An early morning start gets us on the trail by 8:30 for our 42 km. ride. There are two major Roman ruin sites on our route today and after much discussion with other travelers we have decided to spend our time at the Roman Fort Museum rather than the archeological dig at Vindolanda. The early part of the trail has gradual uphill sections sweeping along the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall. We pass through ‘kissing gates’ and gates with ingenious yet simple mechanisms for ensuring self-closing after unthinking tourists pass through.
Kissing gate. Gate swings a short distance in an enclosed V allowing one person at a time to pass through but not an animal.
Finger tip pushes metal lever up so metal pin can move with opening gate. Pin falls down after opening.
Note the bottom hinge is fastened further from the post ensuring the gate is off balance and will ‘run to closed’ when left alone.
Yeah, yeah, I know… a lot about some stupid gates!!
The location of the Roman Fort Museum comes up quickly and we arrive about 45 min. before it is scheduled to open. The sign explains that we would have a long way to get back home if we were centurions from Rome and stationed here defending the fort .
A friendly park guide happens by and assures us that if we take a walk to a portion of the wall that is still standing from 122 AD it will be worth our while and when we return the museum will be open. We take her advice and are pleased with what we encounter. From the top of this hill we can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the organization, technical skill, manpower, military significance and architectural mastery that Emperor Hadrian must have possessed to have troops build this wall from coast to coast in 6 years.
This is a more modern labyrinth visible from the top of the hill. Varying colors are produced with over 15 species of willow trees.
This museum has some of the most digestible, stimulating, understandable, and informative displays that we have encountered. The 3D move was spectacular in it’s imagery, story line, information and engaging content. Highly recommended.
You can check out a trailer for the video courtesy of the museum HERE.
Many displays showed artifacts from the time and reproductions of what they would have looked like.
A chariot for crusing around town to show off your wealth.
Leaving the museum left us full of energy and ready to move with the centurions as we marched to the top of the hill. Now, it turns out this was quite a slog as we pushed our bikes and rode in low gear, in repetitive fashion until we reached Vindolanda. This is the largest and most complete of the Roman diggings along the wall. Time did not allow exploration of this area. We were told to allow at least 2 hours to see it properly. Here is an over view of the area from our road vantage point.
And a close up of people at the site.
Our map shows we have one more push to get to the highest point along the route and we are assured it is ‘all downhill’ from there. We can always see the top but you are never sure if there is another top in the distance. Is it possible these sheep are at the top of the world??
We came across some fields and after asking a local I discovered that it is barley growing in a more fertile area than closer to the wall where only sheep flourish. This land had sustained lots of cattle before BSE shut them down years ago.
Our next part of the ride was the longest sustained downhill portion that we have ever experienced in our cycling trips. We traveled at least 30 minutes and just occasionally had to apply some brakes to make a corner. It was a wild and fun ride leading us into Hexam and then we finished off coming to the PearTree Guest house in Corbridge where we are ensconced for the night.