28 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Birdoswald to Steel Rig 10.7 miles), England
Rather than carry our full kit mile after mile each day, we decided to set up base at a campsite in Greenhead and from here drive to the destination of our walk for the day and get the bus back to the point where we ended the previous day in order to start our walk. At least this meant our load was lighter and we had the luxury of a hot shower each night though the downside was that he had to stick to a timetable.
Last year I missed the (obvious) turning to Thirlwall Castle and ended up in Greenhead, following the road to Cawfields and a night in Haltwhistle. Without repeating the mistake, part of today would bring new sights!
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 49, Harrow's Scar revisited
Okay, this isn't a new sight but it is still a wall highlight. From Birdoswald there is a lot of impressive wall to follow until you get to Milecastle 49. Just beyond this is Willowford Bridge. To see the sites around here visit BlogAndGo from last year Hadrian's Wall and Harrow's Scar, 15th June 2008.
Hadrian's Wall - Thirlwall Castle
Thirlwall Castle was built in the early 14th century as an impressive family stronghold. Its thick high walls, built from Hadrian's Wall helped repel attacks from unwelcome visitors during the Anglo-Scottish border raids in the 15th and 16th centuries. Abandoned in the 17th century, the castle was gradually plundered for its stone and wood. It is now a protected monument.
Hadrian's Wall - Back onto the wall trail
Resourceful as ever, Daizy forges an umbrella.
Leaving Thirwall Castle behind us, the trail begins to climb quite steeply leading to some of the most attractive and scenic parts of the trail where crags giving great views over the landscape and dips all form part of the walk. For a short part the path is north of the defensive ditch that was in front of the wall and at this point you leave the Roman Empire.
Hadrian's Wall - North of the ditch looking west
The defensive ditch is impressive here but the wall that stands here is a modern creation.
Hadrian's Wall - Approach to Walltown Crags
Walltown quarry provides a rest point if one is needed before a climb back up on to the crags. The wall here is very impressive and stands in places above head height. It must have been very difficult to build here and even more difficult to assault because of the high steep sides of the escarpment edge the wall is built on.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 45a atop Walltown Crags
This turret was a free standing watchtower before Hadrian's Wall was built and with the commanding views on offer it is no great surprise. The turret was later incorporated into the Wall even though it is less than the planned one-third of a Roman mile from milecastle 45.
Hadrian's Wall - Great Chesters (Aesica) fort in the distance
Aesica (with the modern name of Great Chesters) had the purpose of guarding the Caw Gap further east. This is a comparitively small fort and little remains to be seen apart from the outline of the walls. There is a pillar on the eastern side of the south gate with a carving of a jug. This is an orginal alter rather than a replica and is the only one of its kind still surviving in situ on the wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Birds eye view of Great Chesters (Aesica)
The fort had only three main gates; south, east and west, with double portals with towers. At some time the west gate was completely blocked up. There were towers at each corner of the fort. The military way entered by the east gate and left by the west gate. A branch road from the Stanegate entered by the south gate. These details can be seen in this view. The Vallum passed some short distance south of the fort, and was crossed by a road leading from the south gate to the Stanegate. A vicus lay to the south and east of the fort.
Hadrian's Wall - Next stop Cawfield quarry
The trail is pasture again before reaching Cawfield quarry to the right and just out of the photo. The long length of the wall can be seen snaking off over the hills and escarpments known as Cawfield Crag. Cawfield quarry is where I rejoined the wall last year on my final day.
Hadrian's Wall - Windshields Crag trig point revisited
Back on the highest point of Hadrian's Wall at 345m above sea level.
Hadrian's Wall - Descent to Steel Rigg
Shortly after reaching trig point 345 you descend to a gap called Steel Rigg. From here we made our way back to the main road to catch the bus at Once Brewed / Twice Brewed back to Greenhead for some pasta and sauce, a hot shower and a deep sleep. In the distance is Highshields Crag and Crag Lough lake. This area is unquestionably the most beautiful secton of the Wall.