Friday, 14 August 2009

Road Trip: Hadrian's Wall

On a map, Hadrian’s Wall is just a knobbly little line scrawled across the top end of England. Yes, it’s long and must have taken a huge amount of effort to build, but when you actually see it marching on over endless miles of rugged hillside, it’s simply stunning.

We left the motorway and drove east, half-way across the country. Near Haltwhistle (allegedly the centre of Britain) we found two villages named Once Brewed and Twice Brewed. Turning down a narrow lane, we parked the car and set off along the wall.

What remains above ground isn’t that high – mostly just 4 or 5 feet of squared-off stonework – but it’s sturdy and neat, and topped with grass.

And it uses the landscape ruthlessly.

Rolling hills, rocky crags and sheer cliffs are all embraced by the wall, as it zig-zags east to west, employing each natural feature to its full defensive potential. It must have been a formidable sight, and terribly difficult to assault.

We followed the line for miles along the high ridge, coming in time to Sycamore Dip, where a single tree stands sheltered between two hills, then crossed the bog and made our way back along the base of the cliffs. It’s a wonderful walk, through truly beautiful scenery, and somewhere I’d love to explore further in the future.

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