traces of the past

The Spectacle of the Roman Baths

It’s the strangest feeling to be surrounded by senators and looking down on Roman baths, and probably the only time I’ll be in the company of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Constantine the Great, simultaneously.

Aquae Sulis was the Roman name for Bath, named for the waters of the goddess Sulis.  This natural phenomenon has caused 240,000 gallons of hot water, at 46C, to rise on this spot daily for thousands of years.  Spa water has been used for curative purposes for 2,000 years, originally involving bathing, and then in the form of drinking water from the late 17th century. This Walkthrough will take you step by step through the complex.

The Roman Baths are below modern street level and comprise the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple and Bath House, with finds from the baths carefully preserved and displayed in the museum.  After the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’ moment on the imposing terrace you descend stairs to the interior, glimpsing the Sacred Spring through glass windows.

The Romans identified Sulis with their goddess Minerva.  It is likely that her gilt bronze statue would have stood within her temple, beside the Sacred Spring, and may well date back to the first century AD.  Gilt bronze sculptures are very rare finds in Roman Britain.  This head has six layers of gilding, two by a process known as fire gilding and the later four applied as gold leaf.

The Temple pediment and Gorgon’s Head is likely to date from the same period.  It would have been supported by four large, fluted columns. Another fascinating detail of Roman life are the 130 curse tablets, which would have been rolled up and thrown into the Spring.  They were petitioning the goddess for justice or revenge for petty crimes, including theft of their possessions from the baths.

Every effort has been made to turn the Roman Baths into a Spectacle .  Animated projections bring to life the cold plunge pool and the heated rooms.  Evidence of the hypocaust system the Romans used is clearly visible in this amazing subterranean world.

The spa waters contain 43 minerals, and are said to have a distinctive taste.  You can sample them from a fountain in the west baths, or from the Georgian Pump House, next door.

Pop over and see Debbie’s extraordinary owl, and don’t forget that Thursday’s Special.  This week Paula weaves her magic on Venice.

Six word Saturday

You can’t beat a good castle!

No, you haven’t done something funny to the screen!  This is Beaumaris Castle, in black and white.  I rather like it, but then, I liked the original too. I’m a bit vain like that!  It’s just that I desperately wanted to join in Paula’s Black and White Sunday, Traces of the Past and I’m running out of time.

So I’ve combined it with Debbie’s Six Word Saturday.  I’m sure Debs won’t mind.  She knows I can’t count.  Just as Paula knows I can’t resist a little bit of colour.  Doesn’t the castle have a stunning outlook?  The geology of Anglesey is fascinating too.

Enjoy your Easter weekend!

Jo’s Monday walk : Finchale Priory

The ruins of Finchale Priory

The ruins of Finchale Priory

My walk this week, much nearer home, takes me along the banks of the River Wear, four miles from the city of Durham.  I hear that a heatwave is forecast and you might be glad of a little shade.  I was dodging showers on my walk, so the trees proved extremely useful.

The Grade 1 listed ruins of Finchale Priory began life in the 13th century as a Benedictine priory. Today they are managed by English Heritage.  The only details I could glean from their page are that the Priory was founded on the site of a retired pirate’s hermitage (!) and was later used as a holiday retreat for monks from Durham Cathedral.

The approach is through peaceful countryside, covered in rapeseed early in the season

The approach is through peaceful countryside, covered in rapeseed early in the season

The clouds are a little menacing so we need to be quick!

The clouds are a little menacing, so we need to be quick!

We might just make it!

We might just make it!

St. Godric of Finchale was an English hermit, merchant and medieval saint who was born in Norfolk.  After many pilgrimages around the Mediterranean, he spent the last 60 years of his life as a hermit in these idyllic surrounds.  To find that same peace and serenity you need to visit out of season, as today a caravan park adjoins the site.

As so often, I turn to Wikipedia for my knowledge.  For instance, I had no clear idea what a piscina might be, though I was assured that there was a double one on the south wall.  It’s a shallow basin, placed near the altar of a church, used for washing the communion vessels. Hunting through my photos, I discover that I have some evidence.

A scilla

A double piscina

A view through the ruins

A view through the ruins

But this is the sight that intrigues me most

But this is the sight that intrigues me most

I cannot seem to find a reference that explains this ‘chimney’ with a conical point, and I can’t recollect seeing one before.  If any of you can help me on this, I’d be grateful.  Now, you remember that we are beside the river?

Click on a photo for a closer look

The ruins with the farmhouse/cafe alongside

The ruins with the farmhouse/cafe alongside

And a closer look at that 'chimney'

And a closer look at that ‘chimney’

While the sky is blue I think we should cross over the bridge.  Got your brolly, just in case?

In places the River Wear flows swiftly

In places the River Wear flows quite swiftly

Across the bridge, you can look back at the Priory

Looking back, a view of the Priory

Choices next, for a short, circular walk through Cocken Woods.  You can climb the steps, rather steeply, or follow the river bank for a short distance and then climb, a little more gently, up through the woods.  No contest, really!  Just past bluebell season, there was the thickest carpet and a deafening aroma of wild garlic!

IMG_4561

It had to happen!  Just about then the skies opened and the rain battered the river.  My back pressed close to a tree trunk, I watched the steady tattoo and inhaled deeply.  When the rain eased a little, there was just time to cross the bridge and slip quickly inside the cafe.

You’re probably thinking that that’s enough for the day, but I never want to waste an opportunity. Beyond the picnic benches, a path follows the river, on the same shore as the Priory but in the opposite direction.  There’s a little climb before it levels out so I won’t make you walk again.  Stay here and I’ll just show you a couple of photos.

Just one last look at the Priory, before it’s time to go.

Probably my favourite shot

Loving the shapes and the shadows

And a surprise beneath the Priory!

And one last surprise, beneath the Priory!

I hope you enjoyed my ‘traces of the past’.  I’ve included the English Heritage link for directions and opening times, and the other links for history and background.  There is a special link too. Many of you will have seen Paula’s traces of the past, in Slovakia.  I hope I’m not too late with my offering of Finchale Priory.

One cup of coffee down, two to go?

walking logo

For any of you not used to my ramblings, can I direct you to my Jo’s Monday walk page or the logo above?  It will encourage you to join me.  For all you other lovely people, can I just say a huge thanks, both for your support and your wonderful contributions.  Please make time to visit the posts below.  You won’t regret it!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Drake’s always a winner- in more ways than one!  First with his contribution again last week :

Neighbour-visiting 

Back on home turf with Anabel, in Scotland.  Do you know this one?

Loch Ardinning

Jude apologised for ‘another flowery walk’.  Is she mad?  Good old King George V!

Kerdhva Gov Jori V  (didn’t know I could speak Cornish- did you?)

You can always rely on Paula to find true beauty, even when she’s sleepy.  This is exquisite!

Sing me a lullaby

A guy with a wicked sense of humour, Cardinal’s style is unique :

Fitness and Relax Toilets

I have a cousin in Toronto. Maybe I should pay him a surprise visit one day?

Junkboat Travels: Monday Walks

Will I EVER tire of the beauty of the Grand Canyon?  I doubt it!

Walk on a Timeline (One Long Step= 1 Million Years)

I get to sit alongside Paula while Lucile pedals this week!  Don’t miss this!

Virtual Bike Ride with Jo and Paula

You can always depend on Debbie for variety!  I wonder where next?

A Walk along Berlin’s Landwehrkanal

Laia’s post simply shimmers with colour and beauty (and blue ice!)  Another one not to miss!

Fox Glacier and lake Matheson : do not believe in postcards

And while we’re in that part of the world, here’s a fascinating walk in Tasmania, with Ruth :

Waterworks, pipelines and falls

Jaspa keeps on going back to Venice.  Well, why wouldn’t you?

The Irresistible Lure of Venice

Lots of shares again this week.  I expect you’ve seen a few of them around the blogs, but please make time for any you’ve missed. There are some fabulous contributions.  And if you have any spare time, Monday Escapes are acquiring a steady stream of followers.  If only I could find more time!

Have a happy week and watch out for that heatwave!  See you next Monday?