Bucket List – Hike Hadrian’s Wall

This is the third in a series of “bucket list” posts. I want to share some of the goals I have for my life, a lot of which involve travel. Some are for just me, some are meant to be shared with my family, and some are meant to be crazy endeavours with the right friends.

I want to hear your stories and dreams too, so share them! And if you have done any of the things I talk about, tell me what it was like! ♥

Bucket List item – Hike the Length of Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall first came into my knowledge when I was in grade 10. I was researching castles in Britain for an Ancient History class presentation. Passing mention of the wall caught my eye, but having no time to really look into it, I let it slide for further information on keeps, abbeys, and crumbling caers.

That was the start of it all, though. Since the day my history teacher, Mr. Canuel, gave me a tiny, red, dog-eared book on English and Welsh castles, I have had a pull towards touching the ruins, feeling the weathered, worn stones beneath my hands, wondering about what they had seen, feeling the whispers of ghosts showing me the mysteries and stories held within.

I know, I’m a soft-heided romantic fool. But it is who I am.

I have never travelled across the Atlantic at all. The closest to International travel I have ever gotten was Cuba, for my honeymoon. I know… crazy that someone who is so in love with a place has never just… Gone. Long story, that, I’ll tell you over many beer someday.

So the ridiculous, triple-columned list of castles, Abbeys, ruins, and historical sites I want to someday see in such a small space of land is rather daunting. I’m trying to pare it down, but each one is so unique, and exciting… It is hard. All of them have a story, all of those stories are important. Sometimes I feel that because someone cared enough to write it down, prepare it for us to see and understand, I should honour that by going, touching, admiring and learning.

Sometimes I get envious of folks who were able to follow their passion of history through post-secondary school, and get a chance to honour our past by examining and discovering through it. Right. Moving on.

20130710-122806.jpgTo add to the swanning over mouldering castles is an interest in the legend of King Arthur. I’ve always had this fascination with the story, in its traditional telling, and around the theory of the true story, or ideas about when and who he really was. One such theory that more recently grabbed my imagination was the idea that Arthur was a commander during Rome’s occupation of Britain, and his men were indentured from conquered nations. One particular theory is commonly called the Sarmation Hypothesis (which is highly disregarded, but I find it exciting nonetheless). I was introduced to it after watching the (poorly reviewed, but delightfully scenic *ahem*) 2004 movie with Clive Owen and Ioan Gruffudd. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_%28film%29)

Part of the idea of Arthur being born out of Roman-Britain is the influence played by Hadrian’s Wall. The northernmost frontier of Rome (bar the older Antonine Wall). The engineering marvel that was a wall to protect and keep out the “barbarians” (meaning the native populations, the Saxons, other such invaders). I personally think it may have also been a way to keep a large number of somewhat bored Roman legions busy in a quiet area, and provide a far-flung legacy for Hadrian himself, as well as reinforce an area he may have believed more tactical than his predecessors. Also, thar be tin in those hills, no? And what do you need tin for? Bronze. Uh huh…

From that connection to my interest in Arthurian legend came a new-found interest in the history of Romans in Britain (which kinda ties into a lot of the castle histories, really) and the influence they had there while they occupied the islands.

I digress.

So why do I want to hike the length of it? Well, because it is there, really… And because I want to see it, all of it, not just the touristy spots or the designated interest points. I want to walk the parts that not a lot of folks see. I also want to visit the grounds of Housesteads (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housesteads_Roman_Fort) and Vindolanda (http://www.vindolanda.com/), massive wall forts that give us a glimpse into the every day life of the Roman military and people.

Moreso than that, I want to see the beautiful country that the wall arcs across. I want to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built, how it was patrolled, how it affected life on either side of the stout, wide berth. The idea that a wall, such as this, was begun there less than 100 years after the death of Jesus, an20130710-122822.jpgd I can go see it, touch it, feel the presence of it forever changing the landscape…

Wow. That kinda makes me all goosepimply.

I have been told it is underwhelming when you first clap eyes on the low, stone fence. That it could keep out a herd of sheep, let alone a horde of Saxons is questionable. Time, erosion, re-purposed materials in centuries past… All make for a very different relic than what was built. I get that. More than the physical site of the wall, I want to stand on one side, look North, and attempt to reach back with my consciousness to pull forward what man would have seen, felt, and known looking at the same vista.

As I said, I’m a romantic fool, and these old things make me giddy. Likely this will have to be a multi-day trip, but I have heard the hiking is fairly easy, and the landscape breathtaking. It is 83 miles, I think, to walk the whole length from Ravenglass in the south to South Shields on the West side. A good achievement, even without a UNESCO World Heritage site thrown in, right?

Visit http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/ for more information on the wall and visiting it. Also visit http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/caledonianspictsromans/hadrianswall/index.asp for some extra information on the history of the wall.


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