What was once a barrier will bring communities together

Distance slabs, like the one at Bridgeness, are planned
Distance slabs, like the one at Bridgeness, are planned

An ambitious project to bring the Antonine Wall to life has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Rediscovering the Antonine Wall aims to develop proposals for Roman-themed play spaces, replica stone slabs which mark distance points, a series of art events and a community-led video tour of the wall.

And, with the remit of engaging local communities along the wall’s entire length, the project also plans to recruit a 21st century legion to act as a promotional army.

The strategy sees five local councils – Falkirk, East and West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow City and North Lanarkshire – working together with help from Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

Development funding of £97,000 has been awarded to help progress the plans to allow the partnership to apply for a full grant – which could be in the region of £1.5 million – to implement it.

Councillor Robert Spears, Falkirk Council’s spokesman for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “The Antonine Wall is an amazing attraction and encouraging visitors to visit this remarkable piece of history is a big ambition for all the partners involved.

“We are optimistic that we can attract full funding and, if successful, it will ensure visitors will fully appreciate and understand the wall’s significance in Scottish history.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Stretching from one side of the country to the other, what was once built as a barrier will bring the communities along its length together to explore and celebrate their shared heritage thanks to funding from the National Lottery.

“It’s an opportunity to raise the profile of this incredible feat of construction while benefiting communities across five regions.

“We are excited to see the plans develop.”

Rediscovering the Antonine Wall aims to increase awareness and understanding of the historic landmark – a World Heritage Site since 2008.

Training, local content development and community-led events will underpin the delivery of the three-year project and ensure what is delivered is unique to each area and curated to meet the needs of individual local communities.

A project manager has been appointed to deliver the development phase. Emma McMullen will work with communities and stake-holders to develop the final designs.

These include five replica distance slabs, similar to that in Bridgeness, and interpretive play spaces with themed equipment and digital content.

Artistic attractions, created and delivered by local communities, are also on the wish list as is recruiting a legion to promote the Antonine Wall.

Patricia Weeks, HES World Heritage co-ordinator, said: “We’re pleased to be collaborating on this exciting project with our five council partners to help both local communities and visitors rediscover the Antonine Wall.”

Over the past two years, communities have been consulted to discover what is needed to enhance the wall in different areas.

The initial funding will allow the group to explore initiatives and also gain an understanding of how much it will finally cost.

Patricia said: “The plans include distance slabs in each local authority area and Roman-themed play parks in those authorities.

“We’re hoping to have input from local children and communities about the design of these which will vary in scale in each area.

“We would also like to create a 21st century legion – a sizeable number of people in each area who can help promote the wall by doing tours, speaking to school children or being a spokesman for the wall.

“Overarching it all will be the art events.

“We’d like communities to come to us with ideas for art projects along the wall.

“We’ll be holding consultations over the next few months and hope to offer some fun, engaging activities.”

Patricia added: “My hopes for this project are that we can create an attraction for families and communities which will see them go and explore the wall, walk lengths of it, drop in to the play park, or visit a local business.

“We’d like to see the wall being enjoyed not only as a historic site but also as a beautiful green space that runs through the heart of Central Scotland.”