The Smithsonian magazine had published a piece about walking along Hadrian's Wall after the national trail opened the path. And it took us only years to finally make definite plans to actually walk the trail. Daily routine and other vacations intruded, but this pipe dream always was in the background. This year, I turned 40 and to celebrate, we finally decided to make the trip. The decision was made easily, but finding a company to arrange it was harder. In that, I'm thankful to my sister for introducing us to Shepherds Walk who were absolutely fantastic about everything.
We arrived in Newcastle a bit ruffled (after flying into LHR earlier that day). After a good nights rest, the following morning, Peter met us and gave us detailed instructions and then on the way to Carlisle, interesting conversation. He asked us if we had our rain wear about four times and that should have given us a clue about the weather that day. Newbies we were, we set off on the 14 mile walk armed with our rain ponchos and backpacks. Our pace was rather sedate and stuttered at the beginning because we were rather nervous about losing our way. But as we passed sign after sign and we got more confident and looked around and enjoyed the scenery and weather and then whoosh... it would rain for 5 minutes and then stop and then on again and off again... We laughed all the way wet, with messed up hair, watching cows huddle under hedges and sheep shake their heads at us when we just continued to walk in the soft drizzle. By the time we saw the tall buildings of the Lanercost Priory, we were quite glad to call an end to the first day's walk and to know we had not lost our way.
The stay at Lanercost Priory will remain indelibly a wonderful memory for both of us. The hosts were very warm and kind and the other guests who were staying (all walking the other direction) regaled us with stories and it was much less a bunch of strangers under one roof and more of a gathering of friends who had never met before.
The next day was a short walk to Gilsland and we started late after viewing the Priory when it opened at 10am. Though short, the walk was relentlessly upwards for the first hour, but when we turned around and looked, we could see all the way to the penines and if there were memories which we can hoard for our dreams, I would treasure that view. It struck me that this glorious scenery and the wonderful clean scent of country after rain and the happy sounds of contented creatures all around you - is what poets have written up about. It is stuff that heaven is made of.
It was wonderfully exciting to hit the first stretch of the wall along the trail. We had a wonderful visit (and a lunch break) at Birdoswald and trundled slowly into Gilesland after crossing the dark Irthing river and found our way to Brookside villa for our break. Denis fed us a wonderful meal and we retired for the night to get some rest.
The following morning, much to our chagrin, my husband found himself ill and quite unable to walk. Since we were not confident that we could resume walking even after a day's break, we unhappily had to ask for Jackie's help in getting to Newcastle to get back to London to fly home. Jackie - you are an angel! You asked no questions and were such wonderful support to us.
Needless to say, we made it home and my husband recovered. Thankfully it was not anything serious. I intend fully to make another trip and finish the rest of my walk - with Shepherds Walk.