I’ve never walked across a whole country before, from one coast to another. It sounds a long way, but also sounds pretty appealing (how many Americans or Russians can say they’ve walked across their country, coast to coast?). Ever since 2003, when the Hadrian’s Wall Path became the UK’s 15th National Trail, I’ve had this nagging desire to walk across England from one coast to the other.
One of the problems with holidaying in the UK is the price of things. For a walking trip across England, the cost is significantly more than getting on a plane and doing a similar walk somewhere much warmer, much more exotic and probably with nicer food and drink. I am far too old (always have been) to consider camping if there are other options available, so any walking trip in the UK was going to involve staying in either hotels or B&Bs instead of tents in fields. We weren’t overly surprised, therefore, to find out that our costs for just the trains and accommodation came to £660 for two people. In this era of cheap-ish flights, that would get us a very nice trip away somewhere much more exotic than northern England!
Carmel and I decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall from east to west. It makes little difference which direction you walk it, in my opinion. We chose our east to west route as the train travel from Cambridge to Newcastle was shorter than Cambridge to Carlisle so it meant we could leave after work and still have time for a drink and some food when we got to Newcastle. Some people say that starting the walk in an industrial environment like Newcastle and finishing it in the natural wilderness Solway Firth is the perfect route. That is pretty much nonsense. While admittedly we did catch Newcastle on a rare sunny day, the finish at the Solway was pretty dire and was by far the least interesting of the walking days.
The walk along the Wall is officially 84 miles. Following convention, we planned to do this in 6 chunks of approximately 16 miles per day. This sounded a little easy so it was a no-brainer that we would carry all our stuff with us in our rucksacks. We ended up with about 18kg of rucksacks and 2kg of camera equipment, per person. In hindsight this was more than a little excessive. We hadn’t walked with rucksacks for multiple days at a time before, so didn’t consider the weight to be a problem, but we were wrong. Carrying 20kg and walking for 8+ hours a day really took its toll. I know the army make soldiers carry 30kg and probably walk twice as fast as we do, but they don’t have sedentary office jobs during which any form of muscles are unable to develop. If I was recommending walking the Wall to anybody else I would say get some “Sherpas” to carry your luggage. Don’t even consider carrying it yourself – you will enjoy the walk so much more.