Friday, 9 August 2013

Hadrian's Wall - the anniversary walk

Walking the Wall - First National Trail

Wanted to do something memorable for my twentieth heart anniversary that would embody what I've been trying to achieve with my challenge, so we decided to walk some of the Hadrian's Wall National Trail. The plan was to walk from Carlisle to Newcastle's Tyne Bridge, finishing in Newcastle on my twentieth anniversary; this would be a walk of approximately 64 of the total 84 miles, in 5 days.

Saturday 3rd Aug - Day 1: Carlisle to Walton - 11 miles

We took the train to Carlisle, arriving in the afternoon and started our walk to Walton just after 3 pm; here I am taking my first steps onto the trail!   It was a pleasant walk out of the city, although it took a while before we reached the line of the wall and found our first recognisable earthworks.
First recognisable earthworks!
The 11 miles took longer than anticipated and I frequently questioned the accuracy of the National Trail bods in measuring out the miles, feeling sure they may have forgotten to include the up and down bits - hmm.  Even got Keith to check that it wasn't actually more like 13 when we arrived at the B&B; it wasn't!

Sunday 4th AugusDay 2: Walton to Steel Rigg 17 miles

When planning the route, I hadn't realised what a tough day I'd set for us with approximately 17 miles of the most strenuous sections of the wall; this was to be our longest, hardest walking day.

Hare Hill
Keith at Hare Hill
Banks East Turret 52a

The Centurion at Birdoswald (photo for Joe and Bel)

In the morning we walked to Birdoswald Roman Fort, having our lunch there, whilst I used up valuable battery power on my phone to share this experience with the twitterverse.
Knowing we still had lots of miles to cover meant no time to look round , too much of a route march as we still had about 8-9 miles to go!
Roman Bridge

Milecastle 48 at Gilsland.

Thirwall Castle, 
Stopped for a rest at Milecastle 48, one of the best preserved Milecastles on the wall, taking my boots off to pour valuable drinking water over my feet to cool them down.

My feet were beginning to hurt, particularly my toes on the down hill stretches. Whilst fine for Fenland ambles, my boots were clearly a bit too small for all day hill waking. Still a long way to go...

Loved seeing the remains of 14th Century Thirwall Castle, built with re-cycled Roman stones from the Wall. It is now preserved by the National Park Authority.

The climb up through Walltown Crags was incredibly hard work but rewarding. Love getting to the top and looking out over the valley below; am a country girl at heart and you can't beat that feeling.

Walltown Craggs

King Arthur's Well

Walking was becoming increasingly hard. Keith's knees were hurting, my feet were painful and my ankle was beginning to feel the brunt of many footsteps.  Our pace had slowed considerably since early in the morning; the day was getting older, our phone batteries were dying and we knew that we couldn't risk heading up onto Windshield Crags for the final part of our journey.

Determined but not stupid; we finished that day's walk on the B6318, arriving at our accommodation in Twice Brewed around 8:30pm in the evening. Exhausted after more than 10 hours of walking, the need for rest and the need for food were both equally strong.

For the latter stages of the walk I'd been using the last vestiges of power in my phone to keep in touch with Eleanor and Pete, who we were meeting up with for dinner that evening; their son is also a heart transplant recipient. Eleanor had been following my story on twitter and kindly offered to feed us a meal. Given how tired and walk weary we were, I don't imagine for a moment we were the best dinner guests, but we thought that the food and company was fantastic. Thank you so much for a lovely evening! x

Monday 5th August - Day 3: Steel Rigg to Housesteads 3 miles

Hobbling down the stairs to breakfast the next morning, the impact of yesterday's walk was evident in our joints. The rain that had started last night was still falling.
Milecastle 39

Our aim today was to walk to Chollerford, a distance of about 11 miles; in the planning phase of this walk I thought that this would be our easy day, giving us time for a leisurely look around Housesteads. Had it not been for the rain and the limping, this might have happened! 

The climb up to Housesteads Roman Fort was beautiful but the rain persisted, gradually soaking through my clothes and down into my boots, so I was wet, cold and limping when I arrived.

Disappointed doesn't cover how I felt about giving up on the days walk but the idea of my Challenge was always about trying new activities not feats of endurance. Keeping safe and well had to come first and our bodies were clearly paying the price for over "overdoing it" the day before.

At Housesteads we dried off a little, managed to buy some walking poles in the Visitor Centre, before getting the bus into Hexham, where we found a cafe selling the best pea and mint soup in the northern hemisphere.

Tuesday 6th August - Day 4: Chollerford to Heddon on the Wall  15 miles

Day 4 saw sunshine again and the walking poles we bought at Housteads made Tuesday's walking much easier.

The countryside was much gentler, with none of the drama of yesterday's landscape. Much of the time we skirted the edges of the B road into Newcastle, before crossing over the A69 and down into Heddon in the early evening.

Wednesday 7th August - Day 5: Heddon on the Wall into Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - 10 miles

Anniversary Day! Twenty years ago today my life changed for ever when I had my heart transplant in the early hours of the morning.  This is the day that the whole challenge has been about and the day I planned to return to Newcastle for the first time in around ten years.

The walk into the City was the gentlest yet, down into the Tyne valley, following the course of the river for much of the way. Our joints were tired and feet aching from the 5 days of walking, so we didn't make fast progress, arriving at the Tyne Bridge at just after 1:30pm.

The Bridges over the River Tyne - the last half mile of our walk. 
Think that the 21 year old me would have been amazed that I managed to walk 56 out of the planned 64 miles in 5 days; something I could NEVER have done before my heart transplant. A true 2020 Heart Challenge.

17 out of 20 challenges complete: - .
  1. Climbed My First Mountain - Cadair Idris
  2. Learned How To Punt
  3. Learned How To Hula Hoop
  4. Road Bike Ride
  5. Taken Up Tap Dancing
  6. 5K Trail Run At Wimpole Hall Parkrun
  7. Archery Session
  8. Learning how to climb on an indoor wall
  9. Zumba
  10. Belly Dancing 
  11. High Wire Course
  12. Learning to skip - now up to 103 skips in 2 minutes
  13. Segway ride
  14. Tandem bike ride - bringing up the rear!! 
  15. Insane Terrain - obstacle course
  16. Flight in a Tiger Moth
  17. Hadrian's Wall National Trail Walk 
Only three more challenges to go now by the end of August...

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You can follow me on twitter at @angie_ridley

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