One of my favorite things about Field School is taking group pictures all over this amazing landscape. Usually the Western flag makes it in but sometimes not. Alex and I are the photographers so sometimes we’re not in it, but we’re always close by. Here are my favorite groups shots, with some guest appearances by others (Roman soldiers, deans, supporters, Excavation directors…).
Here’s the crew on day one on site. I love this picture because everyone is so full of expectations for the next 6 weeks. They’re sitting in the principia (headquarters building) inside the 3rd century fort on site. You’ll notice that everyone is very bundled up. It wasn’t just getting used to the weather here–our first week on site was absolutely freezing! England was having the coldest spring in 40 years when we arrived here, but as you have seen from the photos that quickly changed. However, day 1 was well and truly frigid!!
Equally eager to get going (and equally as cold) we took our first long hike from the Roman fort at Birdoswald back to Cawfields Milecastle and our accommodation. Here we have just left the fort and we haven’t hiked more than 200 feet yet. I think this is why everyone looks so darn chipper!
Several miles and many hills later (but nowhere near done) we came upon the 13th century medieval castle of Thirlwall. This is where we get the name for the next 15 miles of Hadrian’s Wall sitting directly on the ’9 Nicks of Thirwall’. These are the crags that we are about to hike up and down, up and down, up and down. Appropriately we took a needed break at the castle and enjoyed some medieval architecture for a few moments.
One of our very early hikes around the local area surrounding our accommodation brought us up to a small fortlet called Haltwhistle Burn. This provided us a unique opportunity. It is notoriously difficult to photograph Roman fort ditches because the camera just doesn’t capture the depth and length of these amazing Roman features still so prominent in the landscape (I like to say the two most prominent periods visible in the lanscape are the Romans and….the ice age). Below everyone is standing inside the ditch ranged up and down the slopes to make more visual the depth and angle of the ditch. I’m standing down inside the bottom of the ditch to get a better perspective.
This is hands down my favorite picture with the Western flag. One of our early field trips took us to Chesters Roman Fort. We were quietly minding our own business (i.e. standing on the side of the Roman soldier display wondering if we were too old to try on all the gear) and, the legionaries invited us in help ourselves. Well, you didn’t have to ask us twice! Everyone joined in with a variety of Roman gladiator and soldierly outfits (some more authentic than others–one of those looks suspisciously like a Cyberman from Dr. Who). Before we knew it we were learning to have sword fights and defend ourselves like Romans. We had to be dragged out of there!
The day trip to the Lake District is the most stunning, awe inspiring day one can imagine. Challenges were certainly faced here and everyone won! Here we have driven about half way up the Hardknott pass on our way to the Roman fort standing in the most unbelievable location (but oh so very Roman). Everyone has traversed across the boulders to look back toward Alex and I standing on another outcrop of bedrock. I don’t think I have to say much more here, the image speaks for itself!
The end of the Lake District day ends at the Bronze Age stone circle at Castlerigg. Again, not much needs to be said to emphasize the beauty of this spot! (you might want to click on this one to see it in all its glory).
The trip to Edinburgh can’t really be done justice in words or pictures. But there are some good ones that might help! To get to Edinburgh we take the scenic route over the old Roman road known as Dere Street (now the A68). There are forts along the way (naturally) and amazing medieval abbeys and castles. At the border between Scotland and England there are these large stones marking the line between the two countries. You can imagine the fun we had here! In one country one second, another the next!
The Border Abbeys at Melrose and Jedburgh are also amazing, so we went to both. When we got into Jedburgh we thought it would be a fabulous idea to look for Latin inscriptions built into the walls and make our way up to the balcony in this spectacular spot in the abbey. No sooner did everyone get up there and it started to absolutely downpour! Everyone up there was just fine, but Alex and I were completely soaked!
The last thing we do on this drive home from Edinburgh is stop at a terrific Roman site called Trimontium (modern Newstead). This was a fabulous Roman fort that had some extraordinary finds back in the late 19th-early 20th century. Dozens of pits were filled with material (the reason is still debated) such as shoes, wagon wheels, altars, pottery, tools, and more. All this is in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and is the highlight of our days in the city itself. Here we are standing in front of the field that once held the fort at a (modern) altar marking the spot of the large ancient settlement.
Well, I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many fabulous photos all at once (and it’s getting late on my end ;). I’ll put up more of my favorite group shots soon. And don’t worry–I promise I’ll give everyone a final report from the trenches before we go. The excavation is going strong for one more week and I’ll be sure to let you know what’s been going on.
Bye for now!