Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Rollicking Roman Round-Up!

Guide to the Photos:1. My fellow volunteer, Michael, holding up the replica milestone (just kidding) at Vindolanda and myself (OK enough photos of know what I look like now...)
2. Another fellow volunteer, Lynn, snapping away at Vindolanda
3.Patricia Birley, Director of The Vindolanda Trust, Curator of the Chesterholm Museum, opening the Evening for the Friends of Vindolanda (June 26th pm)
4.Justin Blake, Deputy Director of Excavations, Vindolanda (June 26th pm)
5. Roman Soldier (June 26th pm)
6. Dr. Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations at Vindolanda (June 26th pm)

A lot of things have been happening lately and I've realised that if I don't write them down now then I'll forget what's going on...

At a recent meeting it was decided that the volunteers would start their tours around Vindolanda at 12.30pm until 1.30pm. We then zoom over to The Roman Army Museum to do our stint at 2pm until 3pm. The archaeologists also do a 2pm talk most days at Vindolanda as to check the website and reception for further details. We may do extra tours as and when we can during mid/late September. (Our tours start around 16th/17th July and finish at the end of September. We do a further week - in the October half term week.)

The second annual Hadrian's Wall Archaeological Forum took place a week yesterday at Hexham's Queen's Hall and was well attended. All the speakers had us spellbound but the ones whose talks stood out (at least for me anyway) were: Justin Blake on his update of finds at(yes that place again) Vindolanda during 2009, Tony Wilmott, English Heritage, who talked about his discoveries at the Roman Cemetery at Birdoswald Fort and Richard Annis, Durham University, who talked about a bit of Hadrian's Wall which his team had unearthed in Melbourne St. Newcastle (now underneath a hotel but well preserved) and the BEMCO site in Newcastle where stone sarcophagi had been found (again by his team). Richard's memorable term was that of "body sludge" and which Latin term I discovered (by complete accident) is: adipocere. "When a body decomposes, it gradually turns into a waxy substance called adipocere." (From a recent quote/article in The Sunday Times featuring Alistair Pike, Head of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University about the granddaughter of Alfred the Great.)[adipo = fat cera = wax]

We also had a returning guest stay with us especially for the Hexham Forum shindig and it was very nice to see him again.

This last extremely sunny week we've also had two Vindolanda diggers (plus another returning digger and his wife) staying with us. They had a whale of a time and really enjoyed themselves. They were working on Justin's section so we got a tiny update of what was taking place there prior to last night's annual Friends of Vindolanda Open Evening where the two archaeologists: Andrew Birley and Justin Blake explained (as they do each year) what they had uncovered in the year to date. Patricia Birley started the proceedings with an update on the exciting plans for Vindolanda and The Roman Army Museum. She announced that both sites will be closing on 1st November 2010 and would then be reopening in Spring/Easter 2011 in their new incarnations. A brand new 3D film of the Eagle's Eye is to be shown in The Roman Army Museum. Many attractions are planned for both sites including the coming home of some of the Writing Tablets from The British Museum to Vindolanda.

Very many of the Friends turned out for the talks. The weather stayed incredibly bonny and we all meandered down to the Museum at the end for wine and Roman culinary delights.

Before I forget this last thing...I'll mention it now...Channel Four are showing a documentary about the African Roman Emperor Septimius Severus entitled "The Untold Invasion of Britain" at 9pm this Thursday July 1st. In AD207 Severus decided to sort out the tribes and lands beyond Hadrian's Wall with disastrous consequences...

I'm also off to the Arbeia fort in my hometown of South Shields to do some digging on Wednesday. All supervised and above board of course!!!!

Vale for now! Hadriana :)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Life of Hadey

(Hadriana in the spotlight!)

(Danger sign at Cawfields Quarry...where the quarry mining cut off Hadrian's Wall beside Milecastle 42.)

I confess! I've now got my mojo back. What on earth does "mojo" mean?

According to it means:

1. Self-confidence, Self-assuredness. As in basis for belief in ones self in a situation. Esp. In context of contest or display of skill such as sexual advances or going into battle.
2. Good luck fetish / charm to bolster confidence.
3. ability to bounce back from a debilitating trauma and negative attitude

I'll definitely go for all those particular going into battle(!) and point 3...ability to bounce back from a debilitating trauma and negative attitude.

Last year (2009) was most definitely our "annus horribilis"...a very rum they say. A very kind priest, who was staying at the B&B, uttered a few prayers for us. Those prayers must have worked because 2010 is turning out to be a super year!

I could give you a list of things that did not go well for us but I guess...what the heck....that's just life! You have to take it on the chin. Given how bad things actually were at one point it all made me surprisingly chipper. It forced me to wake up and smell the coffee. I've decided that I enjoy being me and loving all the people who surround me. I've largely forsaken loving things. I like Yann Martel (The Life of Pi author)'s attitude that it is only that which can easily be put in a rucksack that is truly worth treasuring.

The B&B is going so well that we have been booked out since the beginning of the season. And that 90% occupancy figure is still keeping strong. Long may it continue!

We are building up our stock and getting our reputation known. We feel that we are putting down some long lasting roots and slowly, slowly, slowly becoming part of the community furniture. It will take some time purely because that's how it is in the countryside.

I stress less about Stuff now. The Egyptians have a good word for it "malesh" which equates to "Let it be" : Amen to that! We'll get there in the end...The small Haltwhistle house is still on the market but I think...fine. We are lucky having two houses. Everything will sort itself out in due course. No sweat.

These are the good things about becoming older = growing up but staying young (in outlook). Learning to enjoy the moment (she writes with the sun beaming down outside). Trying to become wise. Being more patient with oneself and others. In a word (or rather three): Enjoying Being Alive.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Headless Romans Stop Press!

Check out the following:

COULD YORK’S HEADLESS ROMANS BE GLADIATORS?York Archaeological Trust is throwing down the gauntlet to would-be archaeologists to see if they can solve a puzzle that has sparked debate about human remains unearthed in York almost a decade ago.

The Trust will launch a website next week – – presenting all the evidence and inviting members of the public to make up their own minds
“Another potential interpretation – that they are all criminals – appears to be undermined by the substantial respect (and grave goods) with which many of them were buried.”

“This is a fascinating discovery that gives a real insight into the world of interpreting archaeology,” says York Archaeological Trust Chief Executive, John Walker.

“With archaeology, you are very rarely dealing in the definite. There are almost always elements of ‘possibly’ and ‘probably’ and the archaeologist’s job is to weigh up the evidence and make an informed judgement on the most likely explanation.”

For your chance to look at the evidence and make your own decision, visit from Monday 14th June. ‘Gladiators: Back From The Dead’ will be shown on Channel 4 on Monday June 14th at 9.00pm.
For more info:

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Four Wynds' Tales

[Photo 1] This is the view looking northwards to Longbyre (it means long or tall barn) taken a few days ago. The countryside is extremely green hued and fantastically luscious at the moment.

[Photo 2] This sign points out the course of The Pennine Way leading to Haltwhistle Golf Course (which is at Greenhead/Longbyre).

[Photo 3] Followed by a walkway, created by Northumberland National Parks, through the little wood and stream at Longbyre.

[Photo 4] This photo is taken looking westwards towards Gilsland and the North Ditch which I have been convinced (for ages) was the Vallum. North Ditch does not sound as grand as the "Vallum". "Fossa Septentrionalis" is a bit of a mouthful when all is said and done!

[Photo 5] This last photo was snapped this morning over at Walltown Quarry when we fed the ducks. They enjoyed the mist, drizzle and nosh. (And that was just the children.)

These pictures are all taken around/near our B&B, Four Wynds. Let me tell you of some recent tales:

An Argentine planned his trip to Hadrian's Wall this Summer using Facebook for over one month. He decided to walk the trail from West to East. A Chinese lady planned her trip for over one month using Facebook. She elected to walk the trail from East to West. Both arrived at their chosen B&B one night and went online using the free wi-fi facilities (shameless plug). The Argentine logged on and wanted to touch base with the Chinese lady whom he'd befriended through Facebook. "Where are you?" he asked her. "At a B&B called Four Wynds." She replied. "So am I" he immediately typed back. They, then, came downstairs and embraced much to the amazement and amusement of my husband.

Last night also staying with us was the following: an Australian (over 60s) table tennis champion; a Scottish guy (4th from top in the over sixties national (UK) swimming league) who is coaching the lady who is running the whole of the Pennine Way - 268 miles in 7 days! (For more info go to: That means she is running a marathon and a half each day. They, very gladly, rested their sore feet. Hubbie also got to chat to some other sporty guests who had dived in Hurghada, Red Sea, many, many times. (Hurghada was Hubbie's old stomping ground. He was SO happy to reminisce.)

Last weekend a lady stayed with us so as to meet up with her walker friend who was doing John O'Groats to Land's End plus a chap who walking the same route from the opposite direction. By coincidence they landed up at the B&B that same night.

In May as I drove around the area I twice met Swasie Turner and his Royal Marine comrades who were out collecting money on his behalf as he wheeled himself along the 108 mile route. Apart from all the money Swasie is raising for charity he will also be reporting back to Sustrans who is responsible for the cycle routes in/around Hadrian's Wall and beyond. He will say how wheelchair friendly the route is. Should make for some interesting reading no doubt! Read more about his endeavours here and here.

This all goes to show what a small and incredibly interesting and cosmopolitan world we live in. And very happy we are so to do!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Coastal Cumbria Cares

Our sincere thoughts and hugs go to the bereaved families who live along beautiful coastal Cumbria.

Not much has been written in the press about Whitehaven, itself and the coast. It is seventy miles away from where we live on the Northumbrian/Cumbrian border.

Whitehaven has an annual thriving international festival centred around a Jazz festival. Read about it here.

Read about the coastal towns of Cumbria here and here.

The Romans in Lakeland here.

As you can imagine the whole area is still in shock at what happened during most of last Wednesday.

Cumbria - as much as Northumberland - is largely a crime free area. Communities are very close. Families still live cheek by jowl. The local papers usually struggle to find is usually about leek shows, animal shows, steam rally shows, tourism, children going to school for the first time and having their photo taken. Perhaps the odd fight does occur after too many drinks taken.

It is true that something horrendous has happened in our midst...but bad things go on elsewhere in the world too.

I've lived in a few cities in the UK and abroad and I'd plump for living in the country every time. People are friendly. I walk down Haltwhistle high street and everyone smiles and says hello. That never happened when I lived in the poshest areas of London.

Last week someone had left his car keys sticking out of the boot of his Jaguar. I happened to notice this as I was reversing my car (again this was on the high street of Haltwhistle). I didn't know what to do. Though not for one moment was I going to ignore the situation. Chances were that no-one would steal the car even if I drove away. I decided to pop the keys into the florist just by where the car was parked. The florist was more than happy to look out for the driver to hand over the keys on his/her return.

People help other people. When I was out one day with my two little ones our dog escaped and ran down to the local burn (stream). Two families immediately came to my rescue.

Cars stop to let farmers herd their stock across busy and quiet roads. There is no road rage.

People stop and chat to one another in the street. So even I have to remember to allow plenty of time to do our shopping and getting petrol...people take time to talk to one another. And that same process applies to me now even as a newcomer.

Yes...there is gossip and people do grumble. But most of all they care.

When you read the newspapers over the weekend...think about the families affected...just going about their normal day to day lives...this will have an effect for generations to come. Nevertheless those families and communities will pull together to get through all of this. (After all, they've survived pit disasters, world wars and much more besides. Even the rise and fall of the Romans...) Indeed they truly are the strong, warm and heroic ones...