The Roman Wall
Northumberland’s greatest treasure, for most people, is the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall, which runs east to west from Wallsend on Tyneside to the Solway Firth, with most of its best preserved remains in Northumberland. While none of it (apart from a specially constructed piece at Vindolanda) reaches its original height of 16 feet, it remains an impressive feature, the largest piece of Roman architecture still in existence anywhere in the world.
Construction was started on the Wall at the command of the emperor Hadrian 1900 years ago, and took about six years to complete. In addition to the wall, there are extensive excavated remains of associated military encampments and townships at Corstopitum (near Corbridge), Housesteads and Vindolanda, all of which can be visited.
Archaeological work is still actively being conducted at Vindolanda, with some fascinating exhibits on display in the museum at the site. The image above of the granary at Housesteads shows the support blocks which allowed air to circulate under the floor of the granary, helping to keep the grain in good condition.
Much of the Wall passes through fine scenery, especially in the section between Housesteads and Greenhead, where the Wall surmounts the whinstone ridge that traverses the county with cliffs overlooking Crag Lough.
Visiting the Wall is a fascinating experience the year round. Standing where sentries once patrolled, eyes skinned for signs of marauding Picts, one is taken back into their world of long ago. A letter on a wooden tablet in the Vindolanda museum, from the wife of a high -ranking officer inviting her sister to a birthday party, is just one of many objects that bring the past vividly to life.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is a national trail of 84 miles and has become very popular since its introduction in 2003, offering a seven-day hike along a mostly level route. from Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway.