Climbers on the craggy escarpment below Hadrian’s Wall, a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia – that’s England by the way. It originally ran a total of 73 miles (117.5 kilometres) across England from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east, to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast.
Built near the border with Scotland, it was probably planned before Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 AD, part of a wish to “keep the empire intact”. On Hadrian’s accession to the throne in 117, there was unrest and rebellion in Britain and in various conquered lands across the Roman Empire. And to cut a long story short, like all empires, the logistics of maintaining it proved too much and the occupiers gradually retreated back to their homeland, leaving the wall abandoned.
The edifice came back to life in Medieval times when the Sycamore Gap Tree, standing next to the wall by Crag Lough, featured in the 1991 Kevin Costner film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, when Robin travelled an oddly circuitous route from the White Cliffs of Dover to Nottingham. The maps weren’t too reliable in those days!
Much of the wall has now disappeared with long sections of it used for roadbuilding in the 18th century. The remnants were declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and in 2005 Hadrian’s Wall became part of the trans-national “Frontiers of the Roman Empire” World Heritage Site.
Apart from climbing, there’s also the Hadrian’s Wall Hike, a long-distance trail measuring 84 miles (135km), normally completed in 5–10 days. It’s a beautiful and relatively easy wander through history, heritage, and some of the most famous landscapes in Northumberland.
But all is not well with Hadrian’s legacy; despite signs pleading with visitors not to clamber over the wall, sections have collapsed after being repeatedly climbed on by sight-seers looking to take the perfect photo.