Vindolanda, Week 2

In week two we were moved from the North Field over to the main site.


Tania and I were put on an area that hadn’t been fully excavated the week before, on part of a road. Tania quickly found another road surface below, from an earlier fort. She was set to work excavating this.

James was not far away, excavating part of a drain:

In that photo he is tunnelling under a capstone, that was used to cap the drains. Most of these are now broken or gone. The drains would probably have been lined in wood as well.

I spent the first day rather puzzled as I couldn’t find any of the lovely smooth cobblestones Tania was uncovering. Instead what gradually appeared were a series of large rocks in a row. It turned out I had hit a lower portion of the drain James was excavating.

Some finds from the drain:
A lovely piece of glass. You can tell it’s Roman because it has bubbles in it. The Romans hadn’t figured out how to get air bubbles out of glass. This would have come from the bottom of a vessel, a cup for instance. I also learned that the reason we don’t find much glass is that unlike pottery, when glass broke, the Romans recycled it!

This is from an iron blade of some sort.

This was definitely the most I managed to pull out in a single day. The large piece of pottery in the lower left corner is from a mortarium, a mixing bowl with grit stuck in the inner surface to aid in grinding food, like a mortar and pestle.

One of these is a nail. One is an eye pin. Can you tell which?

Tania had some impressive finds from the road:
Green glass bead.

Part of a bronze crossbow brooch.

On the final day (which was also the final day of digging for the entire year) James and I had a big push to join our trenches together, and Tania tried to get her road to the edge of the ditch.


And believe it or not, we made it:

Now I really want to sign up for the first week of next year’s dig season so I can pick up where I left off! There really is something completely addictive about digging. I learned a lot about myself and my abilities and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect to enjoy the experience as much as I did, but I loved every minute of it, and can’t wait to go back. I even had my eye on a house up there, if only I had the money to buy it!

The Valley Connection

For dinner one night we went to an Indian restaurant called The Valley Connection in Hexham. It was right next to Hexham Abbey so had lovely views out the window.

The menu boasted that the restaurant was one of the top 10 Indian restaurants in the UK. I took that with a pinch of salt. It contained your standard Indian fare with a selection of slightly more innovative dishes. So I decided on the Tandoori Trout:


It was excellent. We also had a starter of onion bhajis, a side of channa dal and shared a Peshwari naan. The bhajis had the right amount of crunch and the spices in them tasted wonderfully fresh. The chickpeas melted in our mouths. My first bite of naan was from a thicker part of the bread and actually contained some uncooked batter, but the rest of it was divine. It was the best Indian food I’ve had in the UK (that’s counting Tayyabs, where I finally went last week). If that was in the top 10, I’d quite like to seek out the other 9 now!

Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Allen Banks is a National Trust-owned property not far from where we were staying.  One day after digging we went there for a walk, and did the Woods Walk.  This was through woodland planted in Victorian times by the local lady of the manor to provide some pleasant forest walks.  She built several summerhouses in the woods.  Unfortunately none of these survive, but one has been completely recreated from photographs:


Another day I got up at 6am to go for a sunrise walk. The north end of the Allen Banks property was a short walk across farmland from our holiday cottage. There was lovely light for taking photos.






The last photo is looking out from a very narrow promontory, with steep drops either side, and the sound of the river roaring deep below. This led to the ruins of a medieval fort, brilliantly situated for defence. The fort was never attacked and the only reason it is ruined is because the stone was used to build a manor house.


A couple of days later I went back in the evening with Tania. The evening light was very different: