For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Looking For The Wall

Last week I spent five most enjoyable days walking the Hadrian's Wall Path (which became Britain's 15th National Trail in 2003). Early Monday morning I took a train to Newcastle, then a bus to Newburn on the city's western edge. I joined the trail at the Tyne Riverside Country Park. The sun shone, the river sparkled, and all seemed well with the world... 




Soon the path coincided with the trackbed of the old Wylam Wagonway, one of the earliest railways ever built. Originally, in the 1750s, the wagons would have been drawn by horses along raised wooden tracks, but by 1815 these had been replaced by steam locomotives on iron rails. The trucks were transporting coal from the colliery at Wylam to the coal 'staithes' (or loading points) on the river Tyne five miles away. From here it was a case of 'keel boats' (or cargo boats) literally taking 'coals to Newcastle'...




Here's the site of the first Roman fort I came across - Rudchester or Vindobala...




There's little evidence of it on the ground. In fact all you can see is this grassy field fringed with nettles...




I climbed higher, up gentle gradients. Although the path shadowed a B road for much of the day, a high hedge often shielded the traffic. As I stepped further westward, the scenery improved little by little...  




The path was an endless swathe of sweet-smelling cut grass, and the flowered field margins danced with bees and butterflies. Sometimes the path veered right, and sometimes left...




But most of the time it led straight on (note the acorn sign, the National Trail logo)...




As clouds gathered, I passed the Whittle Dene reservoirs...




And still I searched in vain for the Wall. At one place I stumbled on a pile of stones, but didn't think they'd been cut square enough to have ever formed part of the Wall. Though that's definitely the Roman ditch behind...




(Hadrian's Wall was constructed with a ditch to the north, and a wider ditch and earth rampart to the south, known as the vallum.)

13 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

More please!

Timecheck said...

My instant reaction was to be consumed with envy that you had the time to do this. 2nd thought - it's not raining! Nice photos.

Val said...

maybe the rocks of the wall have all been used for building elsewhere? or are they underground now? fascinating and what beautiful sunshine. i hope this search continues?

George said...

Press on, Robert. I have a sneaking suspicion that you are going to find it. Presently, I could use a little of Hadrian's Wall around the perimeter of my house, given the fact that we had an earthquake in this region a couple of days ago and we are now waiting for Hurricane Irene, which appears to have its sights on the area in which I live. Oh to be carefree again! I enjoyed the photos and look forward to seeing more. You're allowing me to relive the trip! I'm sorting through my photos and hope to have something posted soon.

Congrats on the the IMac. I think you will really like it, once you get accustomed to the format.

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver - your wish is my command ...

No, not raining that day, Timecheck!

Val - you're absolutely right. I saw many blocks of stone plundered from the Wall and incorporated into farmers' boundaries ...

And George, glad you had a safe trip home, my friend! Sounds as if you're facing more dangers back in the US than on the Wall, which was quite friendly really, wasn't it?

Getting used to the iMac already, now I've sorted the initial teething problems ...

We'll see what happens on my journey along the Wall. You never know who you might meet ...

Goat said...

Just when I've decided I can't justify including the Wall in my end-to-end attempt next year, you go and give us this teaser. Looking forward to the next instalments - Roman Britain is so fascinating to this 'Time Team' fan!

Harry said...

I must admit that I'm only an occasional visitor to your blog, but maybe that's because each time I drop by I find myself jealous that you live in such a great place to walk. Yes, I can walk in Mississippi, but from June to September the idea of a pleasant walk is soon drowned in the drenching humidity of upper-90 degree temperatures!

Suman said...

How delightful the photos are! I envy you for the ample of beautiful countryside that surrounds you.

Since I am a newcomer here, must say this is one lovely blog I have come across. And I love that Basho quote in your profile.

The Solitary Walker said...

So, Goat, you're thinking of an end-to-end trek, are you? What fun you will have planning it. Looking forward to hearing about your projected route at some stage!

Harry, thanks for your visit. Will check out your own blog ...

... and Suman, thanks so much for your kind comment. You are most welcome any time.

Ruth said...

Glad to hear the nettles assured there would be butterflies, if not the wall . . .

Looking forward to more.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading, Ruth.

ksam said...

Loving the pics and have to agree with Weaver...More please!! Loved all the shades of green in the meadow pic.

Making for great reading while we wait for Hurricane Irene to hit!

Goat said...

Yes, keeping it low key till I work out the details. It's driving me mad 'cause I want to see so much along the way, but I think I have a cunning (suicidal?) plan now - will keep you posted!