Last week we walked Hadrian’s
Wall – or, to be precise, the Hadrian’s Wall
Path, a national trail following (as far as possible) the line of the wall
built by the Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, to keep the marauding
Scots out of England. It extends right across the country (at
probably its narrowest point) for 84 miles.
You can walk either way, of course, but we decided to follow the
recommended east-west direction, starting (bizarrely) at Wallsend and finishing
at Bowness on Solway. We booked a
package with a company which arranges accommodation along the Path and
transports your luggage from place to place.
We set off from Wycombe on
Wednesday 17 June, and stayed overnight with our friends Jacqui and
Roger in Loughborough. The next day, we
drove up to Whitley Bay
(on the coast near Newcastle) where
our first night’s accommodation had been arranged. On our way, we stopped briefly to admire the
famous ‘Angel of the North’ sculpture by Anthony Gormley. It was erected in 1998, but this was our
first opportunity to see it. You know it
is huge, but you only really appreciate the size when you are standing beside
Bay we did a pleasant evening
stroll along the coast, ending up at a lighthouse on a small island. We walked further than intended, and needed
to get back to the town in time for an evening meal. A kind couple gave us a lift, and we
discovered they were from Wellington! We fell into happy conversation, and suddenly
realised we were well past the town centre, so hastily jumped ship and walked
On Friday we took the Metro to
Wallsend, visited the Segedunum Museum
(remains of a Roman fort) and then started the Path. Soon we were walking through Newcastle,
and were lucky enough to reach the famous ‘winking eye’ bridge just as it was
opening to let a Dutch warship through. We experienced a lot of variety over
the next seven days, in terms of scenery, weather and accommodation! The middle section of the Path (days 3-5 for
us) is definitely the best, with dramatic hills and large chunks of Wall still
remaining. (We also did a detour to
visit Lanercost Priory, which is built of stones from the wall and very
picturesque.) The first and last
sections of the Path are flat, so easier to walk but less interesting.
The weather came up with
something different every day. Three
days (not consecutive) were warm and sunny, two days were fine but cloudy and
windy, and on the other two days we had rain.
The worst day was our second, when we had several heavy showers and then
persistent very heavy rain from the late afternoon. We took refuge in a bus shelter, put on our
waterproofs (yet again) and waited in the hope that it would ease. It didn’t, and at that point we did start
wondering whether walking the Wall had been such a good idea! We arrived at our accommodation squelching,
but after a change of clothing, a good meal and a night’s rest we felt better,
especially when the sun came out next day.
Our accommodation was usually in
bed and breakfast establishments, in small villages or farmhouses. In two places dinner was provided (the
accommodation was too remote for any alternative) but most often we ate in the
village pub. In one such pub we met Mike
and Margaret Daniels, who were walking the Wall west-east. They’d left their car in Bowness, so needed
to return there after reaching Wallsend.
We likewise had to return to Whitley
Bay to collect our car, a journey
which would involve bus, train and metro; we were not looking forward to doing
this with all our luggage.
After chatting to Mike and
Margaret, we came up with a plan. We
gave them our car key, and explained where it was parked. When they reached Wallsend, two days later,
they took the metro to Whitley Bay,
collected our car and drove it across to Bowness. There they left our car, collected their own
and drove home. Two days later, when we
arrived in Bowness, our car was there waiting for us! A good deal all round. It also saved us time, so we were able to
detour on the way home and visit our friends Hugh and Margaret. They live in Hawes (North
Yorkshire) and we hadn’t seen them for years.
With detours off the Path to and
from accommodation, and visits to forts and other places along the way, we
reckon we walked close to 100 miles over the week. We really enjoyed it (except for the odd
moments in the pouring rain when we started to doubt our sanity), and are glad
we decided to do it.
We were busy in the week before
walking Hadrian’s Wall.
We had a blitz on our flat in Slough, to try to
get it fit for human habitation again.
We had a team of workmen in to do painting and remedial work; we had the
carpets cleaned and the oven cleaned; we did a lot of cleaning and odd jobs
ourselves. The flat is now in the hands
of a new and (we trust!) more reputable agent; we hope that they will find us
We also had some most enjoyable
outings during that week. One evening we
met up with eight people from Sandie’s old department at NFER. We had drinks together and most people were
able to stay for dinner. Another day we
went to Brighton, and looked round some of the
interesting bookshops there before going to visit Joanne (Sandie’s cousin’s
daughter), her husband Jay and their two-year-old son Sam.
On Tuesday 16 June we
went to London for the day. We followed our usual routine by heading
first for Leicester Square
and buying half-price theatre tickets for the evening; this time we saw A Little Night Music, which was
excellent. In the afternoon we were
mainly occupied by preparations for our next big trip. Ian had received the paperwork relating to
his next appointment with the Ministry of Education in Wellington:
a nine-month contract, starting September.
So while we were in London
he posted his signed contract, and we went to New Zealand House to deliver our
visa applications and related paperwork.
(Our passports, complete with work visas, were returned to us on
Friday.) Finally, we went to
Trailfinders to discuss details of our ‘round the world’ air tickets. Nine months in New
Zealand gives us the opportunity to travel
on the way there and back. So we shall set
off on July 29, spend eight days on Bali and four weeks
in NW Australia, before arriving back in Wellington
on 5 September. Not long now before we