The only bit of Hadrian’s Wall I’ve ever seen is its Western tip on the Solway, and I have often thought of exploring the area as it’s only an hour’s drive away from where I stay in the Lake District. Somehow it just hasn’t happened.
Roman history is not “my period” but I suppose I have become slightly more interested in it recently, and last Thursday I had visited the Hardknott Fort. The drive up the Hardknott and Wrynose Pass is exhilarating in itself, then high up over Eskdale the fort is still in very good condition (those Roman soldiers could teach modern day Cumbrians about building walls made to last). But I hadn’t any plan to visit the Wall during this trip.
Then last Friday evening I was cooking, and I just happened to make out the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. That sealed it.
Most of the day was at Birdoswald fort. The re-enactors were a group called Legio I Italica and had travelled 40+ hours by coach (in two coaches and a truck for their gear) all the way from Italy. They had also brought their own barbarians, which seemed an unnecessary luxury as there’s no shortage of them in this country!
And it was quite a day. I spoke with quite a number of the re-enactors and for many of them a weekend on the “Vallo di Adriano” was hugely emotional, a bit like getting to Mecca.
For the evening they transferred to Housesteads fort, and that’s where this picture is from. It’s a remote spot and the temperature had dropped a bit much for some members of the legion (it had been 40C in Rome), but surely that’s just what you sign up for if you’re protecting the Empire’s Northern frontier for the weekend?
So I’ve finally seen some of the best parts of Hadrian’s Wall. And so much for imagining there would be one weekend in September when I wasn’t photographing re-enactment.