The Why of It All

I finished the drive on the edge a few years ago. This seems the perfect time for something completely different.


Bust of HadrianIt all started a long time ago -- 1,888 years by my calculation. Hadrian, Emperor of the Roman Empire declared that a wall would be built to guard the northern border of the northernmost place in the empire -- far-off Britannia. Thus, over the next six years the 2nd, 6th and 20th legions of the Roman army built a stone wall, mostly stone anyway, across the width of the island stretching from the Tyne river at the fort Segendum to the shore of Solway Firth at the fort Maia. One estimate says that 25 million facing stones somewhat larger (and much heavier) than regulation modern concrete building blocks were quarried, transported and set. The wall was bordered north and south by major earthworks. Every Roman mile along the wall there was a milecastle and between each milecastle and the next were two turrets for observation. To the south of the wall there were forts and a military road. Such construction would be arduous today; in Roman times it seems that it must have been nearly impossible.

A bit of this history got through to me when I was in school and kindled an interest in ancient times. Thus, when I discovered that the Hadrian's Wall path had been created following the course of the wall, a mad idea of walking across England entered my mind.

A trip like this is something that doesn't happen without planning and planning is something which has rarely entered in my travels. Thus, I was fortunate to find a company in England which does just this sort of thing -- arranging walking and cycling tours. Mickledore Travel is their name and I can't recommend them highly enough. They did a great job of scheduling my walk, arranging for lodging, meals in the more remote parts of the path, and even transporting luggage between stops. This latter task is important when one gets to my age and is unused to long-distance walking -- the difference between carrying a simple day pack and a 40-pound backpack is major and the minimal additional cost for this service is worth every cent.

My plan was to have Mickledore arrange nine nights of lodging between which I would have eight days of walking. After the official walk I would have an extra day to spend in York, probably the preeminent historical city in England's north country. Flying into and out of Manchester and then using the rail system proved to be the best choice I could have made. The stated length of the Hadrian's Wall Path is 84 miles and adding in the various side trips (including getting lost which I freely admit I did) put my total easily above the 100-mile mark.


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