Grand Divide

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.

see more Grand Photos at this weeks wordpress challenge

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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62 Responses to Grand Divide

  1. Wonderful images and an enjoyable read. I hope that you have a really wonderful Christmas.

  2. Mazigrace says:

    Love the warm colors and hues, as well as the history behind the wall. Interesting how humans create boundaries for one another, feeling power through them. I couldn’t help but notice the workmanship of the angles of the stones cut to perfection. Thanks for sharing this part of your world with us and also thanks for following my blog. Much appreciated. Happy Solstice!

  3. I’d love to see this some day in person. The Romans did many grand things, so many of which are still standing.


  4. I think all I wanted to say has been said already here above. The historical perspective is breathtaking, it’s always refreshing to “make yourself small” on such a long timeline. The same day I read this I had also come across this, about How social media was born in ancient Rome: Another kind of connection to the past.
    I enjoyed your post very much, and hope to walk along Hadrian’s wall one day!

  5. ladyfi says:

    A lasting tribute to the perseverance of man! Lovely shots.

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  7. napperscompanion says:

    Appreciate the reflections going along with the photographs. Thanks and peace, John

  8. Hanna says:

    There is poetry in your pictures, Seonaid ๐Ÿ™‚
    All the best,

  9. Nikki says:

    I’ve often thought about why the “lines” drawn by generations past are still in place today. Lines dividing classes and races of people, and also lines dividing tenets of the same religion. It’s sad. Nature erodes manmade divisions over time, and I think each generation should think for themselves as to the veracity of those divisions.
    Thank you for pondering that thought with your beautiful images and words.

  10. Landscapes of such grand proportions, Seonaid. The history behind these walls is so awesome. I remember learning in primary school, about emperor Hadrian and his vast wall, but have never seen it before. Great photos! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. poppytump says:

    Seonaid what lovely subtle photographs to illustrate your response to *Grand … I know you’ve said you would have preerred sharper light but somehow it fits with the timeless ancient feel along with reading your historical account of Hadrian’s Wall too .

    • You know I think you may be right….the soft light somehow was perfect for these shots.
      I would still like to see in it sharper light, but the ancient feel does shine through ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Nice shots, Seonaid. Really symbolic.

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  14. Suzanne says:

    How fabulous to see photos of Hadrian’s Wall. I learnt about it when I was in primary school but have never seen photos of it before. What wonderful countryside it traverses. I agree with about lines and boundaries drawn across the earth’s surface. I love those photos from space that reveal the earth to be a place without arbitrary borders.

    • I’m delighted to have shown you images of something hitherto unseen. Isn’t the internet wonderful in this way, as though we can travel with our eyes ๐Ÿ™‚
      I agree completely with your thoughts on boundaries.

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  16. I love your sweeping pictures, it is such a beautiful landscape. As a species we are so capable of such amazing feats, such grandeur; it is maddening to see us use our powers so poorly.

    • Thanks Charlie, sweeping is the perfect word for this landscape, and the sweep and roll are somehow very soothing despite what are at times very steep inclines and declines. They didn’t build around hill slopes, but straight up and over…..a statement of conquering the land I suppose!
      The structures our ancestors were able to build are truly amazing….all across the earth….I’m not sure we could do this today…if we did it would run over budget and suffer terrible delays for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. โ™กeM says:

    Although it is symbolic of a great divide constructed by conquerors, I see its beauty, as it is now, a lone survivor of a long-ago, far-away world, telling its story in grand silence.

    • I couldn’t agree more, it’s an incredibly beautiful and atmospheric place. The silence is wonderful, and the openness to the elements and the weather. As I walked I could feel stories rising up from the earth of people whose feet passed this way two thousand years ago.
      The fact that it remains at all is what amazes me…..there are sections of the wall closer to populated areas, where the easy access has meant that over the millennia the stones have been robbed out and used for local buildings. We started spotting the very distinct size and shape in lots of buildings once we had walked this section of the wall ๐Ÿ™‚

      • โ™กeM says:

        I think it’s grand that these stones have served such purposes in our lives for so long, at one time dividing us and at another sheltering us. The stories of these stones must be amazing!

  18. awe-inspiring structures with interesting history are definitely grand. excellent post ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Beautiful pictures of a symbol of tragic times and events. The old Picts would probably like nothing better than some great big wind scattering these stones into all directions…..

    • It’s an amazing feat, and I kept thinking of when I walked the Great Wall of. China.
      It’s funny but in some ways those of us North of the wall find it a symbol of strength and endurance. Past this point the Romans were unable to force their rule……that appeals I think to our sense of independence.
      I suppose the local Britons on both side of the wall would have been most impacted, and so would have loved to have seen the stones fall. The history of this whole area, all the way up to Stirling in Central Scotland fascinates me. The people were Britons, and spoke a language which was the fore runner of modern Welsh…..that’s where lots of them fled to at a later stage than this. The Picts, further to the north seem to have benefited from the fall of the Roman Empire and the power vacuum it left in areas like this. Their influence spread slowly south into Lowland Scotland. History is so fascinating, and complex…..I love it ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I like your positive slant on things better, Seonaid…thanks for the mini history lesson. I am always fascinated by how far the Roman Empire extended. Just found out recently that the area I grew up in in SW Germany has vineyards that were originally started by the Romans about 2,000 yrs ago. Also, they made good use of the local hot springs and Baden-Baden was named after these thermal springs which, in their modernized version, are still in use.

  20. says:

    This was a beautiful day! I remember it from your other post and yes GRAND is in the eye of the beholder ! It’s grand indeed!

    • I’m not sure if I’ve posted any shots from Hadrians Wall before, but I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      • says:

        I thought one day you and your man were walking along the wall and up the hill. ?? I remember !

      • You have a fabulous memory….far better than mine. You are of course correct when I looked back at my posts ๐Ÿ™‚
        It was a beautiful day, and very hot despite the clouds! I have never been as thirsty as when we walked this wall!

  21. Lovely … both words and images … what’s left to be said. Excellent. D

  22. LB says:

    That second photo is stand alone incredible, Seonaid. You’ve managed to capture the enormity of the wall and it’s length, but also the detail of the stone and rock from which it is made. The grasses on top and the worn pathway along side add so much.
    Love them all and the story, too!

    • Thanks so much, I love that photo too ๐Ÿ™‚
      I was fascinated by the textures of stone and grass, and the way the wall seemed to flow over the landscape, following its curves and slopes. It made me think of a giant hairy caterpillar!
      And then of course there is all that history….imagine the feet of those Roman soldiers marching along here in winter! I bet they felt the cold ๐Ÿ™‚

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  24. icelandpenny says:

    Wonderful images of the wall, thank you for that. I was just thinking of you, seeing images on TV of the huge blizzard that recently pounded Scotland

    • Thanks Penny, it’s such a beautiful part of the world with its wide open spaces.
      The storm rolled through here with its wild winds pulling limbs off trees, flooding roads and causing all sorts of chaos, but a few hours later and everything was still and bathed in sunlight once more. The energy in wind always amazes me, and feels quite exciting…..the dogs stood in the middle of our lawn, almost clutching the earth with their claws, and thrusting their noses high into the oncoming wind. Their hair was swept back so dramatically, and they looked to be enjoying themselves……must have been some good smells in that storm wind ๐Ÿ™‚

      • icelandpenny says:

        I respond, of course, to your wide open spaces — as I did physically in my two long-ago visits to the north of Scotland. I can just imagine your dogs in the storm. Whenever I see dogs or cats so alert to, engaged in, their environment, I envy them their superior range and intensity of senses. Even as it is, they remind us to engage as fully as we can,.

      • icelandpenny says:

        I can just imagine your dogs in the storm… Whenever I see dogs or cats engaging so deeply with the environment, I envy them their superior range and depth of senses. They do remind us to use our own, lesser senses as fully as we can!

  25. Lucid Gypsy says:

    You know I have hardly travelled anywhere in the north and yet I remember learning about Hadrian’s wall as a child and being fascinated. My daughter walked its length a few years back and loved it. Ahh my bcket list is getting very long!

  26. restlessjo says:

    A return visit is long overdue, Seonaid, and I have no excuse. Parts of the wall are quite haunting in their beauty. The boundaries thing always confounds me too. The arbitrary wheres and whys!
    A totally different subject, but the same- how do you feel about Scottish Independence? (you don’t have to answer on the blog, if you don’t want to) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s definitely worth a revisit or two Jo…..the scenery alone is so magnificent.
      Although you say its a different subject, this independence vote was in my mind not only as we walked the wall, but as I wrote the post….
      I feel part of the British Isles and these strange lines we draw across the landscape puzzle me. People are the same on both sides of the border, save an accent or two, and back in the times when the wall was built most of Northumberland was on ‘our’ side of the wall!
      You might gather from all this that I have no desire for Scotland to separate from the UK…..after all it was our king ( James IV and I) who united the realms ๐Ÿ™‚ I have yet to meet many folk north of the border who plan to vote to separate our beautiful Isle in two.

    • restlessjo says:

      I’m so happy to hear that ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Lynne Ayers says:

    This is on my list when I return to England and Scotland. Beautiful shots, Seonaid.

    • It’s definitely worth a days visit Lynne……you can walk out along stretches of the wall and feel as though you have slipped back in time….and the silence and landscapes are wonderful ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Paula says:

    I remember studying about Hadrian’s wall, but I never got a close look, not until now that is ;). I love the photos Seoanid!

    • I’m very happy to have given you some close up shots Paula. It’s a really beautiful part of the country to walk, and the soft undulations of the wall are so wonderful….and inspiring to photograph.
      My only wish would have been for sharper light that day. It doesn’t look it but it was incredibly hot as well as overcast…..around 27 degrees which is very warm for Northern Britain …..clear sunlight would have given me some better photos I think ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Rosa de los Vientos says:

    Very important thoughts to read and, of course, lovely pictures. My dear always inspiring Seonaid.

  30. boxertreiber says:

    It’s a great landscape too, I was standing there at the wall this year in June on my scottland trip ๐Ÿ™‚

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