Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Northumberland and another visit to Hadrian's Wall

Steel Rigg, Hadrian's Wall 
Our next stop was Northumberland, where Adam had a surprise birthday present in store for me. Northumberland is in the north-east of England, on the border with Scotland, and has historically been the site of many conflicts between north and south. Northumberland was a key part of the industrial revolution, with many coal mines, and today many of the county's towns and cities remain largely working-class. Despite this, Northumberland is still quite rural, and is the most sparsely populated county in England, with "only" 62 people per square kilometre.

Hadrian's Wall comes equipped with midget-size doors

About one quarter of the county is designated a national park, and a large percentage of the UK's red squirrels live in this park (squirrel away that information for later...). The area also contains much of Hadrian's Wall, which, you may remember, we last visited on our way to Scotland for Christmas.

In case you can't remember, Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification, built in Roman Britain under Empire Hadrian. The wall was 117.5 km long, 3-6 m wide, and 3-6 m high, depending on which side of the Cumbria/Northumberland border you were on. It was built as a show of power, and to repel any potential attacks from the barbarians of the north. Gates may also have provided a way of keeping track of entering or exiting persons, as well as allowing the Empire to charge customs taxes. Over the years, much of the wall was removed and the stone used for building other fences or for roads.

When we visited at Christmas, we came across the Birdoswald Roman Fort, but this time we were a bit further east, at a place called Steel Rigg. We did two separate walks, one to the east and one to the west - well-fuelled by a lovely roast dinner in the nearby town of Haydon Bridge.

We walked about 2.5 hours in total, walking beside the wall almost the whole way. Towards Crags Loch (the lake in the pictures below) there were some very steep sections, with smooth, well-worn stone steps to climb up or down the hills. My thigh and calf muscles were screaming that evening!

Adam also got a stunning picture of the famous Sycamore Gap.

What an exciting (and picturesque) part of England! We had such a lovely day exploring the countryside and working our muscles - but the following day would be much better....(still got that information squirreled away?? It may give you a clue as to what the birthday present would involve...)

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