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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Got maps and gladiatus


Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood whatever the weather. This post is from Nicola

Thanks to the National Trail Guide of Hadrian’s Wall Path the fit members of the Baird-May legion (ie, not Pete) are walking east to west (keeps the sun and possibly wind behind you though the rain is intermittent) along Hadrian’s Wall. The girls picked up short swords known as gladiatus after being inspired by the amazing remains at Chesters – a cavalry fort which is now run by English Heritage but very appropriately hemmed in by a stud farm. To keep in the Roman mood Nell and I chose a Roman Adventure (one of the Oxford Reading Tree titles or for those more familiar with these books, the one where Chip and Biff take pizza and banner advertising to the Romans) for her to read out to me while waiting for the bus which is named as well as any pub quiz team – AD122 (ie, the year the wall was “born”).

At first we were studying our big walk route closely, but there’s no need. Hadrian’s Wall path runs beside this World Heritage site and whenever the wall remains disappear (at times you can see its course for miles in the distance), and the southern vallum (ditch) or northern ditch has collapsed there are well way-marked with finger posts. Now we look at the views, look out for Roman legions, runners, gladiators and the forts which pop up ruinously fast in this region – there’s Chesters, Housesteads, Once Brewed, Vindolanda, etc. Nell is in charge of choosing picnic spots as she needs refuelling on the half hour, but then again she is only six and we are expecting her to walk a long way. As I keep telling her “Vi et virtute”. This is the only Latin motto I can recall and I like to translate it as by “strength and courage”, but am happy to be corrected by anyone who studied Latin in preference, say, to geography.

Best Roman museum so far has been at Chesters, and not just because it celebrated Victorian finds by John Clayton, and was adorned with a bat (apparently there are at least 200 more under the eaves). Here we saw buckles and broaches, carvings, pillars, reliefs, a leather sandal, snaffles and horse-laming equipment. But the best story-telling took us to 383AD at Housesteads where the Roman administrator, and one day-to-be-Emperor, Magnus Maximus and a high-class Celtic woman, Valentia, (on the town council, running the inn, collecting the taxes etc) showed us around the infantrymen’s fort with enormous verve. Nell was shocked to be told she might be sold as a slave. In contrast Lola was intrigued by the idea that her “potential” made her surprisingly valuable and of course she already has the assets of being young, able to cook, sew, knit and has a decent set of teeth.

When we’ve had enough the girl gladiators hail the bus with a flourish of their gladiatus (I’m sure it should be gladiati) and we rattle back to Hexham. After learning to cope with the exorbitant Lake District bus fares the Hadrian’s Wall Bus (which also have guides on the 10am service) seems fabulously good value - #8 for returns for one adult and two children; and on Mondays if I spend seven quid on a rover the kids go free… http://www.hadrians-wall.org/ or see Hadrian’s Wall Info Line on 01434 322002. With such a tempting offer you can guess that we will be walking this Monday, whatever the weather.

romans

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