The notion of walking Hadrian’s Wall across England seemed a simple one – strap on some comfy walking boots, pack a rain jacket, grab some snackies and walk….. it’s just walking, right?
After our recent charity fundraising adventures in 2017 (the National Three Peaks Challenge) and in 2018 (the Fourteen Peak Challenge) we wanted to step up our challenge and increase the mileage. Although Hadrian’s Wall spans across England for 84 miles, four of our closest friends put themselves forward to participate and raise money and awareness for our chosen charity Heartlands Cystic Fibrosis Centre.
Day one – After a 4.30am alarm and a four-hour drive to our starting point, we prepared ourselves for our first day of walking 24 miles – from Bowness-on-Solway to Irthington. The route, although fairly flat, was mainly on the road which isn’t ideal for the knees, feet or back due to the impact of the hard ground. We covered the distance with high spirits and with a few breaks in fairly good time – 9 hours in total.
We arrived at our first B&B thirsty for a couple of pints… of water and a good feed. The Sally in Irthington was lovely and I would definitely return again. After a first-class brekky we packed our sore feet into our boots, loaded up our packs with treats from the breakfast buffet and headed back onto the route for day two.
Day two – In our rather ambitious plan, day two was the biggest in terms of distance at 27 miles. All I can say is that was a very taxing miscalculation. The terrain from leaving Irthington to our next stop in Newbrough was brutal and totally bittersweet. The landscape changed for the better with beautiful views stretching across the countryside to the North and South, but with the beautiful views came ascents followed by descents followed by switchbacks followed by ascents…. You get the picture.
The pace was slow.. heartbreakingly slow. When we checked our distance after walking for 6 hours at lunch we had only covered 12 miles, leaving a mind-blowing 15 left from 2pm.
It was at this point we realised some tactics for walking long distances:
We set off from lunch walking towards the Sycamore Gap, a tree in-between two hills on the wall made famous by Kevin Costner in the 1990’s film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. For us, the Sycamore Gap represented something more, something special, something motivational…. A rough halfway point on the wall.
It took us over 9 hours to reach the Sycamore tree and although we found time to take some great pics (thanks Joe), we were knackered. We knew we were behind so we decided to walk until we had nothing else left. We arranged a rendezvous for our support car, put our heads down and ground out a few more miles over the next 2 hours. Total walking time – 11 hours.
Although this section was the toughest in terms of actual walking, its by far the section that we’d all recommend walking – a beautiful part of the country and to quote the lady that runs the Carr Edge B&B where we stayed, “we have the best part of the wall”.
Day three – We woke to another full English breakfast knowing we were around 3 miles behind after only covering 24 miles (only…. Lols). We decided to use our learnings from the previous day and walk until 7 pm, regardless of the distance. We knew we had some leeway with the time on Monday so everyone agreed not to get caught up with miles, just walk until 7 pm.
We set off just before 8.30am and quickly the steep hillsides merged into rolling countryside and then flatter meadows. This combined with the route following the main road meant we covered ground quickly. Very quickly. We walked in two main stints, each time covering 12 miles and by 6 pm we had caught up on some mileage and were sat in the pub with a beer in our hands – an hour ahead of schedule. We needed a good day and we had one.
We stayed that night at the Hedgefields house B&B in Ryton and settled in for the night, bathed our sore muscles, cleaned up are bruised and blistered feet and tried to get a good night sleep before the final stint.
Day Four – We started our journey from the pub we stopped at the night before, ensuring we didn’t miss any miles along the trail. We had some time to make up from our original plan. We had circa 12 miles to cover pretty much through the centre on Newcastle and that meant more hard surfaces:/
Our feet were bruised, knees sore and although most of us had some sort of ailment we knew the end was near. We plodded on together in the blazing sunshine through the streets of Newcastle alongside the River Tyne. We couldn’t help break our golden rule, we kept checking the map knowing we were close, just 3 more miles, just another hour…. Just another 2 more miles, another 40 mins… Just another mile, just 20 mins…
And then… with a complete lack of pizzazz, we nearly walked past as a single post with a signpost saying “Bowness-on-Solway 84 Miles” edged the pathway. Not sure what we expected, some balloons maybe, party popper… a fly-by from a plane saying “well-done boys”. It didn’t matter – the experience was a brilliant one, watching five friends come together for good cause and each overcome their own battle. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Conclusion – We would recommend Hadrians Wall to anyone, it’s another great reminder of the history we have in Britain and the amazing countryside we have on our doorstep. Our Hadrian’s wall guide book recommends five days to cover the wall (the shortest option) and not three and a half… Turns out that’s for good reason.
We raised a brilliant £1064 for Heartlands, so thank you again to everyone who contributed and the team who participated Robin Child, Joe Wilcox, Andrew Triffitt, Craig Thomas and Myself (Nick Rinylo).