Monday, September 11, 2017

Two Old Soldiers Walking Hadrian's Wall

About a year ago an old Army buddy a fellow Warrant Officer Bob Gambert was telling me about this walk across England. A walk that followed a Roman wall that stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. At the time I was limping around on a bad knee, all I wanted was for it to heal and feel better.   Walking was a struggle, but this walk was something I decided I wanted to do.  

Hey, I'm the Wandering Soldier right, what better to walk 90 plus miles with another retired warrant officer.  So after many a discussion over a beverage or two, we set a date for the next summer. So that gave me a year in which to lose a few pounds and get my knee right.  After a couple of cortisone injections and walking  60 miles a week for the last 3 months I'm ready to go. 

So we did it, we walked from  Wallsend, Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway past Carlisle.  It was an amazing experience and an even better experience with a fellow Warrant Officer.  We took the Tube from Newcastle to start at Segedunum at Wallsend.   Segedunum is just one of many Roman Forts and Museum along the route.  When we started as 2 old soldiers, we immediately felt a kinship with this route.  We could feel the ghost of the Roman legions that were stationed on this wall.  One much like the Iron Curtain we had been stationed on in Germany. 

There were lots of challenging days with mileage total, over 90 miles walked over 8 days.  The first 4 days we averaged over 12 miles a day.  We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts along the route.  Most were marvelous English country homes. Some of these homes were actually built with stones from the Hadrian's Wall.   The beginning and end of the march there is not much of the wall left it was dismantled and used for other things.   

One of the more memorable B&B stays was like being in an episode of Downtown Abby. We all had drinks in the parlor then we're told to pass through for dinner.  Yes, he said it, "it's time to pass through". All of the people at the table we had already met on the hike it was very interesting. Also, Nelson Mandela had stayed here in the 90's. At dinner, our host told us stories about fox hunting. 

 Then there was the Nutbush B&B and Malcolm, what a great guy totally relaxed.  He took us to town to a local pub instead of fixing dinner at the house.  He was a joy to talk to who always had a laugh. I can't express enough my love for this place, Malcolm is the man. He made our stay so enjoyable. Very down to earth who made us feel like his home was our home. 

In the middle of the march is where the base of the wall still exists, you can see the wall in the rolling hills for miles, it's an incredible sight.  You can imagine what it was like to be a soldier on the wall.  Strangely,  a soldiers life hasn't changed much over the centuries.  There was guard duty, kitchen police, the local town where soldiers went to blow off steam.   The Romans built the wall to keep people out, but it ended up being an economic hub for over 300 years. 

One of the highlights of the March was our stop in Carlisle.   Carlisle Castle was a focal point for the wars between Scotland and England. Mary Queen of Scots was executed here in 1587. It was originally a Roman fort. There was a fantastic military museum there also of the British Border Regiment which was stationed here. 

On our last day of walking, we found a small church that offered tea coffee and biscuits for a small donation. They had a small museum in the church. It was good to get out of the rain.  It felt good to enjoy a hot cup of tea and warm up in this little sanctuary. 

It was an incredible 8 days that overwhelmed the senses.  A big shout-out to Baggage Transfer Plus and Ian Blythe. Who made our 90-mile walk across England worry-free. We had great accommodations and baggage transfers all across Hadrian's Wall Path. Would highly recommend this service. I would say this walk along the wall was one of the Top 10 things that I have done in my lifetime; a great experience.

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