‘Fortvna vobis adsit’ is the Latin inscription on the pavilion at the start of the walk of Hadrian’s Wall in Bowness-on-Solway. It means ‘Good luck to you!’. I will need this, but I also need to plan 🙂
I’ve not posted in a while but, amongst other things, I’ve been busy planning!
Back on 8th January, I mentioned I wanted to do a long walk so I’ve decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall.
Since, I got covid and had plenty of time to read and watch documentary about Roman History at the time and read a couple of guide books, watched a YouTube route from other walkers and also joined the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). I also joined a couple of hiking Facebook groups and Hadrian Wall’s Path group.
I have now started booking campsites (and hotels for Carlisle and Newcastle) for my way across Hadrian’s Wall! I have even plotted places to stop for snacks along the way…It’s all becoming real. That’s planned for late May /early June.
It’s a National Trails’ hiking path running 84 miles from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend. It follows the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. It was a border of the Roman Empire, built in AD 122 by Emperor Hadrian to keep the people of northern Britannia away.
I’m planning to walk the Wall over 7 days, from West to East, to avoid walking into the prevailing winds. I will travel to the start by train then bus, and back home from Newcastel by train.
So, I’ll be solo-backpacking. I’m preparing the lightest possible (within reason) backpack and I’ve been studying the weight of all my items (literally obsessive about it!). Today I’ll be packing all my items in a bag for the first time, weighing and working out what to keep/lose. I also need to practice putting up and taking down my tent which I’ll be doing today too, but indoors without pegs at first as it’s easier than having to mow our lawn for it etc… I have my route ready and my accommodation planned now. I haven’t booked transport yet but priced it all up.
I’ll also be doing an overnight practice in Savernake Forest and hopefully another one in the Brecon Beacons before that – I’ll post on here on how those experiments go, of course. The aim is just to practice the solo walking/camping. It’s all very exciting! And a nice distraction to life’s stresses.
After that, if all goes (relatively) well, I’m hoping to move on to another National Trail adventure in August (watch this space!)
Day 0 – travel to start Day 1 – Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle (around 14 miles) Day 2 – Carlisle to Lanercost (around 16 miles) Day 3 – Lanercost to Steel Rigg (around 12 miles) Day 4 – Steel Rigg to St Oswald’s (around 14 miles) Day 5 – St Oswald’s to Heddon-on-the-Wall (around 13 miles) Day 6 – Heddon-on-the-Wall to Newcastle (around 12 miles) Day 7 – Newcastle to South Fields or Tynemouth (around 12 miles), then travel home
Total cost for accommodation and travel should add up to about £310. I think that’s pretty good. Accommodation for 7 days is £135.50! I’m happy with that.
I’m going to lend this backpack and some of the items to my daughter for her DofE expedition and practice expedition in the next couple of months, but here’s the content and approximate weight.
Total about 15kg backpack and 1kg waist belt.
Excuse the ‘Sunday’ attire – wool jumper and tracksuit bottoms, and any mess in the background. It’s my very first time fitting everything in and wearing the full bag so I guess it’ll need some small changes and adjustments but it’s a good start.
weight in g
OEX Vallo 70
OEX bobcat tent
Bergaus Peak pro airmat
Vango Ultralite Pro 100 sleeping bag
zip drybag for PJs
thermal top and leggings for sleep
recycled large trek towel (Lifeventure)
toilet kit (bag+ trowel + toilet tissue)
top of bag
spare clothes in dry bag
spare sock *2 in dry bag
spare sock *2 in dry bag
spare sock *2 in dry bag
underwear in dry bag
bin bags (for tent)
top of bag
OEX tocan solo stove, gas canister and spork
top of bag
Swiss army knife
top of bag
washbag including wipes, travel soap spray, heatpag, hairbands, vaseline, tootpaste, toothbrush and comb/brush
first aid kit including bandage, safety pins, desindectant wipes, compeed, plaster, ibuprofen, safety blanket and instant icepack, tick remover
4 meals food pouches in bag and two pegs for bags
OS map and compass
front of bag
water bladder (filled)
solar travel pack
headtorch inc batteries
top of bag
side of bag
weight in g
Hadrian’s wall book + pen
watch cable and phone cable
ID, cash and card
total in bag
This is the tent I picked for myself. First time (kind of) erected today. It didn’t take long but I really struggled putting the pole in the eyelets (and then out again). I’m worried of damaging the pole or tent… I couldn’t pitch it indoors properly without the pegs so I’ll try again on a dry day when the garden isn’t full of branches (Rod has cut off loads of branches from one of our trees today!). I plan to practice this a few times, taking it down, and back up until it gets faster and easier.
I need to practice the tent skills, book an overnight for April and go with the full bag. And just get those practice miles in, really!
Any advice (and encouragement) is welcome. I’m going to need it!
I’m typing this well over a week after this walk. It’s been such a busy time of the year.
I set off on Saturday, 4 February 2023 for a hike based on an All Trail route, which I modified slightly. I parked at the delightful Whitehall garden centre and tea room, in Woodborough, and walk a circular route.
Here’s my map.
Much of the area reminded me of the route we took with Aimee and Richard on my Walk Across Wiltshire in June last year.
It was a little cold be a nice walk and I was just so relieved and happy to have gone out, after about 10 days cooped up at home, isolating because I managed to catch COVID for the first time in three years of avoiding it.
So I took it easy as I was still very tired from it.
Here are a few pictures from the hike.
I used my trusty trail running shoes as my hiking boots were falling apart after around 10 years of using them.
Next outing next month, because this coming weekend, I’ll be volunteering at the Festival of Tomorrow. But I might post about my plans for walking Hadrian’s Wall.
The scenery was so beautiful, almost a winter wonderland at times.
The route was good. We used this All Trails route but we did it backwards which I was glad about as it would have otherwise started along the main road. It was nice to start the walk on the Ridgeway.
The All Trails red route isn’t easy to follow as it’s not on the actual paths so if you decide to do this walk, follow the closest (marked as a dashed line) path to the red line.
It took us 2h40 to walk the 11.5km, a little faster than the average time published on All Trails. That’s also a little longer than the All Trails map but only because we kept walking at one poi t while chatting and drinking coffee from Andrea’s flask. It wasn’t hard to get back on track and in terms of elevation the hardest part was the hill back towards the road in the last 30 minutes. So no massive challenge.
I decided that in 2023 I will do as many miles as I can but I know that I can’t plan too far ahead without a chance of it being cancelled, because my mother has been taken ill in the last few weeks, and I may have to go France at some point during the year.
Having said that I’m now planning some walks twice a month, on weekends, trying to train through the winter so that I can hopefully do a longer walk later on in the late spring or summer.
I’m still not sure whether to do a portion of the South West coastal path (which is a dream but also very hard) or maybe I should leave it for another few years… Another consideration is whether I should walk the Cotswold Way which is more local but very difficult to find accommodation along, and I don’t really think I’m not ready to do wild camping quite yet! Finally I could do Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve looked up a company who can support and provide accommodation or I’ve looked up the logistics of doing it by myself, but it’s about the same cost so it’s something you’ll have to consider.
Today, the walk started with the heavens opening the second I parked. It’s was wet and windy on)off the whole way. On the way I managed to somehow lose my backpack rain cover before Broome Manor. It was a slow pace walk because of the dog stopping to sniff everything and mostly because my fitness levels have gone downhill since my last walk, but I’m not happy with it.
It’s a pity that the rumbling M4 noise was in the background pretty much the whole walk but otherwise the walk was great, despite the wind and rain. Missy got super muddy especially in the fields South of the M4 at Wroughton. They were saturated with water and I wished I’d got wellies at that point. My boots held ok, though and Missy got a bath as soon as we got home.
In summary, I’d do the walk again. It’s a really pleasant walk especially with the dog.
Some pictures of the walk:
I look forward to another walk in a couple of weeks hopefully, weather permitting.
I’m going to do my best to recall the walk but most of it is told by pictures and thanks to Aimée for pushing me on till the end on day two and three.
Saturday – Day 1: Meysey Hampton to Avebury
Shortly after starting the walk, I went through some woods before reaching the Fairford airfields and the early morning birdsongs were absolutely beautiful and enchanting. I’m sat in my garden now writing this and the bird songs now are lovely and echo the sounds of that morning.
It was so nice, just 2 weeks after I finished the Thames path, to re-walk some of the Thames Path walk, near Cricklade. It was especially such a striking difference, on a summer quiet day compared to when I last had approached Cricklade, late February in the midst of Storm Dudley!
My friend Richard, Judith’s husband, joined me in Cricklade for a good few miles all the way to Purton. It was great to have company. I was chatting so much that I forgot to take many pictures on that stretch.
After Purton, I had to cross another cows’ field and reached Mouldon Hill. There was a very overgrown area to cross but I made it. Then the rain started to be very strong as I stopped for my regular socks change and snack. But I still stopped, under a tree to make sure I had a good break.
At that point I was ahead of schedule. But with the weather and fatigue starting to hit me, I started slowing down.
By the time I reached the Oasis and Steam museum, I’d lost all the time that I had previously gained.
It became more difficult to progress, but walking along the canal as I left Swindon was such a pleasant experience. As I left Wichelstowe before crossing over to Wroughton, I saw a sign telling me the path I expected to be there was shut as they are literally building a road there. So I walked along the road to Wroughton and that was a pretty unpleasant part of the walk, as I kept having to jump on the side/ditch as the car zoomed past. Richard joined me again in Wroughton and we climbed to Barbury Castle together. We also met Mike Pringle on the way who joined us. It was so mice to have company. Also the weather had stayed dried since Wroughton too. Then I joined the Ridgeway, on very familiar territory now as I walked this last bit to Avebury with the Race to the Stones twice before. It’s always such a hard part for me. And this was no exception. The weather turned, the wind picked up and I was miserable. Slow, cold, tired. My hips hurt with the pressure of my bag on my lower back. But I kept going and wobbled all the way to Avebury.
I was so tired and arrived quite late; I didn’t even take time to take photos. The car par was shut and there were a lot of security guards about as they were preparing for the Summer solstice that weekend.
Sunday – Day 2: Avebury to Stonehenge (and a bit further)
On day 2, the amazing Aimee joined meat Avebury and walked all the way till the end with me! Avebury to Stonehenge was a marathon.
We were very lucky with the weather.
Richard joined up, just after Walkers’ Hill / Alton Barnes, along the canal and up to Woodborough.
It was very civilised as we stopped at a tea room and later in a pub garden for refreshments.
After Richard left, we then joined the Avon. We took a detour from my mapped route on Salisbury plains as the route was taking us woods that had no paths.
We saw some tanks crossing and then headed to Larkhill and Stonehenge. We carries a little further past Stonehenge to reach a lovely farm where Aimee’s friends live and Mark, Aimee’s husband picked up up from there.
I stayed the night at Aimee and Mark’s house in Salisbury.
Monday – Day 3: Stonehenge to the border with Hampshire
I have to admit that day 3 was a bit of a blur. In some ways so many memorable moments but also all starting to blend because of the exhaustion. Aimee is mad enough to have joined me on day 3 and I probably have had to do a fourth day of walking if it wasn’t for her being there.
By then, my hips pain from day one was really taking a toll but it was a case of ‘mind over matter’ and I kept putting one foot in front of the other, thinking of all the people who kindly donated for Prospect Hospice, and listen to Aimee’s advice and encouragement.
Two things made a major difference: 1 – we switched on music on my phone and we walked along while dancing to the music. Our pace really increased. 2 – the way past Old Sarum into Salisbury, in the sun followed by an ice cream and lunch at the Cathedral was so enjoyable!
Before I forget to mention it, because I don’t have photos, one awesome memory has been to be able to watch parents and young Peregrines on the spire of the cathedral. Outside of the west front of the cathedral, run by the local Salisbury members group of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) there was an event allowing members of the public to watch the Peregrines through the two telescopes set up to watch the birds.
The rest of the day was tough, in the heat, diverted as the OS map route doesn’t indicate part of the route was private, and simply exhausted.
I was slow and felt like a burden for Aimee but we got there: we managed to get, after three days of walking, to the border with Hampshire; I also saw some wild horses which I’d been looking forward to seeing.
The press coverage has started – eeek! I have my first ever live radio interview tomorrow morning so I’m a little nervous but also very excited to be able to get people to know of the amazing job Prospect Hospice do. https://swindonlink.com/charity/hiking-for-prospect/
As I just completed the Thames Path walk last Friday, I’ve been asked what my next challenge is. I had this planned for some time and even blocked the time in my diary but I’ve just started to actually organise details in the last few days; and I can honestly say it’s the most bonkers challenge I’ve undertaken to date…and it’s approaching fast!
I will attempt a 78-mile Walk Across Wiltshire and Swindon over three days, in memory of our friend, Judith Hall, who passed away in December 2020, from a rare form of leukaemia. I talked about Judith in a couple of previous blog posts, such as when I was remembering Judith during a walk on Barbury Castle in December 2021. The walk is a chance for me to honour Judith’s memory and fundraise and raise awareness for the great professional care the Prospect Hospice provides to support patients like Judith with home care and also at the Wroughton hospice.
Judith loved hiking and is an inspiration to me. It makes sense to me to undertake a walking challenge in her honour, as she inspired me to take on more challenging hiking trips such as walking the Thames Path on my own, in the last year. Judith hiked in numerous locations all over the World and used to lead groups of Duke of Edinburgh award students in many local sights including the Ridgeway and Wiltshire.
I decided to walk across Swindon & Wiltshire during the pandemic, to keep the walk fairly local, due to the limitations of various lockdowns and then I started planning the route. I found it a great opportunity to demonstrate how naturally, historically and culturally rich Wiltshire and Swindon are. Unfortunately, due to an operation and ill-health in 2021, I had to postpone the three-day hike, until now.
It passes numerous notable landmarks: the RAF Fairford, Mouldon Hill Country Park, STEAM Museum, the Oasis Leisure Centre dome, the National Collection Centre (Science Museum), the Hackpen Hill White Horse, Avebury Stone Circle, The Sanctuary (West Kennett), the Alton Barnes White Horse, along the River Avon, Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral.
I will be joined for a large part of the walk by my friend Aimée. We love to talk and to walk so we are sure to keep each other motivated and entertained along the way. Also, Aimée knows all the paths between Stonehenge and Salisbury so she’ll be my guide!
I am due to set off early morning on Saturday the 18th June 2022 and aim to complete the walk with Aimée on Monday 20th June, at the border between Wiltshire and Hampshire, near the interestingly named ‘Nomansland‘.
Saturday 18th – Meysey Hampton to Avebury (28mi)
Sunday 19th – Avebury to Stenehenge (and a bit beyond) (27mi)
Monday 20th – Stonehenge to Nomansland (ish) (23mi)
Prospect Hospice offers dedicated end-of-life care services for people with any life-limiting illness across a community of around 300,000 in Swindon, Marlborough and north Wiltshire. They deliver care within people’s own homes, at the hospice in Wroughton and in residential and care homes throughout our community.
I started the walk around 08:00 from the Bridge in Cricklade, where I last stopped.
This last leg of the Thames Path has been much delayed so my rushed decision to get on the path today was definitely a very good one. A what a beautiful day for it!
I decided to return to using the DSLR camera for this last section, rather than using my phone for camera.
Shortly after I started walking, I managed to get lost following the path in Cricklade but soon re-joined it.
I met many people on the way and had some really lovely chats. The first couple I met was walking their dog, between Cricklade and Latton. From early on it was a warm day and I took my zipped long sleeve top off and was in my t-shirt for the rest of the day.
As I left Cricklade, you could hear the murmur of the A419 cars, the backdrop of planes in the sky but thankfully, also, the birdsongs closer to the ear which made the walk so pleasant.
By the lakes, I saw some people doing water-skiing and all along the walk, I met dog walkers. Just past Ashton Keynes, I saw Colin, who I hasn’t seen in ages. That was lovely.
Overall, my progress was slow due to taking pictures and chatting with people but I made the most of the beautiful day, and saw much wildlife, both flora and fauna, especially around the lakes, as I crossed the Cotswold Water Park. So many buttercups fields!
It felt quite sad to see so many trees cut down on the Thames side – especially by the fields that are trempled by cows already – there is a slight feeling of destruction and emptiness, in contrast with the lush fields, flowers and diversity in other neighbouring fields.
The paths got busier around the water part and Neigh Bridge Country Park.
It’s been such a contrast to my earlier cold, lonely winter walks!
If you read my earlier posts, you may remember a near-miss incident with cows in a field… so I had a little stress when I saw these cows waiting at the end of a field… so I took to the left side to follow the field away from them.
Then a family arrived, from the opposite direction, and opened the gates. ALL the cows started to run and charge towards me! I was petrified. But I stayed as calm as possible. The family looked at me but none of them asked how I was. They just stared! I can’t describe how brainless one would be to do what they did. The other issue was that the farmer who had their cows in one field will have to find their cows. I was ok but I wasn’t happy.
Getting to the Source
I carried on until Ewen; there the Thames stared to get drier. I had my sandwich on a seat with a ‘Millenium seat’ plate on.
It was quite a sight to see the Thames’ bed empty after Ewen. Quite sad in fact. But I guess it’s the time of the year where this area is dry?
Here’s a shot from ‘within’ the Thames river bed, upstream and downstream.
Then it was a few more miles until I finally reached the Source. It is marked by a stone and a signpost. I chatted with a few more people there.
Then I made my way, across the trainline, to the local pub: the Thames Head Inn, to celebrate the end of the walk.
I am just having a glass of Champagne this evening, while writing this post to celebrate, too.
22km in about 6hours.
It took me a little longer than hoped due to detours, but, I DID IT! I completed the walk: the whole of the Thames Path from Barrier to Source.
STATS: I walked a total of 204 miles (326 km) and spent £830 in travel and accommodation costs in total over the 14 sections. I have a spreadsheet with all the details if anyone is interested.
Planning a mad 3-day walk in a fortnight, again… watch this space 🙂
It’s only a short post as I have little to talk about but I’ve just decided to resume (and hopefully complete!) my walk along the Thames Path tomorrow. The weather is looking good, and there’s been a change to usual plan with childcare, so I think I can pack a bag tonight, make a pack lunch in the morning and head to Cricklade tomorrow and hope to complete at the Source.
It’s been such a long wait though the wet winter months and spring after all the floods and busy weekends so I’m really looking forwards to completing this walk.
I’m then planning to complete, in just over two weeks from now, the ‘Walk Across Wiltshire’ I had planned to complete last June but had to postpone due to my illness and hysterectomy operation.
I will need to re-plan this including accommodation in the next week (that involves trying a single tent and see if I can carry stuff for three days!). I’m hoping to fundraise for the Prospect Hospice , in honour of Judith and for all the amazing work they do. Anyone with advice or tips regarding walking with a tent etc. for three days, do let me know!!