Walked from: Greenhead
Walked to: Wall
Date: 30 August
Distance: 21 miles
Stayed: The Hadrian Hotel
Weather: Largely sunny – dare I say ‘hot’?
I honestly thought that Hadrian’s Wall would be thronged with people on a bank holiday weekend. At times there were definitely some people around (those times bearing a strong correlation with the location of car parks), but overall I’ve been very surprised at how isolated much of this walk has been. In fact, I didn’t see a soul, not only on the path but anywhere on the horizon, for the first two hours that I walked this morning. I had the Walltown Crags and Great Chesters Fort entirely to myself. Weird. But good. But still weird.
Then, just as it was all starting to feel as if I were the only survivor of a zombie apocalypse, along came Ian. And Dave. And Sean – three very amusing, mildly hungover fellow transport geeks (come on guys, you know you are) from Nantwich who kindly let me walk along with them for the next three hours or so, regaling me with tales of their ‘grumpy old men’ pub quiz group and the campsite debacles of the previous evening. They made the beautiful rollercoaster of a walk from Milecastle 42 to 35 fly by, and believe me, the only things that should fly over that brutally undulating legacy of Roman ingenuity and escarpment are birds. I bid them farewell atop Sewingshields Crags, where I stopped for lunch and they headed off the route to meet their friend waiting for them in a car at the bottom of the hill. Car? But a daydream right now…
From then on it was just a matter of keeping adjacent to the military road (AKA the B6318), which was originally built in the mid-1700s to deal with that Bonnie Prince Charlie chap – under which lies remnants of the Wall, – for the remainder of the day. Would have all been pretty straightforward and picturesque if I had not been running very low on water. Was I thinking about the site of the Mithras Temple as I approached Brocolitia Roman Fort? Was I hell – I was praying that the rumoured refreshment van would be in the car park so I could buy some drinks. Lots of drinks – I was positively hallucinating about the lovely ice cold lemonade and water I would down. Suffice to say… No van. Gah.
I was an hour and a half away from the next option, the Riverside Tea Rooms in Chollerford. On I walked, stopping briefly at Limestone Corner, the northernmost point of the Roman Empire, to ponder the heathon hordes north of the Wall. Got to the tea rooms at 4.04pm. They closed at 4pm. Arrrrgggggh. Thank god for the small shop in the next door petrol station and the cold bottle of water they sold me: possibly the best £1 I ever spent, and it rehydrated me enough to walk on the mile to Wall, where the friendly staff of the Hadrian Hotel pub – my home for the night – fed me multiple pints of lemonade as well as a decent roast lamb dinner. Bliss. Rehydrated and tired out, I was in bed by 9pm.
Photos: Walltown Crags / view looking south / the tree that was apparently in ‘that Kevin Cosner film’ (being modelled by Ian) / looking back towards Crag Lough / view from Sewingshields Crags / Limestone Corner