Hadrians Wall national trail is a moderate to hard hike covering 84 miles of some of the most unspoilt British countryside around. It also covers sections of the Pennines and Cumbria coastal walk so offers the hardy hiker and outdoors folk a wide variety of terrians and views to explore and enjoy.
For our adventure, and for yours (should you ever manage to pry yourself from your comfy chair by the campfire) I'd recommend starting just outside Newcastle at Heddon on the wall. Here we booked into NORTH HEDDON FARM and left our vehicle parked up in the safe (cctv COVERED) Farm court yard for the week. The accomodation is excellent, the welcome friendly making it almost feel like a home from home. Paula, our host, fed us a excellent and filling breakfast which was just the ticket needed as we started our hike on a cold and frosty sunday morn.
From the farm you have two choices - the 684 bus into newcastle or miss out the town bit - your call! And you can either use a baggage service or like us mule it carrying your full weeks kit on your backs.
Our kit list was kept simple - lightness was important! Generally the list of gear I carried in my Sabre 75 was as follows.
US army sleepsystem winter bag and bivi
Karrimor air mat
2 x 1 litre stainless bottle - 1 x 500ml bottle with sports cap
jet boil + two cannisters of gas
Aladdin thermal cup
Maps, compass, gps, National trails Book
camera, phone, ipod (important stuff eh!) small travel board game.
1 weeks food consisting or army breakfast and mainmeals, cup'a'soups for each day, brew kit, chocolate and kendal mint cake bars.
Spare socks and underwear
buffalo belay jacket
Montaine down jacket
British army pocket knife, spoon, lighter, watch ect ect
Wash kit, sewing kit
Half tent (two man tent shared between two)
Total weight at start was just over 20 kg each (mostly food and water which thankfully got lighter each day ") - )
Hiking the first two days was a pleasure leaving the Newcastle skyline behind we disappeared among the gentle rolling hills following a trail so well marked that navigation wasnt even necessary.
The early time of year also meant generally we had the hills to ourselves and the "unseasonally" sunny days found us enjoying every minute of our day hikes. The sub zero nights werent a problem either as a rule because we simply made a point of bedding down just at the turn of last light - with a hot meal in our bellies our travel weary bodies had little trouble sleeping the 10 hours of darkness away and always left us refreshed and up, breakfasted and ready for the next frosty sunrise where for a brief time the Northumberian hills where transformed into frosty wonderlands of post card beauty - a beauty we had all to ourselves!
Eventually we reached the English heritage section of the trail - this was less well maked with signs but as the wall proper is here it wasnt hard to follow!
For a change of scenery and a little added adventure we decided to drop off the trail just west of Housesteads and follow the Pennine way north into Kielder Forest where we stayed for 2 nights and a restful day at the Haughtongreen bothy (MBA owned this was a cracking little stop over)
Once more back on the trail we hiked ever westward enjoying the sights and the freedoms of the trail.
The only disappointing section I found was the Carlisle section, the river Eden may be a paradise in summer but with winter still clinging on to its cold banks the River was a dull section of the walk, but this was better, at least, than the later Carlisle section where the last leg before the village of Grinsdale lead us under a railway bridge and past the city dump ......... the bridge if hit late at night wouldnt be a surprising place to find drunks and such and the city dump speaks for itself!
My advice here it push this leg and hike on to Port Carlise - rest here. Your a mile or so from the end but you can visit the Hope and Anchor Pub (Inn - you can book in for a night - owned by a cracking couple Dougie and Liz) here you can not only enjoy one of the best meals I've had out in a long time but you can also celebrate with a well earned Pint! Breakfast at the pub (like the farm where we started) was excellent and was a great way to start the day of our last leg.
One and a bit miles of flat coastal road to Bowness on Solway and the end of our hike!
Along the way we met many, many nice people, the locals and our fellow hikers were all fantastic company and nothing was more cheering than the encouragement we where given by total strangers, the three guys building a wall, the two workers repairing a cattle grid, the firecrew who were doing hydrant checks or the numberious drivers who waved and gave thumbs ups to us as we plodded onwards the end. These people and many others really made this hike a pleasure and added to our sense of achievement.
Would I do the hike again - yes without a doubt!!
Sometimes, its only when we challenge ourselves that we know were truely alive!!
** sorry for the picture quality but a small tech problem wont allow bigger down loads at this time! ")