Hadrians Wall, England
The Roman Empire, the greatest single influence on European cultural development, grew from the single city state of Rome and by the beginning of the 1st century AD this expansion seemed a limitless. However, soon after the defeat and loss of 3 whole legions – 15,000 men – in AD9 in Germany east of the Rhine, the boundaries of the Empire became more or less static, except for the addition of two provinces, Britain and Dacia.
Rome invaded Britain in AD43 and the Roman army moved gradually northwards but in AD70, the Romans attempted to conquer the whole island, having controlled only as far as the north of England. Despite a resounding victory in AD83 at Mons Graupius, in what is now northern Scotland, the Romans could not sustain the advance and withdrew to the Tyne-Solway by around AD100. Here a chain of forts connected by a road, known to us as the Stanegate, formed the limit of occupation for 20 years.
The emperor Hadrian (AD117-138) determined that the frontiers of the Empire should stay as they were and in some cases the frontiers were on rivers, such as the Rhine, Danube and Euphrates. Where no natural barrier existed, artificial barriers were constructed. In Germany, between the Rhine and the Danube, this was a ditch and timber palisade, with attached towers and forts. In Britain the wall which bears Hadrian's name was built slightly north of the Stanegate 'to separate the Romans from the barbarians' in AD122.
31 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Heddon to Wallsend 15 miles), EnglandThe end of the walk was 15 miles away and from looking at a map it also promised to be a very different one. For the first few miles out of Heddon the scenery was pretty much like the previous day; country views but with the added pleasure of a stroll along the rural end of the River Tyne.
The surroundings eventually morph into the poverty of the north east with accents too thick to understand and classrooms of teenage pregnant chav mums. Not to mention the graffiti, dog excrement and burned patches of land, presumably the sites of torched stolen cars. This open safari eventually gets left behind as the path snakes into the centre of Newcastle, past landmarks such as the Millennium Bridge.
The end of the Hadrian's Wall walk is the site of the fort of Segdunum, now known as Wallsend. The excavation forms part of an impressive museum and includes a full size reconstruction of a bath house.
Hadrian's Wall - Wallsend (Segdenum)
As the name implies, this lies at the very end of the wall, on the banks of the River Tyne. The fort was lost to housing in the 19th century but following excavations the whole fort has been laid out, reconstructions erected and a new museum and visitor centre opened. During Hadrian's time, a short length of wall ran down to the river and after being removed has been returned to the site and re-erected. The wall in this picture is a full size reconstruction. The foundations infront of it is the base of the actual wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Wallsend Vistor Centre
Most of the section of the Wall walk at this section does not follow the line of Hadrian's Wall, which is mostly hidden under the streets of Newcastle. Instead, it roughly follows the bank of the Tyne for 15 miles. The visitor centre has an observation tower that allows the visitor to get a birds eye view of the fort and the layout of the buidlings.
30 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Chesters to Heddon 17.5 miles), EnglandThe end of yesterday's journey was Chesters Fort meaning that today started with a visit and wander around its ruins. Chesters Fort lies in a valley and was placed astride the wall with all but one of its four gates opening north of the wall.The circuit of the defences was reinforced with a number of towers and at the four corners. Outside the bath house and south of the wall was the bath house, one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Britain. With Heddon being over 17 miles away, the day promised to be a hard, foot wearying trek. It was.
Hadrian's Wall - Chesters Roman Fort (Cilurnum)
Cilurnum is considered to be he best preserved Roman cavalry fort along Hadrian's Wall. There is a museum on the site, housing finds from the fort and elsewhere along the wall. The site guarded a bridge carrying the military road behind the wall across the River North Tyne at this point, whose abutments survive. It was a cavalry fort at its foundation, for retaliatory raids into barbarian areas north of the wall, then given over to infantry later.
Hadrian's Wall - North Gate I, Chesters Roman Fort
The north gate is set centrally in the fort's north rampart. The north, east and west gates open north of the wall, with the wall joining the fort below the east and west gates to allow multiple exit points into the northern territories. The north gate originally had double portals separated by a spine wall and protected by guard turrets. North is to the right of the photo.
Hadrian's Wall - North Gate II, Chesters Roman Fort
Gate thresholds, central stop-blocks and sockets for the gates can still be seen. The west entrance passage was blocked soon after construction and was removed on excavation in the 19th century, leaving the earliest levels little worn. An aqueduct also enters the fort at this point, its channel covered with stone slabs. These can be seen in the preceding photo.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks I, Chesters Roman Fort
Portions of three barrack buildings which occupied the north eastern quadrant of the fort can be seen. A pair of barrack blocks, each with NCO's quarters at the east end, and a series of rooms for the men fronted by a columned verandah face each other across a street with a central drain. The barrack does not have the normal ten rooms for infantry and must have been intended for a eight man cavalry squadron.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks II, Chesters Roman Fort
Chesters was first occupied by a cavalry regiment called, 'Augusta for valour', according to an inscription, but throughout most of its life os was the base for the Second Cavalry Regiment of Asturians, auxiliary soldiers from what is now northern Spain.
Hadrian's Wall - The Barracks III, Chesters Roman Fort
A view across the barracks looking north west, across the street between the two barrack blocks.
Hadrian's Wall - The Main East Gate, Chesters Roman Fort
Like the main west gate and north gate, this gate opened out north of Hadrian's Wall and the wall can just be seen joining the sourthern gate tower. It was discovered that both entrance passages had been blocked soon after the fort's construction since both gates are relatively unworn. This picture is taken from outside of the fort and traffic leaving the fort traversed from right to left in the photo.
Hadrian's Wall - Commander's House, Chesters Roman Fort
The house represents a maze of rooms and is the result of additions and rebuilding over many years. The small bath house lies outside the fort though this is safely behind the wall as it is south of the Main East Gate, one of the openings north of the wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Headquarters I, Chesters Roman Fort
The Pincipia is situated in the middle of the fort and consisted of a courtyard surrounded by a portico. Bordering this was a large hall with a series of rooms off it. The courtyard had a paved floor and contained a well, both of which are visible. The square bases for the portio columns can also be clearly seen.
Hadrian's Wall - Headquarters II, Chesters Roman Fort
Beyond the portico, the Headquarters building contained the unit's administrative offices. A central room held a regimental chapel where statues of the emperor and unit's standards were kept. This underground room was added in the 3rd century. When it was excavated an iron bound oak door was found at the foot of the steps but they did not long survive exposure.
Hadrian's Wall - East Gate I, Chesters Roman Fort
This photo is taken from behind the wall which can be seen connecting to the gate house. The view is looking north, over the wall with the west gate giving access to the areas beyond the wall in the north. Like the east gate, the west gate's passages were also blocked up.
Hadrian's Wall - East Gate II, Chesters Roman Fort
This is the guard chamber in the west gate. It contains a stone platform for a water tank fed by an aquaduct that approached the fort from the west.
Hadrian's Wall - Angle Tower, Chesters Roman Fort
This tower is located at the south east corner of the fort.
Hadrian's Wall - East Side Gate, Chesters Roman Fort
This single portalled gate was a minor exit from the fort towards the bath house near the banks of the river.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House I, Chesters Roman Fort
The fort bath house at Chesters is one of the best preserved Roman military bath houses. The large grassed area to the left is the communal changing room. A doorway from here led to a lobby, within which the bather could choose between three treatments. A cold room, a hot dry room or the warm steam heat rooms.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House II, Chesters Roman Fort
In this photo we are in the communal changing room. The doorway to the left leads to the lobby from where the different treatment rooms are accessible. The purpose of the niches in the wall are uncertain.
Hadrian's Wall - Bath House III, Chesters Roman Fort
These latrines are of the same design as the well preserved latrine at Housesteads fort. Wooden seats along the side, set over a channels would have allowed users to go about their business.
Hadrian's Wall - (Brunton) Turret 26b
Brunton turret stands nearly 2.4m and is the tallest turret on the Wall. From its western side (left of the turret) runs the Wall built to the original thick (2.9m) specication. On the east side a narrow wall (2m) rides up over the turret's wing wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Planetrees looking west
Half a mile to the east of Brunton turret a short length of wall can be seen at Planetrees. This is another point where the wall was reduced from the original planned thickness (from 2.9m to about 2m). It is clear that the soldiers laying the Wall's foundations had progressed quicker that the builders of the superstructure as the foundations continue on past the point of reduction. The foundation builders also laid down the drain, most of which is incorporated into the narrow wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Heavenfield Battle Site (634AD)
The early years of the 7th century were a time when both pagans and Christians lived in Britain. The Northumbrian King, Oswald, won a famous victory here in the shadow of the wall. A cross now marks the location of the battle. It was claimed that the night before the battle, Oswald had a vision of Saint Columba, in which the saint predicted that Oswald would be victorious. Oswald placed his army so that it was facing east, with its flanks protected by Brady’s Crag to the north and the Wall to the south.
Vindobala Fort - Now occupied by Rudchester farm
This just looks like a field but there are indications of roadworks which unfortunately not easily interpreted. These are the remains of the fort of Vindobala, or Rudchester. In the 18th century it was described as a well preserved fort, but the builders of the military road took away the stone and farming destroyed much of what was left.
Hadrian's Wall - Looking west at Heddon-on-the-Wall
17.5 miles later with very sore feet, a drive back to the campsite for gas stove cooked pasta and sauce was the treat for the evening. Again. Here at Heddon you can see the 'broad' Wall, over 100 meters long. Some of the massive foundation stones weigh over a tonne each. At the west end of the wall a medieval circular kiln has been built into the wall.
29 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Steel Rigg to Chesters 12.2 miles), EnglandBack to Steel Rigg to begin another day of trekking through the challenging but scenic central sector. This was a day of contrasts as the windswept crags with their pattern of climbs and descents gradually gave way to the lower lying farmland and occasional tree plantations. As you come down from the highlands the path starts to converge with the road (General Wade's Military Way) and the path follows this almost all the way to Chesters. Coming to the end of the highland section also marks a psychological as well as physical change in scenery and terrain. From this point on it's almost a case of continuing no matter what and ignoring the sore feet; the hard part is now over.
Hadrian's Wall - Steel Rigg and Turret39a
In Peel Gap, archaeologists found the foundations of this turret together with a hearth and a platform for a ladder. The finds showed that it had been used in a similar way to the nearby turrets. The gap between these turrets 39a and 39b is over 200m longer than the usual spacing along Hadrian's Wall and the tower seems to have been built to fill this gap. It was built after the Wall and has very limited views.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecaste 39 from Peel Gap
'Castle Nick' is so called as it is built into a natural nick in the hillside. The lake, Crag Lough can be seen in the background against the Highshields Crag escarpment.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecaste 39 toward Peel Gap
From the east side of Milecastle 39, the path goes to the south of the milecastle with it's clearly defined room foundations, up over Peel Crag.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 38a
Highshields Crag takes the walker through some woods which stand atop the crag overlooking a sheer drop to the water of Crag Lough. From here the path follows another descent and before anothe climb up to the remains of Milecastle 38.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 38
Milecastle 38 is in the vicinity of Hotbank Farm, overlooking Crag Lough. It is notable for the joint inscription bearing names of Hadrian and Nepos. The walls have been robbed out but the site is still recognisable. From this photo, the path runs to the right and then west towards Highshield Crags.
Hadrian's Wall - Hotbank Crags on the way to Milecastle 37
The turf topped wall is known as the Clayton Wall. In the 1830s, John Clayton began buying sections of the wall to prevent local farmers helping themselves to the stone as building material. He rebuilt what we see today, esentially a dry stone wall in filled with rubble and capped with turf and is liable to collapse if walked upon.
Hadrian's Wall - North gateway of Milecastle 37
Milecastle 37 is one of the best preserved of the milecastles. Some of the north gate has been re-erected. The east half was occupied by a stone built barrack. The building was large enough to have housed 8 men.Compared with Milecastle 35, the puzzle is why there was a north gate since it stands above a very steep drop but Milecastle 35 did not have one.
Hadrian's Wall - South gateway of Milecastle 37
The post holes and sockets for the double doors can still be seen, with the doorstop in the centre.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 37 from the south
Looking into the milecastle from the south. It has been estimated that the walls must have been above 5m high.
Hadrian's Wall - Housesteads Fort from the wall
Part of the walk between Housesteads and Milecastle 37 is the only place where walking on top of the wall is accepted. For non walkers, Housesteads Fort can also be accessed from the B6318 which runs parallel with, if some distance from, the wall. This is popular fort with well defined ramparts plus it is on the wall itself and commands great views.
Hadrian's Wall - Model of Housesteads Fort
Housesteads Fort has a small vistor centre and museum which I didn't enter on my last visit. This model brings the ruins to life. The previous photo showing the approach to Housesteads was taken from the point on the model where the wall from the west joins with the northwest tower of the fort. The wall can be seen continuing east from the northeast tower. Housesteads is covered in last years blog so I won't cover it here.
Hadrian's Wall - Knagg Burn Gateway
This is a rare example of a gateway through the Wall other than at a fort or milecastle. It was inserted in the 4th century AD to allow easier access to the north for the inhabitants around Housesteads. When the wall was first built, the only way to cross the frontier was through the gates of the milecastles and forts. Housesteads Fort can be seen at the top of the ridge with the wall leading from the north east corner to the Gateway.
Hadrian's Wall - Knagg Burn Gateway and Housesteads Fort
Hadrian's Wall obviously caused inconvenience to local traders, and particularly people who relied on feeding their livestock between lowland grounds in winter and the uplands in summer. The gate was a simple, but effective control post. The passageway was flanked by a pair of guard rooms. The passage had gates at both ends enabling traffic to be stopped before passing through. There may have been a toll imposed as well.
Hadrian's Wall - Sewing Shields Turret 35a
The turret at Sewing Sheilds stood on a steep escarpment on the north side of Hadrian's Wall. By the mid 2nd century AD the turret had gone out of use. In the early 3rd century AD, the turret was deliberately dismantled and this section of Hadrian's Wall was rebuilt filling the recess of the turret interior.
Hadrian's Wall - Sewing Shields Milecastle 35
The outline of this is clear, and the individual rooms are well delineated. One notable absence is any sign of a gate entrance to the north. There was a gate originally but was blocked up, presumably because it would have been of little use at this site on top of the crags.
Hadrian's Wall - Grindon Turret 34a
Grindon Turret also had a short life and was dismantled by the end of the 2nd century AD.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 33b
We are well and trully off the highlands now. The journey from here is easy going and through farmland.
Hadrian's Wall - Brocolitia Fort and Temple I
The fort was added to the Wall after it was constucted and obliterated the vallum. It is now in private ownership and is used as a pasture. The area around it though contains the temple to the god Mithras and is managed by English Heritage. Mithras was an Eastern sun-god, supposedly born from heaven. According to legend, he had captured and killed a bull in a cave, the first creature to be created on earth, and from the blood that flowed all creatures gained new life. This doctrine of new life from sacrifice brought Mithraism into conflict with Christianity.
Hadrian's Wall - Brocolitia Fort and Temple II
These temples were small to represent the cave in which the bull was slayed. A large painting or sculpture of Mithras slaying the bull stood in front of the three altars. The statues, altars and wooden posts are all casts of finds made during excavations in 1949. Though they look drab, Roman buildings and sculptures were once brightly painted.
Hadrian's Wall - Limestone Corner
The ditch in front of the Wall comes to a halt at an area of tumbled stone blocks. As the ditch encountered solid rock, blocks of stone were cut out and lifted to the north. Some of these huge stones were left where they can be seen today.
Hadrian's Wall - Black Carts Turret 29a
Black Carts Turret was built for the 3m 'broad' wall as the foundations for this can be seen. However, like many other parts of the wall the plan was changed to be a 'narrow' 2m.
Hadrian's Wall - Grooves in Black Carts Turret 29a
At the entrance to this turret you can see grooves where huge stone slabs were positioned to form the sides of the doorway. The curved groove was made to allow the door to be pushed into position. The hole is where a pin, located at the bottom of the door enabled the door to swing open.
28 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Birdoswald to Steel Rig 10.7 miles), EnglandRather 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.
27 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Grinsdale to Birdoswald 20.7 miles), England
After the torrential rain of the previous day which made finding a suitable campsite difficult because the ground was so saturated, we were mercifully treated to a clear and dry night. We woke early and set off at 07:00 for a long day of walking through the spectacular and changing landscape of northern England. Most of the walk takes you through countryside with only a few remains of the wall to be seen.
However, the observant will see the ditches and ridges that betray the fact you are walking the route of the wall. It is not until you get to Hare Hill though that what was once walk in the country turns to a walk along an ancient monument which formed the boundary of a great empire. This is the first part of the wall if you started your journey in Bowness-On-Solway. See last years expedition Hadrian's Wall, 15th June 2008
Hadrian's Wall - The morning after a night in the open
6:30 AM and a hard day of yomping ahead.
Hadrian's Wall - Remains of the wall and Turret 52a
I remember reaching the feeling of achievement at getting to this point last year and the thought that now, history is being delved into. What I didn't realise back then was that I had already passed the evidence in the form of earthworks but this wasn't so obvious.
Hadrian's Wall - On the way to Birdoswald
After walking for hours and miles, I realise now how far I travelled last year in such a short time. No wonder my feet were torn to pieces. In this photo the big ditch is the southern vallum. Note the cows. These big beasts were scattered along many parts of the path and we had a few unavoidable and scary episodes passing through them. They are more scared of people but you never know which way they are going to run. Where they had calves though I made sure that I gave them a wide berth.
26 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Bowness to Grinsdale 10.6 miles), EnglandLast year I attempted the 84 mile long Hadrian's Wall trail carrying 25kg+ of kit but had to admit defeat after 45 miles because of ill fitting boots and severe blisters. This year I was determined to complete the trail not just for a sense of personnel achievement but also to pursue my deep interest in history and the Roman Empire. Though a lot of the stone used to build the wall and other structures has been carted off by later generations for use in their own building projects, there is still plenty of evidence to allow one to marvel at what must have been an astonishing structure and symbol of Roman power on the doorstep of the local tribes.
I took a wrong turn last year, missed Thirlwall Castle, and continued off the trail for about 6 miles thus missing some of the most dramatic scenery to be seen on the wall. This year I did not make the same mistake and faithfully followed the wall as far as possible. I left Bowness on Solway at 08:30 last year but this year didn't begin the walk until15:30 thus only getting in half a day of walking.
Hadrian's Wall - Burgh by Sands
Burgh by Sands stands on the site of the Roman fort of Aballava. Very little trace of this or wall remains.
Hadrian's Wall - Sanctuary in Burgh by Sands
We took refuge in this pub waiting for the weather to clear and to dry off. After about an hour the weather had cleared sufficiently for us to resume the walk. Last year I carried between 25-28kg but this year I managed to cut it down to about 22kg which is still too much to carry. Unlike last year, the weather switched between showers and torrential rain that turned the roads into rivers. The sheet rain did not make an appearance until we entered Burgh by Sands.
Hadrian's Wall - St Michaels's Church, Burgh by Sands
The church lies within the boundary of the old fort. Even when the church was completed in the 12th century there was still plenty of Roman stone left in the area for Roman stones to be incorporated into the tower. The tower was built in the 14th century.
Hadrian's Wall - Bivouac outside Grinsdale village
With the sodden ground and night approaching it was a challenge to find a suitable area to set up camp for the night. In the end, this site was chosen because the fence provided plenty of attachment points for the poncho and the ground consisted of a lot of stone rather than just sodden earth.
16 Jun 2008 - Hadrians Wall (Cawfields to Housesteads, via Vindolanda), EnglandI restarted at Cawfields, picking up on where I left the Wall the night before. This section of Hadrian's Wall offers some of the best preserved and typical examples of the Roman remains to be seen along its entire length. Starting with Cawfields Milecastle, evidence of gateways that would have allowed trade between the North and Roman Britain can be seen.
Climbing east, past two milecastles, the wall reaches its highest point at Winshields Crags, giving great views of Northumberland National Park.
Some of the most interesting monuments are in this section such as Vindolanda fort, one of the most famous Roman sites in Britain. After walking to and exploring it, I made my way via bus to Housesteads fort thus missing out about a mile of wall and the scenic Crag Lough but by now my feet could take no more.
From the bus stop up to Housesteads fort is a 1km, steep slope which was further hell. After a look around it was back down the hill for the AD122 bus back to Carlisle and then from there to Bowness on Solway.
Mileage: 4.25 miles from Cawfields - Vindolanda, 1 mile for Housesteads - approx 5.25 miles. In all, about 45 miles - not bad considering the time taken to look around the sites dotted along the way with a backpack averaging 25kg. Despite this, it was disappointing not to have completed the wall because of the wrong boots.
Hadrian's Wall - Cawfields Milecastle 42This milecastle is built on an awkward slope with a steep escarpment to the north making it very difficult to cross the frontier. An easier crossing point lies further west. Perhaps the military planners considered this to be a good vantage point for signalling and observation. Or maybe it was positioned here simply because it is an exact Roman mile from the previous milecastle.
Hadrian's Wall - Cawfields QuarryThis quarry cuts through the wall and has destroyed a section of it. Preservation order in 1944 stopped any further quarrying.
Hadrian's Wall - Southern defensive vallumA vallum (defensive ditch) also existed behind the wall and this, with its mounds, can be seen in this shot. Interestingly, a square outline can also be seen on the ground which may indicate further Roman or later remains which are currently unexcavated.
Hadrian's Wall - Northumbria National ParkLooking north from the wall, we can see the commanding views from this section of the wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 41a, Caw gapThis turret was excavated in 1912 and found to have a doorway on the east side of the south wall. The turret was dismantled and the Wall built across it in the Severan Period.
Hadrian's Wall - Looking WestThis spectacular view shows the wall snaking westwards over the crags. In places with a steep drop there is no need for the northern defensive ditch but if you look, some parts of the wall which are more approachable shows evidence of the vallum.
Hadrian's Wall - Windshields Crag trig point (345m)The highest point of the wall.
Vindolanda - Aerial view of Vindolanda fortExtensive excavation and the discovery of some unique finds has made this one of the most famous Roman sites in Britain due to some unique finds including many organic materials and writing tablets that give a fascinating insight into fort life. Writing tablets include official duty reports, records of supplies, cash accounts and personal letters. This fort, about a mile south of the wall was established as part of the Stanegate frontier system.
Vindolanda - Entrance to the complexAfter leaving the reception complex, immediately in front of you are the remains of a small Romano-Celtic temple - a simple structure surrounded by a boundary wall. Excavated in 2001, it proved to have been demolished by the Romans and the site was given over cremation burials.
Vindolanda - Military bath houseThese military bath houses served as the recreation areas for the troops. From material found in the sewers and drains it is clear that civilians also used the facility.
Vindolanda - Replica of Hadrian's Wall in stoneThis section represents the wall in stone, with an interval turret. This gives an indication of the size of the wall and to remind visitors that the western third of the wall was originally built in turf, not stone.
Vindolanda - Replica of Hadrian's Wall in turf and woodThis section represents the wall in turf and wood with a timber milecastle gateway. It must be remembered that the purpose of the wall was not to prevent a large scale invasion but to prevent unwanted immigration from the north. Of course, the structure would have been a formidible barrier but an enemy making a concerted attack would be able to breach the Wall.
Housesteads - Aerial view of Housesteads fortHousesteads occupies a commanding position on the cliffs and was on the most complete forts at the wall. Amongst the remains are four gates, a headquarters, commandant's house, barracks, granaries, the only visible Roman hospital in Britain and latrines with a flush system. It was built to garrison an infantry cohort of 800 men and further reinforced in the 3rd century.
Housesteads - Approaching the fort from the southThe fort must have been an imposing sight back in its glorious heyday.
Housesteads - The Commandant's quartersThis was a large courtyard house for the commanding officer. These are the main residential quarters. This room was converted into a heated room and the stone pillars allowed heated air to pass under the paved floor and up through channels in the walls.
Housesteads - The granaryGoods came into the fort through the west gate and there was an open area here for carts to unload. The granaries were floored with timber joists supported above the ground on rows of pillars. This was to ensure good ventilation for the stored food and to deter vermin.
Housesteads - Turret 36bThis small rectangular foundation is the base of Turret 36b. Hadrian's wall was first planned without forts, and the nearest fighting units remained in forts on the Stanegate, a mile to the south such as at Vindolanda.
During the construction of the wall, the forts were moved up to the wall and as a result some were built over milecastles and turrets such as this. The fort wall was built a few metres to the north of the line of Hadrian's Wall.
Housesteads - The North Gate (porta prinicipalis sinistra)This gate was originally planned to have a double entrance but the right hand passage appears to have been rarely used. The left hand passage displays considerable wear. Eventually, the approach to the gate within the fort was narrowed greatly, presumably when the Knag Burn gateway was constructed. This is just about visible in the photo where the wall continues away from the fort at its north-east corner. A cistern can just be seen on the far left.
Housesteads - Barrack XIII (conturbernia)This follows the normal pattern for a barrack, being a long building divided into ten rooms for the soldiers, eight to a room, with a room for the centurion at the far end. Unusually, this barrack does not face Barrack XIV across the street but instead faces the north rampart of the fort.
Housesteads - East gate (main gate)The military road ran up to this gate and a street then led to the main entrance of the headquarters building. The gateway originally had a double entrance but the right hand passage was later blocked and used as an extra guardroom. The old guard room became a coal store.
Housesteads - Looking into the latrinesThe latrines were entered from this end of the building. The illustration shows that there were wooden seats along the side, set over a channel.
A smaller channel in the centre of the building was used for washing sponges. some the forts along the Wall had long aqueducts bringing fresh water to them but none is known at Housesteads. Instead, a series of tanks supplied water to this building.
Housesteads - Looking out from the latrinesThis shot taken from the opposite side of the latrines shows a more 'users eye' view.
Housesteads - South gate (porta principalis dextra)This gate was not the main entrance in Roman days as tthe military road ran through the east and west gates. The south gate, like most gates in the Wall fort, was planned to have a double entrance flanked by guard chambers though eventually the left entrance was blocked.
15 Jun 2008 - Hadrians Wall (Bleartarn to Cawfields Quarry 16.5 miles), EnglandBreakfast of pasta and pesto and it was time to march again. An early morning shower soon gave way to clear sunny weather and being out in the country was a joy again. Adam left for home at about 11AM, near Brampton.
In remote countryside, the scenery varied from fields, country lanes, woods then the rolling hills leading up to the first visible sections of the wall. At this point the wall is only reconstructed as a marker, one rock thick but what gives it away that this is actually the site of Hadrian's Wall is the ditch which is still visible.
The Wall was part of a military zone and the first line of defence was this 3m deep and 9m wide ditch, dug several meters in front. After walking for several miles next to this, the enormity of this whole construction and feat of engineering hits home and you have to wonder how this would have been perceived back in AD122.
The first true section of the wall can be see at Hare Hill and at this point I felt that the hours of trek had finally got me to where I wanted to be. Countryside is fine but what I wanted to see was the wall and the other monuments which represented the defences at the limits of the Roman Empire.
Many hours and monuments later, and with raw feet, I started searching for somewhere to pitch up for the night. By about 20:30 I found some woods just off the trail and set about pitching camp. Bad choice. I was quickly swarmed by midges and even when I got into my gortex bag leaving a small gap to allow air in, the midges still swarmed about and found their way in. After 10 minutes of this I decided to make a run for it, packed up and escaped the woods! I walked on hoping to find a Bed and Breakfast, not willing to be insect food.
By 21:45 there was no room at the inn but one of the girls who worked there was finishing her shift and offered me a lift into nearby Haltwhistle where luckily I found accommodation. In retrospect, I should have found a windy place on the wall as that would have been swarm free. Still, szechwan chicken and rice was a better alternative to pasta. I wasn't going to complain about a shower, warm bed and hearty breakfast either.
So, today's mileage was: about 4 miles from Newtown - Walton, 14 miles from Walton - Cawfields Quarry (near the Milecastle Inn, where I got a lift into Haltwhistle and including wandering around sites) - 18 miles. Strangely enough, my shoulders had adapted very quickly and did not hurt anywhere near as much as yesterday. And so far, all I have seen is people carrying either a light day sack or nothing more than a stick. Unlike my 25kg!
Hadrian's Wall Path - Time for some surgeryAfter a number of hours of morning tabbing, my feet were hurting in a number of places and several blisters had formed. This was one of the most painful and required immediate relief. I sterilised the knife in the flame of my lighter and then popped the blister at the base on the side going away from the direction of movement and friction. This prevents the now weaked skin from tearing and takes away the pressure of the blister which causes the pain.
Hadrian's Wall Path - First evidence of Hadrian's WallI had come across some formations which looked like they could have been man made and a sign of the wall but there was never enough evidence around for me to say for certain that I was looking at part of the Roman fortification. Now, some way past Brampton and through rolling countryside I began to see more signs and this ditch made it seem pretty conclusive that I was entering 'wall country'. At this point I am on the northern side of the defences (the wall does not exist) in 'barbarian lands'.
Hadrian's Wall - Hare HillFinally, my first view of Hadrian's Wall. This was once thought to be the highest surviving section but it fact was largely rebuilt in the 19th century. A building stone on the north face bears the inscription PP, recording that this stretch of wall was build by Roman legionaries under the Primus Pilus (literally 'first spear') - the first centurion of a legion.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 52aThe western 30 miles of Hadrian's Wall was first built of turf, with stone turrets. The section stretched from Bowness on Solway, on the west coast, to the River Irthing, near Harrow's Scar, Milecastle 49. Within about ten years, the wall was rebuilt in stone. Turrets were often incorporated into the stone wall.
Hadrian's Wall - Inside Turret 52aConstruction was carried out by Roman legionaries. Their ranks contained engineers, surveyors, masons, carpenters and smiths - all the skills needed for the largest building task. The wall was patrolled by second line troops called auxiliaries who were also well trained. Auxililiaries often came from an area away from where they were recruited to maintain their loyalty.
Hadrian's Wall - Pike Hill Signal TowerBefore Hadrian's Wall was built, there were a number of Roman forts along the Stanegate, the Roman road between Corbridge and Carlisle. Watchtowers were built on high ground and used for signalling to the forts and other towers. Here at Pike Hill was one of those early signal towers. Because of its important position, it was incorporated into the Wall and used until the later 4th century AD. Now, only a small section of it can be seen. In the distance, Turret 52a can be seen.
Hadrian's Wall - Piper Sike Turret 51aIt is noticeable that the low level remains of the turrets are very similar. Typically there was a doorway, a hearth for warmth and cooking, and a stone platform where soldiers placed a ladder to gain access to the upper level and wall walk. The rest is a matter for speculation. Here at Piper Sike, the remains of the stone platform for a ladder to the upper floor can be seen against the north wall. In the centre of the floor was a sunken hearth.
Birdoswald - Aerial view of Birdoswald fortThe original Roman name is open to intense debate and may be called 'Banna' or 'Camboglanna'. Excavations between 1987 and 1992 showed an unbroken sequence of occupation on the site of the fort granaries, running from the late Roman period until possibly 500AD and as of 2008, is the only site on Hadrian's Wall at which significant occupation in the post-Roman period has been proven. The Wall is at the top and forms the north wall of the fort.
Birdoswald - West Gateway (Porta Principalis Sinistra)This photo is taken from the Military Way, the main road which connected all the forts along Hadrian's Wall and passed through the west and east gateways. The gate originally had two high portals flanked by towers but around 230AD the south portal was blocked up. Note the exceptionally fine masonry at the base of the south tower of the gateway. The stone was used to repair the fort in the early third century.
Birdoswald - West Gateway, view of the blocked doorwayThis view shows the extra room made by blocking the southern gateway.
Birdoswald - South Gateway cookhousesLike all the main gates in all the forts, guard chambers flanked the entrances. During the 3rd century the guard chambers to this gate were converted into cookhouses. This, the east guard chamber has two excellent examples of Roman ovens. Each oven would have been covered by a clay domw. Wood was set alight in the ovens to heat the stucture, the embers scraped out and then bread put in to bake.
Birdoswald - South-east corner of the fortThis photo shows the signature shape of a Roman fort; the rounded corners of a rectangle, forming the shape of a playing card.
Birdoswald - Eastgate entranceThis gateway is one of the best preserved of the forts on Hadrian's Wall. This shows the double doorway with arch support.
Birdoswald - Eastgate entrance looking outThe east gateway again from within the fort with guard chambers visible on both sides.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 49, Harrow's ScarFrom Birdoswald Fort going west comes milecastle 49. It's fairly hard to photograph as all that remains is its basic rectangular shape, like much along the Wall, and there is no raised ground from which to get a good overview of it. Immediately east is a sheer drop to the River Irthing and to its south is a very steep slope which is the route of the Hadrian's Wall Path. The path takes you down to a bridge crossing the river.
Hadrian's Wall - Willowford BridgeThe river has drifted west since Roman times and the remains of the original Roman bridge is now high and dry. The remains of the bridge are part of the abutment which supported the east end of the bridge and protected the river bank from erosion. Looking further east, the Wall can be seen ascending to the modern Willowford farm which provides accomodation.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 48b, Willowford WestFrom this turret can be seen an excellent example of the north defensive ditch which is well preserved thanks to the road which runs at the bottom of it.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 48a, Willowford EastTurrets were simple watchtowers providing access to the wall walk and built when the foundations of Hadrian's Wall were laid out if they weren't already built from an earlier time. They were built to a standard plan with a short spur wall on either side, ready to be linked to the Wall. However, not all of the wall was built to the same width, perhaps to save time and resources. At this turret, a narrow 2m wall can be seen standing on 3m wide foundations.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 48, Poltross BurnThis is one of the best milecastles and was built by the 6th legion. This was occupied until the 4th century. At some point both gateways were partially blocked to restrict access. Remains of ovens can be seen as are stairways and barrack blocks. Originally there were two barrack blocks containing four rooms with a verandah each facing onto a central throughfare.
14 Jun 2008 - Hadrians Wall (Bowness to Bleartarn 20.6 miles), England8AM and a beautiful morning with a great view over the Solway Firth. We packed up and worked out where the beginning of the path started, began the walk and then settled down for a spot of breakfast which was a pot of pasta and pesto. Hadrian's Wall Path is a well marked out route and is a Long Distance National Trail. At the time of writing there are 15 of these trails, many of them far longer than this.
The walking is easy, though can be muddy in places but at this relatively dry time of the year the path was baked hard. The highest point on the path is only 345m, and for most of its length is more or less flat. Though most of the Wall is in remote countryside, lengthy sections pass through the cities of Newcastle and Carlisle.
The first 14 miles or so took us through countryside but end up in Carlisle. At this point my feet were hurting badly and I realised that I had the wrong boots. These were about a half size too small and they didn't have an insole either! Luckily, being back in Carlisle I was able to buy some insoles but unfortunately there was nothing that I could do about the boots. By now it was about 4pm and we shamefully settled for a MacDonalds before heading back out onto the trail which took us through the North of the city and across the River Eden.
Upon leaving Carlisle behind we again hit the country trails and village roads, passed Crosby and ended somewhere near Newtown. This was a good time to stop because at this point our rest breaks were coming more regular and our pace was slowing because of the pain in our feet. My shoulders were aching from carrying my bergen but this pain kicked in hours back. We made 'home', had scoff and were asleep by 22:00.
All in all, this was a good first day despite the slackened pace at the end and the pain contributed by my inappropriate footwear. Distances covered:15 miles from Bowness On Solway - Carlisle, about 7 miles from Carlisle - Bleartarn including the walk into Carlisle for footwear and a calory rich MacDonalds meal - 22 miles.
Hadrian's Wall Path - Ernies back garden
Unable to put up a shelter, I spent the night in the tent with Adam which was a bit of a squeeze.
This was a glorious morning, cool and sunny. Ernie's back garden looks onto the Solway Firth and is shown in the next photo.
Hadrian's Wall Path - The Solway FirthBowness on Solway, the western end of Hadrian's Wall. The site was originally occupied by the eightieth milecastle and was built of turf and timber. When the Wall was replaced in stone, the milecastle was demolished and replaced by a timber-built fort, which was itself then rebuilt in stone. The fort was the second largest on the Wall, and it was for this reason named Maia ('The Larger'), as it was the largest of the forts to the west of Stanwix, where was the military administrative centre of the Wall.
Hadrian's Wall Path - Statue of Edward I, Burgh by Sands
King Edward I, Edward 'Longshanks', died in Burgh By Sands on 7th July 1307 whilst leading a campaign against Robert the Bruce. He was laid in St Michaels Church in the village until its eventual removal to Westminster Abbey.
On 7th July 2007, this stutue was installed to mark the 700th Anniversary of Kind Edward's death.
Hadrian's Wall Path - Brewing up on the River Eden
Time for a rest, sock change and refreshing cuppa. No time to eat but that was put right in Carlisle with a MacDonalds. Judging by the last time I saw him, it seems that Adam has been eating nothing but. Definitely not the Adam from Patagonia 2001.
Hadrian's Wall Path - On to Carlisle
It has been lovely sitting in the sun on the banks of the river but now it's time to move on and follow the course of the river towards Carlisle which is now only a mile or two away. My feet were beginning to hurt by now and it wasn't just the normal pain from walking a long distance. It was at this point that I realised I had the wrong boots and no inner soles to cushion each step.
Hadrian's Wall Path - The end of a day's tabbing22 miles of tabbing and now it was time to rest those weary feet and shoulders. I have constructed a poncho shelter. Underneath is my sleeping bag inside a gortex bivvi bag on top of a roll mat. The poncho keeps most of the rain off whilst the bivvi bag ensures that no drops of rain get onto the sleeping bag. The bivvi bag can be tightened to leave a small air hole at the top ensuring that the occupant stays warm and dry.
Hadrian's Wall Path - Pasta and green pesto for supperAll I had to eat today was past for breakfast and supper with a MacDonalds meal in between. Reduced calories, complex carbs and hard tabbing is a sure way to lose weight.
I normally only spend nights out like this with the Army. It rained during the night but being in my waterproof bivvi bag, warm and dry, was cosy and the raindrops all around me was relaxing and soothing, doubly so as there was no one to call me to do stag (guard duty) at stupid o'clock.
13 Jun 2008 - Hadrians Wall, England
Roman history has always had me fascinated and not only because of the civilisation itself but also because of how much it shaped European history. Hadrian's Wall is one of the most extensive archeological monuments in England and stretches across England from East to West. The wall is 73 miles long but the Hadrian's Wall Path is over 84 miles and takes you along the wall where possible.
It was my intention to do the whole walk in 4 days even though the guidebooks talk about 6 or 7 days allowing time to see the many monuments along the way. I met Adam (whom I last did a long distance walk with) Travel Blogs from Patagonia, 2001
in Carlisle and we then drove on to Bowness On Solway which is the most Westerly point of the wall.
As we met up so late we spent the evening at the local pub having a few beers and getting information from the very friendly locals. Adam did most of the fact finding and found out that one of the locals, 'Ernie' is known for being willing to allow people to put their tent up in his back garden for a couple of pints.
I was equipped with a 27kg bergen and kit, 2kg of which was pasta, 4.5kg of water, a poncho and sleeping kit (a gortex bivvi bag and sleeping bag to go inside) plus the usual things e.g. spare clothes, gas cooker etc). This is a fair weight but I wanted to be self sufficient for the full 4 days of hiking.