The There Will Be Mud (and copious amounts of sheep sh*t) Autumn Exploration of Roman sites in northern England began in Leicester at the Jewry Wall. This high (13 feet) bath wall was in the centre of Leicester (Ratae Corieltauvorum) and was accompanied by a museum with artefacts from the site, including the Blue Peacock mosaic pavement.
We continued on to Lincoln (Lindum) to explore the various Roman remains around this beautiful cathedral town, including the Newport Arch, the only surviving Roman gate still open to traffic. Built in the 3rd century, this fortress gate spanned the Roman road now called Ermine Street.
Moving northward, we stayed in Piercebridge beside the River Tees and the site of a fort (Morbium) and rare Roman bridge remains. This is where the Roman road (Dere Street) crossed the Tees and travelled north. The area was the home of the Brigantes tribe of Britons. We also visited the fort in nearby Binchester, next in a supply line of forts along Dere Street going north to Hadrian’s Wall.
But the highlight of the northwest area was a day trip around the North York Moors National Park. Traveling along narrow, twisting roads through the purplish red moorlands, coloured still by the dying heather, we were in search of Wheeldale Road, a stretch of ancient road believed to be Roman. But on the map there was a dot labelled “Roman Fort” not far from where the road was supposed to be, which raised my curiosity. After exploring down a dead end road, we had almost given up when we passed by a tiny wooden sign that said Cawthorn Roman Camps.
We trekked out along the muddy paths, and were excited to discover the earthworks of THREE Roman fort-shaped camps covered in heather, grass, moss and ferns. The camps are located on a ridge overlooking a stream and the breathtaking view stretches out over the moor landscape into the distance – a perfect location for Romans keeping an eye out for unfriendly natives. It is always a delight to discover something I wasn’t looking for and didn’t know about.
Wheeldale Road was not very far from the Cawthorn camps so it makes sense that the road should be Roman. We had to drive over two fords of half a foot and a foot of water to continue on our journey over the moors, as well as dodge and chase Swaledale sheep along the road. Twisting our way down to the town of Grosmont we came to a ford of water three feet high, so we had to turn back and go around the long way.
Another adventure in search of Roman footprints that took me off the beaten path and rewarded me with a rugged and beautiful landscape.