January’s Yarn Around Northumberland At Hadrian’s Wall

Border Ballad Scarf at Hadrian’s Wall

Welcome to the first instalment of our ‘Yarns Around Northumberland’

The plan was a good one, or at least a possible one. Lovely Stella Ackroyd had knitted our sample of her beautiful Border Ballad Scarf in our very own Yeavering Bell Aran, we had dyed it to our new ‘Centurian Red’ and we (Whistlebare’s family) were off to ‘Homesteads Fort’ on Hadrian’s Wall for a photo shoot.

Unfortunately, on the day in question, Mr Whistlebare and two Whistlebare boys were struck down with the lurgy. Despite this, I and No. 2 boy set off in freezing temperatures and rapidly diminishing light to get what pictures we could! As you can imagine the results were mixed so I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cleeve Langdon (IG cleeve_04_) for generously allowing us to use his amazing photos. Do have a look at his Instagram feed for lots of cracking images of Northumberland and Cumbria.

I would also like to thank No.2 boy (12 years) for being a chirpy star and taking lots of great photos despite his numb fingers. All photos of me were taken by Boris 🙂

So on with the story, or is it a yarn?

Hadrian’s Wall

“Just when you think you are at the world’s end, you see smoke rising

from East to West as far as the eye can turn, and then under it, also

as far as the eye can stretch, houses, temples, shops and

theatres, barracks and granaries, trickling along like dice behind….

one, long, low, rising and falling, and hiding and showing line of towers…

that is the wall. “

Rudyard Kipling From `Puck of Pook’s Hill’

On becoming Roman Emperor in 117AD, Hadrian set about making the Empire more secure. Built to defend the north-west frontier and to separate the Roman and Barbarian territories, Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles from Wallsend in the east to the Solway Firth in the west. The mighty Roman Army had conquered the Picts, to the North of the wall, but the wild Caledonian terrain made for difficult fighting and yielded little of value and so Hadrian decided his empire would not include Caledonia.

Hadrian’s Wall still sits well in Northumberland’s wild and rugged landscape, both can be bleak and are certainly imposing. It is still possible to walk the wall’s entire length and hear the echoes of the Roman Soldiers long past. Below is a poem from an unsent letter written by a soldier posted on Hadrian’s Wall.

I’m lonely here
the places I didn’t go
to defend this place
have given me a headache
for twenty years or so.

The underpinnings in gorse
tiny flowers of thyme
grow through it, these stones
have bled more blood than men
and yet I’m full of hope.

Its willow weaving time,
at Christmas we will decorate:
celebrate Saturnalia, drink
toasts to spill into the new year
hope for a changing of the guard.

The men it posted here
from Syria to Africa
who stood as sentry
through winter’s outnumbered days
wish you were here, and here, and here.

Thousands of men were garrisoned along the length of the wall in Turrets, Milecastles and the 16 huge Forts in which 500 – 1000 men were stationed. Some of these men were recruited locally but most came from the far flung reaches of the Roman Empire – Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Germania, Romania and even North Africa. Hence Hadrian’s Wall society was the beginnings of truly multi-cultural Britain. Of course, civilian towns grew up to support the garrisons bringing women, children, craftsmen and traders to the wall.

Hadrian’s Wall was occupied for almost three centuries. Today, at eighteen hundred years old, the wall may be a mere relic of its magnificent past, but it is still the most impressive monument to the Roman occupation of Britain and is well worth visiting when you come to Northumberland!

Our pattern for this month is the beautiful ‘Border Ballad’ designed by Stella Ackroydwith a pretty lace border and cosy warm garter stitch interior. Border Ballad is an unusual bow shaped scarf with a very clever wrapped top edge giving structure. Perfect for keeping out the cold winds of the border region Border Ballad is knitted from 3 skeins of our own Yeavering Bell Aran and the pattern is FREE with the yarn.

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