Tracking Down the Romans and Picking up the L Plates…… Wroxeter, Shropshire

Checking out the Baths

Woolly says – With Jo using the feeble excuse of illness I had grave concerns on being able to get out and about, having waited patiently for several days she appeared to be walking and talking so I failed to see the problem with going out.

Although still not feeling a hundred per cent I was as eager as my small friend to go and do something after several days in bed, we mustered our resources and headed off in search of all things Roman.

Woolly says – You can’t beat a good Roman city and our destination had once been the fourth largest in the UK.  As our wheels pounded along the roads, I was happy to fill my carer in on the details.  Viroconium Cornoviorum or Wroxeter to you and me was strategically located near the end of Watling Street the Roman trunk road that ran across England from Dubris (Roman Dover). The site was first established around 55 AD as a frontier post before becoming a legionary fortress covering 173 acres (70ha) and would have housed and provided for 5000 people. Jo was nodding happily at my vast knowledge but appeared to be driving more and more slowly, peering over the dashboard I realised that we had arrived behind a learner driver going at 25 mph in a 40 mph zone, I tutted and tried to continue with my discourse, when we stopped at some lights and stayed stopped. The learner seemed to have problems moving their vehicle, as the minutes ticked by I wondered if things might improve if I got out and pushed them, just as I was about to open the car door we moved away and the learner turned left.  Having lost my train of thought I scrabbled around for my notes to allow me to continue when it came to my attention that we were again going rather slowly especially for the countryside, I peered through the windscreen……

We’d found another learner who was doing 30 mph in a 70mph area and as the roads were windy and a clear run to overtake wasn’t going to happen, we were stuck.

Woolly says – ……. I felt it might be a good time to practice gnashing my teeth and tusks, on we crawled as mile after mile slowly went by.  By now I was busy looking for the nice brown sign to lead us to our quest and having finally spotted it the learner turned to the right and crawled onto another road leaving us a free road for the last four miles.  Half an hour passed which seemed a very long time to still be covering four miles even with a learner in front!  Jo had taken to muttering to herself before glancing down at me and saying ‘Sorry Wool’s I have no idea where it is, we’ve done 20 miles so I’m pretty sure we must have missed it’, I growled in frustration as the car was turned round and we sped off along the tarmac again. Just in time to find ourselves behind…..yep you guessed it…. another learner driver!! I kicked the dashboard and glared at the red letter L in front of me just as I glimpsed the sign, shouting out ‘STOP’, Jo pulled into a driveway and turned the car once again and drove very slowly towards the sign which was defiantly pointing towards the way we had just come, we looked at each other and took the road to the right deciding that someone had obviously moved the signpost just to confuse us. 

We quickly caught up with the learner driver and having no more signs to follow I decided to turn left and drive for 2 miles, if we hadn’t found it then I would have to drive back to where we had turned and drive 2 miles in the opposite direction, if this failed then I voted for a lie down in a field!

Woolly says – My joy at finally seeing a nice friendly brown sign pointing directly at the site was beyond comprehension, I jumped out of the car and hurried into the gift shop come reception and gave the lady behind the counter a very hard stare.

Before he could frighten her any further I explained that their signage wasn’t working very well to which she agreed telling us that they had told the council many times but that if every customer also told the council the problems then something might actually get done, it seemed an easy thing to do especially if it would help others to find the place.

Woolly says – With Jo clacking away I found it difficult to keep my paws still in my need to investigate.  A small museum gave me a good but brief overview of Roman life with many relics that had been found at Wroxeter and slightly further afield, now as most of my fans will know I’m pretty up on the Romans, having tracked Hadrian from his wall in the North of Britain through Europe to the outreaches of Turkey (if you’re not aware of this then please feel free to read our previous blogs on https://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/traveltalesofawoollymammoth/).  I was pleasantly surprised to learn some new facts about these incredible people…… 

Fact one: The Romans thought that Britannia was the end of the world and a mysterious and dangerous place, well some things haven’t changed went through my mind, I bet Mr Caesar wouldn’t have taken much notice of leaving the EU and would have just done what he wanted to do.

Fact two: Roman guests brought their own napkins when dining out, Jo would be well organised for this as she always seems to have hundreds of the things in her bag.

Fact three: Women and men’s bathing times were split, with the females and children getting the morning slots and the men the afternoon’s, at dusk the baths would be shut due to a lack of light.  I pondered this and wondered why they hadn’t invented electricity having already come up drains and heating systems, they missed a trick there.

Fact four: there had once been an antler workshop here, this worried me slightly and I gave my tusks a gentle rub of reassurance before heading onto the site itself.

Although a fairly small site by our standards it had a most impressive wall which soul d have provided access into the Basilica and bath house, which on closer inspection had incredible brickwork and holes where the supporting timber scaffolding had once been.

Woolly says – the wind was sending icy blasts towards my trunk and leaving my eyes watering as I wandered through what had once been the exercise area, the bases of the former columns could still be seen in the ground. 

Just imagine what it must have once been like

Each of the rooms were clearly defined as we passed though the steam and sauna areas and into what had once been the heated pool.  The heating system was still in evidence and a fine example of how clever the Romans were, small rooms were dotted around where furnaces had burned to send heat through the whole place.  An open courtyard area held the original outdoor pool which did made me wonder if the Romans might have been slightly mad for bathing outside in this country, my trunk was starting to freeze as another blast of freezing air whistled round me. 

Realising that Jo was shivering and that her hands were turning blue I hurried her across the small lane towards the mock Roman Villa.  A line of columnated stumps which would have once lined the road were barely poking out of the ground, I stood and took in the house.  Based on a building from around 320 AD it looked far more Mediterranean than the usual architecture found here.  The rooms were set around a courtyard which looked rather lovely, although small in some respects the grandeur would have come from the decorated walls and the opulent marble, the dining room and a bed room weren’t the warmest but as we reached the Villa’s private bath house I could feel icicles forming on my tusks, who in there right minds would get into a bath in these temperatures, actually who in there right minds would get into a bath at all!

We sat in the small seating area sipping our hot drinks to try and defrost, Woolly soon had his trunk back in working order having placed it in his steaming hot chocolate and we decided that we had thoroughly enjoyed having a look round the ancient city even if it had been tricky to find.  With fingers, feet and paws warmed through we climbed back into the car and headed back to base just in time to find ourselves behind a learner on the roads!