Hadrian's Wall Walk 5September 2009
This was the fifth walk along the Wall, and in many ways the best. Lots of us were going on this. I was prepared and organised. Then poor Thomas was taken off to hospital with a severe asthma attack and I spent a few days at his bedside watching him get worse, finally stabilise and then get better. We got home on the Friday afternoon with hardly any time to put things together. Catherine was still out at work, but she had kindly left me some bread dough. So quickly caramelising some onions, I was able to bake some onion and Parmesan bread. With dried smoked bacon, and stuff from the fridge, plus cider, I was going to be fine for the weekend.
I travelled up with Amy and Paul B. who I was looking forward to getting to know better. We arrived at Winshields campsite as it was getting dark. My dog tent was up in less than four minutes. My bed of leaves looked luxurious. My tarred goatskin smelt not too bad. And my spare bit of canvas looked a great idea to close the back of the tent. My dog tent turned out to be bigger than Amyís and a palace compared to Paulís very thin version. But my canvas is very light, and the mold adds a certain ambience to the interior dťcor.
In the complete dark we used my flint and steel to make a fire. Paul put his eating tool down twice, and lost it in the dark. How silly I thought. Then I did the same thing. It was very dark. Together we prepared the French classic petit salť, which was the first hot food Iíd had in days. Simply carrots, onion, celery, Puy lentils, bay leaves, smoked sausage and cured gammon, boiled in my old faithful copper pot. Paul had brought up some treats and I did enjoy his goats cheese. Suddenly Mary and Colin loomed out of the darkness, put up their tent and joined the fire. This was suddenly a very jolly campfire. Paul and Colin started snoring in unison, which was very relaxing. I nearly finished my 3 litres of cider, but Amyís malt whisky kept me up. As it started to get light I realised it was time for bed. It was a cold night, but I didnít care.
Ninety minutes later Colin thoughtfully woke me up. Apparently we only had an hour before we started. Since I only had to put my boots on, and stuff a few things in my snap sack I felt a little aggrieved. But he was cooking everybody breakfast which I wasnít expecting. Alice dropped David off, we checked our kit, and we were off by 8.30 a.m.
The walk up to the highest point of the Wall warmed us up, and heading east we began to meet other hikers. Paul was marching for charity and people made several donations at spear point. Mary became official photographer, while I secretly continued to finish off my cider.
A hunt dogged our steps and the thought of cavalry chasing us made the walk more interesting. This really is the most beautiful length of the Wall. We stormed Housesteads, and settled down for lunch, answering the questions of the interested visitors. It always amazes me how re-enactors can bring a site to life, even when eating their lunch. Dave topped the food charts by producing stuffed vine leaves. That was impressive. As we finished English Heritage finally evicted us. We walked through the civilian settlement down to the late Roman Nag Burn gateway, and then south to the fort bathhouse.
Now we headed south at speed, and everyone did really well to keep the pace. We headed up to the signal towers on Barcombe Down above Vindolanda. The wind was such I could go hang gliding with Colinís shield. We took the short route straight down to Vindolanda, past the famous Roman milestone still in situ, and into the site itself. We couldnít resist walking around the site, reliving our event last May. The cafť served ice cream and the museum was excellent.
We climbed out of Vindolanda to the Twice Brewed where Paul bought a round. What a nice chap. We met up with Alice, Becky and Will. We even had some sparing with practice swords. Then back to the campsite. Paul headed back to Richmond on Thames and finally got home at 1.30 am. I stayed a while before heading home to see how Thomas was fairing.
The walk was straightforward, and I guess we did about 14 miles, but at some speed. Everybody coped really well and all the kit was fit for purpose. We walked as light infantry, although I had what I needed to camp. The following night was going to be very very cold, and Iím not sure my trusty faithful cloak would have kept me warm. But a fire always helps. As does good company.