Edge of Empire, Hadrian’s Wall

When it was first completed, in 128CE (AD), the 73 mile long, 6 meter tall defensive structure was an incredible spectacle. It was nicknamed ‘the edge of empire’ by the Romans, because it literally was, the edge of the Roman Empire. It was built to defend against ‘the Barbarians’ (Celtic Warriors), and stretched across the country from Bowness-on sea in the Northwest, to Wallsend (named so, because this is where the wall ends), in the Northeast. Nowadays, it would take 7 days to walk the full 84 mile path along the wall.

In 1987, the wall was deemed a world heritage site, and it is perfectly clear why. Over the course of lockdown and this lockdown limbo we find ourselves in, I have had the pleasure of exploring parts of this incredible part of our heritage.

Hadrians Wall is incredibly close to where I live and until this past weekend, I knew so little about the who, what, when a little where and why of the history. Now I am absolutely no historian (I leave that to Shaun), but I just think its so important to know the basics about this renowned part of Britain.

Entrance to the Roman Army Museum

The Roman Army Museum

There are so many great places to view the wall, and learn about its history. Now I haven’t been to all of them, or anywhere near half. However, I have to say, the Roman Army Museum at Brampton was the best type of museum for myself. Not only did it have short snippets of information (I hate going to museums that have literal bible sized paragraphs on the wall). But all the information you were told was then reinforced with a short film, other little videos and (pre/post covid) interactive aspects. The short film was the most interesting as it takes you on a journey along the wall and explains parts along the way. It shows reconstructions of what it looked like and gave a little insight to the purposes of these defences. We were then able to walk those parts after and really drill in the information we had just learned.

Inside the Museum

The museum was incredibly cheap at less that £7 per adult. The staff were also incredibly friendly and helpful. We had to book ourselves a timeslot (covid regulations) and we bought our tickets online at the same time for convenience, however you could buy them there as long as you had a timeslot.

ADDRESS: Roman Army Museum, Greenhead, Brampton CA8 7JB

Overview of the quarry, Hadrian’s wall is at the top of that ridge

Walltown Quarry Carpark

Once we had explored this museum which took about an hour, we left the car in the carpark and set off in search of Roman ruins. The wall is perhaps a 15 minute walk from the museum, however there is another car park here at the Walltown Quarry if you didn’t want to do the museum

ADDRESS: Walltown Quarry, Brampton CA8 7JB

The Walltown Bench, at the top of the hill leading to the wall.

There were toilets here which were free to use, and usually a shop but this wasn’t open when we went. I didn’t remember to check the price of parking, but there was also lots of picnic spaces here.

The top of the first hill

The Wall Path

I feel this is an obvious one, but the wall is very hilly, with both steep ups and downs. I highly recommend hiking boots, bring water, and most importantly a spare set of lungs as some of those hills are a killer (back up knees if you have those too)! But really, you can’t do this walk without a camera because the views are simply breath taking.

Remains of one of the turrets

The video from the army museum I mentioned earlier showed you many of the turrets and defences between the museum to sycamore gap. We didn’t walk that far along this time, however we did walk about 2 miles along and were able to really understand what the wall had been like because of that video.

More remains of the defences

We walked about 2 miles along the wall, and then turned back and went two miles back, as both a toilet stop and lunch were needed. We decided to get in the car and go further west which was the opposite direction of where we had been walking and therefore, the furthest west we had been on the wall.

The new bridge built to cross the river

Birdoswalf Fort and Willowford Bridge

Hadrian’s wall only crossed three rivers along the 73 miles it stretched; The Tyne in Newcastle, The River Eden in Carlisle, and the River Irthing at Willowford. The remnants of the River Irthing bridge still stand, so we decided to go visit. It is important to point out here that the river has changed position since the bridge was built, so the remains aren’t in the water anymore (as we were confused when we first saw the remains in the middle of a field).

There is the Birdoswalf Fort here, which is an English Heritage site. We paid £4 for all day parking, and ate lunch at the fort but decided not to do the fort itself as we just wanted to walk.

After seeing the remains of the bridge I think we made the right decision as it was an a great thing to see. However, by this point we were pretty exhausted from the earlier walk so we didn’t go much further beyond this bridge.

Remains of the old bridge

Overall, I never get tired of adventures to Hadrian’s wall. The views are incredible, and the history so rich it still feels very present. One day I would love to attempt the 7 day hike across the country to walk the 84 mile wall path. Perhaps next year (if my lungs and knees are up for it). Damn its hard being a 23 year old with the body of a 83 year old, and perhaps the mentality of an 83 year old!

The dark clouds were on their way to get us!

I hope you enjoyed this, out of character, historically accurate blog post.

Stay Safe, and Happy Adventuring!

2 comments

  1. I hiked the Hadrian’s Wall trail a few years ago over the course of five days. I started in Newcastle and ended in the driving rain five days later Bowness-on-Solway outside of Carlisle. As a Roman history buff, it was one of the best weeks I’ve ever spent. Also quite underrated about hiking the trail is all the beautiful landscapes you get to see over the course of the journey. I did it solo the first time. I’m going to do it again next summer with my son, COVID permitting of course. Thanks for the great read and the unexpected nostalgia trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh I love that! I’m really thinking about doing it next year. And 5 days to do it in is really good going! Hope you manage to get it done next year!

      Like

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