Bardon Mill, Hexham, Northumberland
Vindolanda – what inspiration does this name conjure up for you, for me I can imagine Roman soldiers guarding their fort, protecting their families and communities going about their daily lives. There is such a unique atmosphere here with so much history to unravel and more yet to expose.
Throughout the centuries, this site has experienced nine forts built on top of each other, with the early structures comprising wood and turf. Soldiers from all over the Roman Empire, including Belgium, Germany and France were garrisoned here, with 800 men occupying this garrison all through the Roman period and constructed soon after Hadrian’s Wall was built. On site the remains of houses, shops, tavern and a bath house have been excavated.
A huge army of volunteers join professionals every year on site to uncover lost treasures. Wonderful artefacts have been unearthed, including wooden ink tablets – modern day equivalent of emails – leather shoes, combs, military equipment, tools and pottery to name a few – all of which can be seen at the on-site museum. The depository also exhibits Roman armour, two 2000-year-old Roman boxing gloves (discovered in 2017) and a wooden toilet seat! The learning centre has its own activities, encouraging spectators to join in – when hubby and I visited we were entertained by a modern doctor explaining ancient methods and medicines, absolutely fascinating.
Whilst soaking up the atmosphere of this historic place we mingled with the many visitors from around the world and had a lovely lunch sitting outside on the restaurant patio. Very nice food.
The archaeological excavations of the site show it was under Roman occupation from approximately 85AD to 370AD. Located near the modern village of Bardon Mill, it guarded the Stanegate Road, a Roman road running from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth. The first post-Roman record was made in 1586, unfortunately much stone stealing occurred causing damage to the site. Over the years several alters have been discovered and sadly removed, along with a part roofed bath house. This dig constantly changes due to the painstaking work that tries to unravel its mysteries.
Approximately 11 miles finds The Roman Army Museum, Brampton, based at the site of the Magna Roman Fort, situated next to one of the most complete sections of Hadrian’s Wall. Here you can immerse yourself in the life of a Roman soldier and learn about the expansion of the Roman Empire through audio and visual displays and a clever classroom with 3D film and showing holographic historic events whilst explaining what life was like based at the fort. Find out more about the great man himself, Hadrian and his amazing wall.
Buy one entry ticket and this will allow you entrance to both of the above sites. We thought this was great value and could have spent more time at both museums if we had the time. A stones throw from the army museum, you will find Walltown Country Park with fantastic walks and little café. Again, unfortunately we didn’t have the time to explore the park, but for a full day of exploring we totally recommend visiting these amazing places. Enjoy.