Don’t settle for a place where you are tolerated, go where you are celebrated
Day 1 – Getting to Newcastle
Hadrian’s Wall was my personal metaphor. Stricken by grief and lost to myself, I needed to build a wall of protection around me. I had allowed myself to be shackled for so long and it was, after many months, time to move on. Time to get walking.
A year on, and my very good friend and I booked the self-guided walk along Hadrian’s Wall with MacsAdventure; it was well organised, easy to negotiate, easy to manage. For the first walking holiday post Covid, and as a symbol of my journey back to myself, I didn’t want anything I had to think too much about. I had grief to put to bed. I had a new me to find. That would take up a lot of energy.
But there was still planning involved, my friend not having been on a long distance walk before needed the security of knowing. I was going to leave it all to chance, see what panned out. But no, he planned the routes, and the stops for lunch and wrote out an itinerary for us to follow according to our accommodation stops. I grumbled about the lack of spontaneity but my energy levels were low. I didn’t have the fight for this.
The walk is most frequently started in Bowness-on-Solway and walked in an Easterly direction. For us, we were going backwards, west from Wallsend to Bowness. We parked at our last accommodation, and got a taxi to Carlisle. “We will be walking along here in a week,” my friend announced, pleased with himself for having a final destination planned in his mind, scanning the horizon to remember the expanse of the Solway, the low lying grassland, the sheep, the cattle grids, everything he could find familiar a week later. I didn’t want to look; even if this landscape etched itself into my memory, I hoped it would be different. Hoped I would be. We got the train to Newcastle and walked the last couple of hundred metres from the station to our hotel.
And straight out again, along the underground from Monument to Wallsend and a short, well signposted walk to Segedunum.
Which was closed. For the foreseeable future. We took a few pics, got the very important stamp and moved on. It was only about 5 miles back to Newcastle, and walking this section, meant we would have that bit less to do on our first full day of walking.
There is little evidence of the Wall from Wallsend and indeed, the path deviates frequently from the original site of the wall. This early evening walk found us as the only hikers, those ending their journey at Wallsend long since gone. The path gave itself up to adolescents who milled about on the narrow alleyway from Segedunum, their hunched frames parked on the verges with bottles of vodka, their mopeds discarded on the footpath. We walk quickly past, not catching their gaze.
As we came back towards Newcastle, there were more tourists about, more people enjoying the drift of the Tyne beneath the iconic bridges. The air was burdened by gulls; they jostled in the crevices, and on the ledges, squabbling over their tightly packed perches, the victors’ screams echoing across the Tyne.
I can acknowledge these sights, but know too that I am wound so taut, I can barely breathe.