I’m sure by now that you’ve all heard me talking about my trip in May when I’m going to be walking along the length of Hadrian’s Wall. You can do it in 5 or 6 days if you like but we’re taking 10 days, we want to explore a bit, spend time in the ruined forts along the way and breath in the ambience.
I’m really excited about this walk through history that I’m taking so I thought I’d share a few details with you about Hadrian’s Wall and see if I can drum up a little enthusiasm from you guys to maybe want to take it on sometime.
Even if you don’t want to walk the whole length it’s one of those walks where you can dip in and out of it and just do a day walk here and there when you feel inclined.
So if you’re a little bit hazy on your Roman history, Hadrian’s Wall – where is it, what is it and why is it?
Where is it?
Hadrian’s Wall runs from modern day Wallsend on the east coast of England to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. Although it’s often thought, incorrectly, that it separates England from Scotland it actually veers from the border quite significantly and is completely in England. In the west the wall is less than a kilometre from the border but in parts the eastern section is over 100km away.
What is it?
It’s a stone wall, mainly.
When it was constructed it would have measured around 3 metres wide and up to 6 metres high and was made of local stone. The far western section was originally a turf wall but was later converted to stone. Much of the stone has been robbed out of the wall throughout the last two thousand years and used for local building projects but a lot still remains, and in places the wall still stands to around 3 metres high.
Why is it?
You’ve heard of the Emperor Hadrian, Right? This is the guy who ruled the Roman Empire from AD117 – 138, yep, I know, a long time ago. Hadrian was an avid traveller visiting almost every Roman province during his reign, including Britain. Whereas previous emperors had reigned mainly from Rome Hadrian was not content with relying on reports from his ambassadors and wanted to see things for himself (I totally get that).
In AD122 Hadrian ordered the construction of a stone wall to extend the width of Britannica, from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. Reasons for the construction have long been debated but it’s generally believed that Hadrian’s policy of defending the boundaries of the Roman Empire rather than expanding it further was the main reason for its construction.
Basically, he was aiming to keep out the barbarians.
Other reasons have included financial, collecting taxes from those wishing to pass through for trade, and also simply as a sign of Roman power.
In the years following its construction forts were added along the length of the wall to hold auxiliary troops. One of the forts, Vindolanda, has been under constant excavation since 1930 and the anoxic (without getting too technical, it’s wet)) conditions there have conserved many items that would normally have perished, including writing tablets and leather footwear.
I’ve visited Vindolanda a few times, the first in 1979, this was way before I had any inkling that I’d go on too study this stuff, and I remember gazing down into a muddy, water-logged hole thinking how great it would be to find these remnants of the past. Little did I realise I would go on many years later to take part in an excavation on a Roman palace site in the south of England as part of my studies.
I could go on and on here about the archaeology but I’m thinking I’m starting to lose you. So let’s look at where I’ll be walking.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path
This is a 135km National trail following the line of Hadrian’s Wall, coincidentally it’s exactly the same length as the Cape to Cape track here in Western Australia that I completed a couple of years ago.
The path can be walked end to end or in sections and can be completed by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness, however, as with many seemingly doable walks this one should not be taken lightly as there are some tricky ups and downs involved (more on that once I’ve walked it)
The walk can be comfortably completed in 6 days but if you make the most of it, take in the amazing scenery and stop in at the forts along the way give yourself a bit more time. We’ll bet taking 10 days to complete it and you’re going to be bombarded by photos during that time (I’m hoping for some evocative, misty mornings and some stunning sunsets over the wall).
So there you are.
That’s Hadrian’s Wall and it’s path in a nutshell (a tiny nutshell – there’s so much more to it).
I’d love to have you walking along with me in May and I’ll keep you updated on Travellingbag’s Facebook page and Instagram. I’d suggest (quite politely) that you start following along now so you don’t miss any of the trip.
*There’s a disclaimer here: although I’m pretty confident I’ve got the historical facts correct please don’t have a hissy fit if you find a mistake. It would be somewhat embarrassing as I have a post graduate degree in Ancient History. I also haven’t gone into too much detail as that’s not the point of this post *
If you’d like more historical details check out the English Heritage website
Have a great day and stay tuned for more fun facts about where I’m going