Most of you knew Mads and I were headed to London to participate in Burrell Education’s Abdominal Scar Immersion (which was fantastic, by the way, who saw the results on my belly??). You can book your session here.
We booked our flights intending on also participating in another course, which was cancelled just a few weeks out. So we were left with 10days in the UK and no plans. That could have been fun, but since I has missed the Gym Trips 2018 & 2019, I decided to do a little internet search of “walks in the UK”… There were hundreds of walks within a day of London, but when my friend got sent away for work, we were left with no accommodation and no reason to stay in London. Hadrian’s Wall caught my eye and so a few weeks ago Maddy and I sat down with a guidebook and booked accommodation for 5 nights along the trail. We did no other preparation, including training, for this hike… and that unpreparedness has brought you a good story!
So on Monday we headed to Newcastle to get a bus to our first place, from where we intended to start hiking. Only problem was, Newcastle is GREAT, and we stumbled excitedly across the Hadrian’s Way, which happens to be the start of the hike if you intend on trudging out of suburbia… which we absolutely did not intend to do. However, we were in a good mood because we had been so lucky! We happened to find available seats next to eachother on the train from London to Newcastle, when there was standing room only. We were lucky again when Gail, our Airbnb host, happened to work next door to the train station, and came to collect our bags for us. So we were walking about with a spring in our step! We also briefly consulted a map and saw that it was “only” 3.9km out of the city, which planted a seed.
It wasn’t until we were about 4km out of the city trudging along the freeway, arguing over who’s idea it was that we walk “home” that we realised that we absolutely were walking from the city! By that time we realised that distance in the UK is measured in MILES… and 3.9 MILES was significantly further than 3.9K! By the time we realised that we were lost, we were also out of options except to keep walking. So walk we did, following our last signpost to what appeared to be a wrong turn… confused, we resolved to head to a petrol station across the road for directions. While we were waiting for the cars to clear, Maddy happened to turn around and spot “St Georges Terrace” – the same complex our apartment was in. We looked in the windows of number 26 – there were our bags! There was no sign of our host so we knocked on the neighbours door and Dorothy, a bent-over, whisp of a lady insisted on walking us to find Gail. Which we promptly did! Lucky again!
It ended up being only 8km of accidental hiking, but we’d already done 9km around Newcastle, so we were beat enough to enjoy lounging around! We learned a little about Hadrian… mostly that he was gay, suffered depression and anxiety, and was quite admired and respected. We went to bed pretty early, Maddy downstairs and me upstairs. About an hour after retiring i could hear Maddy scratching around downstairs and came to investigate. She was trying to work out how to lock the front door. She was struggling with the key, trying one thing, then heading outside and trying the door (don’t ask me what she intended on doing once she was locked out). It took us a bit of experimentation to figure out the door handle also moved UP as well as down, and when it was UP we could lock it! Once that was done we slept like babies….
Day 2 saw us rising early, still a little jet-lagged. Maddy and I both usually fast until mid-morning, but we knew we had 34km ahead of us and decided to eat breakfast before heading back to where we had gotten lost the day before, correcting our wrong turn so that we were on the right trail. Maddy’s breakfast was repeating on her, which was a little distracting, and it was only about 40min in when we realised we were lost… AGAIN. We consulted a Hadrian’s Wall map and discovered we were about 4km south of where we were supposed to be, so took a sharp right hand turn and trudged suburbia again until we were on the right road! From here we took a left and finally got our first glimpse of the 2000 year old Roman Wall at Heddon! This section was 3M wide and quite impressive!
We were traversing fields when Maddy was bit by a “rocksnake”. One of those awful types that is kicked up by one’s own shoe and gets you right on the ankle bone! Not long after that she was watering the same field when she was attacked by stinging nettle! Thankfully that one got her on the wrist… not the “you know where”. We lunched at the only Pub until Chollerford (where we would be sleeping), just over half way and already covered in blisters. We’d been walking for 5hrs and were musing about the finish line when Gail drove past honking her horn with our bags in her car! Legend! I am sure she would have stopped and offered us a lift if we by the roadside, but we were knee deep in cow dung on the other side of a paddock.
The final kilometre or so, walking in to Chollerford was tough for both of us. Maddy had sore hamstrings, I had blisters and a niggling sharp pain in my heel, but we didn’t say it out loud. I like to say to our adventure groupies that “you’ll get fit in training OR you’ll get fit on the hill”… we are getting fit on the hill. and it hurts. I’ve got a stumbling, stumpy legged gait where neither my ankles, knees, or hips bend properly, and Maddy gets faster when she’s tired. It’s like she defy’s gravity, gliding forward on these gangly limbs while i try to move my legs at the same rate and still fall behind. This morning i christened myself “Stumpy” to her “Maddy Longlegs”.
This morning we decided to fast… we’d get breakie on the road…. and it was only 20km today. We were only about 2km in when i realised that i had dropped my Alpaca gloves – instead of putting them away in a pocket of my bag, i’d slid my hand between a strap and the bag and dropped them on the ground instead. I left Maddy with the bags and ran almost a K back to the road… no sign… next road… no sign. Gone. Dejected i walked back up to her where she was delightedly watching sheep timidly cross the threshold of their pen in to the open fields, and bolt once they were clear of the fence.
When we decided to fast, we didn’t factor in the fact we were so tired that we STARTED our walk 2km/hr slower than we finished yesterday (oops)… and also the fact that there are NO TOWNS and NO SHOPS between Chollerford and our place of rest at Once Brewed (you read right). Luckily we spotted a coffee van, and took the opportunity to stock up. He had nice coffee and store-bought sticky blueberry muffins… we took 2 each. They were breakfast and lunch until we got to Once Brewed about 3.30pm. The coffee man taught us what a “MB” was… indicating with his head towards a group of ladies who had shuffled right past his van.. First word “miserable”, we to guess the second word. We christened ourselves “HB” after our coffee, first word “happy”, and the coffee man agreed!
Things got really good from here. We had stepped from slivers of national park that cut through farmer’s properties to proper swathes of National Park that didn’t require climbing a fence every 200m. The wall was narrower here, but in much better shape, with towns, forts, and watch towers all still half together. In this region, there were less people dismantling the wall to build their houses, so much more has survived. The locals describe the path from here on in as “bumpy” as the Roams took advantage of a natural fortress they call the Sill. Basically small rock mountains made out of a stone that the Roman’s didn’t know how to work with – so they built on top of them! The results are quite spectacular, and we slowed right down to take pictures and enjoy the views. It was on a stop around here, where we were eating a muffin lunch and admiring how relaxed and content the sheep and cows were, that I started having “Carnivorous wet dreams”… I’d point at a happy cow and say “that’s the kind of beef i wanna eat”… and a happy sheep and imagine that at the end of a long, grass fed, free range life i could use it’s skin for a rug… bliss. The animals seem really happy and calm and content… that’s the kind that i reckon would go well on sandwich.
Poor old “once an hour wee”, Maddy Long Legs had to really hold it in this arvo. This section of wall was super popular with day-trippers. Everytime she went to duck behind a bush another hiker would appear… until she was sweating and legging it for the YHA where we were staying. I didn’t try looking for her when i arrived, i simply sat outside the toilet and took my shoes off.
We’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the form of a Veggie burger at the Twice Brewed brewery… a pub that has been operating since the 1400’s. Breakfast is also ordered, we’ll fast again when we come home!
Needless to say, we didn’t get lost today… however we did get properly ripped off by the taxi who collected our bags. After paying 30 quid for the portage, we discovered a company (Hadrian’s Haul – for any of you who want to do this hike) who would have done it for 7… They’re hired tomorrow. We have just one more day of hiking (perhaps 2… but we don’t really want to trudge through Carlisle suburbs!).