Perhaps because we mostly have alder and evergreens locally I was quite fascinated by some of the trees, mostly I think they were sycamore, or plane trees, that we saw while walking Hadrian’s Wall National Trail in England last summer.
I think I love them because they remind me of fairy stories.
I never finished the series of posts I intended to write about walking Hadrian’s Wall last June.
Here is a gallery of pictures from the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail between Housesteads Fort and Chester’s Fort.
In this stretch, while not including the highest point on the walk, it passes something equivalent to the Continental divide in North America, the texture of the clouds changed, and it got way less windy.
The sycamore of sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria is the most photographed tree in all of England. No surprise since it is perfectly framed by the dip in the terrain, which allowed it to grow by protecting it from the sometimes brutal winds of the area. The day we were there was a little blustery, giving us just a little taste of reality.
We took an extra day on our walk in the middle of our trip, an area which is remote and therefore more intact sections of the wall and forts. If you ever do the walk think about it. It give you lots of time to enjoy the area, and to take a break during the storms.
In this area the wall is built along the edge of cliffs. It is fairly vigorous walking, and some of the steep, rocky areas are a bit treacherous when wet.
This section contains a lot of lovely scenery, even on a cloudy day, including the most photographed tree in England: the sycamore of sycamore gap. It is a striking site: a large healthy sycamore tucked into a gap in the cliffs.
The walking part, for us, was from the Steel Rigg visitor center to Housesteads Fort.
Turret on Steel Rigg.
We took the bus from Housesteads past Steel Rigg to Vindolanda. Vindolanda is not to be missed. If I had it to do over I would have opted for 3 nights at Henshaw Barn so we had a full day there.
Vindolanda is a very large fort and the civilian settlement that built up around it, still under excavation, along with a well done museum of the finds. Including personal letters, miraculously preserved and located that give insight into daily life.
Gilsland to Once brewed wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to go to Housesteads Fort, another three or so miles. After looking at the weather report (wind and rain) and studying the terrain (turning to the steep side) and maps I proposed that we shorten the day and use the following day (supposed to be a rest day where we just visited Vindolanda) to do just the section between Steel Rigg and Housesteads Fort. Boy was that a good call!
In Gilsland there is a ruin of a mile castle, number 48, it’s called “Poltross Barn”. The marked trail had a detour around this mile castle but the woman who ran our bed and breakfast told us to ignore the detour because it was passable and the “barn” was worth seeing. It was.
You can see the Roman’s effect on the landscape…and the current guardians.
This stretch has a lot of wall…and a lot of hills. But the hills are unusual: from the south they rise gradually then drop down abruptly. The Romans deviated from the straight shot across the narrowest part of Britain to take advantage of the unusual landscape running the wall along the crest of the hills. The military road was to the south where the landscape was easier to navigate and travel was both quicker and could be done on horseback. Frodo is played by my husband.
The scenery was beautiful and I was glad that we cut the day shorter, especially when a rain squall came at us as we started the steepest segment. We could just wait it out. By the end of the day the sky was looking innocent with a lot of blue and fluffy white clouds, as if there had never been a storm.
Our fifth day going east from Bowness-on-Solway took us from Lanercost Priory to Gilsland, the county line between Cumbria and Northumberland.
It felt a bit like the real wall walk started as we headed east from Lanercost. Before that it was a lovely walk through English countryside. We finally got to see Hadrian’s wall, not just stones from the wall used in other buildings. That is because we were moving into less populated, more rugged terrain: Fewer buildings that needed stone (like the Priory) and harder to take the stones far.
Path, wall reamins and road running arrow straight.
Stile built into a stone wall.
Straight path forward.
Pedestrian bridge over the Irthing River at Willowford.
Remains of the Roman abutment at Willowford, the river shifted away from the bridge over the past 1500 or so years.