Last week was uber busy with getting a big mitigation report out for one of our work projects. That really limited my time to visit other blogs, so I hope you’ll forgive my shorter-than-normal comments or apparent absence. It also meant I didn’t spend as much time with my PerNoReMo as desired, but I hope to make better progress this week. So today we’ll finish up the travelogue posts from my September trip to England with “The Walk” along a chunk of Hadrian’s Wall.
My husband and I didn’t do the full route. There just wasn’t time, and frankly, there’s not much to see of the Wall on the western and eastern ends of the route. So with limited time, we did a “best bits” section from near Corbridge to Brampton, which was still a nearly 40-mile stretch of walking in four days. We also took one day off from walking in the middle of those four days to spend a full day at Vindolanda, an incredibly well-preserved Roman fort and village with ongoing archaeological excavations.
We started out from Corbridge with a visit to Corbridge Roman Town, which predates Hadrian’s Wall and was not only a fort but a major distribution center for goods going to the forts and other defenses in the area.
After spending the morning at the site and museum, our taxi (graciously reserved by the previous night’s B&B host) arrived to take us to our starting point for “The Walk” at The Portgate, north of Corbridge. I took a great photo of my husband at the stile to enter the field, but the one of me is terrible, so you’ll just have to imagine us climbing over the field wall to get started.
We didn’t reach the first stretch of visible wall until later in the day, but the stone walls that divided so many of the fields were built mainly from stone from Hadrian’s Wall. Why quarry new, when you have high quality supplies at hand?
The drizzle stopped soon, but the day stayed cool and gray. But who could care about that when the countryside is beautiful and the Roman ruins add an air of ancient mystery?
At the end of the first day, about eight miles of walking, we reached the outskirts of Chollerford and visited the ruins of an old Roman bridge before heading up to our next B&B at Humshaugh. We could see Chester’s Fort across the River North Tyne and snapped a few photos, but everyone told us our time the next day would be better spent walking to better-preserved sites.
So the next morning, we set off again, walking the route with two American brothers who had stayed at the same B&B. It was fun to have company that day, even for two introverts.
The countryside was so different from what we’re used to seeing in suburban DC.
And really, there’s no place in the US where you can visit a Mithraeum—a temple dedicated to the god Mithras. Hikers along the wall still leave offerings at the altar. My husband (in the dark clothes below in front of the altar), left a coin and a request for some sun. While I don’t have the photos to prove it, we really did get some sun while we stayed at the Mithraeum for lunch.
This second day of walking was reportedly twelve miles. But all four of us were convinced that was only as the crow flies. The actual ups and downs had to make it longer! So we couldn’t spend too long at any one place and continued our westward trek to see Housesteads Roman Fort that afternoon.
And more walking to make it to our next B&B before dark. Yes, that’s me in the purple shell.
Of course, some of the steepest parts of The Walk were at the end of the day when we were all exhausted.
Fortunately, the next day was ours to spend at Vindolanda, one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world.
Soil conditions at Vindolanda allow for amazing preservation of organic material, which often doesn’t survive for archaeologists to find. Basketry, leather, and most spectacular of all, wooden tablets on which letters were written, have all been recovered. Any trip to Vindolanda must include its museum, where so many of these artifacts are on display.
After the day at Vindolanda, we had another two days of hiking. However, if you’re not an archaeologist, one turret starts looking like another, as do the mile castles. So, we’ll leave Northumbria with a final image.
We were exhausted by the time we reached Brampton for our final night before the trip back to London and then home. But while I’ve enjoyed all of our vacations, this one was the best to-date for me (and I suspect my husband, too, but he doesn’t like to play favorites). Someday, we’ll go back and see more of the country, I’m sure.
Hope everyone is doing well and—for many of us in the continental US—surviving this plunge of far too early polar air!