Great civilizations built walls to keep those “barbarians” out.
“Just when you think you are at the world’s end, you see a smoke from East to West as far as the eye can turn, and then, under it, also as far as the eye can stretch, houses and temples, shops and theatres, barracks and granaries, trickling along like dice behind—always behind—one long, low, rising and falling, and hiding and showing line of towers. And that is the Wall!’ ‘…nothing in the Empire is more wonderful than first sight of the Wall!”Rudyard Kipling in Puck of Pook’s Hill
What do the Mongols and Scots have in common? Great empires built walls to keep those “barbarians” out.
On Monday, Laurie and I set out early in the morning on a journey that will take us on walks across England and Italy. Rather than catching Uber, we thought it appropriate to start with a two and a half mile walk to a bus stop, so we could take the bus to SeaTac airport and on to London.
We start with a hike from the Irish Sea on the western coast of England to the North Sea on the Eastern side. Our route takes us along Hadrian’s Wall, a Roman fortification built circa 120 BC and occupied for roughly three centuries by soldiers of the Roman Empire.
Unlike the Great Wall of China, much of which stands intact, this wall is mostly ruins and recreated buildings and fortifications. When Britannia ceased to be part of the Empire and the wall was abandoned, much of the stone used in its construction were scavenged for structures ranging from churches to cow pens. Despite this, it is the best preserved Roman frontier and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
The path we’ll follow runs 84 miles and will take us seven days to hike. Because we’re doing this during the holiday season (English for “vacation”) we had to reserve accommodations for each night of the journey almost four months ago. No tenting or cooking over camp stove on this trip. It’s hostels or B&Bs, along with food in English pubs.
We hope you enjoy learning about this landmark, English culture in the area, and the history of the Romans in the British Isles along with us. If you have questions or related experiences of your own, please post them in the comments section below.
And keep our safety and health in your prayers. Laurie is nursing a knee injury from a hike last week. She’s bounced back but we have lots of miles ahead of us.
Trip Update: After 27 hours of walking, bus, bus, plane, train, London Underground, train, and bus we’ve arrived at our lodging in Bowness on Solway on the west end of the path. I think we got a total of three hours of sleep, each.
Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy. An excellent history of the wall, including the context of Roman civilization related to Great Britain. The Kipling quote above was used by Adrian at the beginning of his book.
Hadrian’s Wall Path by Mark Richards. The guidebook we will using for our trek.