Sunday, 7 October 2012

retrospective holiday diary day 6: history and floods

Tuesday 25 September: the forecast was for rain, but it wasn’t raining where we were in the morning. So we decided to do Hadrian’s wall properly, then go back to Alnwick in the afternoon, to do the inside of the Castle, escaping the promised rain, then return to York in the evening.

So we drove off to Housesteads Roman Fort. The weather was on the edge of rain as we walked up to the fort from the road. There was light rain as we were walking around the fort itself (so we could imagine ourselves has horrified Legionnaires thinking: “and this is their summer!”), but it had stopped again by the time we were walking back down.

Housesteads fort, at the top of the hill, as seen from near the road
Apparently the wall wasn't so much to keep the ravening hordes of warlike Scots at bay, but more to control the crossing points so that they could be properly taxed on their way through to trade.  (Not quite such a romantic story, thought.)

Housesteads fort, from within
We were amused to discover in the on site museum the story that the Romans had originally started to build the wall with a sentry post at this point.  But then word came down that the plans had changed: tear down what you've done, and build a bigger fort instead.  So much for their fantastic planning processes!

I expect underfloor heating was very welcome
Since the weather was looking not too bad, we decided to drive up to Keilder water, and have a look round, before pushing on to Alnwick. It was a bit colder, and it was raining a bit again, but nothing too horrible.

Keilder water, and the end of the Keilder dam.  It's raining, but not that heavily.
So we stopped off at a café by the lake, to have lunch and plan the afternoon trip. The café had a large TV on the wall, which was showing the BBC news. Now, normally I hate hate hate TVs in cafes. But the news was … interesting.

Apparently, while we’d been having a lovely time, most of the rest of the country was flooding. Rivers were bursting their banks. The East Coast rail line was flooded and closed. The A1 was closed between junctions 49 and 60. And the waters were still rising! We looked at each other. “Let’s not go to Alnwick today.”

Instead, we headed “straight” back to York, via a dryer, less closed, route.

(left) our planned route from Keilder water, back to York via Alnwick:
the red oval shows the extent of the A1 closure.
(right) our actual route back to York: no roads closed, but a bit splooshy in places

We arrived back safe and dry at around 7pm.

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