Newly discovered Roman remains and a visit from giant cruise ship offer signs of optimism for area recently hit by tragedy
The battered economy of west Cumbria has had a double boost with the discovery of major Roman remains and a weekend visit by one of the world's most luxurious cruise ships.
Devastating floods, the serial shooting tragedy and recent drought have threatened one of the worst years in recent times for an area increasingly turning to tourism.
Archaeologists believe that coins, jewellery and pottery found at a site on the edge of Cockermouth may point to a buried amphitheatre, which would be the most northerly in the Roman Empire. A dig currently under way, after floodwater unearthed an initial stash of material, has discovered a very large wooden structure.
Ground surveys before the month-long archaeology excavation pointed to unexpectedly complex remains, separate from the fort of Derventio whose traces remain at the village of Pabcastle, near Cockermouth. Mark Green of Grampus Heritage, which is supervising the dig with North Pennines Archaeology, said: "We don't yet know exactly what to expect but these are exciting times.
"If it is an amphitheatre, it will be a massive discovery for the area. Nobody knew that this particular site was used by the Romans but after the floods and a series of discoveries, we had to take a look.
"The building may alternatively have had residential or agricultural use, but in any event, it shows that the Romans who lived here felt it was safe enough to live outside the Papcastle settlement. It would also mean that Derventio was bigger than anyone could have expected."
Roman finds have been a major boost to other parts of northern England, notably along Hadrian's Wall and its outstations, which include Glannaventa naval base at Ravenglass, on the Cumbrian coast, whose 12ft-high walls are among the highest Roman remains in Britain. Meanwhile the modern port of Whitehaven notched up one of its biggest commercial successes for years, with a two-day visit by The World, a 43,500 tonne 'floating town', whose 165 cabin-owners spend most of the year afloat, deciding the liner's course among themselves.
The luxurious ship, whose suites cost between £320,000 and £8,600,000 for investors, chose Whitehaven after a pitch for cruise liner custom in Miami by Cumbria tourism officials. Tours of the town, whose Georgian plan is the best-preserved of any in Britain including Bath, were laid on for the visitors, after a fanfare and carnival on the restored harbour frontage.
Trips to the nearby Lake District were also arranged, on the lines of a similar, successful visit to Barrow-in-Furness last year by the Tahitian Princess cruise liner. The World, which earlier this year sailed to Dubai, Egypt, the Maldives and Thailand, leaves tomorrow morning for Liverpool and Greenock.
Ian Stephens, chief executive of Cumbria Tourism which also laid on a "Made in Cumbria" seafront market, said that enticing "the world's most luxurious liner" put the county's seaboard on the world cruising map. He said: "If we can attract this calibre of ship to our shores and impress them while they're here, it can help spread the word about why Cumbria is a must-visit port of call for cruise ships in UK waters."
Whitehaven was the original home of the Brocklebank steamship line which later became a major part of Cunard.
Source From Great Sites : http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/aug/15/cumbria-gets-tourism-boost