You already know more words in Old English than you think! The following words are spelled exactly the same in Old English and in modern English:

we, us, he, his, him, is, and, ford, sand, wisdom, port, winter, horn, fox, storm, east, west.

Others differ only in their spelling but are pronouned more or less the same (and closer to northern English in their vowel sounds than to southern):

wulf, catt, sweord, witnes, blod, cuppe, buter, foreward, morland, wyrm, folc, sandpytt (wolf, cat, sword, witness, blood, cup, butter, forward, moorland, worm, folk, sandpit).

If you learn that the letter ‘g’ can be pronounced as a ‘y’ as well as a ‘g’, more Old English words will reveal their meanings:

sandig, slipig, fiftig, gangweg (sandy, slippy, fifty, gangway).

Old English ‘cild’ and ‘dic’ are revealed as ‘child’ and ‘ditch’ if you know that OE ‘c’ can be pronounced like ‘ch’.

Why is the modern word 'bright' spelled as it is? In Old English the sound was pronounced as in ‘twas a braw bright moonlight night’ (or as in the German ‘nicht’). The gutteral sound was spelled ‘ht’, later ‘ght’. So the Old English pronunciation of ‘briht monliht niht’ is revealed to us in fossilised form in the modern spelling - ‘bright moonlight night’. And if you pronounced every sound in modern English 'knight' strictly as it is spelled, an Anglo-Saxon would immediate recognise their word 'cniht'.

Happily, the alphabet that the Anglo-Saxons used for writing their language is roughly the same as the one we use today. However, they also used some letters which we no longer use: þ (called ‘thorn’) and ð (called ‘eth’) for the sound 'th'; and a letter called ‘ash’ æ which can be pronounced like the a in 'cat'. Armed with these facts, then words which look extremely offputting will suddenly make sense:

sæt, pæð, æppel, broþor, glæd, þistel, þis, þæt, oþer, norþ and suþ (sat, path, apple, brother, glad, thistle, this, that, other, north and south). æ can also represent a longer sound, as in dæg, græg, hær (day, grey, hair) - remember that 'g' can sometimes be pronounced as a 'y'.

Here are the days of the week, named after the gods Tiw, Woden, Thunor and Frige, from Saturn, and from the sun and moon:

Monandæg, Tiwesdæg, Wodnesdæg, Thunresdæg, Frigedæg, Sæternesdæg, Sunnandæg

Substitute an 'a' for the 'æ' and a 'y' for the 'g', and you will see that these are not really very far removed from the words we use today.

How close are we to the Anglo-Saxon world?

One of the nice things about charter bounds is that they're very formulaic: they tend to repeat the same phrases over and over again, just changing one or two words each time. For example, the boundary clause may take us round the land-unit by going to a feature and then from the feature repetitively around the circuit.

... from the ford to the fish-pool . from the fish-pool to the stream . along the stream . from the stream to the old ditch . from the old ditch to Wulfstan’s tree . from Wulfstan’s tree ...
... of tham forda on thone fiscpol . of tham fiscpole on thone stream . andlang streames . of tham streame on tha ealdan dic . of thare dice on Wulfstanes treow . of Wulfstanes treowe ...

This is helpful as it means that you can work out a lot of the text just by knowing a few key words and phrases.

But as you have learnt, Old English has a handful of special characters, so this section of the boundary may well be written:

... of þæm forda on þone fiscpol . of ðæm fiscpole on þone stream . andlang streames . of ðæm streame on ða ealdan dic . of þære dice on ƿulfstanes treoƿ . of ƿulfstanes treoƿe ...

The appearance of the text may now form a quite daunting visual barrier preventing you from approaching any closer.

We start, therefore, with these special characters, and the Anglo-Saxon Alphabet.