Northumberland 2 - Housesteads Fort / a bit of the roman wall and a night at another pub

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February 7th 2020
Published: February 7th 2020
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Gabby the motorhome is parked up on another car park close to the railway line. The trains are rushing past us and Gabby is rattling like a pea in a pod. We arrived in the dark and did not realise that we were so close to the line. It is a lovely pub warm inside and cosy . The wood burning stove is burning away and we are drinking two very large white wines . We ordered a cheese and pickle sandwich with crisps and coleslaw and added side fat chips. A further two large white wines completed our evening dining. Foolishly we had passed the £10 a night stop at a brewery on the way thinking we would stop for free at a viaduct car park high up in the mountains. Not a good idea. First impressions did not feel right. It was dark and dingy. It was a lonely spot and looked dirty. We struggled to get in and decided it was the sort of place at worse that we might come across nefarious goings on. At best the local courting spot. We gave up and drove back to the pub. £31 a night stopover again. We have not learned. How we wished we were in France were free parking is easy to find and in virtually every town or village.

How did we end up here ? We had parked up early on in the afternoon in the car park at Housesteads Fort . This car park is not free unless you stay just 30 minutes. 30 minutes might just be enough to boil the kettle and make a hot drink but was not long enough to do much else. We did not have to pay straight away. We could go to see the fort and pay on exit. It cost us nothing to visit as we were members of Cadw.

The walk up to the fort was difficult. Uphill all the way . A rugged path which had been much trodden on. Walking into the wind and the heavy rain. If we leaned backwards the wind held us up. It was a slog and the only respite we got was walking round the museum. Much smaller than Chesters Fort it was less impressive. There were displays of everyday Roman life. Leather soles and jewellry. A brooch and a fastening from a toga. Metalwork and tools. Had we seen this museum first we probably would have been more impressed . As good as it was it couldnt hold a candle to the items in Chesters Fort .

Outside we found ourselves in the fort itself . The wind howled all round us. Even the sheep looked unimpressed with the weather . The fort was built into the hill with views across the valley and towards a section of the wall. The fort was built in stone around AD 124, soon after the construction of the wall began in AD 122 . It has been given many names including Vercovicium, Borcovicus, Borcovicium, and Velurtion. The name of the 18th-century farmhouse of Housesteads gives it the modern name. The fort was repaired and rebuilt several times because its northern defences were particularly prone to collapse. A substantial civil settlement - the vicus existed to the south, outside the fort, and some of the stone foundations can still be seen, including the so-called "Murder House", where two skeletons were found beneath an apparently newly-laid floor when excavated. We never saw this feature. We were too busy walking into rooms that the Romans walked in. Baths that they used to clean themselves - latrines and more besides . Again we thought it a god forsaken place. So cold and miserable in the winter months . Service here must have been grim.

This fort is unusual for Britain in that it has no running water supply and is dependent upon rainwater collection . Rainwater collected in a series of large stone-lined tanks around the periphery of the defences. It also has one of the best-preserved stone latrines in Roman Britain.

The most interesting part of this fort was the wall. We saw it beneath us snaking across the landscape. It was a wonderful piece of roman engineering that had stood the test of time. We could have continued our journey along the wall. There was more of it to see and walk along. There were more forts along the way but the weather got in the way of us seeing the others . We shall keep them for another trip to this part of the world . If we continued we could have started to feel that we were seeing in motorhome language an ABF another bloody fort . Best keep the rest for another day.


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