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Getting close to the wall..
Hadrians Wall (Newcastle)
Member Name: anwar7
Hadrians Wall (Newcastle)
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Hadrian's wall was the brainchild of the emperor Hadrian .Hadrian came to Britain in 122 A.D at a time when the great Roman Empire was starting to decline. Hadrian wanted to consolidate his boundaries and protect his army from the barbaric Britons to the south and Picts to the North. He ordered a wall to be built between what we now call the Solway Firth in Cumbria and Wallsend near Newcastle. The Roman soldiers who built the wall may well have been happy to be involved in the project as it must have given them exercise and interest! Although the area is stunning it can also be bleak and cold!
The wall took 6 years to build and when it was finished the wall was around 13-15 feet high and about 10 feet wide. The wall stretches for 73 miles so building it was an incredible achievement! The wall followed the natural ridges and crags of the terrain with milecastles (guard posts) at regular intervals. Each milecastle would have housed between 8 and 32 men. They provided excellent view points of the surrounding area both to the north and south. The wall was built using local stone to form the outside edges of the wall with rubble placed in the middle. In front of the wall was a large ditch to offer further protection. The wall must have represented a powerful symbol of the Roman Empire to all who saw it! The wall served as an important military structure for over 250 years.
There are several important large forts to view along the wall including Housesteads, Chesters and the settlement of Vindolanda. The forts would have housed large garrisons and their families.
Walking the wall.
Now I have given you a little history lets me bring you up to date! It is possible to walk the full length of the wall, although it's not something I have undertaken! I have walked sections of the wall on numerous occasions and in all weathers and do have some favorite walks and places to share, all of which are in the mid section of the wall along the B6318;known locally as the military road (Roman military not modern!)
My favorite walk has to be the 2 mile stretch between Cawfields to Caw gap. If you are traveling from the east, Follow the B6318 through twice brewed until you see the milecastle inn on your left. Turn right and continue along the small minor road to the car park. There are well maintained toilets at the car park that are open all year round. If you cross the track at the car park entrance you will find a small, very pleasant picnic area with benches and tables. There is an information board situated in the car park telling you a bit about the history of the area.
From the car park follow the well signed path through a gate. There is a large milecastle at the start of the walk that helps set the scene! From here you can chose to walk along the path next to the wall or you can follow the wall from a lower level. If you take the high route then you will need to be able to cope with lots of ups and downs. There is a practically steep bit in the middle of the walk, which does require a good level of fitness! I love the wild landscape and huge panoramic views that you get from this location, they really can't be beaten! There is another milecastle with information board to see before you reach another gate and minor road. You can either retrace your steps or continue along the wall to Steel Rigg.
Another good walk is from Steel Rigg to Housesteads fort. The walk starts at the Steel Rigg car park. Again there is an information board in the car park. Unlike cawfields there are no loos at this car park! The walk is well signed along good tracks. However it is strenuous in places, so again it's not suitable for anyone with a mobility problem. Just before you reach Housesteads fort you will pass sycamore gap. The lone standing sycamore tree is the one featured in the film Robin Hood prince of thieves and is much photographed! Both car parks mentioned are pay and display although free for anyone with a disabled drivers badge.
Walltown crags 1 mile to the north east of Greenhead is usually a much quieter section of the wall to visit. I really love the views from Walltown Crags as you can see the wall snaking away for miles and appreciate how the Romans used the natural contours of the landscape to build the wall. The wall is higher here than in other locations too and looks truly impressive.
Wherever you decide to walk along the wall you will need good walking boots as the terrain is often rough, uneven and wet underfoot. The weather can be unpredictable in this part of the world so make sure you are equipped for all conditions! There is little shelter or shade along the wall and the wind can be very cold or the sun burning hot-you have been warned!
No visit to Hadrian's Wall would be complete without visiting a fort or two! If you have limited time then I would recommend you visit Housesteads as this is the best preserved Roman fort in Britain. There is a good car park and from there it is a ˝ mile walk up the hill to the remains of the fort. Although only the foundations remain you can really get a sense of what the fort would have been like. My children have been impressed by the remains of the multi seated latrines and drainage system! There are also the foundations of the granary and barrack blocks. There is a small museum and shop. Housesteads is in the care English heritage. For more details and opening times visit the English heritage web site.
Chester's is another well preserved fort and is situated near Chollerford on the military road. Here you can see the remains of the commandant's house as well as a well preserved Roman bath house. Chester's was once an important fort built on the banks of the river Tyne to defend the river crossing. There is a small but interesting museum on the site as well as a shop. Chester's is in the care of English heritage so again more details can be found on their web site.
I have left the best until last and for me that has to be the Roman fort and civilian settlement that is Vindolanda. Built in the late 80's A.D about 30 years before the wall, Vindolanda once housed a large garrison and civilian population. Today it is in the care of the Vindolanda trust and is well maintained. The plan of what the settlement would have looked like is impressive as is what now remains including a temple, bath house, commander's house and latrines. All are well labeled so you know what you are looking at! In addition there is a reconstructed timber gatehouse and section of wall. My children love to climb the stairs in the gatehouse and play at being Roman soldiers, really bringing history alive! The famous wooden writing tablets were found at Vindolanda and there is an interesting display in the museum explaining their importance. The museum also houses many of the artifacts found at the site and is well worth a visit. There is also a shop and café. As I have already written a review about Vindolanda I am not going to say any more!
As I live locally I have never had cause to experience any of the accommodation that is on offer. However there is an excellent tourist information office in Hexham that can advise you on what's available and book ahead. There can be a shortage of places to stay in the area especially in the busy summer months so you will need to book ahead. There are several good camp sites and the one just outside Twice Brewed always looks appealing to me! If you want to be close to the wall then you would be best to book either a farmhouse bed and breakfast or one of the pubs that offer accommodation in the area. Many of the towns and villages in the area offer good quality accommodation including the picturesque town of Corbridge and the historic market town of Hexham.
I thought I would mention refreshments in this section. I can recommend the Milecastle Inn near to the turnoff for Cawfields that I described. They serve excellent Sunday lunches! When we go walking we usually take a picnic as there are numerous excellent spots to eat.
The wall passes through both rural remote areas and urban busy areas. Obviously in the urban areas transport links are good. In the more remote sections I think you really need a car to explore in full and at your own pace. However from 2nd April until October 31st there bus number AD 122 runs between all the towns and villages along the wall and operates 7 days a week. There are also cycle routes along the wall.
During holiday periods and in the summer there are often re-enactments staged at the various forts and also at Vindolanda. Full details can be found on the various web sites. I have been to several of these re-enactments and they are always very well executed and great fun for children and adults alike.
I forgot to mention that there is a Roman army museum situated near to Walltown crags. It is possible to buy a joint ticket for both the army museum and Vindolanda.The museum has a small cinema showing a film of what life was like along the wall as well as lots of interesting items on view. I don't think it anywhere near as good as the Vindolanda museum however! In the summer there are often events such as story telling for children.
Overall I would highly recommend you visit Hadrian's Wall if you have the opportunity. However it covers a vast distance through very varied landscape, so allow enough time to explore!
Summary: Hadrians wall world heritage site
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