A soaking and a musing

I went on my usual trip up a nearby mountain this morning with the dog. Today I left the camera in the car for the first time in quite a long time as visibility at the bottom of the hike was about 50 yards, meaning photography would be an utter pain.
As I climbed the visibility dropped so I was basically in a dome of whiteout maybe 30 yards out on any side. Initially Jess, delighted with this state of affairs as her usual trick of edging out so far and then poof gone and off running like the wind became moot since I couldn’t see her anyway. But as I neared the top she would walk to me with her head to one side as the wind and sleety rain was so fierce she was unable to walk square to it. Me, at this point, was soaked to the skin from head to ankle. In a sort of hemisphere. My back was drowned, while my front was dry, relatively.
It got me thinking about Hardknott Roman Fort.
The general thought about this place is it was built to crush a Celtic tribe, the Brigantes, in Cumbria. There are about 40 other forts within 50 miles, either on Hadrian’s wall or ringing the Lake District besides this one. But this one is very unusual in that it’s so isolated and only one other in the entire Roman Empire at Epiacum.  The underlying thinking of pacifying is the very same used by the US army to crush the Apache. Where in effect you keep an encircling garrison to keep the population on the move but within a small region. You harry them into exhaustion and then mop them up.
This theory works, and works really really well. In the 1870s when developed there was more than enough examples where small well supplied forces could take over and pacify extremely large areas. Just then the British in small bands were pounding the bejapers out of Pathan/Pashtun tribes in the Northwest frontier, Myanmari and Malay princes, as well as the tribes of Southern Africa and Canada. And they did all this with less than the force deployed by the USA.
It was only in Afghanistan and the Mahdi in Sudan that they were given a bloody nose, and only one that they never took, even after three attempts.
The point is though, you never enter mountains( a bit like you never attack Russia and you leave the Afghani well alone), you ring them and probe them with swift troops and harry the population. You do not build a bloody great fort that need supplying with everything INCLUDING water ten miles in either direction from support (the coast at Ravenglass and Ambleside at the head of Windermere). So then, if it’s not a fort in the classical meaning what is it. I think it’s the Roman equivalent of Virginia City. A home for miners chasing Galena or lead ore. Built by a legionary cohort much like the Corp of Engineers built the levees on the Mississippi or probably more like Hoover Dam. A State investment if you like.
Today on the mountain at over 2,000 ft in the wet wind and sleet, I think I made a discovery about that Roman fort 225 miles away. There is no way in hell this fort held inhabitants  year round. That wind that blew past me on the slopes would be passing over Scarfell Pike and the Roman Fort * in Hardknott Pass about an hour later and it sure as shootin wasn’t going to get more pleasant over the distance.
I will have to say it was fun. The sting of sleet on the return journey wasn’t pleasant, nonetheless my body found an internal heater some place. But a few hours is one thing day in day out would be quite different.

For some reason or another WordPress is getting huffy about my use of Tribe. They seem to think ‘ethnic group/s’ would sit better. Since ‘tribe’ is used in the body it can be taken that I demur.

*. Roman Forts are pretty much of a muchness. If you take a playing card and lay it down you’ve pretty mush got the dimensions. In general the roads leave midway on the short edge of the card and a third down on the long edge, a cross if you will. At the confluence of the routes is the headquarters tent or building, blocking the route. You cannot see from one gate out the other even though the road is plumb straight.

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10 Responses to A soaking and a musing

  1. Kimberly says:

    I bet it was kind of a nice change hiking today sans the heavy camera. Those kind of trips are fun during, but I’m always extra happy to return home after to get dry and warm. 🙂
    It’s a wonder that they’d build on the top of a cold mountain with the poor weather part of the year, but the other perks of a mountaintop fort outweighed the cold I would imagine.
    I’ve not been to the northern half of England. It looks like there is a lot from the Romans that still remain. The view on that Scafell Pike link is something. Have you climbed that?

    • V.H says:

      Oh, I came down and then I drove directly home and had a shower. My clothes were soaked such I even thought to remove them in the car, to protect the seat. The rain had run down my legs and into the boot by the time I was half way down. But since I intended to do a bit of shopping I had a reusable bag that I used to protect the covers.
      The thing about mountain forts is they rapidly become prisons. This was how Caesar took the Celts in Gaul. They moved into the great hill forts and the Romans encircled them. As to the remains, meah, well yeeees there is, but. Quite frankly if you wanted Roman remains I’d see Petra in Jordan, or Ephesus. Even Greece. Rome is shite, it looks like a building site where the builder went bankrupt. Anyhoo’s I’d see them if I was looking for ‘Roman’. What I’m interested in is why they were there at all. For it sure as shootin wasn’t what the early historians came out with as a justification for the British Empire.
      And I would love to climb all of them. Every peak in that 360* of that photo.

      • Kimberly says:

        Ahhh,Rome’s not that bad, for an untrained eye anyhow. 🙂

        • V.H says:

          No, it pretty good, but for other things. You have to conjure what is upright elsewhere. You know it when people speak about the catacombs and the sewers.

  2. Ed says:

    I love hiking in the fog. It brings a new meaning to the word silence and it certainly adds a little different perspective to things. I also like walking in the rain for the same reason but not at this time of the year when it is cold here. Getting wet to the skin means you only have minutes to find warmth or die.

    • V.H says:

      Fog can be dangerous here on the mountains. Even yesterday I was worried. I was thinking of doing a bit of a shortcut, but changed my mind as the top is like a upturned saucer and you could easily smash ones silly neck.
      But it can be fun on the low ground on a path.
      As to being wet. I just wasn’t going to give in, and my metabolism kicked in and a heat overcame the wet.

      • Ed says:

        I only like fog on well covered ground where there is a path to guide me and little chance of getting turned around. Otherwise, worrying about getting lost or breaking a neck takes the joy out of it!

        • V.H says:

          Sorry, it was only that visibility was so near my mind that I addressed you comment in that way. While I wasn’t afraid, I was about to make a foolish decision for no other reason that to make things a bit comfortable for myself. But it would’ve meant going off the path albeit for 100 yards but when I couldn’t see the trig post being only 20 yards from it, I re-evaluated pretty swiftly. If I couldn’t even make out the shape of the post there was no way I could use it as a datum point.

  3. Kelly says:

    I spent a small amount of time in Yorkshire many years ago, but have never been to the Lake District. Someday I’ll get there.

    I enjoyed the links you provided (one always leads to clicking on another….) and admire you for forging ahead on your hike, despite the questionable weather. I’m afraid I’ve grown soft in my old age. I don’t mind getting wet, but I HATE getting cold!

    • V.H says:

      The Lake District is lovely I hear. And from the photos they weren’t lying. But wet is part of that place.
      I’m not over fond of rain myself. What it does mean is I’ll be bringing a change of clothes next time. 🙂

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