Catching up – part two: The Romans

“Wenn einer eine Reise tut kann er was erleben” – not quite a literal translation: ” If one travels one will get new experiences”

With that in mind – I love travelling – by car, on foot by train or bus or by plane and anything really in between – so when my Scottish mate Ben and I decided to do a little road trip (or tiki tour as we call it in NZ) after the dig – it was never going to be the “all the usual places” thing.

North Pennines
North Pennines

We started off by making our way north – with the help of the trusted walky talkies from the Dig Ventures team we kept in contact as we followed the leading white rabbit (in form of the green land rover) all the way up to North Yorkshire to Barnard Castle.

The next morning we first went on a walk to the previously mentioned other Premonstratensian Abbey (Egglestone Abbey) and after a quick walk to the “Castle” that gave the town it’s name we took off towards the North.

North Pennines -
North Pennines – “Emptiness”

Now – I must confess to something here – for some inexplicable reason I always pictured England to be – well – inhabited and full of small and picturesque villages and larger towns and yes also some less populated places but nothing prepared me for the North Pennines or indeed any other of the North Yorkshire Nature Reserves and National Parks such as the North York Moors or the Yorkshire Dales.

North Pennines - more emptiness
North Pennines – more emptiness

No wonder they have been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! I still can’t get over the emptiness and at the same time clear remnants of human habitation – in fact they are still farmed as there are sheep running around on the road and in the fields. We did have the luck on our side with the weather as we could see for miles and miles and really appreciate the vastness of this amazing landscape. I almost wanted to go for a hike right there and then but instead we kept going – ever so slowly and talking picture after picture until we realized that if we ever wanted to get anywhere near Hadrians Wall we needed to get going.

Vindolanda Entrance
Vindolanda Entrance

I highly recommend to you my dear readers – go to North Yorkshire if you want to see true beauty in a English Landscape.

Right – the Romans…. da da! I had this desire for years that I wanted to go to Vindolanda Roman Fort and since the opportunity arose I took it and FINALLY after many years of wanting.. I made it! This site has been excavated by the same family (now the Vindolanda Charitable Trust) since the 1930’s and it’s vast. I don’t think they will ever finish digging there in my life time so I am sure I’ll have to come back again to have a closer look in the years to come. We just missed this years excavations but we could see what challenges they are facing with the whole site being virtually water logged.

Vindolanda Excavations
Vindolanda Excavations

However this also helps to preserve items that are normally don’t survive such as leather, wood and bone – and this place is most famous for the Vindolanda Tablets – the earliest handwriting in Britain and also the earliest letter written by a woman in Britain.

Leather Shoes at Vindolanda
Leather Shoes at Vindolanda

The Shoes in particular where interesting – some could have been worn yesterday – they look very modern and others are clearly for the upmarket customers and again others are for children.

All the years they have been digging there and only last year did they find the first gold coin – and a wooden toilet seat (again the oldest in Britain).

Roman Water management - drains throughout the fort
Roman Water management – drains throughout the fort

I could go on and on about this amazing site but we also wanted to give Ben a chance to touch (and stand on) the actual wall so we had to leave with the little time remaining and made it – to The Wall.

Unfortunately we did not make it in time for any of the other forts along the Wall so that will have to wait for another time – oh well they have been there for almost 1900 years – I am sure they still there when I next have the time and the money to swing by.

Hadrians Wall
Hadrians Wall

Incidentally on the day we visited the Webb Ellis Cup also visited – together with the Ermine Street Guard of Roman reenacters but we missed them by a few hours.

This was not my only Roman experience this time – two (well one is contested) more Roman sites presented themselves that surely need a mention.

Hadrians Wall
Hadrians Wall
North Yorkshire Moor - more emptiness
North Yorkshire Moor – more emptiness

In the middle of the North York Moors is a stretch of Roman Road (or so is the general belief) – about a Mile long and most people would miss it if they did not look out for it like me.

“Roman” Road

To the untrained eye like mine with a little bit of knowledge that piece of paved walkway looks for all intents and purposes like a roman road – BUT – some scholars now believe it is much, much older – it is called Wade’s Causeway. Again – if you are in the area and want to see some great wide Moor landscapes – and that causeway – this is the place to be.

Jewry Wall
Jewry Wall

The last Roman site this year happened to be right in the middle of the city of Leicester – the Jewry Wall and Museum. These are the last remaining Roman remains that can be seen above ground and the museum is very informative if a little dated.

Mosaic at Jewry Wall museum
Mosaic at Jewry Wall museum

So again – sorry for the not so good photos this time again – and the next blog post hopefully will be about castles… if I get around to it:-)

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