Once again I dusted off all the book dust and ventured out into the world. This time my destination was to be Vindolanda along the Hadrian's Wall in the beautiful border area of England and Scotland.
Travelling by train I got to Bardon Mill trainstation and then walked on foot to the fort. It's a bit of a walk and quite steep at times, so it's something worth considering before you take this route. Sadly it's not signposted at the station, but I simply asked my way and the local people I met in the street were very helpful in telling me how to get there.
Coming over the hill from Bardon Mill, you get a great view across the sprawling site. Then you turn left and descend down the road to the eastern entrance. (There is another entrance on the other side.)
Unfortunately, I was unable to get permission to take any photographs within the museum itself. The people who could have granted it weren't there on that day. Remains to say that the collection is well worth seeing.
So, since I was permitted to take pictures of anything in the gardens and beyond, here's a pic of the delightful gardens behind the museum, in which are set a few recreated Roman buildings, and several other objects of interest.
One of the first things you come across in the gardens is a plaque commemorating the various units who served in the fort.
Among other things the gardens contain a scaled down temple to the water nymphs.
And it so happens that one of the more recent finds at Vindolanda has been a ruin which is thought to have been a temple.
As Vindolanda was not only a fort but also a settlement, there are also two examples of what the civilian houses might have looked like. Inside these houses are exhibits, backed by recorded narratives coming through a loudspeaker system.
On the right: A shopkeeper selling his vegetables over the counter of the recreated shop.
The remaining walls of the fort. The Roman ruins all along the wall in time fell victim to the very quality of Roman construction. Theirs was the best stonework for miles and miles. And if you wonder just where all the stone from the walls and buildings went, then you need only look at the old farms, castles, churches and cathedrals of the area to realise just who plundered it all.
On the right: The western gateway to the fort.
The remains of the praetorium, the commander's residence.
The ruins of the principia, the fort's headquarters.
The excavations at Vindolanda are by no means finished. They're still digging, trying to unearth yet more little miracles from the ground.
On the left: It's not all fun however, even on this fine sunny day, the ground reveals just what a wet country Britain is. Who knows, the archaeologist might drown if it weren't for those pumps keeping the water out. :-)
Roman forts were living things. Nothing just stayed eternally in the same place. And so the headquarters in Severan times were apparently a little further up the road.
And no Roman army base ever would be complete without a Roman bathhouse.
On the right: A section of the building still showing the hypocaust upon which the raised floor rested. Hot air circulated between these columns, thus heating the floor.
Now, that's more like it !
For all of you for whom mere ruins are a bit too little to get your imagination fired up, the Vindolanda museum has recreated sections of what Hadrian's Wall and the fort's walls would have looked like prior to their demise.
On the left: The fort's walls as it was when still a wooden structure standing on a earth palisade.
On the right: A view down from atop the impressive stone tower.
More views of the recreated stone wall and tower.
And last but not least, between the two recreated sections of wall stands a ballista. So one might even surmise that Vindolanda is still ready to fight off invaders, over one and a half thousand years after its demise.
Finally, there was also a nice model of the groundplan in the reception building on the far side of the fort.
All in all, I would advise a visit to Vindolanda to anyone. Given a nice sunny day, it's a good place for a family outing on a weekend. I saw people having a picnic close to the car park and then making their way through the reception building to see the fort and museum.
Vindolanda is also connected with the Roman Army Museum which is a few miles to the west along the wall and so can offer a combined ticket to both places at a reduced price.