Despite the poor turnout the trip was very enjoyable and we got to see quite a lot. The idea was to have a long distance trip similar to last year’s successful Orkney trip and Vindolanda, and the forts on Hadrian’s, seemed to be a suitable subject – however, on the day, even the person who suggested it didn’t make it. In the end it was just myself, Denise, Eric and Sue (Tracey and Lilly also made the trip but we failed to meet up as I forgot my phone).
We arrived at about 12.00 and picked up our guide shortly after. She was short on stature and vocal volume but her knowledge of the site was implacable.
I’ve been to Vindolanda a couple of times before but hadn’t appreciated the number of forts that had been built on the site over the time of it’s occupation (all of which are on different alignments).
At least 5 forts have been identified with 10 different periods. Many features are still not fully understood such as sets of circular buildings underlying the current fort.
Interesting to note the bathhouse on the south side of the current fort is of a similar design as the one found in Wigan. It was also from the same period and suffered the same fete being demolished at about the same time.
Current excavations on the north side of the current fort are revealing the previous fort lying a good few metres down.
Since I was here last, the museum has had more than one overhaul. It’s amazing the amount of material on show but it’s the writing tablets that always provide the greatest fascination.
After a long day, including lunch in the museum’s excellent cafe, we retired to our B&B in Haydon Bridge. The evening meal in at the Anchor Inn at Haydon Bridge was also excellent. Next day after breakfast we set off bright and early for Chesters Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The first thing you come across here is John Clayton’s museum collection. Clayton was a 19th century antiquarian, who at one time, owned 5 forts on the Wall. He did a lot in rescuing the site from destruction by local farmers.
The site itself has some fine upstanding remains including gateways, HQ building, commanders house complex, stables and barrack blocks.
but what the site is best know for must surely be it’s bathhouse.
After a tea break in the onsite cafe, we made our way to our next site – Binchester, which in fact was a good hour way down the Dere Street Roman road.
Here are two bathhouses we needed to see. The first one professes to be the best preserved bathhouse in the country – certainly the only one with a complete floor still in situ. This bathhouse is in fact inside the fort complex. The second bathhouse is outside the fort on the south side and has only been excavated in recent years. Deep excavations have revealed a quite flimsy structure. The only reason it survived is because the land gradually rose overtime and when the building was abandoned it was back-filled with Roman rubbish. I must admit to me it doesn’t scream bathhouse – not one hypocaust for instance but that is its designation. There are plenty drains, plastered walls and water tanks which suggests some sort of process involving water.
Over two hours back home from here but all in all it was a great trip – pity we didn’t get more takers, maybe next time.