Reimagining Our Borders

Happy 1900th anniversary to Hadrian’s Wall!

Borders, frontiers and walls, marking the edges of our property, kingdoms, countries, empires, our world ~ they’re as much part of the modern world as they were in ancient times. Where they relate to questions of sovereignty, trade, military power and control, so relationships between the peoples on either side of the border can be very tense. There can be anger, hatred, and even war. We see it with the invasion of Ukraine, and even more recently in Taiwan, facing Chinese retaliation for Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

Here in the UK, this year is the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian, and built as the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. It runs 117 km (73 miles) across northern England at its narrowest part, not far north of the Lake District. These days, Hadrian’s Wall is a popular long-distance footpath and the best-preserved sections are well worth visiting, especially on a lovely sunny day….

So, with the sun coming up over Ullswater early yesterday morning, and the promise of a very hot day with no rain, I set off at the crack of dawn heading for Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall, just over 100 km (68 miles) away….

Daybreak at Ullswater

The main attraction was to see the multi-coloured art installation at Housesteads. It is FANTASTIC!

The front of the art installation, taken from inside Housesteads Roman Fort, facing south

From the English Heritage website: “In celebration of Hadrian’s Wall’s 1900th anniversary, English Heritage has installed a contemporary and colourful take on the original Roman gatehouse at Housesteads Roman Fort – one of the Wall’s best preserved and most important sites. Created by renowned artist, Morag Myerscough and the local community the temporary installation – called ‘The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is’ – stands in the exact spot that the north gatehouse at Housesteads once stood. The colourful re-imagining of the gatehouse echoes the original building in size and as visitors can climb to the top, the installation opens up views of the ancient landscape, last seen by Roman soldiers 1600 years ago.

The back of the art installation, facing north

English Heritage’s Chief Executive Kate Mavor, said: ‘Hadrian’s Wall is one of England’s most iconic landmarks and to mark its anniversary, we wanted a meaningful way to connect people of 2022 back to AD122. We hope that placing such a bold contemporary art installation in this ancient landscape will not only capture people’s imagination but maybe also challenge their ideas of what the Wall was for. Not just a means to keep people out, but a frontier that people could – and did – cross. To create this work we’ve engaged with a wide range of community groups who have all played a part in making this such a striking and vibrant piece of art…and living history.'”

Art installation: the east side

The words and pictures have all come from working with local community groups, all in connection with what Hadrian’s Wall means to them, living as they do, in the area, near the wall. These are the words I’ve chosen below (in no particular order, and in capitals, which is how they are written), as being meaningful for me as related to the wall and the border ~ and many reflect my own experience of living in Taiwan:

Art installation: the west side

IT NAVIGATES MY JOURNEY / THREAT OF CHAOS / SKY / THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE JOURNEY / RAIN WITH SHARP TEETH / INTERNAL GATEWAY / PICTS / POWER / CONTROL / JOY / DESOLATE / BETWEEN / GUARDS / DIFFERENT DIMENSION / TIMELESS / WILD / ON THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN / FRONTIER / EVERLASTING AND STRONG / BORDER / BEING ON THE EDGE OF SOMETHING / WILD WIND WHISTLES / ALWAYS BEEN THERE / COLD WET STONE / CONNECTION / WARNING OR WELCOME / FAR AWAY / RESILIENCE / THAT LONELY FEELING / FRIENDLY PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE / REFLECT / GO BEYOND / ENDLESS STRETCH / THE EDGE LIKE THE SEA / JUST GET ON WITH LIFE / A VIEW FOR THE PAST / PORTAL / GAZE OUT / DIVISION / BARRIER / FREEDOM / GRIT / PEOPLE / HOME

Inspiring eh?! Well I think so, but it is not to everyone’s taste! There is of course plenty more to see along Hadrian’s Wall and at Housesteads Fort itself ~ and to put the art installation’s words and pictures into context, it is well worth exploring the wall, the fort, the area, everything – and especially walking along the footpath by the wall. From Housesteads, the path goes eastwards for about 2 miles up to Sewingshields Crags – get there early to get the sun and blue sky shining on the art installation from behind…

The art installation visible from the path towards Sewingshields

Then from Housesteads in the other direction, westwards, there is also a good footpath for about 4 miles to Steel Crag. The path by the wall is steep up and down all the way, but there is a lower path for the return journey which is easier, though there’s not much shade. Yesterday, there were hundreds of people walking along, and it was extremely hot, but hey – the blue skies looked great!

This is Sycamore Gap, check out that sycamore tree…

When I got back to Housesteads Roman Fort late morning yesterday, there was a camera crew from ITV Tyne Tees who were interviewing everyone about their opinions of the art installation. Ah yes, I did appear briefly at the very end of the news last night saying I thought the art installation was fantastic, and it had made my week, in fact my whole summer! 🤣🤣 This was the backdrop…

On my way back to the Lake District yesterday after Hadrian’s Wall, I came down the A6 from Shap which goes along the very edge, the border of the Lake District mountains, and I was reminded of my trip up the Kentmere Horseshoe a few weeks ago, on Tuesday July 26. Kentmere is north of Staveley, north of Kendal, and is a no-through road, surrounded by the mountains that make up the Kentmere Horseshoe. This is it …

Kentmere Hall is a pele tower, built as a fortress to protect the people and their animals from invaders, this being border country. Once out of Kentmere village, on the Kentmere Horseshoe, I was in heavy fog, but by late morning, dramatic scenery started to appear. It was such an amazing day! There are a small number of parking spaces for £3 donation at Kentmere Village Hall, next to the church, but you need to get there early – so I did! I followed the route up in the mist, clockwise, first to the Garburn Pass, then turning right for Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, and up to the highest point at High Street 828m (2,715ft). High Street is the famous Roman Road, built by the Romans to link their forts at Brougham near Penrith and Ambleside. It’s believed to follow the line of a much older, prehistoric track. The mist lifted as I started down on the east side of the Horseshoe, with spectacular views from Mardale Ill Bell of Small Water & Hawes Water and from Harter Fell downwards to Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts. Total: 22 km, 1,139m of ascent.

The Kentmere Horseshoe starts and ends right next to Kentmere Church, St. Cuthbert’s Church, which is part of the group of churches that includes Troutbeck. The interior is made all the more bright and cheerful by all their beautiful kneelers on display …

Another border, another frontier recently ‘visited’ or scrambled over is Striding Edge on Helvellyn. This was Monday August 1. I was amazed to see a Lesser Black-Backed Gull (? to be confirmed – but has distinctive yellow legs) waiting to share my food (though it only liked bread – not bananas!) on the summit of Helvellyn, 950m (3,118ft), the third-highest mountain in England & the Lake District. Total: 14km, 946m of ascent from Patterdale via Striding Edge, described by Wainwright as “The finest ridge in Lakeland”.

Striding Edge

Descent was via Swirral Edge, Catstycam, Red Tarn (for paddling) & Birkhouse Moor. A sunny morning, clouding over in the afternoon as forecast, the rain came later. The cheapest parking is in the Patterdale sports field, first turning left after the church, with £5 donation. I finished at Patterdale Church, it’s a ‘House for Duty’ church. The vicar works Sunday-Tuesday each week, in return for accommodation, but no salary. As I came down, a helicopter was flying overhead, I heard later a woman had fallen on Striding Edge and was airlifted to hospital, a sobering thought. It is reckoned to be quite safe as long as there are no high winds, snow or ice, but there are some dangerous bits, and a chimney to descend down which could be problematic if you fall.

And I wonder, how does my theme of ‘reimagining our borders’ fit in with the Langdale Pikes? Well, the challenges of stepping outside our comfort zones, crossing new frontiers physically and mentally, expanding the borders of our minds ~ that’s not the Langdale Pikes in particular, but I went up Pavey Ark by Jack’s Rake! 😱😱 We all need a new challenge every now and then, and mine was Jack’s Rake. Not sure if it’s the very first time I’ve ever done it or maybe the second – but the first time would have been decades ago, when I was a teenager. This trip was Friday August 5 ~ an exciting day on the iconic & spectacular Langdale Pikes! Starting from Dungeon Ghyll, going up to Stickle Tarn, then up a very steep, wet & slippery Jack’s Rake, which goes diagonally from right to left up ‘Langdale’s biggest cliff’, Pavey Ark. That diagonal line is visible from miles away, and up close it’s massive!

Jack’s Rake is officially classified as a rock climb of the easiest level, a ‘Grade 1 Scramble’, (same as Striding Edge, but completely different – and much harder, in my opinion!) which also means it’s a walk of about the hardest level – and it’s hard work! Wainwright says, “Walkers who can still put their toes in their mouths and bring their knees up to their chins may embark upon the ascent confidently; others, unable to perform these tests, will find the route arduous.” 🤣🤣. Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, with trying to find handholds and then grip onto the slippery rocks to haul yourself up, all the while trying not to look down over the exposed edges! Fortunately, there were others doing the same route who had done it before. Getting to the top in one piece was such a relief!

And so up to Pavey Ark and on to Harrison Stickle 736m (2,415ft), Loft Crag, Pike O’Stickle, Thunacar Knott, Sergeant Man and to the highest point of High Raise 762m (2,500ft) with incredible views north. Weather: A mix of showers and sunny spells all day. Total: 16km, 1,101m of ascent. “No mountain profile arrests and excites the attention more than that of the Langdale Pikes… nor is the appeal visual only: that steep ladder to heaven stirs the imagination, and even the emotions…” Wainwright. I agree!

Reimagining our borders also kind of fits in a little with the Church Mission Society theme of going to the edges, ‘With Jesus, With each other, To the edges’… which was the theme of my last CMS link letter. Now I’m working on my talks for my church visits while I’m in the UK. I just must include that art installation at Housesteads in my talk, it is so dynamic, so fantastic, so creative, so in yer face and I love it! If only we could creatively reimagine all our borders like that, break down the walls where they need breaking down, work together, cooperate and redesign where they need rebuilding, and have more such wildly creative art projects and installations in the most unlikely of border places that would challenge, inspire and make people smile and laugh ~ and make us all realise that life is not worth wasting on border disputes of any kind. Ah, there’s plenty of room for more ideas!

PS When I googled ‘border emojis’ up comes an emoji for passport control 🛂. ‘Passport control’ reminds me of Brexit, immigration, Rwanda, delays at airports, ports, trains plus the current UK political situation ~ all definitely and seriously in need of prayer, as are Taiwan, Ukraine and all countries facing serious problems with their neighbours. ❤️❤️

2 thoughts on “Reimagining Our Borders”

  1. Hi Catherine

    I’m glad you are enjoying touring around our northern sites. I saw a programme about the gatehouse on Hadrian’s wall a short while ago. Striding Edge looks terrifying!

    I’m looking forward to seeing you when you come to Dewsbury later this year. I sold my house to the Baptist Church so their minister lives in it now. I am in a flat at Royd Court at Mirfield, which is one of the Christian Pilgrim Homes. We have a number of retired ministers and missionaries living here.

    Enjoy your stay

    Love and best wishes

    Anne

    >

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