Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 5 February 2018

Splish Splosh - Marston Moor visit

Geese in York - webbed feet were a great idea
At the weekend I attended York Wargames Society's Vapnartak show at York racecourse - big show, lots of stuff to look at, one or two old friends to say hello to.

To round out my weekend, I took the opportunity on Saturday to visit the Marston Moor battlefield. I've never been there, and I felt it would be useful in preparing for a planned wargame later this month.

It was a very wet day, I have to say. Before I went, I was trying to keep my packing as light as possible, and after some agonising I decided not to take my proper hill-walking boots on my trip. Saturday was so wet and muddy that I couldn't really get off the road (which runs across the battlefield, just as it did in 1644, between the two armies), but the hiking boots wouldn't have helped - I'd have needed waders or something to make much progress off-road.

I took the public bus from York (route 412, destination Wetherby) to Long Marston, and walked to Tockwith, at the far side of the battlefield. I had a decent lunch in the Spotted Ox, and got the bus back to York.

No visitors on the battlefield at all - just a few passing cars to splash the puddles over me. The modern farmland is obviously very different from the rough moorland on which they fought the battle, but one important thing I learned from my visit is that the ground where the Parliament side set up is a definite ridge - not steep, but quite marked; from the road you can only see up to the crest, and there is dead ground beyond (which is why Rupert maybe underestimated Leven's numbers on the day). On the other side of the road, where Rupert and Newcastle formed their lines, it is pretty much as flat as a billiard table. You may be able to see towards York from up on the ridge, but from where I was you can see very little.

Get off the bus at the Sun Inn in Long Marston

Sounds as though this might be one of the older buildings in Long Marston, but I
understand there is hardly anything here which dates back to 1644

Looking south towards the Parliamentary lines - this would be the join between
Fairfax's horse on the right flank and the Scottish foot in the middle - definitely rising
ground. The hedges are all post-Enclosure Act, so would not have been present on the day

Looking along the road between the two armies, heading west. You can just see
the battlefield monument peeking over the hedge on the right

Moor Lane - or Bloody Lane, as it was famed. Today it's just Muddy Lane, and I
chickened out of going up there. I would never have made a soldier - I only just make it as a
tourist on my braver days

The monument, on the corner of the road and Moor Lane - we
are looking North here

The commemorative plaques have strange political overtones - does the wording
here strike you as oddly specific? - does this line up nicely with Cromwell's own
dismissal of the part anyone else played in "his" victory? Are his press agents still working?

Looking north-west across Rupert's position - pretty flat, I reckon

More politics - walk around the monument and the locals have put in a special mention of
Black Tom Fairfax

Ah yes - the Cromwell Association - who'd have expected that?

The Official Story - no mention of the Earl of Leven here, then, and not much about the
Earl of Manchester

Opposite the monument, there's a footpath up onto the Allies' position - some
other day, maybe - but I got the idea

Not a big battlefield - the fighting took place between Long Marston and Tockwith, and
they are about 2.5 miles apart.

More violence - monument in Tockwith to a bomber crew who crashed at the end of WW2

Tockwith village - Bilton church is off to the left somewhere here - the Bilton Bream was
an area of rough ground on the Allied left flank that was levelled by Cromwell's
engineers before the battle - one of the things they sorted out was a man-made
rabbit warren - I wouldn't mind seeing a picture of what that looked like!

Time for lunch - homemade fish pie and veg and a pint of Tetley's, then the bus back
to York to dry out


  1. Brilliant whizz around the battlefield Tony, I've never been to that one so it was great to see.

  2. Yorkshire, in February, in the rain!!! I'd have made it as far as the pub. You sir are a devotee.

  3. Good, glad you got to see the battlefield, and sorry if the sub-tropical paradise that is Yorkshire didn't provide ideal weather for a change. Also sorry I didn't warn you about the battlefield plaques, which were clearly erected by Cromwell's elite troop of spin doctors. Thanks very much for the report.

  4. ...very few things more fun than walking a battlefield.. sunshine and the sounds of the starlings better though I reckon.. Marston Moor is on my bucket list.. hope to get to Edgehill this year...

  5. Thanks for the soggy battlefield walk, Tony. I always enjoy these walking battlefield tromps.

  6. I'm impressed with your dedication to research regardless of the weather conditions. I'm sure this will pay off on the tabletop!

  7. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining me on my walk. I've dried out nicely now.

    Stryker - I'm definitely going to have the sprinklers on for added realism o the tabletop.

  8. Not entirely surprising, perhaps, that 'campaigning season' did not really get going until the Spring.. (all about availability fodder for the horses, I gather). Thanks and well done for showing us the scene!

    1. During the first Allied set-up on the Moor (before Rupert swerved round them and before they did their quick double-shuffle towards Tadcaster) the horses drank all the water in Long Marston - the soldiers were reduced to drinking out of puddles. That was one reason why they had to get moving. They would have had no problems last Saturday!

  9. A most enjoyable read Tony, although the conditions on the day made this soft Southerner shiver. I followed your pictures and narrative along with my copy of the Osprey Marston Moor campaign book, it helped me to get a pretty clear idea of the development of the battle, there is even a 'dry day' shot of Moor Lane! Great stuff and I look forward to the refight in due course.

    1. Thanks Lee - I've to finish off painting some extra chaps before the battle - should be OK. I'm pondering how to replicate the attachment of small bodies of commanded shot to the cavalry (of both sides) - a plan is emerging...