Sunday, 2 September 2012

Rome in a day....or two

There is this belief that when one leaves the motorways of England, one enters into a whole other world of wide open valleys and amazingly narrow, twisty roads; this is true. On our way to Cumbria, in the north-west corner of England, we spent the better part of a day driving the NARROW roads of the English countryside. Up, across and down the valleys we travelled on roads bordered by hedgerows, rock walls, or the deceptive rock walls with ivy growing out of them... So many photo opportunities, so few places to actually stop to take a photo, but we did succeed in one place. Apparent speed limit: 60 mph!

Our destination on this day was the almost mythical town of Ravenglass; mythical because I didn't think it actually existed outside of a Roman novel I used to teach in English 7. However, a real place it is, situated on the estuary of the Esk River, and was the home to a Roman fort at the Western end of Hadrian's Wall for more than 300 years.

Ravenglass waterfront, near the original Roman fort.
After a twenty minute hike, we found ourselves at the original bath house of the Ravenglass Fort, one of the best preserved Roman buildings in all of England.

After a night spent in Carlisle, it was off to hike a bit of Hadrian's Wall, originally built in the six years after Emperor Hadrian visited in 122 AD, when he decided the empire was large enough... Of course, there is proof that the wall may have started earlier than this date, but 122 remains the popular belief. Even the bus route along the wall is Route 122 (AD).

We hiked the wall from a Roman fort known as Birdoswald (Banna in Roman times) to the town of Gisland, a few km to the east. The wall itself is a stone and concrete mortar design, roughly 10 feet wide and was believed to have been built to a height of almost 20 feet for its entire 80 mile length. What remains of the wall are the stones that people in the last 2000 years did NOT take to build other buildings (like churches and castles) as well as other walls...

It's incredible to think this was once twenty feet high:

At least it's easier to get up on and walk on for a good photo:

This photo shows a spot where a smaller milepost fort was built. At every mile, 20 or so soldiers were posted in a small fort to defend against the hordes of Scottish barbarians who might want cross the wall...

A final photo of Hadrian's Wall as it flows across the English countryside. It runs essentially straight across the countryside, over and across whatever obstacles along the way.

Another day, much farther south found us exploring the city of Bath, or Aquae Sulis as it was known back in Roman times. The site is quite amazing and photos don't really do it justice. The photo below shows the main pool of the only natural hot spring in all of England. In Roman times, the entire pool was covered by a three story roof, with additional pools and saunas at either end of the main pool.

Within the bath, the entire building was heated from beneath the floor. Warm air was produced by fires burning in the bowels of the building and the floors were built upon the stacks of tiles shown in the photo. The warm air circulated around these tiles and warmed the rooms from below.


  1. Now you know what I was complaining about with those crazy roads in Ireland! Yes, Brad is a more skilled and confident driver than me, but COME ON! You have to admit it is a harrowing experience to drive on those kinds of roads? Any sheep crossing? How were the endless traffic circles?

  2. You are completely justified Rene! The endless traffic circles were, as you say, endless - but Brad loves 'me - keeps your speed up....and gives you a second chance at a turn if you missed the sign the first way round ;-)