It's no secret that we love Hadrian's Wall and we have already visited twice this summer with a trip to Walltown Crags during National Park's Week followed by our Hadrian's Wall trip with the Go North East AD122 bus. So when we heard about Hadrian's Wall Live, we thought it sounded pretty epic and would be the perfect way to end our summer.
In typical British style, it decided to rain! BOOOO! and due to a road closure we ended up being stuck in traffic so missed a few things including the Gladiator-Barbarian battle which I really wanted to see - next year we will definitely set off A LOT earlier and really make the most of the day. There were multiple activities running at the same time throughout the day so you would never get bored.
The day time part of Hadrian's Wall Live is held at Birdoswald Roman Fort (which by the way also hosts a fantastic kite festival - make sure you look out for this next year) which is just across the border into Cumbria. It's a lovely site and a very picturesque spot along the wall - somewhere I would definitely recommend visiting if you haven't before. There are toilets on-site and there's a small tearoom, shop and museum too. During the event there was an outdoor BBQ which smelled delicious!
First up, we watched a spot of Gladiator training and learned all about their weapons and tactics during one on one combat. We were divided into two teams and encouraged to cheer our soldier on. Although it was raining, the atmosphere was really very good and everyone was in high spirits.
This was followed by a Roman Falconry display in the arena which is always thrilling to watch. There were lots of chairs here too so we could rest our feet. As we walked around the field between arenas there were lots of places to have a nosey including a Roman surgeon, weapons tents and various traditional skills. There was a children's tent too were little ones could join in with craft activities. I think they were making their own shields as we walked past.
There were two main camps on either side of the wall. We were free to walk around these and soak up the atmosphere as we listened and watched the soldiers prepare for battle that night.
We listened and watched intently as we stumbled upon a lady making sausages in the traditional way. The soldiers in the camp over the wall had placed their orders and she had the task of making sure they were all fed. It was so interesting to watch and we also learned that it was the Roman's who invented cheese as they carried milk/cream in their hip flasks and as they marched along the wall it turned into cottage cheese. Who knew??
Whilst the sausages were cooking, we followed this chap over to the Roman camp........
The soldiers were relaxing and warming their feet by the fire, chatting and posing for photographs. It was fantastic and events like this really give you an insight into what life was like along the wall in Roman time - history was definitely brought to life.
After soaking up all things Roman, we headed over to the Barbarian camp. It is clear that the Roman's were very strict, regimented and planned ahead but the second you step foot into the Barbarian camp you could see things were different. The Barbarian's were far more relaxed and as they practised their archery skills with a wild boar Steve and I commented that they very much remined us of the Wildings in Game of Thrones. Steve has always been a fan of Roman History so will always side with them but if I had my way, I think I would have to choose team Barbarian - does that make me a traitor??
We ended our day by enrolling the kids in Roman Soldier training. The guys that ran this event were superb and commanded the kids' total respect. By the end of the session they were marching and chanting in Latin and had so much fun. If you watch my video at the end of this post, at the end Jack's laughter during the training is just the cutest.
We had such a fun day at Birdoswald and we really regretted not being able to make it earlier. We left at around 4:30 pm to drive along the road to Housesteads Roman Fort where the night patrol was taking place.
Housesteads Roman Fort - Night Patrol
The night patrol event at Housesteads ran from 5:30pm-7:30pm. This was our chance to immerse ourselves in a Roman camp as they prepared for battle. We were given song sheets to sing and were impressed by the costumes. There was a real sense of excitement in the air.
The night patrol event was an arena show so we all stood around a roped off section of the wall - this was different to the daytime activities at Birdoswald where you could wander freely. We found a spot and waited for the action to begin.
We arrived at 5pm for 5:30pm but found out the action didn't start until 6pm and it was raining. Boooo! Unfortunately, like a lot of kids their age, after a full day out in the rain my three started getting tired and whiney. We waited for an hour in the cold/rain and did catch the beginning of the event but then H, H and J started getting frustrated that they couldn't sit down as the ground was soaking wet (our fault - we should have brought something to sit on) so as the rain got heavier we made the decision to leave at 6:30pm and missed most of the action. I was really sad about this and I think if it had been dry, the kids would have been happier. Sometimes the great British weather just doesn't want to play!
Check out our video highlights as we take you around the Roman and Barbarian encampments and watch as the kids enrol in Roman soldier school:-
Overall, we had a FANTASTIC time at Hadrian's Wall Live and think if you visit one type of event like this next year, you should make sure it's this one. All aspects of Roman life were brought together in one fun-filled weekend and being able to walk amongst it all was such a unique experience.
Find out more via the Hadrian's Wall Live website
Disclosure: We used our English Heritage Press Pass to gain admission to the event but were not required to blog about our experience.