Running across Northumberland and Cumbria in Northern England, lies a very old dividing wall. Built nearly 2,000 years ago, about 50 years after the birth of Christ, this great stone barrier marked the northern edge of the Roman Empire. It divided the southern conquered lands, from those to the north which lay in the hands of the Britons and the Picts. The sheer size of it is breathtaking, even in its crumbled and worn present state.
Walking it now, and seeing its stone blocks still in place, you can’t help but marvel at the human effort put into building this, when there was no mechanised help. It was a grand undertaking, and the scale of work, the materials and the statement it must have made as it sprang up across this beautiful green landscape leave us in awe to this day.
It also left me thinking a lot about the arbitrary lines we draw across the earth, naming this piece and that as belonging to certain groups. Out here in the wild empty space of the far north of England it just seems a nonsense. Nowadays there is another dividing line slightly further to the north, separating Scotland from England, but it seems just as meaningless as you drive across it. Nothing suddenly changes, the earth just rolls on, despite the words we have drawn on the signs.
Hadrians wall was a grand political statement in its day, and despite time reducing its height to a fifth, it still makes a grand impression on the landscape and on our minds. It ran from the East coast to the West, cutting our island in half. A truly great feat of engineering by men long dead.