The wrong website

Apologies to the nice people I met at Guildford Book Festival today – the address I gave for Dr. Martin Weaver’s website (where you can see the other reconstructions of Dug) was WRONG. It should be Hope that didn’t cause too much confusion!

UPDATE, January 2009 – the photos of Dug’s “brothers” are no longer on the site but if you want to make a reconstruction for yourself, there are details of the next course Martin will be running at Madingley Hall.

Hadrian Revisited

Well we didn’t do too much walking, but I am now in a position to write the definitive guide to Hadrian’s Wall Teashops.

Hadrian’s been busy lately. He’s had a hotel in the village of Wall for years, but now he’s been starring in an exhibition at the British Museum whilst finding time to organise a footpath, tarmac his own Cycle Trail, set up a bus service and bake biscuits for the tourist shops. All of this is marvellous for those of us who want easy access and good facilities – altho’ in places he’s been the victim of his own success, and his footpath looks more like the scene in ‘Dances with Wolves’ where Kevin Costner surveys the brown swathe cut across the prairie by herds of migrating buffalo.

Speaking of Kevin Costner, we paid our usual homage at Sycamore Gap, famously used as a location in ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’. A photo will appear somewhere here eventually. This was the film in which the world discovered that Robin could walk from Dover to Hadrian’s Wall in an afternoon – a feat which surpassed even the Roman Army. Presumably there were no tempting teashops on the way.

Off to visit Guildford Book Festival tomorrow, then Chester Literature Festival on Thursday. Details are on the diary page. If you’re around, please come and say hello.

More fun than packing

I should really be stuffing things into a rucksack, but it’s much more fun to play with computers. Tomorrow three friends and I set off for a reprise of the first walking trip we ever did together: the central section of Hadrian’s Wall.* The good folks who live there have now installed a footpath all the way, so there’ll be no more dicing with death and fast cars along the sections where the paths used to run out.

There have been other changes over the last 14 years. Gone are the pre-walk planning meetings, the warnings from our families to ‘be careful’ (of what?)  and the intense discussions about whether or not to take a hairdryer (yes, this is an all-female expedition). Gone is the grim determination to carry ALL our stuff with us from one stop to the next. It seems that one’s willpower decreases over time, in inverse proportion to one’s ability to sniff out teashops.

Photos, should there be any in which we all look suitably windswept, will appear here in due course.

(*if either of the editors is reading this,  you should know that I WILL be working on the amendments to book 3 in the evenings…)

Now you see it…

What's left of the Roman fort at Ilkley

Here are the remains of the Roman fort in Ilkley, Yorkshire

….and now you see quite a lot of the rest of it:Ilkley Manor House museum, largely built with stone from the Roman fort

… re-used by medieval builders and currently housing the local Museum and Art Gallery.  It was a delight to meet many of the Friends of the Manor House last week. They were running an event in conjunction with the Ilkley Literature Festival.

In fact the whole town was getting in the mood – here’s a photo which doesn’t do justice to the display in the window of Betty’s Tea Shop:

Photo of Ilkley Literature Festival cake in shop window

It was a fun evening, due in no small part to the hard work of Mary Bentham, the Education Officer at the museum, who’s realised that the secret of drawing an audience is to offer food and wine in the ticket price. Here are some of the wonderful Roman snacks she created, based on recipes from Apicius and Cato:

Roman-style food on table

I’d never been to Ilkley before, but it’s well worth a visit. The Romans knew how to pick a good site. Looking north-east from the fort they would have seen this:

View of River Wharfe

…and looking south, they had a fine view of the famous Ilkley Moor:

Town with moor in background

Rock art stretching way back before the Romans has been found up on the moors. A short walk up there (certainly not without a hat, it was cold) revealed that the locals are continuing this fine tradition:

Names carved in rock on Ilkley moor

although somebody ought to tell Ronaldo and Jason (whose work will not be dignified here with a photo) that using a felt-tip is cheating.