history is all around us – the natural setting and wildlife, a reminder that the Great Charter was rooted in natural law.

Come back soon for the next location!

River Ver at St Albans

Follow our journey as it happens on Instagram @streamsofnaturallaw and share yours with #streamsofnaturallaw.

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