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Hadrian's Wall atop Walltown Crags, © Susan Wallace

June 25 – The Long and Winding Road
Walltown Crags

Walltown Crags boasts a marvelous view of Hadrian's Wall country, or so I'd been told and seen in pictures, so this was also on my "must see" list. What I was unaware of, was how steep the hill is that leads up to the crags.

I do some layer rearranging before undertaking this climb, paring down to tee-shirt and carrying my jacket, which I suspect I will need once we make it to the top. There aren't many sheep here but the entire hillside is a veritable minefield of sheep pats, once again covered with swarms of yellow dung flies.

This is quite a hike and I make it to the top with only two stops to "admire the view" (read: suck massive doses of oxygen into my lungs). I am so proud to make it to the top on my feet as opposed to my hands and knees. I feel like I should have a banner to plant, to prove that I've been here.

The view is magnificent and the wind is blustery. I stand with my back to the wall, fingers spread, close my eyes and send myself back through the centuries.

What thoughts went through the minds of the Roman soldiers stationed along this wall, I wonder. It must have been a tedious duty sitting out here in this barren but beautiful land day after day. Did they dream of their homeland, shield the weak sunlight from their eyes, pull their cloaks tightly around their necks as the wind swirled around them? Did they stand with their back to the wall as I do now and let silence fill their ears?

And what of the inhabitants of the Middle Ages? The leaders of the great armies that passed through this way may have been educated enough to have known that it was the Roman emperor Hadrian who had ordered the building of this wall, but what of the common foot soldiers who passed through the gates of the forts, or forded breaches in the stones? What did they think of this wall?

I would love to return to Walltown Crags someday. I would love to see it in all of the seasons, especially in the fall when the trees in the distance are the colors of fire or in the winter, when the crags are dusted with snow. Next trip, I tell myself smiling.

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