This countryside is bountiful. Rolling pastures with soaring Elms in their hedges, the vase shape upswept and holding up the sky. Nearer the hills the hedges run out of steam and the countryside opens up to downland, a myriad of flowers in spring, cropped closely by the sheep who seek shelter this time of year behind the few scrubby thorns.
Stileham is too frightened of strangers to sit astride the crossroads and allow them to enter or pass through its narrow cobbled streets. From the road the imposing bulk of its stone fortifications and massive studded entrance gates deter the timid traveller who will pass by to spent the night in a remote wayside hostelry. However on market day, when the sheep have been herded down the droves and penned for the night in a maze of hurdles outside the walls, kept awake no doubt by the carousing shepherds, the town flings open its gates and the central square becomes a maelstrom of dogs barking, sheep bleating, tellers hollering, farmers touching their caps and sidling off to the taverns whose signs creak a welcome. It is the year of our Lord 1258 and Stileham is probably as prosperous as it will ever be and more so than it