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Published: March 23rd 2007
After spending 2 nights and one whole day in Burntisland, county Fife, Scotland, I drove south to Edinburgh on the Friday morning 23 March. My plan was to drive down to Newcastle via the Cheviot Hills through Northumberland by the highway A68.
South of the Firth bridge which is free of toll charge when travelling from north to south, I followed signs for Edinburgh. Getting on the ring road I expected to see signs for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I didn't see any and even turned off the ring road into the city without realising it. After a lot of driving in circles to get back out on the ring road, I eventually realised that I had to keep looking for signs for Jedburgh. It's about 40 miles down to Jedburgh and another 25 miles to the border with England at the top of the Cheviot Hills. Quite a sight up there!
Then once in England I had to look out for a turn off as I didn't want to go on to Newcastle but to the eastern end of the Roman Wall near Chollerton or Chollerford. I had no idea of what I was going to find. I sort of
In the Cheviot Hills
Farming in Northumberland
expected a grand tourist place with a lot of accommodation facilities.
When you travel, this is the point. You always expect something... from what you've heard, or totally out of your imagination. It is rarely what you are going to find. Your expectations are usually along with what you are familiar with. In this case I was remembering a school visit to Roman sites in the south of France... Here I was in the very north of England expecting to find something looking like the south of France. Maybe the Roman soldiers posted in that area, once upon a time long long ago, had had the same expectations!!!!
I'm glad I was arriving from the north. It gave me a sense of tumbling on the Roman defence line from a barbarian point of view. What was it going to be like?
...Had to stop a number of times not to miss a turn-off or two. Drove through peaceful stern villages. Onto a narrow country road with raised dirt sides preventing me from pulling up to take photos or to admire the view. The worst came when the road went up and down like in some 'russian mountains'
Ruins of the Roman wall in a field
at luna park! You almost get sea sick from it. I thought to myself: "Haven't they figured out you could level up with caterpillars since the Romans?" No signs for a big tourist attraction anywhere. It looked like I was going to drive all the way west to Carlisle without seeing any of the Roman Wall... until quite suddenly the sight of ruins in the middle of a field made me turn off all of a sudden into a very narrow country lane. Hard to park. I had to climb over a stone wall to be able to walk in that green pasture and touch the wall actually built by the Roman army back in the year 122, i.e. 2007 minus 122 = 1885 years ago.
What the Romans did and didn't do always fascinates me. I drove on and found a small car park with a sign about some temple that the Romans had there. And then on, until I came across a place that finally looked like a tourist information centre. It was the Roman Army Museum at the Vindolanda site. I highly recommend it. I learnt a lot in a few minutes!
First of all,
The base of a square tower
that the Roman army held this northern border for many centuries until the fall of the empire.
Second, that there were plenty of soldiers and civilians living there including ladies.
Third, that this was not the far fetched northern outpost of the Romans as if they were scared of what was beyond. But it had been a wise political decision of Emperor Hadrian to build this wall in order to stop his armies to keep expanding. He claimed that the empire was big enough and therefore had to have limits set for the armies not to tresspass.
Fourth, last but not least, that the regiments posted out on the wall came from different provinces of the empire.
Quoted from www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/vindolanda_01.shtml : "Rome followed a policy of not allowing native troops to serve within their province of origin. The units were commanded by their own tribal chieftains, but were gradually diluted by recruits from other areas. The names on the Vindolanda tablets suggest origins from Gaul, Germany, Pannonia, Dacia and Greece (probably Greek slaves) as well as the upper Rhine homelands of the original units."
... I dare say it has been the very first European Army!
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