Wild Dog Outdoors, Northumberland’s Warrior Historians
Recently, we journeyed to Northumberland to review the exquisite looking Langley Castle Hotel. As magnificent as the castle was, we felt the need to head out of the park like grounds and explore the area, in particular, Hadrian’s Wall and the ongoing archaeological dig sites. After performing a quick search on the internet, it was obvious that Wild Dog Outdoors (Tours of the North) were the right people to guide and educate us on the areas incredible history.
For our 4-hour tour, we would be heading out with Wild Dog Outdoors co-founder Kev Robson, a man so passionate about the history of his local area, he greeted us in period perfect clothing coupled a mane of red hair, making him look like he had just walked off the set of a movie like Braveheart.
Having never undertaken an outdoor historical tour, my wife and I were unsure what to expect. But having witnessed Kevin’s enthusiasm and the warmth of the greeting, we knew that our tour would be a combination of knowledge, anecdotes and humour.
Our first stop on the tour was Hadrian’s Wall, one of those places on many a ‘Brits’ must-visit lists. After parking up and taking a few photographs, Kevin went into full ‘warrior-mode’ by popping on his chain mail armour, helmet and demonstrating the types of weapons used by both sets of people on either side of the wall. During this time, we learned about the technical aspects of the weapons, their construction and how devastating they could be. Imbibed with some newly discovered warrior spirit, it was time to head uphill into the countryside to put another tick on my travel bucket list.
Although Hadrian’s Wall isn’t as imposing as it once was (in its heydey 16 feet high), it is still a very impressive sight stretching out as far as the eye can see and beyond. The part of the wall we visited was around five feet high (due to local scavenging and re-appropriation over the years).
When you sit back and think of the effort and resources required to build the wall, it is truly mind-boggling and the massive manpower used too vast to imagine.
The slightly arrogant side of my personality wanted to ask Kevin a question which I hoped he hadn’t been asked before, but given his extensive knowledge of the construction, wildlife, and general life at the wall, it would’ve been silly to try! So, I just kept quiet, avoided looking foolish and tried to take in all of the new knowledge given to me.
During our tour, we visited the Vindolanda Roman Fort and the Roman Army Museum. Vindolanda is an ancient fort which is still being excavated. It is a vast site and you can clearly see from what has been uncovered how advanced the Roman’s were and how much modern day life has adopted from this time period.
The museum also threw up some unexpected surprises, in particular, the quality of some of the objects used by the higher-ranking people of this time. From well-preserved shoes to fine glass and pottery, you couldn’t help imagining living a relatively comfortable life here a thousand plus years ago. As we continued to explore the museum, Kevin took time to educate us on whatever we found particularity interesting, offering insights into the construction, uses, timescales and more.
After our museum visit, I asked Kevin what he wanted people to get from a tour from Wild Dog Outdoors: “I want people coming to the region to experience the Northumberland I know and love, I want them to experience the backstory of these places. You can go to Hadrian’s wall by yourself, but you won’t understand the way the wall works, there are ditches to the front and ditches to the rear, without out a guide to bring it to life, it gets lost in the landscape. With a tour guide, you pick up all the stories that make what you are looking at fit into place.”
We had a fantastic half day on the Wild Dog Outdoors tour, gaining an incredible insight into the local history and seeing some of the regions stunning countryside. The half day ‘Roam with the Romans’ tour costs £48pp.
By Paul Godbold