When asked about Britain I am invariably asked about Hadrian’s Wall and have I been there. Well until today, my answer was I plan to visit one day.Today I changed that answer to “yes I have and I visited Housestead Fort, the best preserved Roman fort along the remnants of the wall”.
As days go the weather was pretty ordinary. We left Hexham and its Abbey headed for Housesteads said to be “just round the corner”.
Grey and misty to start with sun trying to break through. Then we got onto the B6318 from Wall and the mist descended as we followed a swaggering hay truck obviously overloaded and sneaking along this back road. Then there was a sudden lifting of the mist and the visitor’s centre appeared suddenly before us.
Inside the centre we learned two things, one, that the fort and museum were some distance from the road and the centre and, two that part of the road we had just driven on once formed part of the wall. As this was winter and we were the only visitors at the time we were given the privilege of driving into the museum car park. It meant we had to pass through a cattle gate and drive a meandering road up to the museum and the fort.
The museum is small but includes a video presentation of the fort and diagrammatic reconstructions of fort as well as a short history of its use and decline. Following the video we walked up to what was formerly the South Gate an into the foundations of the fort, its barracks granary and other buildings. From the North Gate I could view the wall running east and west and view the undulating landscape watched over by centurions 1900 years ago from my same position. The fort must have seemed a real barrier and threat to the tribes of the north.
There is not a lot to see unless you can imagine the buildings that once sat upon the foundations. But equally there is a lot to activate your imagination. After walking around I made my way to the south east corner and lowest point of the fort to view the roman latrines. Placed at the lowest point to gain downward flow (old saying “Shit flows down hill”) of water and waste the latrines were impressive in the mastery of the design to move the waste with gravity and running water.
Time was against us doing further exploration as we were due in Inverness that evening – some 5 to 6 hours driving and the weather had turned decidedly against us.