Monday, 20 July 2015

We visit a Roman garrison and Dave is interviewed for a magazine

More Roman history on our first full day by Hadrian's Wall! Not so
New gate in an old gateway,
Hadrian's Wall milecastle remains 
surprising really! Dave plotted out a circular-ish walk which began at Steel Rigg car park and took us out to the former Roman garrison at Housesteads, then back along the Wall to Steel Rigg again. The route was about seven miles, plus wandering at Housesteads, and we were both impressed with ourselves for actually going after a long night of not much sleep due to strong winds and rain. We imagined we understood how the conscripted Romans must have felt when plonked here after having grown up in warmer climes. For sunnier photos, the BaldHiker blog also did a version of this walk in February last year!

Our outward walk allowed us to look over towards Crag Lough and we
Peering down to Crag Lough 
braved the crag edges to look down on our return journey. This bit of the route was a brief foray into National Trust territory! We presumed that 'Lough' is pronounced as 'loch' rather than the 'ough' being said as in through, though, trough or tough. The sheer rock face of the crag is particularly impressive from a distance and it was fun to watch the ant-people slogging up and down the slopes. We later found out just how steep a couple of those inclines are and even rerouted ourselves to avoid one - especially as the strongly gusting wind had already threatened our stability once and the path did look to be awfully close to the edge!
Crag loch from a distance 
Our destination of Housesteads was pretty busy with a bit of a ticket
Communal latrine at Housesteads 
queue. Dave did slightly begrudge our paying to get in because there weren't actually any staff checking as we entered the main outdoor part of the site! However, English Heritage do such a great job of maintaining free access all along the Wall here though that we didn't really mind. Entrance cost £12.60 for us both, plus £4 for our car park ticket. Foundations and low walls of several buildings have been excavated in the garrison complex and we learned that the same basic layout template was used across the Roman empire so archaeologists can be confident of their identification of each structure's function. Unsurprisingly, the garrison commander and his family lived in spacious splendour while the Legionaires were cramped eight to a room in the neighbouring barracks. The best preserved building is the communal latrine where the fresh water channels and basins are still clearly identifiable. Other interesting outlines included this granary foundation which seemed to have been inspired by Carnac in France!

Granary at Housesteads 
I was disappointed that dozens of tagged cube blocks secured behind a
Genii Cucullati representation 
fence with a weather station merited no explanation at all. It looked like some kind of experimental set-up to measure erosion and weather effects? Instead, inside the museum-shop building were a good number of artefacts found onsite including jewellery, buttons and clasps, glassware, parts of shoes and chain mail, and a partially eroded statue of the goddess Victory. I liked this shrine stone which had been recovered in very good condition from a dwelling in the civilian village of Vicus. (Vicus had grown up alongside the garrison as a place to trade and for the soldiers to spend the leisure hours and their pay!) The trio are the Genii Cucullati, hooded deities who were commonly worshipped across Northern Europe some 1700-1800 years ago.

We ate our sandwich picnic huddled against a bit of stone wall in Vicus,
So cold that even the
trees are wearing woollies! 
and I also managed to try a few samples of English Heritage wares in the shop, partly by sheer cheek! I can happily recommend the All Butter Raspberry Curd which is richly fruity and delicious. The Traditional Honey Mead has a good strong and sweet flavour, but wasn't the smoothest mead I have ever tasted. We also bought Biscuit Tiffin slices to have at home with a reviving cup of tea and they were gorgeous with lots of rich Belgian chocolate! I can't find them in the English Heritage online shop though so guess you would need to visit a site to buy them!

Walking back to Steel Rigg into the wind and drizzle wasn't our most pleasant hiking experience ever, but we were still proud of ourselves for having gone out on a non-perfect day! We saw a flock of house martins swirling after insects and watched them for a few minutes as they didn't care about us at all and flew very close. And another highlight of the day, which I nearly forgot to mention, was crossing the Pennine Way! I've read so much about this famous Way and have no intention of ever trying to complete its whole route, but happily walked it in the 'other direction' by stepping over it!
The Pennine Way! 
And now for something completely different:

You might or might not know that Dave used to be a professional
musician and one of his former bands, Raw Material, was pretty influential in the Prog Rock scene. Their records are still sought after and discussed which makes me rather proud of my Dave's contribution! I was contacted a couple of months ago by a journalist who had found Dave via a theatricalEastbourne post I had written about him. Dave did a long phone interview and, I think, enjoyed reminiscing about his time in the band. Now Issue Seven of Flashback magazine is on sale so you can read all about it too! Flashback specialises in uncovering previously overlooked music from the 1960s and 1970s. I am reliably informed that in the Raw Material article there are even photographs - complete with dodgy haircuts!

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