Landing at the White Cliffs of Dover on his return from the Crusades, Robin Hood's promise to be in Sherwood Forest by nightfall seemed a little rash, but when we next see him at Hadrian's Wall you wonder if the sun really has addled his brains.
This being Kevin Costner in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves though strict historical and geographical accuracy was no more expected than a charismatic performance from the male lead. we are in a Hollywood version of England that is the size of a football pitch and where we're is in the Middle Ages whilst Scotland is apparently in the Stone Age.
|Snufkin was here!|
It was fairly obvious that the Romans were going to use the Sill as the basis of their great wall, and whilst in summer the views are terrific, yo don't envy the guys who had to patrol in winter. The Syrian archer unit they sent here must have thought they'd died and gone to Hades.
If the weather is kind visiting the tree is a pleasant enough walk though from either the Roman Army Museum or Housesteads fort.
|Reenactor from Comitatus with draco|
We know the Romans posted cavalry from Sarmatia up here, probably based at Ribchester in Lancashire. The Sarmatians were fierce nomads from what is now the Ukraine. Their battle standard was the Draco, effectively a wind sock in the shape of a dragon.
It is Cunedda's great great great great great grandson, Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon who was supposed to have first flown the modern Flag of Wales later adopted by Henry Tudor. Dragons, red or any other colour, don't really have much of precedent in Celtic lore, so the question is always where it came from, so maybe Cunedda brought the Draco with him when he emigrated from Northumbria.
There are other mechanisms by which Roman dragons could have reached Wales, but as someone from the Red Rose county I like the idea of the Welsh flag coming via Lancashire.
|Age of Arthur post holes at Birdoswald Fort|
This isn't the only possible connection between Arthur and Hadrian's Wall. The fort now known as Birdoswold, where clear evidence of use in the post-Roman period has been dug up, was really called Camboglanna. This may conceivably have evolved from Camglann, which isn't a million miles away from Camlan, the site of Arthur's last battle. Further west at Burgh-by-Sands the fort of Aballava had, by the sixth century, become Avalana in the local lingo.
Arthur or not, this part of the world is Hen Ogledd, the old Welsh speaking north. The sycamore is too recent an import to our ecology to feature in this culture, and is perhaps just a visitor to this place like me. It certainly an elemental spot, dominated by sky, wind, rain and earth, in which visitors such as the Romans seem to have left but the faintest of impressions and our own modern world almost none. It is these thoughts, not second rate Hollywood movies, that fill my imagination as I say goodbye to this tree.