Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Birdoswald Burning Beacons with a Blip and a Blast

Anita's beacon up from West Gate opposite me - West Interval Tower within the Fort of Birdoswald (Banna)

The Moon Rose in Distance Wonderously (towards the South)

Managed to get good photo (without flash) of three beacons (Ann& David - at the South gate, (Left Beacon on Photo); David - at the SW angle tower (Middle Beacon) and Anita (Right Beacon) - at the West interval tower

Looks as if I am praying to the Gods - thanking them that my beacon lit OK
The full moon and Derek's Beacon - he's at the SE angle tower

Tom hiding behind his beacon - he was positioned at the East Gate (No.1 beacon in the sequence of lighting up at 10.12 onwards)

Derek and Tom at Tom's beacon

Derek and myself at Tom's beacon

You can see the remains of the East Gate beside Tom's beacon

Is it working? Have the Reiver midges gone yet?
Re-enactors warming up the crowd before the beacons are lit up


Members of the viewing public prior to the lighting up. The English Heritage buildings are in background

Looking towards the South with the fort walls beginning on left hand side


Looking at where archaeology has taken place - the posts represent where there used to be a great feasting hall after the Romans had left (possibly) or maybe they were still there. Was this the home/hall of a great tribal chief? Could it have been that of King Arthur? The West Gate was in use until the 15th century

Lots of sheep milling around, leaving their tell tale signs and calling to one another e.g. "What on earth is going on?"


There was a fabulous sunset....




Derek, Ann and David - Volunteer Hadrian's Wall Rangers and
 Derek is also  a volunteer guide at Senhouse Museum in Maryport

Looking towards Tom's beacon and set-up

The 19kg gas cyclinder is in place and not damaging any archaeology
The sheep are still wishing we would leave them in peace

Forgot to say that I am/was no.2 in the sequence of lighting up after Tom at 10.12pm and this is my beacon

I was based opposite Anita on eastern side potentially beside an interval tower

Yup! That's me


My beacon is lit and burning brightly and Tom's is in the distance


That's Derek's beacon and he had the Sky camera man behind him.We were on Sky Live News apparently

Derek's beacon again (sorry - without the flash - all my pictures tend to go blurry)

That is a beacon at Walltown Quarry in the distance on Hadrian's Wall In reality it looked more like a bonfire it was so bright

The night, itself, was absolutely fantastic. I wasn't sure what to expect when I'd be asked to volunteer at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee for lighting up the Beacons along several communities on Hadrian's Wall. I thought that I'd be at Housesteads Roman fort initially but got assigned to Birdsowald Roman Fort instead.

I was not disappointed! I got to light my own burner! Yeah! (At the Illumination of Hadrian's Wall March 2010 I got to light a flare which was exciting but this was even better...my own piece of kit!!)

At 7.30pm there were seven of us - "The Magnificent Seven of Hadrian's Wall Volunteers" were there at Birdoswald Roman Fort. Ann and David, David, Derek, Tom, Anita and myself. All artfully organised by Neil and Kerry of Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd.

Banna is Birdoswald's Roman name which means 'horn' or 'peak' which is a good name as it sits on a hill or promontory overlooking the river Irthing.

We all carefully assembled all the equipment in the designated areas within the fort...and we were careful not to damage any potential archaeological remains underfoot. If anything our main concerns were the midges, the sheep poo and would our beacons light up at the appointed time????

I nearly voted myself into pole position for lighting up at 10.12pm - our appointed time for lighting the beacons along Hadrian's Wall - at least at this fort...but given my propensity for self induced drama I thought not....maybe I couldn't get the blasted thing to work....?!?

So I opted for the number two slot...which would be nearer the viewing area where my husband, Nigel, and children would be. That was my thought process anyway.

Around the 8pm slot (before any crowds had assembled) we had a test run..........

No.1. Click....Whoosh....flame! Tom's beacon lit up - no bother.
No. 2. Me....Click.......I went with my clicker (yes...I HAD turned on the gas...I had checked, I WAS standing down wind, I WAS clicking in the right place), click, click, click, click, click, nothing, nix, nil, rien, niente, zilch...no flame whatsover. Luckily Tom ran over and lit up my beacon for me. I felt such a fool.....durr....the ignominy. Ye Gods! eheu! Alas!
No.3. Click...Whoosh...flame! Derek's beacon lit up - no bother.
No.4. Click...Whoosh...flame! Ann and David's beacon lit up - no bother.
No.5. Click...Whoosh...flame! David's beacon lit up - no bother.
No.6. Click....Whoosh...flame! Anita's beacon lit up - no bother.

Oh heck! Maybe my nightmares will come true after all..............? Will I be on camera nationwide, nay internationally, as the non-functioning beacon lighter?????????

We went to have a cup of coffee and a natter. I was asked by some members of the public....why wasn't there an annual lighting up of Hadrian's Wall? Yes...that would be nice...even if it was only every five years. It would be nice. We pondered.

I said hello to my nearest and dearest. At ten to ten we wandered back to our posts.

My kit very fortunately included two other lighters (they are the same kind as those ones you would use for lighting up your cooker/hob - that sort of thing). I found one which did work (or seemed to work). I thought about putting the other one on top of the gas cylinder and nearly did until the thought of self-immolation on camera in front of millions strangely began not to appeal...so I put my back up lighter/clicker on the wall behind me.

The minutes ticked down to 10pm, then 10.05pm, (I am NOT nervous I told myself. Nobody is watching and nobody cares!!), then 10.10pm and then 10.12pm arrived. Still nothing happened. "Tom? Tom? Why haven't you lit up?" I quietly called across...then the re-enactors got the whole crowd to start counting down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.....

No.1. Click....Whoosh....flame! Tom's beacon lit up - no bother.
No. 2. Me....Click.......I went with my clicker (yes...I HAD turned on the gas...I had checked), click, click, click,("Ye Gods!!!!!" pro Iuppiter! By Jupiter!)...Whoosh!!!!!............Hadriana's beacon lit up - no bother. (Huge sigh of relief.....insanum bonum, jolly good show. It did work after all.)
No.3. Click...Whoosh...flame! Derek's beacon lit up - no bother.

No.4. Click...Whoosh...flame! Ann and David's beacon lit up - no bother.

No.5. Click...Whoosh...flame! David's beacon lit up - no bother.

No.6. Click....Whoosh...flame! Anita's beacon lit up - no bother.

We then relaxed and started taking photos. We were entranced by a fabulous night sky in the distance. The Reiver midges stayed away (at least from me - euge! Hurrah!) and we witnessed the full white moon slowly rising above the trees near the river Irthing. And yes! there - miles and miles away lit up once again perched on the crags on Hadrian's Wall....another beacon.....

                             What a marvellous sight! mirabile visu!
                              mirabile dictu! How splendiferous to relate!

(And if you click HERE it should take you to an ITV clip of the beacon celebrations at Housesteads.)

8 comments:

Nota Bene said...

Fabulous...how wonderful to see...glitch or otherwise!

Maggie May said...

Wasn't the whole D Jubilee weekend exciting?!
Didn't actually see any beacons in reality but followed all the events in London on TV and our local happenings too.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Expat mum said...

Watched it on the local news. Fabulous! Well done!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Many thanks NB! :-)

I wy watched little bits here and there. We did a lot of Jubilee parties admittedly and they were all excellent. Glad you had a good time too! :-)

Thanks, expatmum, it was such good fun it really was ....sheep poo or no sheep poo!!!! ;-)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

BTW NB...I think you put a comment elsewhere on my blog which I haven't got back to.......Am still running around like a headless chicken but all comments very much appreciated. As ever! :-)

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The bike shed said...

Sorry - been away from blog so long. Book this autumn!

We thought of you the other day when we went to see the Roman Villa near Cirencester - fabulous mosaics. Even Dylan enjoyed it.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi the bike shed,

Do you mean Chedworth Villa? It is fabulous and we met some really wonderful people there. Sadly we went when they were renovating/conserving the mosaics so we must go back again some time.

We did see the museum in Cirencester and it is fab,fab,fab. Some great mosaics there too! Hadriana :-)