A walk beside Hadrian’s Wall
One of the best and most accessible walks in the Northumberland National Park is along the celebrated section of the Wall from Steel Rig eastwards to Hotbanks Farm.
From there one can head north then loop back west, with fine views of Crag Lough and the rocky heights of the Whin Sill and Highshield Crags. What is more, the walk can begin and end at The Sill, the National Park Visitor Centre worth a visit in its own right.
The National Park runs a regular series of walks throughout the year, and one of their walk leaders is Jeff Wild, the CPRE Northumberland Treasurer and walks lead. We took advantage of an opportunity to invite our members to join a walk he was due to lead in April following this route, and covering just over six miles in all.
We assembled for a 10.30 start on a mild, dry but overcast day, and set off in keen anticipation of the pleasures to come. Our first notable view was of the Wall above Peel Crags seen from the south, rolling across a skyline created by the Whin Sill. We joined the Wall path and climbed to the top of Peel Crags, its plunging rock face sheltering the waters of Crag Lough at its foot. There are quite a few undulations in this part of the walk, all paved with slabs and stones but steep in places, so concentration was needed.
The famous sycamore was already in leaf for us, as our lead image shows, and provided a talking point for a short rest. The higher sections of the walk meanwhile offered 360 degree views of grass moorland, forests and rolling hills (including the Cheviots in the distance), while below us we were given tantalising glimpses of Crag Lough.
Organised walks like this one offer fine views, good exercise and pleasant company, as all regular walkers know. The Northumberland National Park programme of walks covers the whole of the Park, runs throughout the year and for a small charge provides not one but two walk leaders (trained in first aid and navigation), with all routes carefully selected and checked for hazards. Alongside these, the Ramblers run walks programmes from centres in many parts of our county, as they do throughout Britain, putting thousands of people in touch with our countryside week after week and year after year.
We continued our walk past Hotbank Farm, then turned west on a return leg that was easier walking on level ground. The views across open land to our south were framed by the imposing walls of whinstone rock which break through the landscape in spectacular fashion here, as in many parts of our county. Gentler elements are added to the scene by the waters of Crag Lough and the woodland that clothes the slopes above them. The panorama of the Crags, the Lough, the sycamore and the Wall as seen from the north is not to be missed, as many feel it is better than the view from the top.
Ending our walk at the Sill gave us a chance to enjoy a group lunch, and browse through the permanent but regularly changing display area. Nearby, of course, are the visitor centres that relate to the excavated remains of the Roman military establishments that supported the Wall and its legions. Both Housesteads and Vindolanda are unmissable experiences in this World Heritage Site that combines scenery and history in an evocative and heady mix.