Tuesday the 1st of May, we got our backpacks out checked our equipment, filled our flasks and set off for the wall.
Driving up to the car park at Steelrigg, we got our packs out and prepared to set off, a bitter cold east wind was blowing in to our faces, this made us get our jackets, hats and gloves out of our packs to keep us warm.
After the customary photos, we climbed onto Peel crags and set off, high on top of the crags with the remains of Hadrians wall on our left, this was the beginning of the section known as Claytons wall, named in honour of John Clayton who was a rich landowner in the 19th century, who as a boy had watched his father who owned Chesters Hall and had ordered his workers to demolish the ruins in front of the hall namely the Roman fort of Chesters, because it spoiled his view of the river Tyne, John Clayton stood appalled as the nearly complete fort and its buildings were knocked down and the stones were carted off to be used elsewhere for farm walls and other buildings.
After his father died and John had inherited the estate, to prevent further destruction he bought up land all along the wall as far as Steelrigg to prevent other landowners from coming up to the wall and taking away what was left of the ruins, then he set his workers to uncover the remaining parts of the wall and rebuild it up to about 4ft high with a walkway on top for tourists from Newcastle to come out in their carriages to gaze at the roman ruins and to walk on top of the wall itself. And in honour of John it was called Claytons wall. Walking along we came up to the ruins of 3 sheilings built from wall stone sometime in the middle ages, shelters for the shepherds who brought there herds and flocks up to the high pastures in the summer.
A short way along we came upon 2 fellow walkers, stopping to chat we found they were Americans from Carlisle in Pennsylvania, who had traveled by bus from Cambridge to see Hadrians wall and to visit the original city of Carlisle before returning back to Cambridge, they were walking the 3 miles from Steelrigg to Housesteads fort, we on the other hand were walking on to Chollerford 9 miles further on, leaving them to walk at there own pace we walked on reaching sycamore gap a dip in the crags where the wall has growing in the stones a sycamore tree, now more famous as this was used as a location in the Hollywood film Robin hood prince of thieves, where Kevin Costner as Robin Hood drove off Guy of Gisbon and his men, who where chasing after a boy who had been hunting deer in Sherwood forest, the fact that Sherwood lies nearly 200 miles to the south doesn’t seem to matter to Hollywood. We reached Housteads fort the best preserved fort on the wall with walls in places over 6ft high, as always the fort was busy with visitors, from school parties to tourists.
We stopped here for a break, having a cup of soup and a biscuit with an ice lolly from the shop. From the fort we moved eastwards climbing steadily up to the top of Sewingshields crags, the wind up here was strong and very cold this made walking hard for us, we were now getting tired and foot sore, stopping in the remains of a turret we changed our socks to refresh our feet and after a short rest we set off thinking now that its downhill all the way to the river Tyne, this part of the trail was hard going as you were walking on the uncovered remains of the wall, we passed 4 walkers heading west, we stopped for a while to chat with them, they asked one of the most common questions I have to answer when I’m doing my tours, namely where is all the stone, to which I give my answer, look around at the farms, look at the later castles built by the Norman knights who were given land by the king, look at the churches and Abbeys, all built using stone pinched from the wall.
Moving on we trudged toward Brocolitia where there is fort still not excavated by archaeologists but along side the fort is the remains of a Mithraic temple where the soldiers would come to worship the god Mithras, we reached the car park beside the fort and decided we wouldn’t walk any further, we were both footsore and tired so decided to wait for the next bus, unfortunately we had to wait 1 hour for the last bus, climbing aboard the bus set off, stopping at Housteads the bus collected the 4 lads who passed us just west of Brocolitia, chatting with them we found out that they were walking east the same as us but because of the wind they had took the bus to Chesters and walked back to Housteads, wish we had thought of that, we left the bus at Once Brewed, we walked to the Twice brewed inn for our tea, refreshed with a good pint of beer and a steak and ale pie for me a pot of tea and scampie and chips for Babs, we set of back home tired but happy that we are back walking the wall.