Friday, January 11, 2013

Christmas adventures - The Great Wall

On the Friday before Christmas, we awoke at 4am to the brutal sound of an alarm. Even with sleep-fogged brains, it didn't take long for us to realise that it was our alarm - the alarm reminding us that we needed to get out of bed and get on the road for a 6.5 hour drive to Scotland. I even fell down the stairs in my rush to get out the coffee equipment (Possibly a better wake-up call than a hot beverage?!?!).
This would possibly be our last Northern Hemisphere winter so I had decided we needed a good, cold Christmas to remember the occasion. Scotland seemed just the place - with December daylight reaching a mere six hours per day, and a weather forecast for freezing temperatures, we happily booked a holiday home right beside the Moray Firth with that all-important feature - a fireplace.

Adam's workmates warned him that with school having finished on Thursday, Friday would be extremely busy on the roads so we should get started early. 2am early. We poo-pooed that idea, and compromised, shutting the front door at 5.40am. Traffic wasn't bad, getting a little busy before Manchester but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. By 3pm we were getting a little antsy and I decided we needed a history/nature break - luckily Hadrian's Wall was close by.

Construction of the Wall began in 122 AD under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was a defensive fortification that was 120 km long, running from coast-to-coast across modern-day England, and was (though it varied from location to location) around 3m wide and 5m high. Archaeologists think that gates along the wall may have served as customs posts where taxes would have been levied. 

Over the years much stone from the Wall was taken and used elsewhere. Luckily for the sake of history, lawyer John Clayton began a campaign of preservation in the 1830s. Clayton purchased land around parts of the Wall, and commissioned workers to rebuild sections of it. Since Clayton's death, the National Trust has acquired land beneath the Wall, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

We enjoyed clambering respectfully onto a section of the wall, and then exploring around an English Heritage  site beside. The Birdoswald Roman Fort/ Hadrian's Wall Study Centre has seen major research excavations carried out, and looks like an exciting place to visit when open ( 

Formerly food-storage areas
Areas of recent excavation
It was a cold, rainy afternoon and it soon began to grow dark. When another downpour arrived, we thought we'd better carry on and make our way to Scotland so we waved goodbye to Hadrian's Wall and made a run for the car. 

I have a strong childhood memory of a time my family took a holiday to Tekapo. I really enjoyed the car journey down through the Mackenzie country, and it was a real highlight to see the fences with shrivelled carcasses on them - I thought they were dead stoats or weasels. (Feel free to correct me if you know more about this practice). Once I'd seen a few, I began to count them and proceeded to count every carcass on the way down to Tekapo. (Guess it was better than fighting with my brother) (Though I imagine I managed to do that at the same time...). Anyway, I was chuffed to see this fence on a farm in Birdoswald, as we were leaving Hadrian's Wall, so I stopped the car and took a picture. It was epic. 

I felt right at home. 
Until I got a bit closer and saw what the wee creatures were. Can you tell?


The strange things that amuse some people, eh? After snapping these shots, I got back into the car and directed my chauffeur to head for Scotland: land of kilts, cabers, and prehistoric lake-dwelling monsters.

1 comment:

  1. Well sis, in the McKenzie its usually rabbits on the fences, there may have been the odd stoat or ferret thrown in. one always fought with ones sibling and will forever blame the other for starting any fights (something about your stuff on my side of the car).
    Love hearing about all the history you guys get to experience (almost makes me want to take a trip).