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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

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The Stanegate

The Stanegate toward Vindolanda on a foggy morning


The StanegateThe name was coined in the Middle Ages, meaning simply "stone street" in northern Middle English. Nobody knows if the Romans had a name for it. is among the earliest Roman roads in Tynedale. It was laid out probably about AD 80, decades before the coming of Hadrian's Wall. It stretched from Corbridge in the east to Carlisle in the west. And it ran (and still runs) right by the north gate of Vindolanda. In fact, pre-Wall Vindolanda is often described as part of the "Stanegate frontier."

Like many Roman roads in Britain, there are sections of the Stanegate still in use today. Most every digger and visitor has set foot on it. That long, arrow-straight road sloping ever so gently toward the fort? Stanegate, first laid out as layers of well-packed gravel and cobbles more than 1900 years ago. Sadly, most diggers' experience of this ancient road ends there. Which is a shame, as exploration of this landmark is well-rewarded.


Your first encounter with the Stanegate is likely the first time you turn in toward Vindolanda from the Once Brewed road. Don't miss the stump of a Roman milestone right after you turn in. It stood to its full height, inscribed BONO REIPUBLICAE NATO ("to him who was born for the good of the state"), until the early 19th Century, when a farmer chopped it down to make a field gate. Further down the lane, before reaching the Vindolanda carpark, you'll pass a thatch-roofed cottage to your left. This is the 17th Century Causeway House, the last remaining cottage of the half-dozen that once surrounded the fort -- and the only cottage in Northumberland still thatched in traditional heather. (It's now owned & run by the Landmark Trust, and is available for weekly rental.)

Stanegate
(OS map provided at multimap.com)
Stanegate milestone behind Vindolanda museum

Behind Vindolanda's museum, the Stanegate runs by the only intact Roman milestone left in situ in all of Britain (a must-see). Most visitors take a moment to have a look. And this is usually the last of the Stanegate that they ever see.

The trouble is, near the point of the milestone behind the museum, the original Roman road is lost for about a quarter mile. The lane leading to the eastern carpark and Barcombe Hill is modern, and the Stanegate probably veered to the northeast through the field. This disconnect leaves most visitors thinking that's all there is. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. The Roman & modern roads rejoin at Crindledykes lime kiln, a short walk from the museum. Just walk past the carpark to the dead-end and turn left. Within a couple hundred meters you'll reach the kiln and rejoin the Stanegate. From there, the modern road runs eastward directly on top of the Roman road for miles, a little-known ancient ribbon tucked behind the tourist routes, connecting hamlets and villages now just as it has for centuries.


A trip down the Stanegate to the east will take you past Crindledykes Farm, where in 1885 five complete milestones and two fragments were found togetherThey were discovered when the farm owner was doing drainage works on his field; all five lay right next to each other up against the Stanegate, at almost exactly one Roman mile from the standing milestone behind the museum.; past ancient fields still showing their distinctive medieval (and earlier!) field patterns; and past more remains of Tynedale's 19th Century industrial boom.

Eventually the road will lead into the village of Newbrough ("NEW-bruff"), with its lovely churchyard, town hall, and pub. Beyond that lay Fourstones -- said to be named for four Roman altars set up as boundary markers. One of these stones was used in 1715 by Jacobite sympathizers as a place to send secret messages and packages. Fourstones also has a pub, the "Railway Inn," a miner's memorial featuring a refurbished pit-shaft wheel, and a quirky wooden church built and paid for by a missionary in 1892. Newbrough and Fourstones were the center of rich 19th C industrial activity in the region, producing coal, witherite, slaked lime, sandstone/limestone -- and paper! Today the Fourstones Paper Mill, opened in 1763, is the last survivor of this industrial past.

Newbrough's past extends farther back than the Industrial Revolution. It held at least one Roman fort during the time of the so-called "Stanegate frontier" before the Wall. Unlike Vindolanda, Newbrough's fort seems to have been abandoned when the Wall was built, and nothing is visible today. Still, it's a reminder that layers of history abound in this ancient landscape.

Stanegate

Stanegate near Haltwhistle Burn

The Roman Stanegate is lost east of Fourstones, where the modern road bends southward toward Hexham. But that's still not the end of the story for modern explorers. Beginning again at Vindolanda, the Stanegate can be traced west through much of its journey. It exists less as metalled roads and more as earthworks, but in places is still quite prominent. To the left is a picture from Google Earth showing the road as it approaches another of the "Stanegate frontier" forts at Haltwhistle Burn, a great place to explore, and easily reached just three miles west of Vindolanda.

It's no surprise to any Wall visitor that traces of the distant past are still visible in today's landscape. But finding just where & how those traces turn up -- that's part of the fun and adventure.

The Stanegate can be enjoyed via foot, bicycle, or car, to your heart's content. Happy exploring!

OS Map of Stanegate around Vindolanda

Map courtesy of multimap.com


References:
Mid-Tyne Community Trust

Page created by Harold Johnson