It's windy and it's wild. But spring is here, as far as the Vindolanda excavations are concerned. For four decades, volunteers have given up their summers to uncover the area's Roman past. This year is no different, though there is particular excitement in the air.
That's because 2012 marks the end of a five-year project to learn more about the town that grew up alongside the Vindolanda fort. We tend to associate Hadrian's Wall with the Roman army. In fact, the soldiers were just one part of the population living on the Roman Empire's northern frontier.
Here at Vindolanda, a thriving town grew up, with shops, bars and workshops. At its peak, up to 7,000 people lived here; converging on the area from across the Roman world. This was only possible thanks to the power of Rome. Exactly how the Romans maintained outposts like Vindolanda should become clearer as a result of this season's excavations.
None of this work would be possible without the cohorts of volunteers which have begun work once again. Over the years, thousands of people have given their time and energy to unlock Vindolanda's secrets. This season, almost 650 people from all parts of globe will be taking part. Among them is Graham Ryan from Cumbria. He's been here before and says the experience fired his enthusiasm for Roman history.
– Graham Ryan, Vindolanda Volunteer
I've really gone back to being a boy, finding treasure which I've always wanted to do.
The volunteers will be digging until the end of August, so completing the latest project at Vindolanda. Even so, it's far from the end of the excavations. The amateur archaeologists will be back again next year, to start on a new project. Where Northumberland's Roman history is concerned, there is always more to discover.