Wanted to do something memorable for my twentieth heart anniversary that would embody what I've been trying to achieve with my challenge, so we decided to walk some of the Hadrian's Wall National Trail. The plan was to walk from Carlisle to Newcastle's Tyne Bridge, finishing in Newcastle on my twentieth anniversary; this would be a walk of approximately 64 of the total 84 miles, in 5 days.
Saturday 3rd Aug - Day 1: Carlisle to Walton - 11 miles
We took the train to Carlisle, arriving in the afternoon and started our walk to Walton just after 3 pm; here I am taking my first steps onto the trail! It was a pleasant walk out of the city, although it took a while before we reached the line of the wall and found our first recognisable earthworks.
|First recognisable earthworks!|
Sunday 4th August Day 2: Walton to Steel Rigg 17 miles
When planning the route, I hadn't realised what a tough day I'd set for us with approximately 17 miles of the most strenuous sections of the wall; this was to be our longest, hardest walking day.
|Keith at Hare Hill|
|Banks East Turret 52a|
|The Centurion at Birdoswald (photo for Joe and Bel)|
In the morning we walked to Birdoswald Roman Fort, having our lunch there, whilst I used up valuable battery power on my phone to share this experience with the twitterverse.
Knowing we still had lots of miles to cover meant no time to look round , too much of a route march as we still had about 8-9 miles to go!
|Milecastle 48 at Gilsland.|
My feet were beginning to hurt, particularly my toes on the down hill stretches. Whilst fine for Fenland ambles, my boots were clearly a bit too small for all day hill waking. Still a long way to go...
|King Arthur's Well|
Walking was becoming increasingly hard. Keith's knees were hurting, my feet were painful and my ankle was beginning to feel the brunt of many footsteps. Our pace had slowed considerably since early in the morning; the day was getting older, our phone batteries were dying and we knew that we couldn't risk heading up onto Windshield Crags for the final part of our journey.
Determined but not stupid; we finished that day's walk on the B6318, arriving at our accommodation in Twice Brewed around 8:30pm in the evening. Exhausted after more than 10 hours of walking, the need for rest and the need for food were both equally strong.
For the latter stages of the walk I'd been using the last vestiges of power in my phone to keep in touch with Eleanor and Pete, who we were meeting up with for dinner that evening; their son is also a heart transplant recipient. Eleanor had been following my story on twitter and kindly offered to feed us a meal. Given how tired and walk weary we were, I don't imagine for a moment we were the best dinner guests, but we thought that the food and company was fantastic. Thank you so much for a lovely evening! x
Monday 5th August - Day 3: Steel Rigg to Housesteads 3 miles
Hobbling down the stairs to breakfast the next morning, the impact of yesterday's walk was evident in our joints. The rain that had started last night was still falling.
Our aim today was to walk to Chollerford, a distance of about 11 miles; in the planning phase of this walk I thought that this would be our easy day, giving us time for a leisurely look around Housesteads. Had it not been for the rain and the limping, this might have happened!
The climb up to Housesteads Roman Fort was beautiful but the rain persisted, gradually soaking through my clothes and down into my boots, so I was wet, cold and limping when I arrived.
Disappointed doesn't cover how I felt about giving up on the days walk but the idea of my Challenge was always about trying new activities not feats of endurance. Keeping safe and well had to come first and our bodies were clearly paying the price for over "overdoing it" the day before.
At Housesteads we dried off a little, managed to buy some walking poles in the Visitor Centre, before getting the bus into Hexham, where we found a cafe selling the best pea and mint soup in the northern hemisphere.
Tuesday 6th August - Day 4: Chollerford to Heddon on the Wall 15 miles
Day 4 saw sunshine again and the walking poles we bought at Housteads made Tuesday's walking much easier.
The countryside was much gentler, with none of the drama of yesterday's landscape. Much of the time we skirted the edges of the B road into Newcastle, before crossing over the A69 and down into Heddon in the early evening.
Wednesday 7th August - Day 5: Heddon on the Wall into Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - 10 miles
Anniversary Day! Twenty years ago today my life changed for ever when I had my heart transplant in the early hours of the morning. This is the day that the whole challenge has been about and the day I planned to return to Newcastle for the first time in around ten years.
The walk into the City was the gentlest yet, down into the Tyne valley, following the course of the river for much of the way. Our joints were tired and feet aching from the 5 days of walking, so we didn't make fast progress, arriving at the Tyne Bridge at just after 1:30pm.
|The Bridges over the River Tyne - the last half mile of our walk.|
17 out of 20 challenges complete: - .
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