Friday, 24 January 2014

Happy Mithras, everyone      January 24th
With rain promised in the afternoon it was decided to have a walk near home and we chose to walk from the village of Warden to the world famous Hadrian's Wall and visit the Mithraeum at Brocolitia.
There are seven of us out today, Ben, Harry, Dave, Brian, John, Ray who has not been seen for a while, and me. To get to the start of the walk take the A69 west from Newcastle and a couple of miles past Hexham turn right at the sign post for Warden. A map is advisable, OSOL43 Hadrian's Wall and the church in Warden is at NY913664.
The church of St. Michael, patron saint of Marks and Spencer has ancient origins, the west tower predating the conquest (1066)..The transepts are 13th century much much of the remainder is 18th and 19th  century. A good deal of the older part of the building is constructed from recycled Roman blocks.

                          St. Michael and all Angels, Warden 
The walk:
We left the church, where we had parked, and walked  back down the road in the direction which we had come, until eagle eyed John spotted the footpath on the right hand side that took us alongside the railway for a few hundred yards before  turning right and climbing north across muddy fields. The official path continues on the west side of the Laverick Plantation but we took the opportunity to turn north east across two fields to examine  the fort on Warden Hill.
               Sheep, safely grazing on the remains of the fort
                Look carefully, you can just see the banked up earth
                  of this iron age fort.

And  a circular depression that could have
been a hut.
having examined the fort we headed north west to rejoin the official path. It is difficult to make out but the path crosses the Stanegate, Roman service road across northern England.
Coming to a minor road we turned left and then right at Tilesheads Woods to follow  a road heading just west of north  until ,after about a mile we followed the finger post  north west that brought us out onto what is usually called The Military Road. Parts of this road were built in the 18th century when history was not important and bits of it cover the wall but not here.  We crossed the road and joined the Hadrian Wall Path, a long distance footpath that, not surprisingly, follows the Roman wall from west to east, or vice versa if you prefer. 
 The Vallum, a ditch dug on the south side of the wall
A section of the wall itself, carefully reconstructed, but not to the
real height.
We followed the line of the wall, or more correctly the ditch dug on the north side, until we reached Limestone Corner, where we called a Herbie Spot.
Packing after lunch in the ditch. The Romans found it difficult to dig the ditch here and left  some rocks for future use as picnic seats.
Lunch today included several treats again, flapjacks from Witney in Oxfordshire, ginger biscuits from Ben's in Killingworth and individual Bramley Apple pies from Sainsbury's. None of us have lost the Christmas overload, no wonder.
Lunch over we continued west before crossing the road and heading for the Mithraeum at Brocolitia.
Long before Christianity became the official religion of the empire, the Romans had a good choice of gods to follow, and Mithras was popular with soldiers. 
Mithraism originated in Persia but spread throughout the Roman Empire. Mithras himself was born from a rock and was fond of sacrificing bulls. His adherents had small subterranean temples built for their ceremonies which, unfortunately were kept secret on pain of death probably, although it is known that there were seven  levels to work through and there was a special handshake!Most members of the cult were men, although my classicist adviser tells me there is some evidence that a few women were involved. Probably making sandwiches. Does this seem familiar? Did they roll their trouser leg up? It is reckoned there were 480 temples in Rome alone; "Just off to see the lads Calpurnia," "OK Justinian, don't be back late pet, and watch out for that Marcellus, he's a bad influence and here's the larks tongue pie I promised."
 Votives at the Mithraeum, money and a hippopotamus, although my classicist advisor tells me it is more likely to be a bull. Someone cruelly said it was obvious what type of person visited. The offerings remain .
 The altars. These are copies, the real ones are in the Great North Museum in Newcastle along with many Roman artifacts.

                      The Mithraeum at Brocolitia. (Reconstructed)
                      Not as friendly as a Christian altar scene.
Mithras slays the bull, a snake drinks the blood and the sun god watches.
From the temple we headed east to join the footpath south across several boggy fields and stretches of moorland.
Along the way we passed what looked like a dacha. In the yard were two ancient tractors, a change from the almost ubiquitous John Deeres.

Real Tracotrs
Crossing a footbridge we passed Newbrough Hall and turned right to walk uphill to Prudhamstone House.
Sculpture at Prudhamstone.
Shortly after this house we  were back on the same track as we started  and followed it back to Warden.
The village has a pub, the Boatside, and we were made welcome. Nice bit of extra business, seven thirsty men although the drivers were very well behaved.
Another successful walk, and when we left the pub it was raining!

The Matrix MMXIVD
                                                   steps                 miles
LIDL3D                                    29947               13.47
HiGear                                       29291              13.8

Dave's 3D                                  28807               13.25
Dave's USB                                28256               14.27

Brian's GPS                                                           13.2
Ben's Bragometer                                                 13.25
Unfortunately I forgot to switch OUTDOORSGPS back on after Herbie Spot but what a collection of results. I will claim 13.2 miles

Gadgie Distance 43.4

Section 1

                                      Section 2
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