Victorians were racist, sexist, religionist, imperialist fantasists, with limited grasp of ancient geography, language, and navigation. In their rush to re-write English history as leading to the divine right of Germanic peoples, and especially the English, to subjugate and exploit the rest of humanity, Victorians made up a lot of stuff that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Most of what they made up is wrong, no matter how many times it got repeated in modern history books and text books. Think modern American fundamentalists with Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs and Jesus sporting an assault rifle in their school books, and you get some idea of how Victorians distorted history.
Today's example is "hoary apple tree", where King Harold supposedly mustered the English army on the way to Hastings to meet Duke William of Normandy in 1066.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, manuscript D, for 1066 says: he gaderade þa mycelne here, com him togenes æt þære haran apuldran.
Haran apuldran was translated
romantically in 1861 as ‘hoary apple tree’. Victorians even speculated on the variety of apple from those then growing around Battle Abbey.
Haran Apuldran was better translated long before in 1731 as ‘estuary at Appledore’, which is
much more likely for the line of march from London and makes better sense for coastal navigation.
In medieval navigation
harena or arena meant a sandy anchorage or estuarine basin suitable for grounding the
round-bottomed coastal raiding and trading vessels, carinas, named as the vessels of the English at line 319 of the Carmen Widonis. Carinas were very much like Dutch Knorrs, and the names derive from the same ancient Frisian word.
Per mare • per terram praelia magna parat • In mare quingentas fertur misisse carinas • [Carmen Widonis 318-19]
It is said he has sent five hundred ships to sea so as to hinder our course of return.
Both harena and arena are used hundreds of times to mean safe, sandy, tidal anchorage in the 12th century navigation guide De Viis Maris - the Ways of the Sea. There should be no further confusion about translating haran as anchorage.
Early medieval Appledore was a
small peninsula below the Roman road at the edge of the great tidal basin of
the Rye Camber. A Roman road led across
tidal causeways at Tenterden, Northiam and Brede to the cape of Hastingas. Appledore was an ideal place for muster of
local land armies marching from Wessex and Mercia and sea-borne warriors being carried by ships around the coasts from the estuaries of the north, Essex and London. Travel by coastal transport was faster,
safer, and allowed much more efficient carriage of men and materiel. King Harold, his brothers and his father always travelled by ship whenever possible, as Anglo-Danish sea-lords should do.
At the time, all of the vast Rye Camber was tidal estuary or salt-marsh. Appledore was on a secure tidal island or promontory extending below the Roman road leading to London. It had fresh water, and plenty of space to the north for forage for horses. It was also likely the place referenced, but not named, in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 893, when Haesten
sent a fleet of 250 ships up the Limne
– ‘border river’ – from the coastal sea-ford where they destroyed ‘a fort
within the fen, whereon sat a few churls’. A coastal fort requires fresh water and forage for horses, so probably Appledore.
If you're a historian still repeating 'hoary apple tree', stop it. It's silly and wrong. Start saying 'anchorage at Appledore'. That is accurate and sensible and a good translation of haran apuldran.
The map below shows the English camp in 1066 at Appledore, and illustrates a line of march to the cape of Hastingas using Roman roads, fords and causeways. All the blue would have been tidal seascape in 1066.