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Monday, May 29, 2017

Ancient Stone Circle at Castlerigg, Cumbria


Castlerigg Ancient Stone Circle
 During our recent visit to Cumbria, England, after walking Hadrian's Wall HERE, my favorite experience was our visit the ancient stone circle outside of the town of Keswick, in the Lake District, where we stayed for a week.
Lake Derwentwater at the edge of Keswick
 
Map of the stones and their surrounding mountains at the site.
Older than Stonehenge, these stones sat encircled on this hilltop for thousands of years. 

After an April shower with more rain predicted, Jay and I drove up a narrow winding lane in early evening. As we'd hoped, few visitors were present - and then they left and we were alone. 

Wherever you turn are valleys ringed by mountains, the same view the ancients had. Because I have ancestors from this Border region of England and Scotland, perhaps the old blood of my blood had gathered here for pagan ceremony.

Over the valley rain returned and with it twilight.  And then was only the earth and the stones and the hollow sky.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Walking Hadrian's Wall


For many years I'd wanted to visit Hadrian's Wall that stretches from the North Sea about 80 miles to the Irish Sea through Northumberland and Cumbria, England. The Romans began building it in 122 A.D. to demarcate the northern edge of the Roman Empire. Built in six years, it really was a sort of status symbol to show the might of the Roman Empire. 
The Roman Wall at Steel Rigg
 At age 71 I figured I'd better do it soon, and so Jay and I flew into the Glasgow, Scotland, early one April morning, checked into a hotel, and the next morning drove a rental car a couple hours south into Northumberland.  I'd  studied the wall's  route on the Internet, zooming in for close ups, and decided we should walk the three miles from Steel Rigg to the ancient fort of Halsteads. This route was supposed to have the best views.

Jay starting the first climb
This trek isn't for the faint of heart.  The wall in this section goes up  a steep crag with a stiff breeze blowing.

I climb. A part of the wall is far below.


I'm nearly to the top, grabbing a rock in one hand, my cell phone in the other., my head band protecting me from the wind.

Jay and I at the top

Looking north from the wall
 And then we descended the other side of the crag to one of the small garrison forts the Romans built every three miles.  Rock steps without hand rails, what was I thinking.

The mile fort at Crag Lough

At least I didn't have to tote a backpack. Met these kids on my way down
I wear sandals so I can loosen their straps when my feet swell with walking.  Didn't the Romans wear sandals, too, marching along the Military Road near the foot of the Wall? And mine have treads.

Originally the wall was carefully built with dressed stones reaching about 9 feet high and three feet wide.
 We climbed another crag, following the wall, and got a nice view of Sycamore Gap, where Kevin Costner met Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.
Sycamore Gap from above


Sycamore Gap from the below
 After the Romans abandoned Britain in the 5th century, through the next sixteen hundred years the wall's rocks were looted to build abbeys, churches, castles, and farm houses.

Very old farmhouse as viewed from what's left of the wall in its yard
 Jay and I were pretty tired when we finally reached Halsteads.

Foundation of a Roman building at Halsteads

Remains of Roman bath house. They always elevated the floor on pilings so its sauna could be heated with warm air from below.
We took a few photos and then waited for the bus at the road for a ride back to where our car was parked. The driver dropped us off and we slowly plodded another mile up a lane to the parking area.  We treated ourselves to a fine meal at a nearby old inn and a soft bed in one of their rooms above.  And the next day, our feet feeling fine again, we tramped about a Roman Army museum. And so began our visit to north Britain.




Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Winter Activity - Raney Family Genealogy

I spent the winter obsessively researching my mother's side of the family, discovering that her roots stretched back to Colonial Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina - not just colonial, but very early colonial.  So I began a blog for my extended Raney family, recounting many of these ancestral lines. My husband Jay says only my family members would find my blog interesting. And he's probably right. Other people waxing upon their ancestors barely holds my attention. However, my ever-so-great grandmother, Jane Stephenson, who was captured by the Shawnee in 1792 in Kentucky makes for an interesting story. 

You can read it HERE