Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walking The Wall -Day One

Twenty five years ago my younger son came home from school one day and told me that his Latin teacher was 'looking for mums and dads to do Classical Studies at 'A'level' - apparently he had several 6th formers wanting to do it but not enough for a viable class. Having discovered that Classical studies involved ancient Greek and Roman history, literature, art and architecture I decided to have a go. This was one of the best decisions I've ever made and opened up a whole new world to me. I read Homer, Herodotus, Aristophanes, Plautus, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus and various other authors. I visited the British Museum to look at Greek Vase painting, Fishbourne to see the Roman Palace, Newcastle to see Roman antiquities. Towards the end of our first year Mr Wade suggested that the adults might like to have a week in Athens looking at the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus and various other ancient sites - the response was immediate and enthusiastic! The following year we went Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum and peered into the depths of Mount Vesuvius. After the course was finished the trips continued and we went to Jordan to see the Rose Red City of Petra, sailed up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan visiting all the ancient Egyptian sites,went to Tunisia to visit the wonderfully preserved Roman sites and so on. One place I wanted to visit and never got to was Hadrian's Wall but last week I finally realised that ambition when a group of us from Time Travellers (local archaeology group) went up to Northumberland to walk a couple of sections of the Wall and visit some of the forts that have been excavated. The photos are poor I'm afraid as walking with a group I didn't have the time to do anything other than point and shoot and scurry on after the others:)

We all drove up independently and met up at the Roman Army Museum at Bardon Mill which stands on the site of Carvoran Roman Fort. It's a brilliant museum but sadly one of those 'absolutely no photos' places so all I can do is refer you to the Museum website If you are in the area it is well worth a visit, we saw a superb 3D film called Edge of Empire which happily was available in the shop as a DVD and so has come home with me! After lunch we then drove up to Birdoswald Fort. There was a small exhibition here where I was allowed to take photos and above is a figure of a hooded deity known as genius cucullatus. These native British gods are found only in the north and west of Britain. These are of particular interest to me as in my guise as a member of the Brigantes group I'm (supposedly!) researching the religious beliefs and domestic life of this group. The Brigantes were among the most powerful of the Celtic British tribes and controlled the largest section of what would become Northern England and a good deal of the Midlands too.

Much of Birdoswald Roman Fort is now under farm buildings or under the shop and exhibition area. This is the farmhouse the earliest part of which dates back to the late 17th century.

This is the only part of the interior of the fort that is really visible and it's the remains of the two granary buildings where wheat and barley were stored. The wheat was for bread and the barley for brewing beer for the garrison. Around 800 men would have been stationed here. By 410AD the Romans had left Britain and we were in the so-called Dark Ages. Birdoswald continued to be occupied though and the timber posts mark out the site of what is thought to be an Anglo Saxon timber hall belonging to one of the warrior aristocracy.

From Birdoswald we walked a short section of the Wall from Cawfields Quarry to the Twice Brewed Inn which stands on the old Military Road built in 1746 by General George Wade in the wake of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. It's now known rather less romantically as the B6318!  The photo shows Hadrian's Wall snaking its way across the landscape.

This less than flattering photo shows me standing at the highest point on Hadrian's Wall - Winshield Crags. As you can see from my hair it was rather windy!

Here we have the rest of the gang at the same spot - some already striding off into the distance!

It had been warm the whole time but with very heavy cloud, by late afternoon however the sky was beginning to clear and we were starting to see the fantastic views which stretched away in every direction. You'll see the view better if you click on the photo to enlarge it.This is the last photo of the day, once we got down off the Wall we had a quick drink in the Twice Brewed Inn and then went on to the farmhouse where we were staying - all of us ready for the excellent dinner that awaited us.


Granny Sue said...

What a feeling it must have been, to walk that ancient wall! Lovely pics, Rowan, and fascinating history. I doubt we'll get that far north on our visit, but I would love to see that someday.

Thimbleanna said...

Wow, your classical studies sound so interesting! I've always wanted to go to Hadrian's wall, but never managed to squeeze it into my trips. I would love to someday walk from one end to the other -- just can't seem to find anyone else interested in going along with me! ;-D Thanks for sharing your trip -- looking forward to reading more.

Roy Norris said...

It's amazing how advanced the Romans were D.

Mac n' Janet said...

WOW! I love Roman and Greek history and we've visited all the places you mentioned except for Tunisia and Petra. Petra has been on my to do list for a long time, if things settle down in the middle east we're hoping to do Israel and Jordan in the next year or so.
When we were living in Turkey I took a class on the Illiad and was able to visit Troy so I understand your love of literature tied to history.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Thank you for the very interesting post. You have visited some wonderful places.

Kathy said...

that course sounds fascinating. I'd love to do something like that. On my one visit to Hadrian's Wall it was raining so hard we hardly saw a thing. It was good to see it in your photographs.

Rosie said...

That sounds like a wonderful course you did all those years ago. Glad you finaly got to see Hadrian's Wall, I remember visiting some years and seeing Housesteads and Vindolanda. I've always been fascinated by those ancient British tribes like the Brigantes and the Coritani. You do look windswept I remember the wind and rain up there:)

George said...

This brings back such great memories for me, Rowan. As you may recall, I walked the entire wall a couple of years ago. It was such a blessing!

Iris Rose said...

So glad you enjoyed your trip to the wall! looking forward to part two!

Jenny Woolf said...

We cycled along the wall ( not actually ON it but along the route) and got off quite often. I really enjoyed it but perhaps it should be walked after all, so it is exxperienced at the same speed as the Romans knew.

Carolyn said...

It reminds me of all the walking we did when we went to England this spring but through hill and vales on the footpaths-so beautiful!


JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

That must have been amazing to walk and see all the ancients places - I'd love to take that same walk some day.

Pondside said...

What a wonderful experience that must have been. So much history, layered over history is almost too much to take in!

WOL said...

What fun! That would be a trip I'd be "up" for.

Bovey Belle said...

Envious of your Latin course and the spin-offs! All that wonderful travelling, and Petra has to be on the very top of my places to go - I would insist on riding a (good) Arab horse through the wonderful narrow passage into it.

It's a long time since we were last up along the Wall, but it is one of Keith's favourite places and he would move there tomorrow! Myself, thinking of the long winter, do not!

Lovely photos and some fascinating things to see. I love the little cloaked figures - they are the spirit of the place, are they not?

We never went to Birdoswald, but got mightily lost behind it, looking for a particular Anglo Saxon stone!

Bovey Belle said...

P.S. I saw no Picts advancing!!!

Victoria said...

Wow..thanks for sharing such a super beautiful post..powerful images..a magical adventure..! Sounds like you had a wonderful time!
Wishing you a beautiful Autumnal season ahead!

Mary said...

Fabulous story of your 'late education' Rowan - what an amazing chance to see so much of the ancient world.

Love these pics and you look happy with the wind in your hair and the beautiful scenery in the background.

Hugs - Mary

jill said...

Lovely photos of such a lovely place xx

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

What a wonderful adventure you had! Truly an experience, and one I'm glad you shared with us. Thanks for you visit, Rowan. It's always nice to hear from you. Have a beautiful day.


Patricia said...

Oh Rowan I know what you mean about the Classics. I have just got my Degree in Humanities with Classical Studies and loved every minute of it especially the C Studies. I too have read all those books by the same authors and now am itching to do more! Am very envious about your visit to Hadrian's wall and fully intend to one day. Your photos are great.
Patricia x

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

A marvellous opportunity to study the Classics - I would have done it too having taken Latin through school it's been a life long interest for me!

Hadrian's Wall has always been on my 'list' for the next time we visit England.
You are so lucky having all that history on tap and belonging to the Time Travellers must be fun - like minded souls.

Your photos are wonderful and I've learnt such a lot accompanying you on your walk - thank you!