Archive for July, 2016

Staple Island

Staple Island

My second trip to the Farne Islands was to spend a short time on Staple Island to see the seabird colonies nesting on the cliffs. I had never visited this island on previous trips, so this was a new experience. The most numerous were Guillemots but also nesting were Shags, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmer.

Kittiwake with young

Kittiwake with young

Guillemots

Guillemots

Eurasian Shag with young

Eurasian Shag with young

Razorbills

Razorbills

But undoubtedly the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to photograph Puffins at close range as they popped in and out of their nesting holes.

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Wonderful experience as I have only ever seen one or two birds at a time even when visiting Inner Farne.

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Guillemot [sp] (Uria aalge)
Razorbill [sp] (Alca torda)
Atlantic Puffin [sp] (Fratercula arctica)

Inner Farne Lighthouse

Inner Farne Lighthouse

The Farne islands lie off of the Northumbrian coast. Once the home to monks and hermits, it is now a nature reserve and managed by National Trust.

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Sue and I took a boat trip around the islands and got great views of the seabirds nesting on the cliffs and the Seals basking on the rocks.

Atlantis Puffins

Atlantis Puffins

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Eurasian Shag

Eurasian Shag

Guillemots nesting on Cliff Top

Guillemots nesting on Cliff Top

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)
Guillemot [sp] (Uria aalge)
Razorbill [sp] (Alca torda)
Atlantic Puffin [sp] (Fratercula arctica)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)

The collection of altars found at Corbridge speaks to the diversity of the people who lived there and of their religion.

A remarkable triple devotion to Jupiter Dolichenus (a Syrian Sky Deity); Caelestis Brigantia (a diety of the local Brigantian tribe) and to Sulis (Goddess of health)

A remarkable triple devotion to Jupiter Dolichenus (a Syrian Sky Deity); Caelestis Brigantia (a diety of the local Brigantian tribe) and to Sulis (Goddess of health)

 

Juno (3rd century)

Juno (3rd century)

 

Hercules and the Hydra. Hercules was revered by many soldiers

Hercules and the Hydra. Hercules was revered by many soldiers

 

Jupiter

Jupiter

 

Minerva

Minerva

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

It is unclear when it started to develop but by 200 AD a substantial civilian settlement had developed around the legionary base. By the fourth century the military function of Corbridge had declined and many forts and bases were abandoned, but places such as Carlisle and Corbridge continued as civilian settlements. After the Romans left at the beginning of the fifth century the use of urban settlements began to decline as in the cultural vacuum that followed people returned to an agricultural rural based economy.

The Corbridge Lanx, Roman decorative metal work. Replica (original in British Museum)

The Corbridge Lanx, Roman decorative metal work. Replica (original in British Museum)

 

Corbridge Lion

Corbridge Lion

 

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

 

Decorated 4th century beaker

Decorated 4th century beaker

The later Saxon and subsequent medieval settlement was founded a mile east of the Roman town. There are records which show that the Roman site was known. Stone was used in later buildings including Hexham Abbey  and a record shows that King John came to the site in 1201 on a ‘treasure hunting’ trip although it also reports that he found nothing but stone. More scientific records were made in the 16th and 18th centuries. The first proper excavations took place in 1906-14 initially  under the be famous archaeologist, Leonard Wooley. Major excavations took place from 1947-74 and revealed much of what is visible today. A further excavation took place in 1980 before the building of the new Museum on the site and in recent years further excavations have continued to reveal new parts of the site.

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Corbridge is a small town, 25 miles inland from the North Sea along the valley of the River Tyne. To the west of the modern town is the site of Roman Corbridge, 2 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall. The impressive remains that are on display are only the central area of the settlement consisting of the military sector, but aerial photography has shown a much more extensive settlement surrounding the base. It’s location was at the junction of Stanegate (the Roman road running from Newcastle to Carlisle which had formed the definition of the northern border of Roman occupation prior to the completion of Hadrian’s Wall) and Dere Street (running north from York).

 

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The Roman army arrived in Northumberland around 70AD following the Brigantian rebellion in AD69. The first activity at Corbridge seems to date from the first excursion into Scotland by Julius Agricola and the site of the original fort lies a mile to the west of the later settlement. The victory of Agricola at the battle of Mons Graupius (? Near modern day Aberdeen) in 83 AD seemed to mark the successful end of the campaign but following barbarian invasions in the Danube region troops were withdrawn from Britain and the strategic decision was made to withdraw from Scotland to the original border and thus Corbridge changed from a supply base to an frontier post. At this time a new fort was constructed on the current site. There is an interesting interlude around 105AD when the Corbridge fort was burnt down and a number of other local forts were abandoned, suggesting perhaps that the Romans temporarily lost control of the area. However, the fort was soon rebuilt and at this time Stanegate was constructed.

Granaries

Granaries

The change in street level during Roman occupation. The coloumn bases were st original street level but later steps had to be provided to descend from street level.

The change in street level during Roman occupation. The column bases were st original street level but later steps had to be provided to descend from street level.

In 122AD the visiting Emperor Hadrian decided to erect a more visible frontier and work on Hadrian’s Wall commenced and Corbridge served as one of the major bases for the construction. This new function also resulted in a number of changes at Corbridge with new granaries and modifications to the principa building. Further expansions and modifications accompanied the campaigns into Scotland by the Emperor Antoninus Puis with the addition of many stone buildings including barracks replacing the previous timber walled buildings. However by 161 AD the campaigns had been suspended and the border once again became Hadrian’s Wall.  At this time evidence suggests that Corbridge had become a base for detachments from the 6th and 20th Legions (the majority of troops stationed along the wall were auxiliaries).At some point in the third century these were also joined at Corbridge by a detachment from the 2nd Legion.

Location for water tank feeding street fountains

Location for water tank feeding street fountains

 

Roman walls

Roman walls

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There is a wonderful museum at Vindolanda recording the many artifacts both military and civilian found on the site.

There is a large collection of boots and shoes

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Also artifacts from the units stationed in the fort

Remains of a chamfron for a cavalry horse

Remains of a chamfron for a cavalry horse

 

Weapons found on site

Weapons found on site

Evidence of the connection of the northern border with other parts of Empire and trade

Coins found on site

Coins found on site

 

Samian ware from Gaul (France)

Samian ware from Gaul (France)

 

Vindolanda

Posted: July 20, 2016 in History, Northumberland, Roman History, UK
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Aerial view of remains at Vindolamda

Aerial view of remains at Vindolamda

The first Roman activity on this site dates to between 74 and 85AD. Between these dates and the withdrawal of Roman troops in 410AD there were no fewer than 9 forts built on this site. 4 of these pre-date the building of Hadrian’s Wall in AD120s. These formed part of the open frontier based on the Stanegate road from Carlisle to Newcastle.  Later forts were associated with the garrisons on Hadrian’s Wall a mile to the north.

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The visible remains today are from the third century stone fort c213AD. At this time it was manned by the 4th cohort of Gauls (recruited in France).   At its height, it is estimated that the population of Vindolanda fort and its civilian settlement may have been 3000-4000 of which approx. a 1000 would have been military personnel. These would have been auxiliary (non-legionary) troops who served as the garrison for the towers on the wall.

Main Street

Main Street

 

Granaries  showing raised floor

Granaries showing raised floor

 

The items found in this building suggest it was a tavern

The items found in this building suggest it was a tavern

 

A house in the Vicus (town)

A house in the Vicus (town)

 

Recobstruction of woodern tower and wall

Reconstruction of wooden tower and wall

 

Reconstruction of stome tower and wall

Reconstruction of stone tower and wall

Interestingly unlike many other Roman forts the withdrawal of Roman forces and administration in the 5th century did not lead to an abandonment of the site and there is evidence of continued occupation into the 9th century before it was finally abandoned.

Barter Books Alnwick

Posted: July 19, 2016 in Northumberland, Trains, UK
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Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick has a far-flung reputation, both  for the number of books on offer but also for its location in the old Alnwick station building. The station was built in 1887  and served a branch line which ran from the main line at Alnmouth into the town. For such a small branch line it is an impressive station. This was because it was used by royalty visiting the Dukes of Northumberland at nearby Alnwick Castle. It was closed in  1968, but thankfully the fine station buildings were preserved and can be enjoyed today whilst browse amongst the racks of books on offer.

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Naturelog: Alnmouth

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Northumberland, UK
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Bridge across River Aln

Bridge across River Aln

Alnmouth is a wonderful coastal village in Northumberland. It is situated on a spit of land bounded on one side by the River Aln as it makes its way down the sea and on the other by the North Sea. One of my favourite walks here begins at the bridge where the road crosses onto the spit. From here it is a pleasant walk down the river.  In previous years (May in 2014 and April in 2015) this has been very busy with birds as they made their way to their breeding grounds, but at this late time in the season it seems much quieter. A large party of Mute Swans can be seen along with parties of Greylag and Canada Geese. Grey Heron can be found in the reedy edges and a single Oystercatcher can be heard calling. The river is usually a good place to see Eider but on this occasion only a single female can be found sitting on a grassy peninsular.

River Aln

River Aln

The Estuary

The Estuary

At the end of the spit, the House Martins are nesting on their usually houses and swallows join them in feeding over the dunes. A small group of Herring Gulls were present on the far bank of the river outflow.

The marsh pools

The marsh pools

The Beach

The Beach

Returning via the sand dunes, a pair of Meadow pipits keep a close eye from a post. No doubt they have young somewhere in the dune grass. On the marsh a Coot and a Moorhen are feeding along with Crows and Jackdaws. Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin and Wren provide the morning serenade from the trees.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Eider [sp] (Somateria mollissima)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)