Bright and early on Thursday 19th June a group of 33 Cheney School students from years 8 to 11 set off on an action-packed trip to Northumberland to visit Hadrian's Wall as part of the East Oxford Community Classics Centre's first residential trip!
We broke the long coach journey up by stopping for a few hours in Durham. Here students had a beautiful riverside walk leading up to the cathedral grounds where they ate their lunch. This was swiftly followed by a very informative lecture on Hadrian's Wall from Dr Darrell Rohl at the Department of Classics & Ancient History at Durham University. Darrell explained how a lot of what we think we know about Hadrian's Wall is actually quite conjectural, and talked a bit about each of the sites we were soon to visit. Students then experienced a fascinating tour of some of the key buildings and paid a trip to the stunning cathedral, where some even climbed to the top of the tower. After this, we were more than ready for the lovely tea and biscuits laid on inside the delightful Chorister School next to the cathedral. The evening saw the group arrive at the Once Brewed youth hostel, which was to be home for the next few nights, and a short but invigorating walk up to the Wall after dinner.
The next day, we were back on the coach to visit Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields. Arbeia has a brilliant reconstruction of a Roman gatehouse and barracks, so students were able to have a guided tour by Dr Nick Hodgson as well as time to explore the remains on their own. We were also privileged to watch a live excavation and a fragment of bone uncovered!
After lunch, we headed into Bede's world to find out about Bede himself and what life was like after the Romans had left. Students had the opportunity to process dressed as monks, write with quills, fight with anglo-saxon shields and swords, and experience some storytelling using the tale of Beowulf.
On our way back, we stopped at Housesteads to see the extensive remains (as well as the famous Roman latrines!) and then the group took a long walk along the wall back to the youth hostel. It was beautifully sunny and the views were breathtaking, and everyone was ready for dinner and a rest when we returned.
Saturday was a trip to the amazing Vindolanda to have a guided tour of the remains and a look around the museum's large and impressive collection of items. Due to the conditions at Vindolanda, a very wide range of objects has been preserved, including a large collection of shoes and other items of clothing. The afternoon offered a trip to the Roman Army museum where students experienced a Latin lesson from a holographic teacher, plus further walking along the wall! In the evening, students dressed in Roman costume for an outdoor performance of a Latin version of Snow White, and then took part in a wall-building game quiz.
On our way home, we visited Chester's Roman Amphitheatre where we ate our lunch and students and staff took part in the time-honoured game of “it” in the arena.
It was a fabulous trip and many thanks indeed to all who took part.