|John Clayton as centurion, by William Bell Scott, 1857. (Wikimedia)|
After a restful night at Mingary Barn in Humshaugh north of Chollerford, we continued on our trek on the Hadrian's Wall Path in anticipation entering Northumberland National Park. This was a naturalist's and historian's feast day!
Our time at the Chesters Fort on the North Tyne River drove home the fact that so much of the Roman Period is still buried. It was named Cirurnum by the Romans and was strategically placed to guard the bridge over the river and to house a large cavalry. Not happy with a Roman fort ruins on his estate, Nathaniel Clayton, in the early 1800s, covered over this massive ruin with tons of earth so that his pastures and lawn sloped gently to the river. Nathaniel's son John (1792 - 1890), upon inheriting the estate did the opposite. He oversaw the uncovering of the fort and collected thousands of artifacts from the ruins. He built a museum next to the estate house to hold them. We dropped our packs at the museum door and were thunderstruck by what was inside.
John Clayton is the hero of this story. His excavations at Chesters Fort led to other big digs. The next few days took us to some of his most impressive excavations at Housesteads (incredible), the Mithraic Temple (stunning), Brocolita at Gilsland (yikes!), and Vindolanda (though we didn't stop here, we drove through on the AD 122 bus). The whole of Clayton's work in this middle stretch of the HWP, including the preservation of numerous turrets, mile castles, and great stretches of the wall and Vallum, have been lumped together as a World Heritage Site and fall mostly inside the Northumberland National Park. So admired was John Clayton that he appears as a Roman centurion supervising the building of the crags section of the wall in The Romans Cause A Wall To Be Built for the Protection of the South (1857).
|John Clayton, inheritor of the buried fort.|
|"As numerous as lost pennies."|
|Hipposandals for some of the 1000 horses kept at Chesters Fort.|
Day 4: Chollerford to Housesteads 11 miles (Molly and I) 14 miles (George)
It was easy to get carried away by the romance of the great archeological finds. They were grand, massive, and even nostalgic. But as a military landscape, we had to remember that these were landscapes of destruction and occupation. The environmental damage caused by collecting the timber, stone, lime (for mortar), clay, peat, and gravels - not to mention the conscription of workers and slaves gathered from the surrounding countryside - transformed social and ecological systems in ways that we can still see today. .
|Artist's depiction of the stables of Chesters Fort.|
|Molly reads an interpretive sign and tries to imagine what this place was like.|
|From the bank of the North Tyne River looking up at (just) the Roman baths.|
|Alcoves at the Baths.|
|Furnace room where slaves stoked fires for under-floor heating and hot water delivery.|
|George with that look of "Holy moly!"|
|Floor supports that held flagstone for heated floors. Heated air traveled under the flagstone.|
|As far as the eye can see...|
The fort and the dozens of sites that we encountered later were embedded in the native landscape of Northumbria. The track of the wall ran across a sweeping lift of earth that curled at the summit crags like ocean waves frozen in mid-air. George remarked that even in the Middle Ages, a period we think of as "long ago", people must have looked upon these ruins and earthworks as ancient even to them. Two thousand years of rot, decay, burial, scavenging, and collapse of an empire haven't done anything to reduce the spectacle of it.
|A White Wagtail perches on a tumbled river bridge stone.|
|Jackdaw the Centurion.|
|Northern Lapwings tumbling and screaming.|
|Stamping our hiker's passports - a bit like the Camino.|
|George and Molly taking in the vistas.|
|Through farming villages (made of wall stone!).|
|Following wagon ways and tractor paths and acorns, up and up.|
|George on the north side of the Vallum and me and cows on the south side.|
|Ducking out of the winds and rain for lunch in the lee of Hadrian's Wall. Brrr!|
|Lumps and bumps of a turret foundation beneath the turf on a shoulder of battlement.|
|Mithras Temple ruins.|
|Housesteads Fort atop the Crags.|
|Floor pillars for the ventilated granary at Housesteads.|
|East gate of the huge Housesteads Fort with Crags in the distance. The was some windy post!|
|An easy ride to our night's accommodation out of the park on the AD 122 bus. Great shuttle service!|
|Altar to the Sun was illuminated with an oil lamp set in an alcove inside.|
Without John Clayton, who knows what would have happened to Hadrian's Wall?