You may have noticed that there wasn’t a Hadrian’s Wall preparation post in the last few months. I have a very good reason. On June 6th, we welcomed to the world our latest child, Miss Anglotopia, a beautiful baby girl and Anglophile in training (she’s already applied for her passport!). That said, it was a very busy couple of months and I had other things to attend to. So, I didn’t get much further in planning and I wasn’t able to go on many long walks because I was needed to help care for Miss Anglotopia and Mrs. Anglotopia (who had a rough recovery) and of course keep Anglotopia Jr. out of trouble.
So, now I’m back at it, here’s the latest updates on my plans to walk Hadrian’s Wall in September 2014.
For those new to this column. It’s been my lifelong dream to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman built wall that runs from Coast to Coast in northern England. Most of the wall is still in existence and there is a National Trail that runs along most of the route, with interesting historical spots along the way. The walk is roughly 80 miles long and it takes about a week to do the entire walk. We plan to do the walk in September 2014. The problem is that I’m not very fit – so over the next year, I’m undertaking a series of longer and longer walks in order to prepare myself for the physical exertion needed to walk 80 miles in a week. I will not be doing the walk alone – my close Uncle Jeff has pledged to do the walk with me – he’s a keen outdoorsman with lots of hiking experience so I can’t think of a better person to join me. Throughout the journey we will take pictures, video and post updates along the way. This is the third in a series of articles about preparing for the walk.
More Research Done
The research phase of a trip to enjoyable second only to actually going on the trip. I’ve got stacks of books and maps to pour over. The one thing we’ll need to do the walk are the Ordnance Survey maps – brilliant walking maps put out by the British Government. These maps are huge and at one point I laid the entire route on the Anglotopia Office floor and it took up all the floor space. But it was so much fun to pour over the maps and look at all the interesting places that we’ll come across.
Finished a Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I mentioned in my last post that I was reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, where he chronicles his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. It was an enjoyable book but it also filled me with a little fear over long distance walking. Thankfully, the Hadrian’s Wall walk is much shorter than the Appalachian Trail. I loved the book – highly recommend it for anyone planning a long walk.
Watched Film on Hadrian’s Wall
A few weeks ago, I spent a quiet Sunday enjoying a nice cup of tea and watching this documentary on the history surrounding Hadrian’s Wall – it’s a great primer on anyone interested in doing the walk. I’ve uploaded it to YouTube for everyone to see.
Planning for the Cost of the Trip
A big aspect of preparing for this trip is managing the costs so that it can happen. We generally like to spread the costs of our trips over the year so that it doesn’t drain us financially. The problem is that while I’m planning this trip to England’s North next year, we also have a 33 day trip to England on the books for this December, which is turning into a blackhole for our trip planning budget. Thankfully, most of the December trip is paid for already, so as soon as it passes I can focus on making sure we have all the funds for the trip.
Based on my travel experience in Britain and what I’ve read in the Wall Walk guidebooks, the journey shouldn’t cost us more than $3000-$4000 each, a very doable amount of money.
Choosing Which Time of Year to Go
We’re planning on doing the walk in September 2014. I’ve chosen this time period for several reasons.
The Summer Passport – The folks that run the National Trail that runs along Hadrian’s Wall prefer that people not do the walk in the winter and spring – this helps conserve the path and make travel there sustainable. So, to encourage people to do it in the summer, only from May 1st to the 31st of October, they offer a Hadrian’s Wall passport that you can get stamped at each milestone, creating a nice little keepsake for the wall walkers.
Weather – Since they don’t want you to do the walk in the winter and I don’t fancy walking 84 miles in blustering snow or rain, it seems the most sensible to go in the summer or late summer.
Timing – However, since we will have just returned from a long 33 day trip to England in January, we will not be able to afford to travel to Britain again until later in the year. So, September is the soonest I could realistically return to England.
Tourists – September is the tail end of the tourist season. So, the wall will be less crowded. The weather will also be cooler – we may have to bundle up and there will undoubtedly be rain, but I think this will be the best time to go. There will be plenty of misty and atmospheric mornings along the wall. Otherwise it would have to be pushed to 2015 and I want to do this next year.
Airfare Cost - The biggest fixed cost for the trip will be airfare to Britain. Another reason for choosing September is that the airfares will be lower than if we went any other time in summer. As I said above – the tourist season to Britain is almost over – Britain is mobbed in July and August, so it will be cheaper and quieter to go in September, while still getting good weather. Airfare, per person should be around $1000-$1200 R/T in economy in British airways to London. I’ll save the debate on whether or not to fly into Manchester instead for a different post.
Wall Training Progress – Unplanned Break
Because of the aforementioned arrival of Miss Anglotopia, I did not get a chance to do as much walking this summer as I planned. It’s really difficult to break away from the family for a solitary walk that takes all day. My goal was to be able to do 10 miles in a day before the end of the summer and I’m sad to admit that I’ve only managed 4. But it’s 4 miles I can do with no problem.
A small bonus though, I’ve been able to include the whole family (yes Baby and all) on my walks this summer and we’ve all enjoyed doing wilderness hikes together. There’s no realistic way they can come with me on my Hadrian’s Wall walk (especially after carrying a grumpy toddler two miles in one recent walk), it’s nice to spend the time together, preparing as a family.
Bought First Hiking Boots
One milestone this summer was I bought my first hiking shoes. After my feet felt like they were going to fall off thanks to my worn to a nub loafers, I finally decided that it was time to plunk down and buy some hiking boots. I went to our local outlet mall and visited several stores, tried on several pairs. I settled on a pair of Columbia Hiking shoes that would suit me well for summer walking. They were very comfortable and they made a world of difference when I was hiking. They were very inexpensive. I doubt I’ll be wearing these on the Hadrian’s Wall walk, I don’t think they’ll last that long, but I’ve found a brand and a style that I really like.
That’s it for now, I’ll post another update in a couple of months and let everyone know how the planning is coming along.