Friday, June 02, 2017

A Walk Along the Wall

A Walk Along the Wall, by Hunter Davies, was written in the mid-1970's and chronicles Davies' experience of walking Hadrian's Wall east to west over a nine-month time period decades before the official Wall Path was established in 2003.  I first started the book months ago, and then got frustrated because I felt the info was so out of date, as so much excavation has occurred since then, not to mention the establishment of an official foot path for the 84 mile route.  So, I read up on the wall and learned a lot, and decided to tackle the book again.  This time I found it delightful--nostalgic (I was a teen in the 1970s and so it was fun to revisit that world) and informative, chock full of anecdotes and side stories.

Davies grew up in the Carlisle area, and so brought a local's perspective to the party.  He also spread out his visit over quite a long time span, and visited castles and manors along the way, meeting landowners, farmers, shopkeepers, and tavern owners, all of whom had their take on the wall and the history and the landscape.  So many of the blogs I've read of other Hadrian Wall walkers are those who take 5-7 days to walk the route, so mostly they write about the landscape, the lodging and eating options, and the weather.  All important aspects of the walk, but Davies's book gave me a lot more to research, look up, and add to our itinerary.

Even though we will be walking 43 years after Davies did his walk, much of what he liked and thought worth mentioning is still there, although the museums now seem much more robust and less dusty than he describes and certainly there are more lodging and eating options than when he did his trip.  Plus he went during all the seasons of the year--even now, I believe mid-winter along the wall is still more like he experienced than what mid-summer then and now.

As you might have guessed, A Walk Along the Wall is part of my Reading Northumberland project. Five weeks to go before departure!


  1. Reading about the wall seems so interesting.

    I can see how the nostalgia would be appealing. I also think good writing is good writing regardless of how old a book is. With that, sometimes I decide not to read a book because it is outdated.

    Your upcoming trip sounds fascinating.

  2. What a wonderful trip... and it's sure to be even more enjoyable with all the background reading!

  3. I really should read this book. I started it when I got it and then put it on one side for much the same reasons as you. It just shows there is a right time for reading a book. And I'm sure your walk along the wall will be fascinating, especially as you already know so much about it. Not long to go now!

  4. Wow you soon will be there! It's nice to have the side stories from this book. So usually it takes walkers 5 to 7 days to do the 84 mile route? How long do you plan to explore it? I'm excited for you.

    1. We're doing the 84 mile walk in 11 days, with one day as a layover at the top since there's so much to see and do there. Our average is 8 miles a day, which is comfortable when you consider the time/steps it takes to tour forts and museums we encounter enroute.

  5. Have a great trip and its a good idea before visiting a place to read books like A Walk Along the Wall. It just enhances the trip if you know beforehand the history of the area, places to visit etc.