|Artist's impression of the defensive ditches|
around the Roman fort
I was startled to see the brown sign pointing to Epiacum as we came round a corner heading towards Alston and Newcastle, but curiosity made me back up and take the turning. We drove a mile or more but without seeing any other signs and gave up, thinking that the site might be miles away. Back in the village we asked some people standing outside a house and they assured me that it was less than four miles to Epiacum.
I didn't have time then to retrace my steps, but on my way back home I did visit the fort, climbing up the steep and soggy slope - and what an astonishment it proved to be! A Roman legionary fort defended after the manner of native Celtic hillforts. It was well worth the climb.
Epiacum appears to be privately preserved and the local farmer asks for a £2.00 donation in the boggy car park. We gladly paid up pour encourager les autres or something like that. I can highly recommend it to anyone who is passing Alston.
I have one piece of advice, though: wear waterproofs and hiking boots. I've been there three times now and each time it was raining - you'll see spots of rain landing on the lens as I film. There's something about the hill above the fort that seems to attract the rain clouds, for half a mile away the roads were bone dry!