Walked from: Heddon-on-the-Wall
Walked to: Wallsend, Newcastle
Date: 1 September
Distance: 16 miles
With the exception of one couple – who looked triathlon fit, weren’t carrying their bags, and were about to attempt the walk in four days – everyone else I met on this walk was doing it over six or seven days – or even longer. And they made the right decision: the Hadrian’s Wall Walk in five days is hard. I’ve been very lucky to have walked it in good weather (while it poured down back home in the south of England), but even so, those two long second and third days really took it out of me, and I was pleased to know I’d be hanging up my boots for a few weeks at the end of today.
Still, the morning dawned bright, and beautiful blue skies accompanied me on the last sixteen miles of my journey along the route Hadrian’s Wall took. Perhaps in recognition of the lack of obvious wall remnants, the signposts today referred to Hadrian’s Way, rather than his Wall, and I felt a little sorry for this Roman of ‘olde’ – as if he’d been downgraded.
The day began by going rapidly downhill: a positive thing… if you’re walking or cycling. From then on I spent much of the day walking near to the River Tyne (no fog to report, to those who are familiar with the song about the aforementioned waterway), often on Tarmac track or pavement, which can feel pretty brutal to a battered pair of soles. Early on the route followed a converted rail trail, the Wylam Waggonway, early stomping ground and supposed inspiration for the inventor George Stephenson.
A trawl through the outlying suburbs of Newcastle included crossing the A1 and a trail lowlight alongside the busy A694 (building work means the official footpath is currently on diversion). Fortunately, I was reunited with the river at Elswick and enjoyed the pleasant walk into the centre of Newcastle along the river, counting the seven bridges from various eras that join its two banks. Newcastle looked fantastic on such a beautiful sunny day, but it was tough to be within five minutes of the train station when I knew I had another five miles to walk… And once the highlight of central Newcastle has passed I can’t really recommend the rest of the walk – the main reason people prefer to finish in Bowness, perhaps? Still, after a final trudge past the back of housing estates and warehouses, I arrived at Wallsend, and Segedunum, the musuem on the site of a Roman fort. There was only one thing for it: I collapsed on the bench outside and wrenched off my walking boots. At that moment an elderly couple emerged from the museum and asked me if I’d just finished the walk. ‘Yes’, said I. ‘The whole thing? On your own?’. I nodded, wearily. ‘What a fantastic achievement’, they said. Well, now you come to mention it…
Photos: Wylam Waggonway / the A693! / central Newcastle looking gorgeous / Wallsend Metro station, with its ‘no smoking’ sign in English and Latin