HADRIAN’S WALL PATH: 84 MILES, 5.5 DAYS, ROMAN FORTS & A WHOLE LOT OF COUNTRYSIDE
Hadrian’s Wall lies in the border country between Scotland and England, built on the orders of Emperor Hadrian in AD122 it marked the northern limits of his empire. It is the first National Trail (in the UK) to follow the course of a UNESCO world heritage site.
It is an impressive feat, even just imagining how the thousands of tonnes of stone got to the top of some of the hills throughout the trail is astounding.
The trail has been officially open since May 2003, with its official season running between April and October.
I was itching to head off into the distance and had been eyeing the Camino for a while, but thought I’d start with something small first. A casual 84 miles….as you do…
Day 1 / Wallsend to Wylam
Arriving at the Segundum Roman Fort, the sun is out (23c, roasting by UK standards) and I’m full of (coffee) beans. This is my first solo, multi day hike and I can’t bloody wait to get started.
I have however managed to lose my trail “passport” last night in the pub, so now having repurchased one lets begin….
A lot of miles ahead of me today – so I skip the fort and crack on. This section of the path is widely regarded to be boring and industrial, I thought otherwise. The path heading towards Newcastle is surrounded by woodland, birdsong drowns out the faint noise of factories that are hiding somewhere behind the trees. Shortly, the Tyne comes into view and this is my constant companion for the next 12 miles.
Passing under the 7 bridges on the Tyne, I note to myself to come back to Newcastle again. On a warm day like this, the city pulls out all of the stops, and as much as I would like to stop at one of the riverside bars for a bite to eat in the sunshine, there are both miles and the city to put behind me.
The day got hotter, usually I wouldn’t mind but with tarmac and the sun beating down, my pace slowed significantly. The Keelman appeared like an oasis in the desert. The Keelman is a pub and a brewery with a cracking shaded beer garden – it was definitely time for a break. There is nothing more restorative than a pint on a hot day…..
Lunch and a pint had, it was time to push on to my accommodation for the evening – 2 miles off the path. Leaving Tyne Riverside Country Park (stopping first at an ice-cream truck for a 99 – treat yo self!) I hit the Wylam Waggonway.
Leaving the river behind me, the Wylam Waggonway has a cathedral-like canopy of trees and much needed shade, it is a beautiful walk. At this point of the day however I am are knackered, and without dilly dallying make my way to my accom for the night.
Day 1 Stats
Distance actually walked = 17.74 miles
Blisters = 0
Sunburn Level = A wee flush
Beers = 2
Day 2 / Wylam to Chollerford
This morning did not start off well, leaving my phone at the inn I was staying at with no staff to arrive until 3pm. But hey ho – I had to get going this was to be one of the longest sections of the trails.
Starting back down the Wylam Waggonway to rejoin the path, I was greeted with a delightful morning uphill schelp to Heddon-on-the-Wall. Upon reaching the village, Coffee and bacon was required and stopped by Dingle Dell tearoom to devour possibly one of the best bacon rolls I’ve had in the last decade! (this is not an exaggeration by the way)
Making my way out of town, the path started through some fields – and this is where the second thing to go slightly wrong happened.
Picture this: Casually sauntering through a field in the sun, I spy a herd of cows on the actual path in the distance – no big deal right? They’re just cows? Or so I thought as I approached them, getting closer, I realised they were in fact much taller than me…..shit. It was at same time, that the herd noticed me walking towards them. Most returned to eating grass, one however, I think in hindsight was probably a young bull took offence to my presence in his field, and with a noise that could only have come from the seventh circle of hell it went for me…..
Insert several expletives here! I hightailed it through a patch of nettles and up the nearest tree (I tell you what, how I managed to get up the tree still surprises me) and there I perched, until this cow / bull lost interest. 25 mins later, I climbed down and set back the way I came at a quick trot, cursing all manner of things. At this time, two gentlemen in their 70’s (Steve and Dave) entered the field and I filled them in on the cow/ bull situation, we then decided to not try it again and detour along the road.
On we went through fields and fields and fields – mostly filled with sheep (praise the lord!). Finally, mid morning we were treated to our first glimpse of wall and the second passport stamp stop at the Robin Hood Inn, The gents stopped here for lunch, but having heard of a pub further up the road (about 90mins) with an alleged impressive menu I decided to wait. Which bring us to the third thing going wrong today – The Pub, once I got to it was CLOSED! Ahhhhhhh! The next town was 10 miles away, bloody disaster.
Onwards to Chollerford, fuelled on cigarettes and museli bars. Bright yellow fields of Rapeseed stretched as far as the eye could see, glimpses of wall here and there. I met people coming in the opposite direction of me on the path, it occurred to me how international this walk actually is (more of that in a later post). A highlight of the day was passing through the site of the Battle of Heavenfield – wildflowers completely covered the field, it was simply stunning.
Eventually arriving at Chollerford, everything – shops, pubs, gas station etc were closed, it also dawned on me that my accommodation for the night was another 2.5 miles uphill (a common theme throughout this walk) past the third passport point, Chesters Fort. Mentally, I was done for the day, it had in many parts been completely shit, but it hadn’t rained so that was something. One foot in front of the other, up and down stiles, and singing at cows in a bid they wouldn’t come after me (this actually worked for a couple of days – The song of choice? The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond) I arrived at Greencarts farm, and settled in for some banter with fellow walkers – who had also run in with the cow/ bull earlier in the day!
Day 2 Stats
Distance actually walked = 26 miles
Blisters = Still zero (a miracle)
Angry Cows (possibly a bull) = 1
Detours taken = 1 (see above)
Random Thought: Do not enter fields with cows early in the morning.
“Just when you think you are at the world’s end, you see a smoke from East to West as far as the eye can turn, and then under it as far as the eye can stretch, houses and temples, shops and theatres, barracks and granaries, trickling along like dice behind – always behind – one long, low, rising, and falling, and hiding and showing line of towers. And that is the Wall!”
Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill
PART TWO of my Hadrian’s Wall Path Adventure can be found here