Hadrian's Wall Walk 2 - Return to Hadrian's Wall30th September 2006
This march covered old territory, and began with a night camping at the Whin Shields Farm, followed the next day by an 11 mile hike along the highest and most rugged extent of Hadrian’s Wall. It finished at Carrawburgh and the Mithraeum there. A second night of camping was followed by a day of relaxation, visiting some of the museums in the area.
Comitatus did this march last year in full combat kit, with armour, large shields and heavy weaponry. This year the emphasis was on skirmishing, we were a light patrol that could easily pass through the gates of a milecastle and head north into the wilds of the great barbaricum.
To this end no-one wore armour, though Jamie wore his crested Intercisa. Steven carried large shield, francisca and short spear, I carried recurve bow, arrows, sling and spatha, John carried spiculum, spatha, javelins and small shield, Jamie carried spatha and large shield. Dai dressed in 21st century attrire, carrying a hefty walking stick! Of course we carried water, as well as posca (Roman wine-vineager) and cider to keep us refreshed.
The weather was great, blue skies creating a wonderful walking atmosphere. We kept up a steady pace, which meant we were able to enjoy some long rest stops where we admired the view, joked and chatted. No-one found the walking difficult, there were no kit failures or accidents on the walk (although John cut his finger deeply while cleaning it on Sunday morning..!). Dai, John and myself had camped the night before, Dai in modern tent, John and myself in tent-shelter reconstructions. These served us well last year, and my shelter had been used half-a-dozen times since. The stars that night were extraordinarily clear and the sight of the Milky Way breath-taking! There were no artificial lights, and no clouds.
Locations we had trudged quickly past in the fog last year, we stopped and admired. The oak-tree, the mile-castles, the crags and the lakes, the open hills and distance northern forests. I particularly enjoyed standing on a high rock pinnacle to sling stones 50m down into an azure blue lake inhabited by swans. The time-delay of the impact on the water was impressive! Unfortunately a loose cord put an end to my fun. My memory of this walk: good weather, excellent views, good company and fun - what else makes an enjoyable weekend? At Housteads Roman Fort we talked to lots of tourists about our equipment and why we were there, we lounged, took pictures, lounged some more. We even met a couple who were from Sewerby and had seen us at the August event! We eventually jumped over the fort wall and visted Knag Burn gate and then followed our noses to the Wall. At Sewingshields we tramped through my favourite part, light forest – the site of King Arthur’s resting place as he sleeps with his knights (well, one of the resting places, there are many!).
We tried to adopt the skirmishing mindset and glance across the Wall with the Picts, Votadini and Scotti in mind. Steven had made his own kit, from shield to shoes, tunic to belt to knife and spear. His planked shield was heavy but he did extremely well, I hope he marches with us again. It was interesting to hear of his Saxon re-enactment experiences, particularly at West Stow. Dai carried car keys and took lots of photos. John powered onwards wearing his new hand-made shoes. Jamie found the going hot but the actual walking fairly easy. It was a very nice surprise to find Jamie outside my tent on Saturday morning! I was very pleased to see him (he left a bottle of mead with us after the walk which was also extremely kind of him!!). I found the going incredibly hard last year, the armour in particular ground me down at every step, but this year my archer’s kit left me free to gambol freely along the rocks and crests! It was a walk in the park for me, I could certainly have carried more and would do so in the future.
The Twice Brewed pub was great afterwards. Very enjoyable. Steven and Jamie had to leave us, and Dai, John and myself settled in for another night of camping. As we prepared our evening fires and gathered ingredients (I was cooking chickpeas and chiken in a Roman-style sauce, John was cooking bulgar wheat with smoked sausage, Dai was heating up cans of potato, Irish stew and sweetcorn!) we spotted a lone walker arriving. He introduced himself as Brendan from the USA, walking the Wall before he had to move back he States. We invited him over to share our fire and a few beers and the extra person around the camp-fire certainly made the evening more pleasant. He’d begun his walk at Newcastle and was heading west – walking as far west as time would permit. I hope he made it to Carlisle! Get in touch Brendan!
We left Brendan and camp clean and fresh and spent an enjoyable morning visiting Vindolanda, Chesters and even Corbridge – all with free entry due to our state of dress! Excellent. The tea and tea-cakes at Vindolanda café made a very hearty breakfast! In all – recommended. This walk banished the nightmare march from last October, and put me in good spirits for future escapades! John and myself have completed every walk now and can call ourselves veterans (how many is this ... five?). It was great to have Dai along, he is good company whatever you are up to. Jamie lifted spirits at every possible moment as usual. Steven was relaxed and talkative and everyone was impressed with his kit, he had done a brilliant job backed up with some good research. I hope the march did not put him off!