I had a great couple of days off...but one of the hazards of loving military history and having a career in military history is that you can never quite let go of it all, and before I knew what I was doing I was proposing a day trip up to Hadrian's Wall "for a bit of a walk and to take some pictures for the blog". My better half is very tolerant of these excursions, which seem to litter all of our holidays. I seem to be able to locate the military museums in various countries without any hesitation - and consequently she gets dragged around them when she would much rather be sitting on a beach!
Still, we wrapped ourselves up and started driving out along the Roman road from Newcastle, till we crested a hill and spotted the first remnants of the Roman Wall. I have seen it many times before, but each time I first spot it I get the same thrill of excitement. I cant explain it - it's an old walls thing!
We parked up at Housesteads - one of the largest Roman forts that was built along the wall. It stands on the crest of a hill and has an impressive view over the rolling fields of Northumberland. It was a warmish, sunny day - but the wind was gusting around - and all I could think of was 'I'm glad I didn't have to live here through the depths of mid-winter'!
Just the building of the wall itself in an area which remains remote today was an incredible achievement. The small museum at Housesteads is little more than a single room with a few bits and pieces that have been discovered on the site over the years. But, as I walked in I was greeted by some very striking Embleton artwork, which covered the whole far wall of the museum - depicting what the fort may have looked like when it was a fully functioning outpost.
I wandered around, happily snapping pictures of old walls, heating and sewerage systems and of course Hadrian's Wall, and thought I had done quite a good job with my modest (and well aged!) digital camera. That was of course until I got back to work the following Monday to discover a copy of Fortress 83: Roman Auxiliary Forts 27BC - AD 378 sitting on my desk. I flicked through the book and stumbled across a photo that looked virtually identical to one of the ones that I had taken. It seems like Duncan Campbell was as equally taken with the North Granary at Housesteads. A`nd by the quality of the photo it looks like his camera trumps mine! Oh well - despite that, and for all those out there who like me love nothing more than some old walls, here are some pictures of my trip to Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads.