All Roads Lead
to from Rome…..
Hardknott Roman Fort, Cumbria
At its height the Roman Empire stretched across Europe and over the greater part of Britain. Vast numbers of Soldiers, Civic Officials and camp followers were deployed and vital communisation links were established…the legacy being a network of roads we can still see (and in many cases) and use today. Hence the saying all roads lead to Rome….but maybe more accurately, away from Rome.
I have always felt rather sorry for the Roman Soldiers sent to Britain, in particular to our more northern climes as weather and temperatures must have been very different from the Mediterranean coast.
Roman progress across Britain can be traced not just by the many roads but also the many Forts and Military Camps the built along the way. One such Roman outpost is located on the top of what is known as Hardknott Pass, a high pass at over 8ooft commanding views over the Eskdale valley to the coast at Ravenglass an important supply port. The road this Hill Fort protects sweeps down on the opposite side of this Cumbrian mountain ridge to the Roman camp of Galava (today known as Ambleside).
It has to be a very hard life for those stationed at Hardknott Fort. Access on both side via steep zig-zag trails. Sunny days rare, windy conditions typical and rain often continual….then of course winter brought snow and isolated the fort. Bleak and lonely at the best of times
But Rome also tried hard to look after its army of occupation. Apart from being a defensive structure most Roman Forts and Camps did have ‘added’ luxuries, recreation buildings , dormitories and of course heated Bath Houses.
Hardknott was built between 120/130ad on the command of Emperor Hadrian. It was later extended in about 200ad. Only the foundations are visible today but well worth exploring. The main garrison buildings were (and still are) surround by stone defensive walls undulating with the rough and craggy hillside terrain. Though the later extension was built outside this wall.
Today the location still cannot be beaten for its extensive and wide views and on a good day it is easy to spend a lazy morning or afternoon. Its remoteness adds to todays charm but let the weather just turn a little, then you cannot but feel sorry for the lonely Roman foot soldier far from home.
(C) David Oakes 2017