Here - There - Somewhere travel blog

Hadrian & Mrs Hadrian Inspecting Their Wall

Pink Floyd's Inspiration

The day presented itself very badly. It was cold, about 100C and the rain was horizontal and the sun had stayed in bed. I don’t blame it.

You would really have to wonder why any Caesar in his right mind (there was the occasional one) would want to build a wall across Britain, together with a fortified gate every Roman mile or so garrisoned by 32 legionnaires. I guess though that Hadrian, like his predecessors and the many empire builders that followed him, just wanted to stake out his claim. That claim did not include the barbarian Picts and Scots (who’d want them in their nice empire anyway) residing on the other side of his wall so this was also a means of defence. That being said, I somehow expected something on a grander scale.

My expectation was no doubt coloured by the experience of being seriously gobsmacked when visiting the Great Wall of China a couple of years back. Now that’s a wall. Scaling that thing would be well nigh impossible whereas Hadrian’s variety, much narrower and of stunted growth, would appear to have been readily crossed by any barbarian with an IQ above 80. This would be particularly so as oftentimes – even in what classes as summer - the weather would have obscured any recognition that illegal immigration into the civilized world was under way.

The lady at the National park information centre located at the hamlet of the quaintly named Once Brewed had armed us with a multitude of brochures from which we discerned that an excellent way to get a feel of things Roman was to undertake a circuit walk from Iron Rigg.

The previous day, en route to Haltwhistle we had spent a very pleasant 4 hours walking around the vast National Trust estate of Cragside. That property, resplendent in its summer cloak spread across woods and lakes, rock gardens and flower beds, iron bridge and stately home first powered by hydro electricity in the 1880s had presented perfect walking under blue skies dotted with the occasional whispish cloud.

We had hoped for a similar burst of generosity from Mother Nature in checking out Hadrian stuff, but, as already noted, Mother had become a true bitch on this day. Undaunted, we donned our thin warm vests, encased ourselves in our water proof jackets, hoods in place, and headed into the gloom.

Of course Hadrian’s Wall took advantage of the landscape and thus often ran along vertiginous hills followed by steep declines. We followed a section for about an hour up hill and down dale, catching glimpses of the countryside and the occasional photo when the rain eased for a moment or so. The wall has obviously deteriorated in the period since the Romans had retired back to their warm villas in Italia, but this section was said to be one of the better preserved. There were hints of the Milecastles and the occasional well, but the remaining wall rarely rose above shoulder height. Surveying the surrounding fields revealed that a good part of Hadrian’s handiwork had been put to more practical use; every farm, paddock, house, lane and road was encircled by neat stone walls constructed of stones suspiciously similar in size to those stamped Roman. After trudging for about an hour we took the return path signposted ‘Roman Soldiers Way’ and, other than being eyed off by a bunch of cows protected by a feisty young bull, arrived uneventfully back at Iron Rigg and the relative warmth of our car.

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |