Hadrian's Wall stretches for 73 miles between Wallsend in Northumberland to Bowness in Cumbria, the greatest of all the Roman structures in Britain. Nearly 2000 years old, it took six years to build and kept the barbarians to the north from invading for over 250 years.
Nowadays it's a World Heritage Site, recognised for its international importance as an evocative monument to one of the world's greatest civilisations.
Northumberland National Park
Richard Uridge travels along the wall to find what made it home to the occupying army all those years ago, and what makes it home for people in the 21st century. Curiously, he discovers a common theme - writing.
The Roman soldiers garrisoned along the way came from many different countries, 22 nationalities in all, ranging from Syrian to Dutch, Iranian, Iraqi, German, Swiss, Moroccan and Hungarian, although in time more and more British were co-opted. At Sandysike Farmhouse near Brampton, Richard discovers this international theme continues today, as he joins a Renga Workshop.
As today's Renga Master, Alec Finlay explains, Renga are poems composed of linked verses, written communally, on a specially-built platform. It's a Japanese tradition which, like haiku, holds a deep appreciation of the natural world.
The poets meet for a day and a finished poem is 20 verses long. Today's session is organised by Steve Chettle as part of the Writing on the Wall project - an international creative writing and public art project which links with the local communities living along the original line of the Wall.
Writing on the Wall Project
But writing about the wall is nothing new. Even before the wall was built, Roman soldiers stationed at this outpost of Empire were corresponding on little wooden "postcards" and at the fort at Vindolanda, Richard meets archaeologists Robin and Patricia Birley.
Their life's work has been the exploration of this fascinating site, and especially the amazing glimpses of Roman life the wooden tablets give. The first one they found was from a soldier asking someone to send a parcel of socks and underpants - the first time anyone realised that such underwear featured in a Roman wardrobe. There are also party invitations, thank-you letters, and requests for forgotten items like hunting nets to be forwarded on.
It's these human touches which, Robin says, constantly surprise him in one way, but remind him that we have not changed all that much.
Back in the 21st century, Richard meets Jon and Jane Monks. Neither of them are local people - Jon's a Lancashire shepherd who's worked around the world, and Jane came from Merseyside when they married. Now home is an isolated cottage where they're bringing up their two small children.
Jane says the area is "beyond bleak" in the winter, and they've often been cut off and without power. It's still an area where people stay near their families, but that's changing. What has traditionally held people together in the area - a knowledge of the land, be it as farmer, or shepherd, or landowner - is now disintegrating, and money is the new way to judge someone's social status, not class.
But the Monks say it's absolutely now home to them and the children, they say, were the key in being accepted - the school is now the hub of the community. And Jon brings the writing theme bang up to date - he publishes a Shepherd's Diary on the internet!
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