30 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Chesters to Heddon 17.5 miles), England
The end of yesterday's journey was Chesters Fort meaning that today started with a visit and wander around its ruins. Chesters Fort lies in a valley and was placed astride the wall with all but one of its four gates opening north of the wall.The circuit of the defences was reinforced with a number of towers and at the four corners. Outside the bath house and south of the wall was the bath house, one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Britain. With Heddon being over 17 miles away, the day promised to be a hard, foot wearying trek. It was.
Hadrian's Wall - Chesters Roman Fort (Cilurnum)
Cilurnum is considered to be he best preserved Roman cavalry fort along Hadrian's Wall. There is a museum on the site, housing finds from the fort and elsewhere along the wall. The site guarded a bridge carrying the military road behind the wall across the River North Tyne at this point, whose abutments survive. It was a cavalry fort at its foundation, for retaliatory raids into barbarian areas north of the wall, then given over to infantry later.
Hadrian's Wall - North Gate I, Chesters Roman Fort
The north gate is set centrally in the fort's north rampart. The north, east and west gates open north of the wall, with the wall joining the fort below the east and west gates to allow multiple exit points into the northern territories. The north gate originally had double portals separated by a spine wall and protected by guard turrets. North is to the right of the photo.
Hadrian's Wall - North Gate II, Chesters Roman Fort
Gate thresholds, central stop-blocks and sockets for the gates can still be seen. The west entrance passage was blocked soon after construction and was removed on excavation in the 19th century, leaving the earliest levels little worn. An aqueduct also enters the fort at this point, its channel covered with stone slabs. These can be seen in the preceding photo.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks I, Chesters Roman Fort
Portions of three barrack buildings which occupied the north eastern quadrant of the fort can be seen. A pair of barrack blocks, each with NCO's quarters at the east end, and a series of rooms for the men fronted by a columned verandah face each other across a street with a central drain. The barrack does not have the normal ten rooms for infantry and must have been intended for a eight man cavalry squadron.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks II, Chesters Roman Fort
Chesters was first occupied by a cavalry regiment called, 'Augusta for valour', according to an inscription, but throughout most of its life os was the base for the Second Cavalry Regiment of Asturians, auxiliary soldiers from what is now northern Spain.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks III, Chesters Roman Fort
A view across the barracks looking north west, across the street between the two barrack blocks.
Hadrian's Wall - The Main East Gate, Chesters Roman Fort
Like the main west gate and north gate, this gate opened out north of Hadrian's Wall and the wall can just be seen joining the sourthern gate tower. It was discovered that both entrance passages had been blocked soon after the fort's construction since both gates are relatively unworn. This picture is taken from outside of the fort and traffic leaving the fort traversed from right to left in the photo.
Hadrian's Wall - Commander's House, Chesters Roman Fort
The house represents a maze of rooms and is the result of additions and rebuilding over many years. The small bath house lies outside the fort though this is safely behind the wall as it is south of the Main East Gate, one of the openings north of the wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Headquarters I, Chesters Roman Fort
The Pincipia is situated in the middle of the fort and consisted of a courtyard surrounded by a portico. Bordering this was a large hall with a series of rooms off it. The courtyard had a paved floor and contained a well, both of which are visible. The square bases for the portio columns can also be clearly seen.
Hadrian's Wall - Headquarters II, Chesters Roman Fort
Beyond the portico, the Headquarters building contained the unit's administrative offices. A central room held a regimental chapel where statues of the emperor and unit's standards were kept. This underground room was added in the 3rd century. When it was excavated an iron bound oak door was found at the foot of the steps but they did not long survive exposure.
Hadrian's Wall - East Gate I, Chesters Roman Fort
This photo is taken from behind the wall which can be seen connecting to the gate house. The view is looking north, over the wall with the west gate giving access to the areas beyond the wall in the north. Like the east gate, the west gate's passages were also blocked up.
Hadrian's Wall - East Gate II, Chesters Roman Fort
This is the guard chamber in the west gate. It contains a stone platform for a water tank fed by an aquaduct that approached the fort from the west.
Hadrian's Wall - Angle Tower, Chesters Roman Fort
This tower is located at the south east corner of the fort.
Hadrian's Wall - East Side Gate, Chesters Roman Fort
This single portalled gate was a minor exit from the fort towards the bath house near the banks of the river.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House I, Chesters Roman Fort
The fort bath house at Chesters is one of the best preserved Roman military bath houses. The large grassed area to the left is the communal changing room. A doorway from here led to a lobby, within which the bather could choose between three treatments. A cold room, a hot dry room or the warm steam heat rooms.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House II, Chesters Roman Fort
In this photo we are in the communal changing room. The doorway to the left leads to the lobby from where the different treatment rooms are accessible. The purpose of the niches in the wall are uncertain.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House III, Chesters Roman Fort
These latrines are of the same design as the well preserved latrine at Housesteads fort. Wooden seats along the side, set over a channels would have allowed users to go about their business.
Hadrian's Wall - (Brunton) Turret 26b
Brunton turret stands nearly 2.4m and is the tallest turret on the Wall. From its western side (left of the turret) runs the Wall built to the original thick (2.9m) specication. On the east side a narrow wall (2m) rides up over the turret's wing wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Planetrees looking west
Half a mile to the east of Brunton turret a short length of wall can be seen at Planetrees. This is another point where the wall was reduced from the original planned thickness (from 2.9m to about 2m). It is clear that the soldiers laying the Wall's foundations had progressed quicker that the builders of the superstructure as the foundations continue on past the point of reduction. The foundation builders also laid down the drain, most of which is incorporated into the narrow wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Heavenfield Battle Site (634AD)
The early years of the 7th century were a time when both pagans and Christians lived in Britain. The Northumbrian King, Oswald, won a famous victory here in the shadow of the wall. A cross now marks the location of the battle. It was claimed that the night before the battle, Oswald had a vision of Saint Columba, in which the saint predicted that Oswald would be victorious. Oswald placed his army so that it was facing east, with its flanks protected by Brady’s Crag to the north and the Wall to the south.
Vindobala Fort - Now occupied by Rudchester farm
This just looks like a field but there are indications of roadworks which unfortunately not easily interpreted. These are the remains of the fort of Vindobala, or Rudchester. In the 18th century it was described as a well preserved fort, but the builders of the military road took away the stone and farming destroyed much of what was left.
Hadrian's Wall - Looking west at Heddon-on-the-Wall
17.5 miles later with very sore feet, a drive back to the campsite for gas stove cooked pasta and sauce was the treat for the evening. Again. Here at Heddon you can see the 'broad' Wall, over 100 meters long. Some of the massive foundation stones weigh over a tonne each. At the west end of the wall a medieval circular kiln has been built into the wall.