Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wall - One Year Later

How do you explore the 89 miles of Hadrian's Wall without a car?
Via the Hadrian's Wall bus - AD122.  The all day ticket was just £9 - a real bargain. We began our journey by catching the 9:20am bus on English Street in Carlisle.

In the rural countryside I had hoped for more bird sightings.  But no 'new' birds along the Wall.

Our first stop was Birdoswald where we were greated by the commander of the fort.

The borders region was an area of conflict for  over a thousand years.  Even after the Romans departed, conflict reigned.  This farm house looks more like a fort than a house.  It gives you an idea of the 'seige mentality' needed to survive raids by the Reevers.  

Looking at the quiet, lovely scenery it is hard to imagine this was a place of centuries of conflict.

Construction of Hadrian's Wall began in 122AD when Hadrian visited Britian. He was content to consolidate and secure his empire rather than expand it.  The Roman soldiers built the wall to protect the territory to the south.  

As it was a defensive mechanism, there were mile markers, watch towers, and forts along the route.  The Wall was staffed with the personel necessary to watch over and defend if needed. 

The remains of the Wall are much lower than the original height. The 'floor' level has changed greatly over 2000 years, and stones have 'walked away' over the centuries to build roads, houses, and other walls.

We decided to walk from Birdoswald to Gilsland and catch the bus there.  We were told it was a lovely walk along the wall and would take about 30 minutes.  As we had over an hour, we thought why not?  Well it was a lovely walk following along the wall, through fields, down to the river, and back up again.  It was remarkable to walk along the wall- the area around Birdoswald has some of the longest stretches of innact wall. But it took us the entire hour to do the walk, and we had to flag down the bus 50 yards from the bus stop in Gilsland.  Fortunately for us, the bus stopped to pick us up.

Our next stop was the Northumberland National Park Center at Twice Brewed.  And yes, there is also a hamlet called Once Brewed nearby! After looking about the center, we decided to walk on to Vindolanda.

As often is the case, the further north one travels and higher the elevation, the later the wildflowers bloom. This Spirea is a familiar flower as we have it at home.

There was a glorious assortment blooming along the roadside between Once Brewed and Vindolanda.  I think the pretty blue flowers are Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia).

Not many trees on the hillsides.  This large one has found some protection from the weather in a niche between two knoles.  

 I quite like the red doors and window sashes on this house.  We saw red used a lot in this area.  I expect during the harsh grey winters a bit of color is most welcome.

We made it to Vindolanda with just enough time to peak at the remains of the fort there before catching the bus once again.  If I had it to do over, I'd not stop at the Northumberland National Park Center, and spend my time at Vindolanda instead.

I think there are more sheep than people living along Hadrian's Wall. Oh, and a few cows too.

Our next stop was Housestead's Roman Fort.
The fort is located high, high, high, high, high up atop a hill.
We huffed (and rested) and puffed (and rested) and slowly made our way up.

The entire world, it seems, is spread out below. 
I think the commander of this fort must have thought he ruled over the entire north of the island. No one, but no one could mount an attack on this fort unseen. Stunning!

The Roman fort remains are quite extensive. The ruins include gates, the Commanding Officer's House, Headquarter's Building, granaries, and more.

And you have to admire the precision of the stone work.

Even the foundation work has a certain symmetry.

From Up On High the rugged terrain becomes very apparent as the wall lopes off over hill and dale.

Northlumberland is England's Big Sky Country!

If you only visit one site along the wall, this is the Must See place to go.

The scenery changed once again at Chesters Roman Fort. 

The ancient stone masons should be deservedly proud of their work.

Chesters is also the sight of a Roman fort.

But its most famous feature are the ruins of the baths.  You can see the curved insets where the soldiers sat along the edge of the baths.

We share Chesters with one young family.  It was great to have the ruins literally to ourselves.

The River Tyne runs along close to the Chester's site. At one point there was a Roman bridge which spanned the river.  Over the millennia the course of the river has greatly changed and remaining bridge abutment is far removed from the river.

The Clayton family bought the Chester property, and were the driving force in saving much of the Wall purchasing property with forts and long stretches of the Wall.  We owe them much as the Wall had no one who appreciated its historical importance or to guide in its preservation until the Clayton family came along. 

Besides car and bus, lots of folks chose to hike or bike as a method of exploring Hadrian's Wall. 

The bus ride from Chester to Newcastle was the least scenic part of our journey.   We caught the 17:49 bus at Chesters - it was late. And that was a concern as it was due to arrive at Newcastle Central Station at 18:57 and our train was to depart at 19:05. Less than a ten minute window.  I think worry about making our train connection is why I don't remember much about the bus trip to Newcastle other than that Newcastle is a Big City with lots of immigrants and ethnic areas. We finally arrived at the train station with only 3 minutes or so to spare.  We ran into the station. I glanced at the reader board - Platform #4 - better than Platform #14 anyway!  Still we had to climb up stairs and dash over the top of the rails, then back down the stairs to get on the rain.  I kept yelling to my Mom, "Are you coming? Are you coming?" We were, I am certain, the last two people to board and we collapsed red-faced and panting into our seats. The train departed due to arrive in London 22:17. (Yes there was a later train, but as it involved a change of trains at Doncaster, I wanted to catch the earlier direct-to-London train). 
And here's the irony. After our mad scramble to catch the train, there were Train Issues and York (yes York, Michelle!) and our train limped slowly along getting later and later and later.  It was 00:45 when we left the train to head back to our apartment.  A very long day, but well worth it even with the train mishap.      

In review, I think this day-trip was the most amazing thing we did during our three months in the U.K. To be able to see and touch and walk along the Wall. Wow!  The ghosts of the Roman Empire still speak - at least to me.  Their construction of the Wall and the series of forts is an remarkable accomplishment, and the scenery is truly stunning.  It is a remote and wild place still.

Not knowing any better, I am so glad that I decided to begin our Hadrian's Wall Adventure in Carlisle and travel east, rather than begin in Newscastle and travel west. Carlisle is a perfect sized town to explore and read up on Roman history, before setting out to visit The Wall. As you can see, even without use of a car it is possible to pack really really light, and visit from London in a two day 'suitcaseless' jaunt.


Vickie said...

Very awesome! I enjoyed every word of it. :)

Margaret said...

It's amazing to think of those ruins being there for so long. So cool!

Ann at Beadlework. said...

I very much enjoyed this a year on Beth. I'm ashamed to say that I have never done this walk even though it's really not that far from where we live. We could easily do it in a day trip. Your photos were excellent.

geeky Heather said...

What a fantastic post! I can certainly identify with the difficulties of being told a walk would take a certain amount of time and it taking far longer...and also with small transfer windows for catching trains!!!

Amber said...

Amazing!! I Home Educate my son- we have just finished a topic about the Romans, he will love seeing this!

Wanda said...

Wow Beth! I really enjoyed your excursion. I am so amazed by the workmanship of the Romans - what a sight to behold. Your photos are gorgeous!
Now returning back home - the photos of the bunnies are great! We have not seen as many this year as in some other years.
Have a great weekend!

Maggee said...

How very interesting! It amazes me how much was glossed over when I was growing up, and educated in parochial school. Thanks for sharing!

Andrea said...

To think that it has stood for all those years and in sometimes inhospitable weathers, it is just amazing.

Melanie said...

Such a great post. I just lOVE this sort of thing. :)