The past isn’t just history

picture of Pevensey castleIf you ever wanted a lesson in the shortness of human memory a visit to Pevensey castle should convince you. I’ve just been to that fascinating spot down on the south coast of England not far from the towering chalk cliffs of Beachy Head. We drove along the coast down the A259 through the green, sheep-scattered downs to Pevensey.

The ‘castle’ is a Norman keep, built after William’s conquest in 1066 within the walls of a Roman fort built in about AD290 on a promontory that (as promontories do) stuck out into the sea.

Only the promontory no longer exists. Even in Norman times the keep had a ‘sea gate’ but since then, the ocean has retreated and now there is no living memory of where the shore line used to be. Even the article in Wikipedia makes no mention of the change in sea level.

We poor humans cannot seem to grasp the fact that the environment keeps changing around us. Geography is not now and never has been immutable. We drove along a road that would have been underwater only one thousand years ago. Do you think maybe a carbon tax might have helped?