Classics Visit Hadrian’s Wall

10 students, 4 days, 800 miles, 2 beaches, 7 forts, 5 museums, 1 wall = 1 very inspiring trip.

These were the vital statistics of a successful and enjoyable trip to Hadrian’s Wall, during Activities Week. Ten girls from the Lower Sixth signed up to get better acquainted with the Northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire, and the archaeological works that deliver the most amazing understanding available.

On Monday, after a brief stop in York for lunch, an opportunity to explore the historical evolution of the city, and also experience a potential University destination, we arrived in North Shields and enjoyed a relaxing evening visit to the beach. On Tuesday we took in the changing landscape of Tyneside, from the Roman frontier to the industrial heartland of ship-building and coal-extraction, and now the post-industrial rediscovery of the local heritage, by visiting Arbeia (South Shields) and Segedunum (Wallsend) Forts. This was then juxtaposed with the stereotypical image of Hadrian’s Wall, with an excursion out to Housesteads Fort and a walk along a very exposed section of Wall.

Wednesday saw us venture out onto the wilds of the Wall again, visiting the incredibly well-preserved baths at Chesters, the Mithraeum at Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) and then, the jewel in the crown, Vindolanda. After a talk from one of the archaeologists, we explored the site and the museum housing thousands of finds; we then had the opportunity to see the excavators’ finds of the day (a leather shoe, and a leather meat-hook, complete with bone!). A trip to the Roman Army museum helped us to visualise the context in which Hadrian’s Wall was built. 

Having stayed over in Carlisle on Wednesday night, we ventured to the Western extreme of the Wall at Bowness, before heading South into the Lake District, to find Hardknott Fort, the highest and most remote Roman fort in Britain. One minibus made it over the famous Hardknott Pass, at 393m elevation; the other admitted defeat, amid a cloud of clutch-smoke.

We could not have asked for better weather, or a better group of students to take on the trip. I hope that this trip has further inspired them for their University applications, and given them a greater appreciation of the Roman impact on Northern Britain.

Ben Tanner

Head of Classics