The day began with a tough climb from the farm onto a trig point – a big ascent to get the heart pumping and legs warmed up for the day. The route from Steel Rigg to Sycamore Gap was a bit of a challenge with the heavy backpack shifting my centre of gravity, but reaching the top and having the sweeping views all to myself was rewarding.
After Sycamore Gap (sorry about the photo overload and silliness! It is after all the UK’s most photographed tree! Thank you Kevin Costner!), the trail took me north of the wall for a while until I reached the woods. I switched sides at a crossroads, rejoining the trail on the right (south) of the wall.
The walk from there to Housesteads was quite enjoyable, especially under the shade of Housesteads Plantations. I took a pause at the museum around 09:30 and utilised the freshly cleaned portable toilet. A sock change and a bit of food at the café fuelled me for the next part of the journey. However, I was disappointed to find nowhere to charge my phone or watch. I had to stop the watch’s tracking (hence two maps today) to ensure the Bluetooth was off and keep trying to charge it on the nearly empty battery pack.
From then on, it was a slow crawl over the crags up to Sewingshields Crags. I bumped into fellow walkers Lee and Lewis again, and we walked and chatted for a bit until it was time for another break in the shade.
The heat really started to take its toll as I made the long walk along the military road. It was a battle against the temperature, stopping at every bit of shade I could find and wetting my snood to cool down. Just after the Temple of Mithras, a kindly gentleman selling drinks in the car park saved me with a cold drink. I was mentally prepared to take a bus to Chollerford from there, but he offered to take my backpack so I could continue on foot.
If you see a van from Corbridge Coffee Company, do check out their drinks. I’m so grateful he was there selling drinks and took pity on me.
On the way to Chollerford, I joined Heidi, Marlene, Paddy, and Dan from Canada, and we completed the day’s walk together. We celebrated our accomplishment with a cold beer at the George Hotel. Although I forgot to get my passport stamped at Chesters Fort, it was the least of my concerns. I didn’t want to stop there, as I was so tired.
Exhaustion took its toll; I barely had the energy to pitch my tent. I was also suffering from a rash on my legs despite wearing trousers all day, and my IBS has flared up (I took buscopan) for the first time in months, and I have a sunburn on my back despite topping up my sun cream three times.
Despite the discomfort, I made sure to get some food at the George Hotel Bar, understanding the importance of not sleeping on an empty stomach.
The long walk tomorrow is daunting, and I’m not sure I’ll make it to Keelman’s Lodgings. Even if I can get as far as Heddon-on-the-wall, I’ll consider it an accomplishment and then find transport to my lodgings.
Tonight, I plan on getting some rest and re-evaluating the situation in the morning. I might try for a later start, give my body a bit more rest, let my tent dry properly, and get a good breakfast before setting off. Perhaps I could even make it for a pub lunch at the Robin Hood Inn.
Despite the exhaustion and discomfort, the breathtaking views and experience are undoubtedly worth it.
It’s also a good time to remember my ‘why’: walking in aid of The Prospect Hospice and in memory of Judith, one of my hiking inspiration, who covered so many through-hike trails; seeing the sights and taking time in nature; pushing my own boundaries to grow from it, in resilience and strength. I have to remember why I embarked on this journey in the first place and keep that at the forefront of my mind as I prepare for another day on Hadrian’s Wall.