In Roman times a basic marching camp could be built in less than a day – often by men who’d already carried heavy kit for many miles through hostile territory, and now needed somewhere safe to bed down for the night.
Building a Roman fort in the twenty-first century is going to take a little longer. These days, even big men with swords have to negotiate the complexities of land ownership, planning permission and Health and Safety. Besides, these men (and women) are aiming to create something much better than a rectangular ditch with a few tents inside it. Park in the Past have a vision of not only a full Roman military fort but an Iron Age village beside a lake, set in a beautiful area of the North Wales countryside that’s open to all.
It’s a hugely imaginative community project that’s working to give new life to a former quarry site near the aptly-named village of Hope, near Wrexham.
There’s lots of info on their website, and the site really is as stunning as their photos. It’s not yet open to the public but I was lucky enough to join a preview tour, and was bowled over not only by the potential, but by the way nature is already beginning to flourish, and reclaiming this former industrial site.
Some of the guiding lights behind the project are the people who run Roman Tours in Chester and the city’s annual Saturnalia shenanigans. They also organised my one and only close encounter with a Roman emperor a while back:
The man with the gold wreath on his head is Domitian, exercising the power of life and death over brave gladiators. He was aided by a lot of cheering and booing from the crowd.