September 17, 2018
I thought I’d lost my love for hiking, but I found it again in England.
Last year, when I agreed to hike 84 miles in 12 days, I wasn’t certain that I could do it. I blurted out my decision before I had time to think about it. But the months went on and I became more used to the idea.
And, so, in early September, along with my sister, we walked the full length of Hadrian’s Wall in 12 days. We hiked the West to East direction, though most people do the opposite. We started in a small village called Bowness on Solway.
The beginning (for us) in Bowness on Solway
Our first B&B on the trail: the Shore Gate (Absolutely delightful!)
Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84 mile trail stretching from one coast to the other in northern England. The Wall, built by 15,000 men in AD 122 in under six years, was the northern frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years. Why? To keep the barbarians (the Scottish) on one side of the wall.
It’s astounding that any of the stone wall still exists, given that many of the stones were pilfered to build castles, churches and farms along its length.
To say that this hike was a transformative experience is to understate the magical feeling, the exhilaration, too, that came from waking up every morning for 12 days to walk a path that brought something new to see each day, around each hedge and over each hill.
At times it was grueling. In several stretches we climbed hills for hours. We walked under sunny and cloudy skies, in wind and in rain. And every minute was worth it.
This poncho, though it flapped wildly in the wind, was a lifesaver!
I left Boise in late summer, when the vistas were colored brown, the hills were parched and the air was filled with smoke from nearby wildfires. I arrived in a landscape that was lushly green and still dotted with wildflowers. The smells? Well, certainly not the smell of fires since much of the path ran through pastures filled with cattle and sheep.
The gardens we saw were lovingly tended, still full of wildflowers and annuals. It’s interesting that I saw wildflowers that I have in my own garden—Black Eyed Susans, Bellflowers, Poppies and Blanketflower. I carried back home lots of inspiration for new wildflower patterns.
One of the most rewarding aspects about the hike was the people. Some of the kindest, most generous and welcoming folks live in northern England. That part of this memory will stay with me for a long, long time.
Yes, there was something transformative about leaving behind the familiar and experiencing new trails, new smells and sounds, and new people. Truly a most very special hike.
I didn't bring home a lot of mementos, other than photos and some delicious English cookies, but I've got a list of things I learned along the way.
What I Learned From Hiking Hadrian's Wall
1. No matter where you go in the world, you're likely to find wonderful people who are more than willing to help out a stranger. Kindness doesn't stop at borders.
2. It may be difficult, especially if you're risk-avoidant like me, but stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
3. Challenge yourself. Say "I can" not "I'm afraid to."
4. I love the traditional English breakfast of toast, broiled tomato, baked beans, sunny side up egg and sausage or bacon (ham).
5. The world is a huge place and exploring it is a great way to remind yourself that your troubles are just not that calamitous.
6. Some man-made walls are incredible feats of strength, endurance and engineering, but a lot of them are built out of fear, ignorance, contempt and need for power and control.
The end of the path
Want to learn more about Hadrian's Wall? Pick up Alan Michael Whitworth's book, Hadrians Wall Through Time. We met Alan at an information booth in Brampton. He was a lovely, kind gentleman.
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