Stories of Cumberland and Westmorland: Olenacum

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Stories of Cumberland and Westmorland: Olenacum

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Lying in the long summer grass looking up at the skylark, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed, despite the beauty of the scene. I wanted to see something rather more spectacular than the one that was on offer that day. The nine year old boy, who was keen to see a Roman fort, could only make out a vague rectangular ditch around a raised grass platform in the middle of the pasture. It was undoubtedly the right location for the fort, but it was just a field of grass, albeit a very lovely wildflower meadow alive with butterflies and birds. My friends and I had left the side of the beck, where we used to spend many hours fishing and swimming, and decided to explore the land situated high above the river. The steep slope from the side of the beck was muddy and pitted with the footprints of cattle going to the water’s edge to drink. We clambered up the incline past the remains of an old hawthorn hedge on our right and a sandstone cliff on our left and arrived at the level part of the field. This was the place that we called Old Carlisle and the land belonged to the farm next to ours. The Roman fort was less than a mile from my family home, but I had only been to the site once before. Back in those days we didn’t know the Latin name given to the place by the Romans and we knew nothing of its purpose. I never returned to stand there on the Roman fort, although I often look over to it from the road as I pass by in my car.

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