Walking Hadrian’s Wall 2011 – Day Eight: Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway

Steps: 35,550

Distance: 21.33 km

Even with hindsight, the walk out of Carlisle remains the low-point of the holiday. Insufficiently caffeinated, under-rested and struggling to digest an almost preternaturally greasy breakfast courtesy of the Hallmark hotel, The Sheep and I greeted the rain with no small amount of ill humour.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall 2011 – Day Seven: Lanercost to Carlisle

Steps: 31,453

Distance: 18.86 km

Given the succession of easy days, we expected Day Seven to be a little more hard going but leaving Abbey Mill behind us, we soon found ourselves making rapid progress through gently undulating countryside and farmland. In fact, our progress was so swift that a late lunch at Crosby turned into an early one.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall 2011 – Day Six: Gilsland to Lanercost

Steps: 25,379

Distance: 15.22 km

I’d like to begin this entry with a word about the weather.  We walked the Wall during the first week of September and we went into it knowing that the weather would be what meteorologists refer to as changeable.  ‘Changeable’ is certainly an apt description of the weather we experienced though ‘unpredictable’, ‘random’ and ‘insane’ are perhaps more thematically appropriate.  Day six began with what would become one of the recurring motifs of the second half of the walk: jacket switching.  One minute it would be brilliant sunshine, then there would be bitter cold and howling gales.  Occasionally, the sky would darken and rain would pelt us just long enough to force a stoppage and a change of clothes.  These meteorological mind-games resulted in my playing chicken with the weather and refusing to put on my raincoat on the grounds that the rain simply would not last.  I am happy to say that I won more games than I lost.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall – Day Five: Saughy Rigg to Gilsland

Steps: 20,000

Distance: 11.7 km

Having done the crags the previous day, day five’s walking felt very much like a cop-out; too few steps and too little complaining to be altogether real. The morning began with a gentle stroll along the last large-scale remnants of the Wall.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall – Day Four: Chollerford to Saughy Rigg

Steps: 28,000

Distance: 16.65 km

I’d like to begin this day’s entry with a few words on preparation.  In the bumph we received from Hadrian’s Wall Ltd, there were frequent allusions to the need for us to be both physically and psychologically prepared for the walk.  Reading this, we made fun of the idea that a few days’ walking in the countryside might require a rigorous regimen of fasting and meditation. Oh the folly of innocence!

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall – Day Three: Harlow Hill to Chollerford

Steps: 30,000

Distance: 18 km

Breakfast brought more culinary disappointments from The Keelman’s.  My eggs were unseasoned and came with only minimal toast.  Also, most B+Bs tend to give people a pot of coffee for the table. However, The Keelman’s serve you by the cup and so if, like me, you enjoy your coffee in the morning, you may find yourself having to pester the waitress a few times for more coffee. Given that we arrived at The Keelman’s completely knackered and starving hungry, my memories of the place may well have been etched by the twin (and not entirely disconnected) acids of bile and low blood sugar but, after two disappointing meals and a night spent on a bed that felt like a sack of flour, I was more than happy to leave Newburn behind and head out into the countryside.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall – Day Two: Tynemouth to Harlow Hill

Steps: 50,000

Distance: 30 km

The day began with the sort of breakfast you might expect from a faded seaside hotel.  People sat at tables with white linen tablecloths looking out of a huge picture window at storm-ravaged British coastline.  Alongside the apple and orange juice sat a pitcher of tomato juice, some Tobasco sauce and a few sticks of celery.  Penance, no doubt, for a night on the Courvoisier. Breakfast was decent but no more.  Neither quantity nor quality was anything other than fine.

Bags packed, boots laced, stomachs filled, we headed off on our first day’s proper walking.  Gary had suggested the possibility of walking from Tynemouth to Wallsend in Newcastle but this prospect seemed to appall us both.  We were there to walk the Wall.  Tyneside’s cheap, clean and efficient Metro took us into town and deposited us at Wallsend, near Segedunum and the old Swan Hunter shipyards.

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Walking Hadrian’s Wall 2011 – Day One: Tynemouth

Our first day’s travelling was limited to getting us from London to Tynemouth via Newcastle.

As with most fields of human endeavour, there is a good deal of discussion regarding the ‘best’ and ‘correct’ way to walk Hadrian’s Wall. Some attempt to do it in three days, others argue the importance of arriving a day early in order to begin the walk first thing in the morning and others argue that the Wall should be walked from West to East on account of the prevailing winds. As this was our first walking holiday, we decided to do the Wall in seven days and we decided to walk it from East to West because walking into Newcastle’s industrial landscape might prove more depressing than triumphal. Obviously, your mileage may vary but that of the Wall does not.

The trip up to Newcastle was smooth by the standards of British railways and the hours flew by as we read, dozed and chatted to the astonishingly outgoing couple sat next to us on the train. We arrived at Newcastle and got a taxi to Tynemouth driven by an insane control-freak Geordie who drove incredibly quickly and insisted upon getting out of the cab at the lights in order to give directions to other drivers. I was too terrified to ask how he knew where the other drivers were headed.

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Gone Walkin’


As of tomorrow I am spending seven days walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall…  Eighty four miles from Tynemouth to Bowness-on-Solway. I don’t think that I will be in email contact during that time and I’m pretty damn sure that I won’t be able to write about films.  So enjoy your break from my unbridled intellectual productivity and think of me marching through the Great Green Bleakness that is the British countryside. And yes… those are my feet.