Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Stanegate

To fol­low the Stanegate is a jour­ney along two river sys­tems and across the water­shed of Eng­land. It is a geo­log­i­cal explo­ration with a strate­gic twist. This is a road that archae­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans have long want­ed to be a fron­tier. Its life as a Roman road began in the AD 80s, with the con­struc­tion of a Roman fort at Cor­bridge to pair with the exist­ing base at Carlisle (which we know from den­drochrono­log­i­cal stud­ies of its tim­bers was built in AD 72). 

Both Cor­bridge and Carlisle were on main north to south routes but now they were linked across the isth­mus by this new road. New? Almost cer­tain­ly not. Unlike most Roman roads, the Stanegate does not boast many long, straight stretch­es (although it has a few) and some bits are down­right tor­tu­ous. The val­leys of the Tyne and Irthing offer a nat­ur­al route across the coun­try and it is prob­a­bly pre­his­toric in ori­gin (it cer­tain­ly remained pop­u­lar after the Roman peri­od, as we shall see later).