A couple of weeks ago, Mum and I did a three day hike along Hadrian's Wall in the UK. This is our story.
We set off on our Journey bright and early on Thursday morning, after a hearty English breakfast. Today we walked from Humshaugh to the Old Repeater Station at Grindon, which is about 12 km.
Okay. Off we go. Everyone had promised us it would absolutely CHUCK down with rain, and the clouds looked incredibly threatening ahead, low and grey.
A little history, perhaps. The Wall was built in AD122, in order to keep out the northern barbarians and also just to generally control movement of people across the border. it took 16 years to build, and stretched 76 miles (or 122 km) from the eastern coast of Newcastle to the Western coast of Carlisle. It was the brainchild of Emperor Hadrian, although until about 200 years ago people thought it was the emperor AFTER him, and called it Severus's Wall (SNAPE! SNAPE!), which seems a bit unfair to poor old Hadrian, although I'm sure he didn't do any of the heavy lifting himself.
Here we have some genuine Roman footsoldiers: the coloured markings on their backs determine which regiment they belong to. These guys are part of the 36th infantry, and while they may LOOK like they're eating grass, they are in fact COILED SPRINGS, awaiting ACTION.
Here I am on the Wall itself. You will see a genuine Northern Barbarian behind me, sneaking up to try and pillage my packet of crisps. Lucky the Wall is in the way, huh? Thanks, Emperor Hadrian! (seriously, those cows are ENORMOUS and sometimes they are TOTALLY blocking stiles we have to climb over and they look really MEAN and OBSTINATE)
Okay, so about the Wall itself. 45 miles of it is made out of stone, like all the bits we'll see. Further east it was made of Turf and then replaced with stone in later years. The Wall was 4m high and 3m wide. Every Roman mile (1000 paces) there was a milecastle, like a fortified gateway. Between each milecastle were two watchtower turrets. It took a man 2 1/2 minutes to run along the wall from one turret/milecastle to the next, so if you kept swapping men, you could get a message from one side of the country to the other in a couple of hours. (is this boring? I'm such a nerd.) Okay, lastly, the fortification is more than just the wall. On the southern (English) side, there's a mound, then a ditch (called a Vallum) then another mound, THEN the wall. The mounds and vallum were sort of to indicate the military zone, a sort of 'no-go' area for civilians. Then on the North side of the wall there's a big deep ditch to stop those pesky Scots from getting in.
This is me standing at the very very very very northernmost point of the Roman Empire. Barbarian hordes could be popping up from the North at ANY MINUTE.
Here is a Mithraic Temple. Yes, I thought that was something from Lord of the Rings too. Apparently I was wrong. It's a Roman religion that lived alongside Christianity for a while until the Christians unsportingly but unsurprisingly decided they didn't really like sharing. The temple was very very small because according to legend, the god Mithras went into a cave and killed a GIANT BULL and bathed in its life force. Ew. There's also something about a raven and a snake, but i can't tell you what it is because Mum has fallen asleep with the book in her hand, and I don't want to wake her. The temple also isn't normally underwater, in fact it was discovered in a farmer's field during a drought, when all the dirt shrank and a dog came and scratched at one of the stones.
This is pretty much the very (windy) middle of Britain here. It's starting to look pretty bleak. But we're nearly at our B&B! Maybe we'll miss the rain! We've been lucky so far, it's rained all around us but the wind is so strong it's blown the clouds right by. Maybe our luck will hold for another hour.
But now we are arrived in the Old Repeater Station where we are staying the night. So until tomorrow, as the Romans say: KTHXBAI.