- Distance: 14.5 miles
Day 6 began with the most delicious full english breakfast to fuel the last of my walk at The Ship, Sydney devoured her share of my sausage. We collected our belongings together into my pack one last time ready for the long day ahead.
This was by far the most challenging day for me both mentally and physically. My body was tired from the previous days walking, my feet were torn to pieces by my ill fitting boots and my back was sore from carrying my laden pack.
My mind was constantly wandering, knowing we were going to reach Newcastle today. The city which held horrible memories for me, where I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression and where I feared it may take me flashing back to memories I thought I had processed and supressed.
The day began with the warmth of the sunshine fuelling us (along with the humongous breakfast I’d eaten) knowing that tonight I would be sleeping back in my own bed was quite the motivation.
We set off from Wylam, soon off the hard tarmac pavements heading onto farmland alongside the River Tyne heading for its end point at Tynemouth. But the soft grassland underfoot didn’t last for long soon hitting the hard stone paths turning back to tarmac as we hit the outskirts of the city.
I found my walking pace getting slower as my feet got more sore and my legs more tired. Sydney still trotting along beside me but no longer having the energy to stray off for a sniff merely keeping up with me as we walked. We came across a smouldering car in one of the country parks, recently burnt out with burnout tyre marks left on the path. Reminding me we’d left the true rural countryside behind and were now heading into a much more populated area.
It was funny, walking as a solo female throughout my walk, I hadn’t felt vulnerable until this point. Even walking in the remote hills of Hadrian’s Wall I had felt safe but now in town even in bright daylight I was much more conscious of checking for exit routes and searching for other less urban walkers.
As we got further into the city you’d barely know you were on a National Trail, the signage of the route was none existent and the path itself was pretty impassable at stages with overgrowth and fly tipping (I wouldn’t try this section in the summer with the vegetation creeping up to chest height). It was sad to see such a prominent Trail being lost in the city, forgotten and left to ruin by the local authority who have higher priorities than public access.
As we walked through the centre of Newcastle we got plenty of smiles and laughs as Sydney carrying her orange pack and me in wellies with a rucksack on my back, we seemed a little out of place with those dressed to the tens heading to the Slug and Lettuce for drinks.
I found my mind distracted by all the people but felt I was overcoming some huge hurdle by returning to the city that had crushed my mental health. Although physically I was slowing to a snails pace and starting to realise I wasn’t going to make it to Tynemouth in time to catch my train back to Carlisle.
I eventually reached Walls End, as I got to Segedunum I couldn’t muster the energy to pop into the Roman baths to take a look, I crawled the last few hundred yards and was heart broken to find the gates locked to Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum where the ‘I walked the wall’ sign was. I dragged myself around the corner and was elated to find the carpark gates open so I could get that final photo at the end of our trek. Sydney gave the most unamused face for her final photo and it summed up how we both felt about our multi day hike – well and truly knackered.
I was so pleased to have completed my walk (even though I had originally wanted to make it to Tynemouth to have been physically coast to coast) I had completed the official Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail. I had walked the Wall! My first ever solo multiday hike and it had been so worth it. Sitting down on the metro heading to central station in Newcastle I chatted to lots of passengers telling them where I’d been and letting them say hello to Sydney.
As I sat on my final train home to Carlisle, where my partner was picking me up, I watched the places I had walked through over the last week pass by in a blur. I couldn’t believe what had taken me 6 days to walk was a mere 1.5 hour train journey.
Since walking Hadrian’s Wall I have read Anita Sethi’s ‘I Belong Here’ book about her journey along the Pennine Way. The book is not only about her experience of walking the physical backbone of Britain but also of her journey through a racial abuse attack and the mental health issues that followed this. I have resonated with this book so much, it’s as though Anita has literally walked in my shoes and articulated my exact feelings about my traumatic experiences turning them into literature.
I felt strongly that journeying again through the North had something to offer me, and I wanted to follow that gut instinct. Places where traumatic events occur take on even greater significance; they become part of us, a deep wound in us, often paradoxically drawing us back to the wounded place to understand something about it, to transform it into a place of empowerment’Anita Sethi
I Belong Here – A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain