It took an ancient Roman army over a decade to build Hadrian’s Wall.
It took a group of London ladies three days to walk nearly half of it.
Construction of Hadrian’s Wall was begun in 122 AD on the order of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, in an effort to separate Britain from the barbarians. The wall runs 73 miles along northern Britain near the border of Scotland and was once the delineation of the northern-most limit of the Roman Empire.
Today, Hadrian’s Wall Path is an impressive, well trod trail that is designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
My fellow intrepid walkers boarded a train last Wednesday and headed north. The rapeseed was in bloom, providing a radiant backdrop as we drove up to the start of the trail near Hexham.
Our quest was to cover roughly 34 miles over three days. Prepared with layers and waterproofs to protect against the typically windy and wet English weather, we were thrilled to bask beneath sunny skies for the first two days of the journey.
Hadrian’s wall was once 20 feet tall but now varies from the height of a stepping stone to about 6 feet, allowing unobscured views of the expansive landscape.
We encountered more sheep than people as we trod along the path. They seemed undeterred by our presence, well accustomed to hikers invading their space.
Although there are small towns in the area, there was no sign of civilization for miles in any direction along the path, leaving just uninterrupted views of vast undulating fields, scenic ponds, ancient sycamore trees, and bright yellow gorse bushes.
Every mile along the wall is marked by a Roman fort or protective gates. Now in ruins, these structures would have been the garrisons for the infantry and cavalry that guarded the region.
At the end of each day, we were happy to put our sore blistered feet up and rest at Langley Castle, built in 1350.
There is no need to set an alarm clock when staying at the castle. We thought the resident peacocks were charming as they paraded and preened in front of our rooms.
But we quickly grew tired of them (quite literally) as they woke us up every morning at 5:00 am with their distinctively shrill cry!
Our second day on the trail was warm and sunny as we marched 13 miles along the wall, happily sweating as we climbed up and down very steep rolling hills.
At the end of that day, we reached a pub in town where we waited for our bus, having arrived ahead of schedule. Sipping cold beer and sliding into cool Birkenstocks, I was in heaven!
Our last day was more seasonably cool and windy. The landscape was less hilly and more woodsy with bluebells still in bloom on the forest floor.
Maintaining a brisk pace along the last 8 miles, we quickly reached our final destination near Lanercost Priory, dating back to 1169.
We were happy to remove our packs, loosen our laces, and put away our poles.
3 days. 22 ladies. 34 miles. No small feat.
In honor of old Hadrian, I’ll steal a line from the Romans:
“Veni, Vidi, Vici” !