Tag Archive | archaeology

Denmark in the Viking age

A lovely digital reconstruction covering several sites produced by the Danish National Museum.

It includes demonstrations of how buildings were made and fly throughs of reconstructed buildings too. There’s plenty to see. so get a cup of tea or horn of mead and enjoy the show!


Roman Baths at Bath

Roman Baths revisited

Despite the redevelopment at the Roman Baths having completed some time ago I only went there last week. Having gone there several times over the years, perhaps most memorably one Autumn evening when there were few people about, I was keen to see what had changed.

Braced with a large lunch my friend and I queued to get in enjoying the costumed people passing by. It turned out the people in Regency Costume were involved in a successful record attempt in the Assembly Rooms as part of the Jane Austen Festival.

Roman Baths - the big one!

Looking across the main bath

The visitor challenge

The Roman Baths are really popular which means visitors need to keep moving so as not to jam up the limited space. I thought the way this was managed from admissions to interpretation worked well. Admissions were done in batches to break up the crowd and the very busy desk staff were really welcoming.

I liked the way objects were displayed with enough interpretation to inform but not so much to keep you reading for ages. Rather than itemising each item objects were often in groups with a general description for each group. This kept dwell time down while still being informative. It meant less text and more space for the objects too. I also liked the way this kept more of a thematic feel to the object displays.

Objects on display

An example of the object cases with interpretation panel

Digital interpretation

Naturally being a digital museums chap I was interested to see how digital was used. Again the need to keep visitors moving was borne in mind so the usual touch screens were replaced with projectors and video players.

The video fly throughs and reconstructions are very cleanly and crisply done which gives them a feeling of immediacy. Having them populated gave a sense of scale to the reconstructed buildings and helped show the diversity of people using and working in and around the baths. I really liked these.

Roman Baths digital screen

One of the videos in situ

I found the use of projectors well balanced and thoughtful. The gaps in projection meant you could view the remains as just that. A good example is the temple pediment where a projected image shows what it might have looked like when complete, and when the projection is off you clearly see the surviving fragments.

Roman Baths Pediment

Pediment without projection

Pediment with Projection

Pediment with projection

Projectors are also used to populate areas of the baths with Romans. I really enjoyed this for two reasons. One is it helped get across the place was busy and many different types of people used the baths. The second is the quality of light made the projected people have a faint ghostly feel to them which gave me a poignant peeping into the past feeling.

Roman Bathers

Echoes of Roman bathers

Audio tour

I admit I didn’t try the audio tour as I find they aggravate my hearing problems. However, I know a friend who has tried them and gave them the thumbs up!

One thing that makes this audio tour stand out is it isn’t one size fits all. There’s the standard tour, a kids tour and some commentary by Bill Bryson at selected spots. Plus a BSL guide and enhanced audio tour for people with visual problems. To make the hat trick you can even download the tour.

A final point on the audio tours is the way stops are handled. The different tours are colour coded and included on the same sign as other interpretation. I do like this economy of signage as you can probably tell!

Roof Bricks

Tour stops on a sign

Overall visit experience

Both of us really enjoyed the visit and recommend it if you’re in Bath. Whilst you can’t take the waters at the Roman Baths any more there is a package deal including the new spa in Bath.

More photos over my Flickr page


Monument of the month – Haytor Tramway

Digging Dartmoor

“Whatever are trams doing on Dartmoor?” is a reasonable question now we associate trams with big cities. However, a tramway is simply a light railway used for moving cargo or people. The Haytor Tramway is one created to move cargo, more specifically granite.


Granite points on the Haytor Tramway

It was created in 1820 by George Templer to move granite from the Haytor quarries to the Stover Canal head at Teigngrace. George was the third in a line of Templers who literally made their mark on this part of Devon with Stover House and estate, the Stover Canal and the Haytor Tramway. The tramway is still clear to follow as it was built from the nearest material to hand – granite! Much longer lasting than iron. Points could be carved into the granite as the photo above shows and the rails show an economy of labour typical of the industrial revolution. If you look at the rails you will see only the outer ‘L’ is cleanly finished while the inner part of the rail is left roughly finished. This is so the car wheels ran smoothly on the rails while the rest just had to clear the bottom of the car.

Has Railtrack taken over?

You can easily follow the tramway from the quarry but some sections are overtaken by the moor and showing signs of neglect. Hopefully as the path is well used the remains of this mining monument will remain visible for a long time to come.

Branch line?

Wrong type of tree on the line

Templer Way

I was at first disappointed this had nothing to do with the Knights Templer but is dedicated to the Templer family’s work. I thought medieval because of the number of medieval routes on Dartmoor. The Abbot’s way for example. Plus all the associated great stories about the monks getting up to no good!

Back to the point, the Templer way commemorates the work of two of the Templer family. The way is 18 miles altogether including the tramway and Stover Canal. Being interested in Dartmoor’s history I chose to explore a section of tramway down to Yarner Wood and then walk back to Haytor via Black Hill. If you decide to do this walk it’s worth having a look in the abandoned quarry. According to a local chap I spoke to there are koi carp in the pools there…

The quarry

I see cliffs and cold water but the carp are too coy to spot

Finding the way

Whether you want to walk from shore to moor or vice versa the Templer Way is clearly marked. There’s also a handy information packed leaflet available that I enjoyed reading when I planned my walk. As you can see from my route mentioned above there is plenty of scope for including a section of the way with other walks.

Just keep an eye out for the granite rails and rudder and wheel waymarks!

Templer Way waymark

Wheel for the tramway and rudder for the canal and river

Monument of the Month – Hembury Fort

Bit of an old crock

I first met Hembury through seeing pottery recovered in excavations on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. The pottery is distinctive and called Hembury Ware. It’s one piece of evidence that the fort was a centre for trading.

My next encounter was a walk around the fort after a task clearing footpaths with BTCV. Seeing the fort itself is always interesting, as it’s one thing to read its on the end of a ridge and another to climb up the end of that ridge!

Defensive ditch 1

Pinhole view along the defences

A longer lasting monument

Like Maiden Castle this was a causwayed camp that was reinvented as a hill fort in the Iron Age. Before you dash off looking for remains of the causwayed camp it is under the ramparts of the later fort now. You can walk around the ramparts and on a clear day there are views towards Dartmoor. The centre of the fort is filled with a mix of trees and bracken. You can get pretty soggy on a damp day!

Centre of the fort 1

Pinhole view of the centre of the fort

From trade to industry

Close by the fort you can find the remains of collapsed mining adits. These were made mining for whetstones and many adits are collapsed now. Now forestry is the industry by the fort and there are several way marked walks through the woods.

Old mine adit

A collapsed mine adit

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