£1.3m plan to create flagship family attraction at Roman fort in Cumbria

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A £1.3m project that will see a Roman fort march into a new era has won political praise.

English Heritage's team at Birdoswald, near Brampton, have plans for a landmark upgrade to the attraction.

Supporters say the work is designed to make the attraction a "flagship family-friendly" site.

It will include enhanced educational assets for school visits and overall better visitor facilities.

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart was briefed on the project by English Heritage's regional head of projects and performance Simon Bean, area manager Lynn Rylance and site manager Vic Cunningham.

Mr Stewart, who has studied in-depth the former Roman forts along the length of Hadrian's Wall, saw architects' plans for the project and said he "greatly enjoyed" his visit.

He said: "Birdoswald Roman Fort is one of the most extraordinary sites in the world, set in some of the most loveliest, loneliest countryside.

"That such a rich seam of human history lies so close to us here in Cumbria is truly one of the greatest things about our county.

"It is wonderful to see so many generations enjoying the wall and its forts, and to see the investment in making it accessible for many, many decades - even centuries - to come."

Plans have been described as "exciting" by Mr Bean, who said staff were delighted to show them to Mr Stewart.

Of the project, he added: "Early consultation with the community has been positive and we have been encouraged by the enthusiasm for the scheme.

"The entire scheme will be complete for Easter 2018, and we all very much look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far."

Work at Birdoswald comes at a time when interest in Cumbria's Roman past and Hadrian's Wall is intensifying.

In Carlisle, much of that has been reignited following the discovery of Roman remains from what was a bathhouse at Carlisle Cricket Club's Edenside headquarters.

Archaeologists are preparing to stage a second dig there to find out what else may be lurking, with supporters hoping the discovery will help draw more visitors interested in learning about the area's Roman past to the city.

Carlisle City Council last week agreed to hand over up to £10,000 to teams overseeing the archaeology project at a fourth century bathhouse.

Experts believe that the building was used by the 1,000-strong Ala Petriana cavalry that was based at Stanwix.

Cumbrian construction tycoon Fred Story - owner of Story Homes and Story Contracting - has already agreed to stump up £20,000.

Council leader Colin Glover said: "A dig like this is something that’s really important for the city."

“Something like this is very much helping to promote Carlisle."

Mr Glover has encouraged other businesses to get behind the project.

A special exhibition - Hadrian's Cavalry - which has been running along the length of the wall closes in Sunday.

Carlisle's Tullie House is among the venues which has been involved in the showcase, which has explored the role and daily life of the Roman army’s cavalry forces.

It has included showing the world-famous Crosby Garrett helmet, named after the Cumbrian community in which it was found by a metal detectorist in 2010, in the city.

The Senhouse Roman Museum at Maryport has also been involved in the initiative with other attractions including The Roman Army Museum at Greenhead and Roman Vindolanda in Northumberland.

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