Ad Oppidum, Latin translation of ‘to the town’, I think. This was included in every Latin examination I undertook whilst at school, because it was the only Latin I could write. The teacher who set the papers was either very kind to me or she didn’t want to have a student who only got 1% in his exam, (we were given 1% for writing our names on the top of the paper).
Strangely enough though, I can sing parts of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ in Latin, if the noise I make can be classed as singing which is doubtful.
By now you will have guessed that we were off on another Roman themed jaunt. Having already visited Vindolanda with our excellent guide Catherine Jarvis we were up to speed with the site and keen to delve deeper into matters Roman, so we were visiting the Vindolanda Museum.
The first impression on arriving at the museum is that it is quite small but nothing could be further from the truth. Each area leads to another and another and to really appreciate one’s visit needs several hours.
The ‘state of the art’ display cabinets ensure that visitors can view the actual artefacts themselves whilst they are being conserved for future generations to see and wonder at.
There is so much to see and information to read and absorb that anything we write can only scratch the surface and so we will just mention the things that especially appealed to us personally and encourage you to visit the museum yourself.
We are both big fans of trees and all things wood so the wooden artefacts were of particular interest. The fact that so many of these items have survived seems incredible and provides a fascinating insight into Roman everyday life. We were enthralled to read of how much the Romans recycled, reusing wood from things when their original use became redundant. We especially liked the toilet seat that was used to patch a worn floor once its life for the ‘throne’ was finished.
Ephemera is something else that intrigues us, and items that are only expected to last a short time but survive much longer seem to have a special value. There are plenty of leather items, clay tablets and pots, cooking vessels and utensils, jewellery, coins, and too many things to list, although the boxing gloves are a unique find and must be seen.
Having experienced student accommodation and shared fridges, (not too dissimilar to the Roman Soldiers who had to share living quarters), we were amused by the clay jar whose owner had scratched his name on the handle, presumably to say, ‘keep your hands off my olives’.
The outdoor exhibits are great too and even though we are at the opposite end of the age range, we enjoyed the room for children which explains what it would have been like to be Roman child at Vindolanda.
Obviously, we had to visit the café before we left in our continuing quest for the perfect scone. We were surprised to see ‘Penrith Pasties’ on the menu, having lived near Penrith for 25 years and never having discovered said delicacy until we visited Vindolanda.
Suitably refreshed and toileted, (the toilets are at least 5 star), we left Vindolanda and headed to The Wall.
Steel Rigg is close to Vindolanda and the car park is next to Hadrian’s Wall, so ideal for anyone wanting to visit the wall without excessive walking.
Having come equipped and shod for the museum rather that walking, we just strolled along the wall path for a little way but even that gave us a great impression of the feat of engineering that the construction of Hadrian’s Wall entailed. It also provided good photo opportunities and whetted our appetites for a return visit suitably attired to explore this section of the wall. Sycamore gap is not far from Steel Rigg and that will be our objective next time.
Whilst in the area a visit to The Sill was included. The Sill takes its name form the Whin Sill rock that some of Hadrian’s Wall is built on. The newly built structure, which incorporates a Youth Hostel, is well worth a visit, as is the café of course, (have we mentioned we have a penchant for scones?).
Although very close to Vindolanda The Sill is nothing to do with the Romans, it is all about nature and the environment. There’s an area devoted to the fabulous Northumberland Dark Sky Park, another about the local environment, and lots of information is available.
A walk on the roof, yes really you can walk on the grassed roof, is not to be missed and this provides a superb viewing area of the extensive surrounding countryside and distant views of Hadrian’s Wall.
Blog written by Harry Seddon, currently enjoying retirement in Northumberland with his wife Liz.
Photo Credit: Vindolanda Trust