16 Jun 2008 - Hadrians Wall (Cawfields to Housesteads, via Vindolanda), England
I restarted at Cawfields, picking up on where I left the Wall the night before. This section of Hadrian's Wall offers some of the best preserved and typical examples of the Roman remains to be seen along its entire length. Starting with Cawfields Milecastle, evidence of gateways that would have allowed trade between the North and Roman Britain can be seen.
Climbing east, past two milecastles, the wall reaches its highest point at Winshields Crags, giving great views of Northumberland National Park.
Some of the most interesting monuments are in this section such as Vindolanda fort, one of the most famous Roman sites in Britain. After walking to and exploring it, I made my way via bus to Housesteads fort thus missing out about a mile of wall and the scenic Crag Lough but by now my feet could take no more.
From the bus stop up to Housesteads fort is a 1km, steep slope which was further hell. After a look around it was back down the hill for the AD122 bus back to Carlisle and then from there to Bowness on Solway.
Mileage: 4.25 miles from Cawfields - Vindolanda, 1 mile for Housesteads - approx 5.25 miles. In all, about 45 miles - not bad considering the time taken to look around the sites dotted along the way with a backpack averaging 25kg. Despite this, it was disappointing not to have completed the wall because of the wrong boots.
Hadrian's Wall - Cawfields Milecastle 42This milecastle is built on an awkward slope with a steep escarpment to the north making it very difficult to cross the frontier. An easier crossing point lies further west. Perhaps the military planners considered this to be a good vantage point for signalling and observation. Or maybe it was positioned here simply because it is an exact Roman mile from the previous milecastle.
Hadrian's Wall - Cawfields QuarryThis quarry cuts through the wall and has destroyed a section of it. Preservation order in 1944 stopped any further quarrying.
Hadrian's Wall - Southern defensive vallumA vallum (defensive ditch) also existed behind the wall and this, with its mounds, can be seen in this shot. Interestingly, a square outline can also be seen on the ground which may indicate further Roman or later remains which are currently unexcavated.
Hadrian's Wall - Northumbria National ParkLooking north from the wall, we can see the commanding views from this section of the wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 41a, Caw gapThis turret was excavated in 1912 and found to have a doorway on the east side of the south wall. The turret was dismantled and the Wall built across it in the Severan Period.
Hadrian's Wall - Looking WestThis spectacular view shows the wall snaking westwards over the crags. In places with a steep drop there is no need for the northern defensive ditch but if you look, some parts of the wall which are more approachable shows evidence of the vallum.
Hadrian's Wall - Windshields Crag trig point (345m)The highest point of the wall.
Vindolanda - Aerial view of Vindolanda fortExtensive excavation and the discovery of some unique finds has made this one of the most famous Roman sites in Britain due to some unique finds including many organic materials and writing tablets that give a fascinating insight into fort life. Writing tablets include official duty reports, records of supplies, cash accounts and personal letters. This fort, about a mile south of the wall was established as part of the Stanegate frontier system.
Vindolanda - Entrance to the complexAfter leaving the reception complex, immediately in front of you are the remains of a small Romano-Celtic temple - a simple structure surrounded by a boundary wall. Excavated in 2001, it proved to have been demolished by the Romans and the site was given over cremation burials.
Vindolanda - Military bath houseThese military bath houses served as the recreation areas for the troops. From material found in the sewers and drains it is clear that civilians also used the facility.
Vindolanda - Replica of Hadrian's Wall in stoneThis section represents the wall in stone, with an interval turret. This gives an indication of the size of the wall and to remind visitors that the western third of the wall was originally built in turf, not stone.
Vindolanda - Replica of Hadrian's Wall in turf and woodThis section represents the wall in turf and wood with a timber milecastle gateway. It must be remembered that the purpose of the wall was not to prevent a large scale invasion but to prevent unwanted immigration from the north. Of course, the structure would have been a formidible barrier but an enemy making a concerted attack would be able to breach the Wall.
Housesteads - Aerial view of Housesteads fortHousesteads occupies a commanding position on the cliffs and was on the most complete forts at the wall. Amongst the remains are four gates, a headquarters, commandant's house, barracks, granaries, the only visible Roman hospital in Britain and latrines with a flush system. It was built to garrison an infantry cohort of 800 men and further reinforced in the 3rd century.
Housesteads - Approaching the fort from the southThe fort must have been an imposing sight back in its glorious heyday.
Housesteads - The Commandant's quartersThis was a large courtyard house for the commanding officer. These are the main residential quarters. This room was converted into a heated room and the stone pillars allowed heated air to pass under the paved floor and up through channels in the walls.
Housesteads - The granaryGoods came into the fort through the west gate and there was an open area here for carts to unload. The granaries were floored with timber joists supported above the ground on rows of pillars. This was to ensure good ventilation for the stored food and to deter vermin.
Housesteads - Turret 36bThis small rectangular foundation is the base of Turret 36b. Hadrian's wall was first planned without forts, and the nearest fighting units remained in forts on the Stanegate, a mile to the south such as at Vindolanda.
During the construction of the wall, the forts were moved up to the wall and as a result some were built over milecastles and turrets such as this. The fort wall was built a few metres to the north of the line of Hadrian's Wall.
Housesteads - The North Gate (porta prinicipalis sinistra)This gate was originally planned to have a double entrance but the right hand passage appears to have been rarely used. The left hand passage displays considerable wear. Eventually, the approach to the gate within the fort was narrowed greatly, presumably when the Knag Burn gateway was constructed. This is just about visible in the photo where the wall continues away from the fort at its north-east corner. A cistern can just be seen on the far left.
Housesteads - Barrack XIII (conturbernia)This follows the normal pattern for a barrack, being a long building divided into ten rooms for the soldiers, eight to a room, with a room for the centurion at the far end. Unusually, this barrack does not face Barrack XIV across the street but instead faces the north rampart of the fort.
Housesteads - East gate (main gate)The military road ran up to this gate and a street then led to the main entrance of the headquarters building. The gateway originally had a double entrance but the right hand passage was later blocked and used as an extra guardroom. The old guard room became a coal store.
Housesteads - Looking into the latrinesThe latrines were entered from this end of the building. The illustration shows that there were wooden seats along the side, set over a channel.
A smaller channel in the centre of the building was used for washing sponges. some the forts along the Wall had long aqueducts bringing fresh water to them but none is known at Housesteads. Instead, a series of tanks supplied water to this building.
Housesteads - Looking out from the latrinesThis shot taken from the opposite side of the latrines shows a more 'users eye' view.
Housesteads - South gate (porta principalis dextra)This gate was not the main entrance in Roman days as tthe military road ran through the east and west gates. The south gate, like most gates in the Wall fort, was planned to have a double entrance flanked by guard chambers though eventually the left entrance was blocked.