Now and then I like to share an inspiring poem about nature or the wild. This one’s by the English-American poet W H Auden (originally a Brummie like me!)

A friend recommended it on the first day of our John Muir Discovery Award course, down in the wild’s of the Northumberland National Park on the exposed, windswept ridge of Hadrian’s Wall.

We had driven there through dense swirling fog on a chilly early January day, keeping eagle eyes open for a first glimpse of the ruined wall. We struggled…

Image of child in outdoor gear stood on remote ridge in atmospheric mist next to bare tree
Easy to imagine Roman soldiers missing their homeland while stationed in the wilds of Britannia in weather like this!

I commented to Caroline and my friend that whilst our views were obscured, it was exactly how I imagined it for the poor Roman soldiers all those centuries ago, battling the elements and enemy raiders in their defence of Hadrian’s Wall (wearing little more than skirts and sandals, regardless of the weather!). Auden seems to have experienced similar thoughts.

Here it is for you, W. H. Auden’s

Roman Wall Blues

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I’ve lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I’m a Wall soldier, I don’t know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl’s in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don’t like his manners, I don’t like his face.

Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish;
There’d be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I’m a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

W. H. Auden

The Tungrian soldiers were from Belgium, so whilst they may not have been dreaming of sun-drenched olive or lemon trees, life on the wall must have seemed pretty miserable.

However, here’s proof it’s also incredibly beautiful in different conditions.

Image of grass and trees growing alongside the raised track of Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort

This is at Housesteads Roman Fort, the only place you can walk on the actual stones of Hadrian’s Wall itself, for a stretch of around 200m.

With views like this perhaps the Romans weren’t so blue during summer!

Actually, it was also several degrees warmer back then, as vines were successfully grown at Hadrian’s Wall for wine. What was all the Roman moaning about?!

Housesteads is very well worth a visit (and also apparently George R R Martin’s inspiration for Game of Thrones’ wall!) Entry is free to both English Heritage and National Trust members.

If you love nature poetry, try this inspiring children’s anthology is I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, with a nature poem for every day of the year.

For more poems check out Kids of the Wild’s poetry section and take a look at more children’s books in the reviews section as well as lots of outdoor adventure inspiration throughout the website from coasteering to citizen science, picnics to puffins. Let’s get the kids outdoors now!

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Wild wishes on your outdoor family explorations.