Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Or, With weather like this, why on Earth didn’t the Romans just go home‽

(Or see this as a full-screen slideshow.)

We followed the advice of our friend (and Erik’s college Latin teacher) Timothy, who recommended Housesteads Roman Fort, as the most complete remains of a Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall. The section of the wall here is in fine shape, and you can walk alongside it for miles if you wish. We did not do so, but explored the remains of the fort, which consists of the bases of the old buildings (barracks, guardhouses, supply rooms, cisterns, and latrines) and a wall of the fort. Several locals were there for their daily walks with their dogs, very used to the presence of the ancient site.


Regarding the photo with the sheep: though some choose to believe that our word barbarian comes from a Latin word for “bearded,” it actually is derived through Greek from Proto Indo-European *barbar-, which itself was imitative of the sound of nonsense (“bar, bar”). Regardless, Hadrian’s Wall seems still to be doing its job against the barbarians.

I wouldn’t have missed this stop for the world, but we got here at the tail end of the day, having spent really quite too much time at Abbotsford. As it was, we got caught in the beginnings of a long steady rain (see especially the next-to-last photo). At last, though, we found what I thought of that night as the Last Homely House — not to sleep, alas, but at least to sup.


Borders, Reavers, and beacon hills

Borders, Reavers, and beacon hills

So of course when one travels south from Scotland to England, one travels over the old border between Scotland and England. We did this at a place called “Carter Bar.” An informational sign at the site reads in part:

The Carter Bar, once knows as “Rede Swire”, has a long and eventful history. Roman legions invaded after A.D. 79, building “Dere Street” which passes 5 miles (8 km) east of here. They subdued native British tribes in various campaigns, before pulling back their frontier to Hadrian’s Wall.

Years later, ancient poetry recalls the southward march over these hills of King Mynyddog’s warband from the Gododdin tribe. These Celtic warriors fell in heriod destruction by a great army of invading Saxons at Catterick (Catraeth).

Trychant eurdorchog
Gwneddgar, gwaenog,
… Tru, nid angorsant,

Three hundred gold-torqued warriors
fearsome, splendid in action
… Alas, they did not return.

Tribal boundaries switched regularly for centuries until the Galeic (Scots) army of King Malcolm III decisively beat the Anglo-Saxons (English) at Carham-on-Tweed in 1018. The Border then assumed more or less its present position, confirmed by the Treaty of York 1237.

The death of Alexander III, King of Scots, in 1286 led to three centuries of savage Scottish-English conflict, with frequent wars and invasions, continuous raiding and general anarchy in the Borderlands. A Scots army passed this way in 1388 to the great Battle of Otterburn.

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
Into England, to drive a prey.
… And he has burned the dales of Tyne
And half of Bambrough shire;
And three good towers on Redeswire fells
He left them all on fire.

This was the era of the Border Reivers, or “moss-troopers”, lawless families raiding back and forth with scant regard to lives, property or even kings, who placed the frontier under the ineffective control of the “Wardens of the Middle March”. A meeting of the Scottish and English Wardens in 1575 occasioned the last fatal Border skirmish, The Redeswire Fray, on the slopes to the east of this spot. The Unions of 1603 and 1707 finally brought an end to military conflict between the two countries.

No, not those Reavers.

Right on the same site, there was a basket atop a tall pole, by which another plaque read:

The Beacon, Carter Bar

This beacon, constructed by Engineering Students at Borders College, was part of a chain of Beacons erected and lit across the United Kingdom to mark the advent of the Single European Market.

The Beacon was lit at midnight on Hogmanay (31 December) 1992, by Councillor Mrs Myra Turnbull, Provost of Roxburgh District Council.

There has been some controversy as to who lit the beacons — now, perhaps, we can put it all to rest.

(Or see this as a full-screen slideshow.)