A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 16 May 2014

Hooptedoodle #133 - Hadrian's Wall - a quick revisit

In September 2012 I walked the entirety of Hadrian's Wall, West to East (which is traditionally the "wrong" way). It was a worthwhile trip, but there were a few minor regrets which caused me to make a mental note to come back another time.

(1) Doing the whole of the Wall - right across England from coast to coast - is an achievement in itself, but, of the six days it took us to do it, the first two (Bowness on Solway, through Carlisle to Banks) and the last two (Chollerford, through Heddon on the Wall and downtown Newcastle to Wallsend) show very little evidence of the wall itself, and are pretty uninspiring really, not least since parts of them have been re-routed by the National Trails people to take them right away from anything vaguely Roman.

(2) The weather was pretty awful for the second half.

(3) To be honest, my two companions really didn't get on very well, which had a lot to do with one of them having failed to prepare properly for the expedition, and thus struggling with blisters and lack of physical condition and slowing everything down. I was cast in the role of reluctant piggy-in-the-middle for much of the trip.

I promised myself I would come back, in a quieter season, with more suitable company, in decent weather, and do the lovely middle section again. This week I did it.

With three old walking buddies, I stayed two nights at the Twice Brewed Inn (which is worth the trip just for the beer and the grub), and on Tuesday we walked from Banks Turret to Steel Rigg, scrambling along the crags for much of the way, and on Wednesday we spent the morning completing the crags, from Housesteads Fort back to Steel Rigg.

Excellent - the weather was clear and actually hot, and it was really most enjoyable. We also won the pub quiz by a Roman mile on the Tuesday night, which may be connected with being the only entrants who were old enough to answer most of the music questions.

Once again, I am humbled by the engineering achievement which the wall represented in its day - or by any standards you care to name, for that matter. You couldn't get one built now, I think.

Walking alongside the River Irthing, which has moved a few hundred metres
sideways from the place where the Romans put a bridge across it

A good day for being a Roman soldier - Foy in the orange jerkin (easily visible
to rescue helicopters - which is a joke) and silly old lucky campaigning hat
(to avoid optical migraines caused by bright sunlight - which is not a joke)


  1. Roman Wall, happy days. Watched the 1966 World Cup in the Twice Brewed. Or the Once Brewed. It was a long time ago -school geography trip. Weirdest time we were there with our son, then a very young boy, probably 5 or 6, when some people in fancy dress walked by. Steven said something like 'Dad, why are those men dressed like English Civil War soldiers?' They were (surprised) re-enactors from Yorkshire, turns out we had a few friends in common so it turned into quite a good natter. One of the advantages of teaching children the important things when they are young.

    1. Good memories - thanks, Rob!

      It is a very special place, except when it rains, when it is pretty rough!

      The Twice Brewed's eponymous ale is very fine, whether it rains or not.

  2. Well, so good you've convinced me and my son to give it a go next year (once my knee and ankle have been 'done'). We've been threatening to do at least the middle section for ages, so you've given us just the right spur. Thanks!

    1. It's a terrific day's walk, the bit from Banks East Turret (Turret 52a) to Steel Rigg and then down the hill to the pub that we did on the Tuesday - about 13-14 miles - but make sure all your leg bits are working well - it doesn't get very high above sea level, but it is pretty strenuous because of all the up and down stuff - we reckon the total climb was well over 2000 feet for the day. I found it harder than in 2012, but in 2012 I'd been walking in the Alps before I went...