I have just had three of the most wonderful days – including turning 46 in “my kinda style”. I have had lots of good days lately, mind you, it’s not just chance, it’s from dreaming big and then making it happen. I’ve always been an action girl – my plans do tend to come to fruition. Although, even I can’t control the weather; but, on this occasion, we were extraordinarily lucky. It was a bit hot and sticky for hiking, but we coped!
The first two days of our Hadrian’s Wall hike are covered here. This post covers days 3 to 5. We hope to complete the trail next weekend. This central part of the trail includes the most impressive Roman ruins and scenery but was the most strenuous/demanding.
To recap, I am walking the 84-mile trail with my 14-year old daughter. We are being supported by Hubby/Dad – who has dropped us off/picked us up each day. He has been doing “father and son” stuff with our 8-year old while we walk but has gone well beyond the call of duty by cooking our dinners/washing up at the Youth Hostel and leaping out of his top bunk in the middle of the night to plug in my forgotten phone and Ipod. I’m big picture – he’s details – we make a good pair.
The first day was my Birthday and, when we left our house, the rain was torrential. Luckily the storm was was heading north, and by the time we started our walk 60 miles south, it was sunny. My daughter drew me this lovely Birthday card – it looks like us – we have our new jackets and rucksacks on. I am leading the way and have the sun tan and the purple hair!
I ate my Birthday lunch sitting in the shade on a dry stone wall – a happier person you could not find – celebratory can of fizz in one hand and a brie baguette in the other. My healthy-but-still-yummy banana cake went down a treat too.
The second day we had arranged to meet the boys for lunch at Housesteads Roman Fort (you can see the fort at the top of the photo above). It was heartening to see them waving from atop the Fort as we trudged towards them.
There is a surprising amount of wall/fort remaining after 2000 years. The wall itself is impressive but the forts, milecastles and turrets are incredible. Originally the wall was 80 Roman miles long and there was a small fort every mile. These “fortlets” or milecastles as they are now known housed barracks for up to 60 soldiers (see example below).
In between each milecastle there was built two equally spaced turrets – each housing around eight men. Here you can see the turret at the bottom of Steel Rigg.
This detail shows the threshold of Black Carts Turret and clearly shows the groove and stop made by the door bolt.
Originally there were no plans for any large forts but this plan was quickly revised and larger forts added. The remains of the large forts at Chesters, Birdoswald and Housesteads are very impressive today with many walls/interior details still visible. Housestead Fort housed up to 1,000 men. There are also still many milecastles and turrets to view today – we loved “finding” them as we progressed. These are just a couple of the buildings at Chesters Fort.
The Romans also constructed a ditch and earth mounds parallel to the wall and these earthworks are also evident today – in many places the earthworks are all that remain. This is the disused quarry at Walltown Crags.
Overall, my enjoyment wasn’t just in seeing the Roman relics and the vistas, I loved the details too – the stiles and gates, the wild flowers, the farm animals, the villages, and the farmhouses. The old stone farm buildings along the wall are made from stone “borrowed” from the wall.
In some villages the trail went through people’s gardens – one family were having a party in their garden but didn’t bat and eyelid as we marched through. Surreal. We managed not to ask for a burger – it smelled so good. The trail crosses roads, rail, lakes, quarries, arable and grazing farmland, deciduous and conifer woods, rivers, streams and estuary – it crosses our whole country.
At one point we were walking through a regular old grassy field; but, in the far distance to our left you could see the Pennines. Ahead of us rose the mountains of the Lake District, to our right, the Southern Uplands; and behind us, the Great Whin Sill from which we had walked – breathtaking beauty.
Streuth, in the time it has taken me to write this post I could have walked another section of the trail! Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this so I know my time is worthwhile, ta in advance.