Sunday 8 March 2015

On Hadrian's wall

Built in 122 century AD, the Roman defense wall runs from coast to coast in northern England and has been declared as a UNESCO Heritage site. Stretching for 117.5 Kms. it is possible to walk the wall on the path following alongside. However, since this was not possible for me, I had to find what was the best alternate way to visit the wall. A few searches on the net and everyone was unanimous, the 2.5 miles stretch from Housesteads to Steel Riggs is the best part of the wall. So when my friend said he would like to walk the Hadrian's wall, I joined in with this plan.

In summer, it is much easier to reach the wall. An aptly named AD122 bus provides a drop-off service to the picturesque towns alongside the wall. However, we were travelling in November. So apart from driving, the only option was either to walk/cycle the 10 miles or to take a taxi.
We started around 9am from Newcastle upon Tyne. The train took just over an hour to reach Haltwhistle. We had already called up Diamond taxis the evening before and made a reservation and our taxi was waiting at the station. It dropped us off at the Housesteads Roman Fort visitor centre. The driver asked us to give him a call when we were ready to be picked up. The only problem was, with Lady Gaga's performance in Newcastle that evening, we might have to wait slightly longer to cope with the rush. The drop to Housesteads cost us £15.

We were greeted by friendly faces at the visitor centre, and after a hot drink we started on the short walk up to the wall. We were not visiting the Housesteads fort though so walked past it. If time permitted, we would be going to the Vindolanda fort instead as suggested at the visitor centre. It would provide a more interesting visit, we were told.
I was surprised that the path we followed actually took us on the wall. The experience was indeed very thrilling, to walk on a piece of history. The weather was gloomy and the path wet and slippery from the recent rains. It had actually been pouring when we had reached Newcastle last evening and we had thought the trip will have to be called off. The path however soon got off the wall and went alongside instead.
We crossed Milecastle 37 - milecastle being a fortification at a much smaller scale built at every Roman mile, measured slightly shorter than the modern day mile. The numbers increased sequentially from east to west.
The clouds had gradually started to clear in the distance. By the time we crossed the Milecastle 38, it had turned into a pleasant day. The path followed the hilly terrain thus making its claim as the most picturesque and interesting part of the whole walk. We met a few walkers as the day got brighter and also a few who were walking the wall.
The Sycamore gap soon appeared. Though miles away from anywhere the real Robin Hood would have set his foot on, this place was made famous by the Kevin Costner starrer Robin Hood and prince of thieves - I looked up this clip from YouTube -
Crossing the Milecastle 39 we had reached Steel Riggs, the end of our planned walk. We had taken almost three hours to walk the less than three miles due to our innumerable breaks. The open views had been beautiful and we had been chatting a lot with fellow walkers as well. From Steel Riggs, we followed the road and walked down to the Twice Brewed pub for a refreshing drink and a hefty lunch.
The taxi picked us up at 3:30pm and took us back to Haltwhistle, this time charging only £10. As the short November day ended, we were back on our way to Newcastle.

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