150 pages, 16 plates with colour photos; b/w photos, b/w illustrations
Built in the years AD122-30 by order of the Emperor Hadrian 'to separate Romans from Barbarians', Hadrian's Wall was 73 miles long, running from Wallsend-on-Tyne to Bowness on the Solway Firth. It was originally almost 5 metres high with 16 large forts along its length and is the largest Ancient Monument in northern Europe.
Following the author's previous successful book, Hadrian's Wildlife has been enriched and expanded with additional information on wildlife and Roman history. When standing on the WHO site of Hadrian's Wall, many visitors may wonder what the area would have looked like during Roman times. Bringing the bird remains from Roman digs into view reveals which species were living then as well as what the landscape looked like. Although some species such as white-tailed eagle and common crane are no longer found here, others including nuthatch, hobby and little egret have colonized the area.
Living close to Hadrian's Wall, the author has explored its many habitats from the Solway Firth across to the east coast. Many of these wildlife sites have a Roman influence from old forts to the gathering of pearls from the oysters that are found on the North Tyne.
Hadrian's Wildlife will encourage visitors to the area to enjoy and appreciate the wide selection of these habitats on a year-round basis. This invaluable guide to the many and varied attractions of the area will take the reader on a voyage of discovery and will be an essential companion for visitors.
"As any child that went to school in the Northeast will testify, one of the very first 'school trips' that all children in this part of the world enjoy is a visit to 'The Roman Wall'. It's almost a rite of passage, a first taste of excitement of the many school trips to come and all that they entail.
Most visits focus on just one or two sites such as Vindolanda or Housesteads; for many that half-day in a bright orange cagoule (we all had one) clutching the packed lunch while gazing down into the former latrine of a garrison of Roman soldiers might well be the only visit.
Thanks to outdoor pastimes such as walking, cycling or birding, many are drawn back in subsequent years and relish the opportunity to explore this former frontier further. John Miles has gone several steps beyond this; not only does he live and work around the Wall, but does so in a role with the RSPB that influences the landscape and the nature it supports. Now, in his sixth book, he pens a companion guide to the wildlife of Hadrian's Wall.
Hadrian's Wildlife is a splendid blend of Wall history (both ancient and modern) intertwined with the natural history of the landscape it cuts across, acting as a guide to the birds and wildlife that can be found around the remnants of this once imposing border.
To call this simply a guidebook would be a disservice to the varied subject matter covered. Hadrian's Wall was once a place where cultures clashed, and people fought over land and the resources it provided. John, with his history as an employee of the RSPB, has been able to call on the recent struggles between conservation and other interests. Kielder, Geltsdale and Langholm are some of the key conservation battlegrounds of the last three decades; each is revisited with many of their tales recounted from someone who was there, in the thick of the action.
Not everyone will agree with the interpretation of some events, and some will no doubt dismiss much of what is written about the persecution of raptors in the area as speculative. However, there is no tabloid sensationalism here, just the repetitive themes of loss in the face of vested interests, and often ignorance. The author must have despaired at some of the events that took place at times.
From red kite reintroductions in the Derwent Valley to a skua-filled seawatch on the Solway via the tranquil Northumbrian loughs, this book will transform a visit to Hadrian's Wall country for anyone with even a passing interest in natural history. John's passion for birds is evident and his local knowledge oozes from the text, but I was pleasantly surprised with the detail on a range of other wildlife and plants – ranging from mammals to dragonflies and crayfish to cranberries via calaminarian grassland.
The superb field-sketches from Northumbrian birder and artist Mike Henry are a real bonus and complement the flavour of the text well. My only niggle was that the quality of one or two of the photographic images wasn't as good as I would expect for a book with a £16.99 price tag.
Whether you're walking, biking or birding along the Wall, this guide will enhance the experience and provide a unique view on the wildlife and its place in the past, present and future of this World Heritage Site."
- Alan Tilmouth, Thursday 13th September 2012, www.birdguides.com
- History of the birds
- The Solway Estuary
- The Solway Mosses
- The Solway Marshes
- The river course
- Silvanus god of the forest
- Birdoswald and up the Irthing
- The heather moorland
- The crags
- The loughs
- Chollerford Bean Field
- Down the Tyne
- Kittiwake City
- Hadrian's Kite project
- Thomas Bewick
- A monthly guide around the Wall
- List of bird species found in Roman times
References and further reading
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