Navio Roman Fort

 In Bradwell, Derbyshire walks, history

I heard a very sad story the other day. Firstly, a young, enthusiastic teacher returned to school after the holidays. Secondly, she anticipated that the young children would be full of stories about ‘what I did during the holidays’. Sadly, the reality was that the kids did absolutely nothing. They stayed at home, often with mum and dad, staring at screens. Yet here we are, in this magical country, surrounded by fascinating remains. A mile from me is Navio Roman Fort, which was manned by the 1st Cohort of Aquitanians. Does that not sound both romantic and exotic? Who would not want to know the details? Well, obviously not those kids. Which is odd when you think they schooled in Chesterfield. Yes, the word Chester means fortified. Their town also has a Roman Fort but who gives a damn?

The Roman Run

Our easy jog from the door, the one with the least climbing, passes through 15 fields on its way to Navio. Many of the fields are full of amazing wildflowers. In one field, we cross the Grey Ditch, an embankment that marks the northern boundary of Mercia. Oddly, under the embankment was found a cache of Roman pottery. What is odd is that the boundry was constructed perhaps 400 years after the Romans left. Half a mile further, through Brough and we climb to the fort. The footpath marks the entrance road, passing straight through the main eastern gate and out via the western. The fort perimeter is obvious but little is seen other than grass and cow pats. Meanwhile, beneath the ground is eight courses of exquisite Roman stonework.

Navio Roman Fort

For someone like me, with a background in bereavement, all this is endlessly fascinating. Some of these Aquitanians, perhaps 200 to 400 strong, will have died over at least 200 years of occupation. The vicus or town outside the eastern gate extended to perhaps 14 acres, and was well populated. Many of these people will have died. However, no bodies have been found. The Romans always buried their dead in a cemetery or, for the elite, in an individual mausoleum. Some will have been cremated first. The burials are usually close to the side of the principal road. As there were perhaps 5 roads out of the fort, and none are fully identified, they have not been found. In my photo the footpath can be seen heading up to entrance, and the fort is beneath the field behind.

Remembrance of times past

Those who forget the past will also be forgotten. Perhaps that is the message to those who do little but gaze at screens. They ignore those who forged the path we tread, not least on the amazing Roman roads. I prefer to honour them, to understand their hardships and joys. We ignore the past at our peril! As for the slavery, that is another post.

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