Hadrian's Wall

 

Great Britain
Day 17 - Saturday, 24 May 1997

Geri by "Border Rock"

We left Edinburgh after doing laundry on our way out of town . Then we stopped briefly in Jedburgh for "last chance" woolen shopping and lunch. At the border where we crossed from Scotland to England there is a large stone with "England" on one side and "Scotland" on the other. We took pictures of each other here and lingered for an ice cream cone from a truck vendor. A nearby sign explained that the flag of Great Britain is a combination of the flag of England overlaying the flag of Scotland. Amazing how well it worked out.

As we left the rest area there was a bold sign in five languages telling us to drive on the left! It's a reminder to tourists that in both countries you drive on the left side of the road. By this time, of course, Jim had gotten pretty good at remembering to stay on the left, although I don't think either of us ever got completely comfortable with it.

A little south of today's border is Hadrian's wall. Hadrian was Emperor of Rome from 117 to 138, and visited Britain in 122. It was probably during this visit that he ordered the wall to be built across the Island to separate the Romans and the barbarians - the Scots, the Irish, and/or the Picts. Perhaps the Romans decided the land above that line was not worth the effort of fighting the tough people who lived in the wild and rugged country of Scotland. So Hadrian drew a "line in the sand" so to speak, and had his soldiers build a wall of turf and stone, with milecastles where there were gates, Turrets or watchtowers in between, and Roman baths wherever possible.

Chester's Fort on Hadrian's Wall

We came to our first view of Hadrian's wall at Chester's Fort. We wandered through a museum here, and learned that the Romans tolerated worship of all kinds of gods, but Christianity was not allowed! We also visited the ruins of the bath house which is conveniently located near the river North Tyne. The upcoming video will show scenes of the hot room, warm room, cold room, dressing room, and toilets. The toilets were built over running streams of water for automatic flushing.

Hadrian's Wall

I had heard of the Great Wall of China all of my life, but Hadrian's wall was a new thing to both of us. When we got home, I searched our set of history books and found two brief mentions of the wall, so I guess in the greater scheme of things Roman, it was not as significant as many of the other great buildings that Hadrian erected.

But it was an amazing thing, and I had fun walking along the top of the wall as it stretched behind our B&B at Sewing Shields farm. In places the foundation of the wall is as wide as 11 Roman feet, though the wall itself is usually about 8 feet wide. We went out behind the farmhouse, climbed over a stile and there was the wall. At that point it was built mostly along the edge of a cliff, so the scenery was dramatic and beautiful. The pastures were green and lush, and the quiet countryside was idyllic. It was not a place that made you think of war. Somehow we felt that the Romans who had duty on this wall had pretty soft lives for the most part.

Sewing Shields Farm B&B

Sewing Shields Farm B&B is run by Lyn and Angus Murray, Angus was born in the house. I don't know how long the farm has been in their family, but it is a working farm, and we thought at first we might not be very happy there. The farm house looked pretty rustic and our hostess looked tired. I felt as if I should pitch in and help her. (Editors note: she didn't.) Our room was upstairs, and the bathrooms were downstairs in 3 rooms, all in a row - one with a shower, one with a tub, and one with just a toilet and sink.

There was a garden just outside our window which needed attention. Like many old farms it had a few disreputable-looking buildings around the edges. There were several cats with no names and only one who was allowed in the house. The others were just farm animals, like the cows and sheep that were scattered across the hillside that sloped down from the farmhouse to the road. Getting to the farmhouse involved going through a gate. I got out and opened it, Jim drove through, and I closed it behind us. We got up close and personal with some of the cattle; interesting creatures not at all like the cows we see in America, but shaggy and tough-looking.

Severe Dip SignWe had dinner at Milecastle Pub where they served interesting things like venison and rabbit pie along with some more ordinary things. We enjoyed the company of a couple who kept us entertained with local stories.

Next door to the pub was a building built entirely of stones taken from Hadrian's wall.

This was another place where it seemed that it never got completely dark, but no matter what time I woke during the night it looked like twilight outside.