A successful weekend preparing the equipment for the new season starting at Wrest Park. Centurio's birthday was also celebrated.
On April 1st this year, the date that the Vindolanda Trust was formed in 1972, five Guard members were proud to parade at a celebration to mark the life and work of Robin Birley OBE, the Trust's founder, who had died the previous autumn. Some 150 invited guests gathered in a marquee near the Hedley Centre to hear members of Robin's immediate family speak about his life. After sporting achievements at school Robin served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Marines during national service before taking a degree at Brasenose College ,Oxford. Teaching posts then followed in Vancouver, Gordonstoun and Alnwick College. Following the foundation of the Vindolanda Trust, excavations at the site took up most of Robin's time. He did however find time for public service on various councils including Chair of Northumbria County Council . Robin also served as a Magistrate and was appointed an Alderman of Northumbria CC.
Most of all Robin Birley will be remembered for being the finder of the Vindolanda writing tablets, voted some years ago the top treasure of Britain, and realising what these slivers of wood actually represented. From these tablets came the wealth of information on the life and work of the Roman Army on Hadrian's Wall.
Our first major public venue of the season was the multi-period St George’s Day Festival at Wrest Park which we have regularly attended. Unfortunately this particular weekend was bitterly cold and miserable with constant wind and rain and we were initially concerned about putting up the big tent. However we did manage it and set up camp as usual. English Heritage were also concerned about the weather and suggested via social media that public with advance tickets might wish to use them on the Sunday in preference to Saturday. Although visitor numbers were considerably smaller on the Saturday, around 4,500 people attended over the whole weekend.
Usual displays were given including the participation of two cavalrymen. Cloaks were much in evidence on Saturday and the hot camp stew proved popular. Due to the wind we were not able to shoot the artillery and we were all very relieved to retire to the warm pub in the evening. The pub has recently changed hands and, despite the recent departure of the chef, the new licensee provided us with good home cooking and a friendly smile, both of which were very welcome!
The weather was better on Sunday and the sun even managed to shine. It was obvious that the public had taken EH’s advice and were much more numerous but the weather still remained rather chilly.
Members turned out for this regular date on the English Heritage calendar.
The weather was almost perfect, except for a few moments of light rain and a persistent wind but on the whole we were lucky to avoid the downpours which affected many other places.
Crowds were good and enthusiastic and most of the displays went well.
Veteran members may remember Conrad who reappeared and displayed with us during the weekend.
Altogether an enjoyable weekend at one of the most impressive locations we visit.
We were up early on Saturday to get our kit into the Studio, park the cars and erect the camp. The three sites were a considerable distance apart and the logistics could have been a problem. However members concentrated and to my surprise, all the pieces came together.
After erecting the camp we kitted up to march to the start point for a grand parade through the city celebrating the date on which Britain's first Saint, St Alban, had his head cut off. At least 500 people took part.
Two displays were given during the day at 12.30 and 3 pm to very large crowds in the park area outside the Cathedral. The displays went well. On the down side the big problem we had was looking after both the camp and artillery with the numbers we had. However with every member cooperating we managed to pull it off.
Feedback from St Albans has been good with the organisers saying we were the highlight of the day. This is due to all those members who did turn up upholding the Guard's standards. Well done to them.
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