Thursday, 18 January 2018

Walking Hadrian's Wall in Winter - Discovering Sycamore Gap

I spend a lot of time saying "I really want to do that one day", and not a lot of time actually getting out there and doing any of it. So this year I've decided to finally start planning some of the activities in the North East that I've been meaning to do for years, starting off with a visit to Hadrian's Wall. If you want to blow away the cobwebs in January, surely nothing beats walking Hadrian's Wall in Winter, am I right?

Walking Hadrian's Wall in Winter - Discovering Sycamore Gap




Try telling that to my poor husband who ended up with very soggy feet and a slight sense of humour failure, but we'll get to that later!

Hadrian's Wall has been somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time, with Sycamore Gap (aka Robin Hood's tree if you're a movie buff like me!) being top of the list. With an impressive 84 miles of wall to explore, starting off with a quick jaunt to the famous tree has always seemed like the best place to start and I have been wanting to take "that photo" of the tree for the longest time.

Walking Hadrian's Wall in Winter - Footpath

Whilst Summer would probably be a sensible time to visit Sycamore Gap, we decided to visit in Winter.  I blame the beautiful blue sky that tempted us out of bed and into our hats and gloves for a drive to West Northumberland in hunt of the famous wall.

It's amazing how great a bit of Winter sunshine is for the soul and we were in high spirits on the car journey, pointing out every stone that we passed and debating if maybe that was "the" wall.

Walking Hadrian's Wall in Winter


We decided to park at Steel Rig, my hours of research (forever an organisation geek!) showed a nice short walk to the tree (this is what I promised my husband).  I was giddy as we set off, our walk giving us the most beautiful views only a few steps in.

I was, however, slightly nervous watching the people in front of us starting to climb a very high looking mountain top (I'm sure it's officially a hill, but to a southerner it may as well have been Everest!) - surely we didn't have to climb up there?

Hadrian's Wall in Winter


Yes we did!

Simon and I aren't experienced walkers, sure we have walking boots, but that's about as far as our professional equipment goes. We stumbled our way up, being careful to avoid the slippy patches (exploring Hadrian's Wall in the Winter definitely has its hazards!) and gingerly making our way up like a pair of toddlers. Confident people hiked in front of us, laden with camera equipment, babies and dogs whilst Simon and I clung to the rock faces like we were on the most challenging hike of our lives.

Hadrian's Wall


Walking Hadrian's Walk was certainly proving to be more challenging than I had first realised, I had thought it would be a gentle ramble along the wall, but as we picked our way over rocks and dodged the ice I realised it was actually proving to be a bit of an adventure.

Sycamore Gap was a little further than I had imagined it would be, to the point where I did start to ask people we passed how far it was to "the tree" - they chuckled at the crazy amateur walkers and each time we got the same response "not far".

Walking Hadrian's Wall Winter


Every hill we climbed and every corner we turned we kept expecting to see the tree so when it finally did appear we felt a bit like we'd found the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And boy was it worth it.  Just as beautiful as the photographs I'd admired, it may have looked pretty bald without its Summer leaves but it was still breathtaking and the time of year meant we were free from any tourists.

Walking Hadrian's Wall Winter - Sycamore Gap
We spent a good while just looking at it, and I felt truly lucky to have made my home in the North, what a treasure we have right on our doorstep.

It was on our way back to the car that poor Simon managed to plunge his leg into a muddy pool of water. He cursed me and my silly adventures as he pulled himself out to find a very dirty shoe and wet socks. As he grumbled his way back to the car I barely heard him, nothing was going to ruin my high of finally walking Hadrian's Wall and seeing Sycamore Gap.

Hadrians Wall Winter Walking


I'm so happy I've ticked something else off my 40 Before 40 List!

Our visit was brief but left me wanting more and I'm really hoping that we'll get back to the wall for a longer hike in the Summer months. So I'd love to know, what are your favourite walking routes along Hadrian's Wall?
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16 comments

  1. haha what an adventure! Steve and I often say that we want to walk the entire length of the wall (and camp along the way) when the kids are teenagers...wonder if it will ever happen! Love your photo of Sycamore Gap x

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    1. OMG that sounds amazing but can you imagine Simon being up for that?!!

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  2. Beautiful photos! Adventures can be found everywhere. Congrats for meeting a goal!

    I walked the entire length in the summer of 2014 - and literally not a day goes by where I don't pine for another walk through Notherumberland. I'll definitely be back someday.

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    1. Thank you, I'm so proud of them yet they really didn't take much effort at all - the day was so clear and the scenery so beautiful!

      Wow, I'd love to walk it all .. what a great achievement!

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  3. Ha ha! You couldn't have done it today! Most of Hadrians Wall was under fairly deep snow today and the road wasn't great either! You picked good weather for a winter walk!

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    1. I definitely wouldn't be brave enough to go up in snow, I can barely manage to walk the streets of Newcastle without falling over!

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  4. Ah I love Hadrian’s Wall. It is one of my favourite things about the North. Trust Simon to not enjoy it. Lol at him stepping in a puddle.

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    1. HA! I think he loved it really, he just seems to have bad luck when we go out and about. He once had a fly following him for an entire 4 mile walk - it was HILARIOUS!

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  5. I am one of the Hadrian's Wall Trail Volunteers. Well done, Chloe, for getting to Sycamore Gap. In fact, the stretch you walked is part of the the most popular, and my favourite, part of the entire Trail - from Steel Rigg car park to Housesteads fort (about 3 miles). Hope to see you there this year!
    Adrian

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Adrian, I love being able to share our beautiful part of the country. Definitely want to come and explore more of the Wall next year, hopefully we'll make it a bit further when the weather is better!

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  6. I worked for a number of years on surveys for farmers of the farms surrounding Hadrian's Wall. It's a great place and if you use the footpaths North of the Wall you will see very few people. Here is a suggestion for a walk in the late spring from Northumberland National Park Authority: https://nnp-tacdesign.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Greenlee-Lough-Guide.pdf

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    1. Brilliant! Thank you so much for your recommendation!

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  7. Good on you, it’s hard sometimes to get on and do something. This looks like hard work but what an achievement Lucy x

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    1. I was so surprised at how tough some parts of it were, we weren't expecting to do quite so much climbing!

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  8. Woah, that really is killer tree! Hope it was worth the walk!

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    1. It most definitely was, I'd been wanting to see it for such a long time .. it was a bit of a goosebump moment!

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