Hadrian’s Wall: Armchair exploring 3: Housesteads Hadrianic hymns, Hotbank hiking and Hipposandals

Yesterday we’d have had our traditional Maytime second trip of the year to Hadrian’s Wall.  We’ve done this trip many times with various itineraries — we sometimes include Vindolanda (when the bus remembers to go there 🙂!).  Usually this second trip includes the energetic Housesteads to Steel Rigg walk and the tranquil Chesters fort and bathhouse with its travel-back-in-time Edwardian museum.  A few snapshots from recent years:

Hymn to the Sun at Housesteads

Hymn to Sun largerCombined with our Housesteads visit in 2016 was a student performance of music by the emperor Hadrian’s court composer Mesomedes, directed by Dr David Creese, our ancient music expert, accompanied by Northumbrian smallpipes!
Rain was lashing down as we climbed from carpark to the fort, clearing as we set off for a short Wall walk before the performance, then vanished in a blaze of blue sky in good time for the singing!  Appropriately enough, our first piece was a Hymn to the Sun….

Hot(bank) hiking

…mind you, the Northumbrian sun’s frequent companion, brisk wind, was also along for the ride!  Even so, we’ve been lucky to have had so much sun on our Wall walks over the years.

Given the challenges of the switchback hike westwards from Housesteads & Hotbank Crags to Steel Rigg, a cooling breeze is usually welcome.  (I never can manage to keep accurate count of how many more ups and downs we have left to tackle….)

Hipposandals at Chesters

Chesters fort and bath-house in its halcyon riverside setting is an altogether gentler proposition.  We’ve been lucky to encounter there, in our time, a falconry display and snowy Roman re-enactment cavalry horses.  Who probably weren’t wearing these:

Chesters horse sandals

“Hipposandals: iron hoof coverings worn when travelling over very rough ground” (for which much of Hadrian’s wall would qualify!).  One of Chesters museum’s many quirky delights, of which another perennial favourite is the Roman ‘Scottie dog’ votive which would be quite at home in a Scottish Highland tourist shop…

Chesters Scotty dog

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