Walking Hadrian’s Wall
To walk in the footsteps of legionaries and the Roman elite, with their strange gods and oddly familiar habits, is both exhilarating and humbling. It is a peculiar thrill to walk the same hills they did and look at the same views. On the land around the wall, the wild chives they brought with them to season their food still grow.
If there were no Roman remains, this place would still be extraordinary. There’s a spaciousness and sweep about the countryside here that feels un-English.
On my last day, I revisit my favourite sections of wall, using the bus to hopscotch between them. The mist has rolled back and there is golden light on the crags and views in every direction: the Pennines, the Lakeland Fells, the Cheviots to the north. In the woods above Housesteads Fort, the butterflies come out and pheasants flop off into the bracken. Beneath the Whin Sill, there is a flash of red and I think it’s another legionary’s cloak. I slither down the hill to see who’s walking in fancy dress this time, but it’s a huntsman in a scarlet coat, giving his hounds a run. I chase after him, but he is soon gone. Instead, I’m rewarded with the dramatic view south – the wall from barbarian country, still rolling imperiously over the towering crags.