Hadrian’s Wall has been there quite a long time. It’s even been a World Heritage Site for 30 years now! Yet we’ve never got around to visiting any of it. Isn’t that scandalous? We planned to rectify that a few weeks ago, and made a start by visiting Birdoswald Roman Fort. We were hoping to have made another visit or two before we wrote about it here, but our family being what it is, nothing ever goes to plan! Cal made herself extra poorly by increasing her activity a little to give her heart monitor something to look at. Then both boys managed to injure themselves doing sports. Not to be outdone, I managed to fall from the top of our loft ladder!
So, first of all, we missed the event with the Roman Soldiers at Chesters Roman Fort, but English Heritage kindly said we could attend Birdoswald instead, where another Roman Soldier was performing a historical re-enactment. If you are interested, there are whole trails you can take along Hadrian’s Wall, stopping by some fabulous historic forts and other interesting sites along the way. Many of these sites are managed by English Heritage, and they have a wealth of information on their website, which I found absolutely fascinating. The boys have learned a lot about the Romans at school, but we parents had to do some catching up!
There are other websites with information about Hadrian’s Wall too. We enjoyed the list of 30 things to do to celebrate 30 years of having World Heritage Status, on the Hadrian’s Wall Country site.
So, back to Birdoswald –
at the moment it is undergoing some refurbishment so the exhibition area is not available, but the lovely cafe is open, and the rest of the wonderful site. There are other sites nearby, and although Birdoswald is classed as being in Cumbria, a drive along the A69 towards Newcastle gives plenty of opportunities to visit other sites of interest along the way. On the day we visited, there was a Roman soldier there, giving us an insight into life in Roman times. Another great example of English Heritage bringing history to life for us.
Birdoswald Roman Fort is the perfect place to see the longest remaining continuous stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. It also has such wide-reaching views, big skies, beautiful countryside. I was also really surprised that we could walk in and around everything there, and the boys could actually stand on the wall, run around, jump off it! I expected it would have been much more protected, but was pleasantly surprised.
I was also pleasantly surprised at my children. They weren’t just screaming around like little hooligans who had been trapped in the car too long. Yes, they were running and jumping, but also excitedly proclaiming what they could see.
“Look, this is where the drains were!”
“This is definitely part of the tower”.
“This is a great lookout point!”
“I can see the gate, that’s definitely the main gate!”
They were using their imagination, and their knowledge of history and of the Romans, to put together the pieces they could see and make sense of it all. Excitedly and informatively. I was so impressed! Then we used the information given on the display boards to confirm what they had found, and add more to it.
I must admit, I did wonder what young children would make of ruins. Would it just be a pile of stones to them? But thanks to their prior knowledge, filled in with information on site, they were engaged and interested, and very excited indeed about what they could see. They were really respectful of the history of the place, and really appreciative of how important it was.
A sudden change in the weather made for some interesting photos and moody skies…
Even if it did turn our Roman solider’s lips a bit blue (and our own – at least he had a cloak on!)
We would highly recommend investigating some of the Hadrian’s Wall sites, especially if there is an event available such as a visiting Roman Soldier to give more information and add to the atmosphere. We had a great time at Birdoswald Roman Fort.
So, don’t forget that Hugo has a brilliant post about how to make a Roman Shield. Now, we need to make more crafts in appreciation of the extra history facts we have learned! Hugo is going to show you how to make a Roman pot, and Toby might even be persuaded to show you how he made some Roman coins at school…
With grateful thanks to English Heritage for providing us with entrance tickets to this event. As usual, all opinions are honest and entirely our own.
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