Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I returned home from California and 4 days later found myself at the start of a week long challenge to walk the length of Hadrians Wall with my brother and a group of friends in support of Children with Aids.
We had everything for the trek, tents, sleeping bags, food, cooking equipment, sturdy shoes, 3 dogs and boundless enthusiasm and a map. Probably far too much as our packs weighed rather heavy, but we strode off to the west, through Newcastle and out into the countryside. There was a music concert in the city and the Copthorne Hotel put on an excellent free lunch, buffet spread that we took full advantage of. It was great to leave the city behind and head off along the Tyne valley out into green fields and hills.
Night 1 in the corner of a sports field, with our tents, a great fire and several million mosquitos.... to say that some of us got bitten was an understatement. Note to self - NEVER leave home without insect repellent again!!
It gets light early in northern england, the sun emerged at about 4.40 and shone straight through our tents. I listened for movement from the others and then, hearing nothing, pulled my wooly hat down over my eyes and got another 40 winks. They started to emerge at around 8am. We had a hearty cooked breakfast, broke camp and set off for the day.
Up hills, through fields and over styles, along quiet lanes and through woodland, it's amazing to realise how much ground you can cover on foot when you put your mind to it. Looking back, Newcastle shrank into the distance before disappearing beyond the hills. Quiet countryside with the sound of birds on the air, wind in the trees and livestock to contend with. Some farmers dislike having to maintain public rights of way across their land, so put bullocks and more boistrous livestock along the route to keep walkers on their toes. Walking with dogs makes it especially interesting at times.
A couple of days went by without incident. Hard going on the legs and a good challenge. The group had bonded well and we were supporting and encouraging ourselves well. It was great to be out in the wilds, picking up supplies where we could, finding places to camp at night. No mobile phones, lap tops or even music, away from the trappings of modern life, we enjoyed the simplicity of it all.
Then a stumble, Adam fell on some steps and had to be carted to hospital. I went with him in the ambulance to make sure he was OK and to look after his stuff. The others continued walking and i rendez vous'd with them later that afternoon. Carrying two packs was interesting and with his arm broken in three places, Adam was in no fit state to do any carrying. Once seen to, he was free to go home. We made it across town and he got a train home.
I caught up with the team, stopping to buy supplies on the way and we continued along the wall. OUt into wilder countryside with steeper terrain and more stunning views. Walking by day, eating round an open fire and camping at night. The Romans certainly had grand ideas for such a remote part of their empire.
With the injury set back and certain unavoidable work commitments the following week, we realised that we could not complete the whole wall within the time we had set aside. We decided that we would walk as far as time would allow and then get the local bus service to the end of the wall for our final night. It would have taken another good couple of days to have travelled the distance on foot.
An excellent achievement by all involved, and nearly £1000 for the charity Children With Aids. Thank you all for your support