In the year 122 the Roman Emperor Hadrian, as part of his bid to secure his empire with fortifications, ordered the building of a wall across northern Britain with forts dotted at intervals along its length. Much of the wall, which came to be known as Hadrian's Wall, remains today, and it is the most visible reminder of Roman Britain. In 2003 a National Trail was unveiled which follows the route of the wall, starting from Wallsend in the east and ending at Bowness-On-Solway in the west. Those who have toiled along the trail, braving the windswept northern uplands that the route passes through, will no doubt feel a growing sense of achievement on reaching the shores of the Solway Firth at Drumburgh, from where it is only around four miles to journey's end. Drumburgh was the location of Concavata, the penultimate fort on the wall. Hardly anything remains of the fort today, although the sharp turn taken by the Carlisle to Bowness road in the centre of the village follows the outline of one corner of the fort.
Bowness-On-Solway, which marks the end of the National Trail, was the site of a fort called Maia. This fort was particularly significant for its role in guarding the entrance to the Solway Firth. The site was originally occupied by a milecastle made of turf and timber; Hadrian's Wall had a series of numbered milecastles along its length, and the one here was number 80. The fort which replaced it was first built of timber, then it was rebuilt in stone, and it was the second largest fort on the whole wall. Some of the local buildings have Roman stones in their structures, for example the Norman church of St Michael, which is believed to lie on the site formerly occupied by the fort's granary. More details about the fort can be found on this website about Roman Britain. Aside from the wall, the other big draw in Bowness is its extensive sandy beach and its birdlife, which can be found in the dunes, salt marshes, shingle beds and peat mosses of the area, which is part of the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Species include oystercatchers, plover, dunlin, godwit and redshank among others.
Map of the area.
|St Michael's Church. Photo by John Lord, via Wikimedia Commons|