About that wall walk…

By Anthony Riches // On 03/03/2013

So it’s definitely happening. The sponsorship money is rolling in – and huge thanks to all who have given so generously – the kit is being gathered and broken in, and the pulse is starting to race just a tiny bit at the thought of getting my lovely authentic Roman boots onto the wall path. But my feelings, I must admit, are slightly mixed on the subject. Let me explain:

Most of the idea is just brilliant. What could be better than six days walking Hadrian’s Wall with two good mates and one of the foremost authorities on the wall itself (and an awfully nice man), getting my lungs full of fresh air, having a few pints in the evening and making thousands of pounds for charity at the same time? Not much, I can tell you from experience. However, having done this whole ‘walking the wall in Roman kit’ thing before, it won’t be unmitigated pleasure.

For a start, the daily routine will be fifteen non-negotiable miles. That doesn’t sound much until you’re doing it, carrying heavy equipment and watching the great British public sail past in their cars (grrrr…). Throw in a nice drizzly day and it all gets rather damp and a bit miserable (although, and you can take this from me, sunny hot days are a whole lot worse – have you ever drunk several litres of water in a day and not once needed to go to the lavatory due to excessive sweating, because I did on the last day of my first wall walk). Then there are blisters. My personal answer to them is to cut off the tops and let them turn to leather, although I do have a plan not to incur them if at all possible since this does entail a fair amount of manly teeth gritting. My last and most recent problem is the fact that my back’s decided that I’ve reached the age where it ought to start hurting like buggery, resulting in an extensive course of chiropracty and the routine intake of good Scotch as a duel pronged response to the problem. Painkillers may be required, and as I write my new and fearsomely powerful TENS machine is doing a passable imitation of an army of cats taking out their frustrations of my lower back with their claws. Whether it works is debatable, although it certainly feels like it should be.

And that’s enough whinging. Looking to the practicalities, our kit is going to play an interesting part in keeping us dry and pain free, I suspect. My lovely hand made Roman boots (thank you, Sarah Juniper) have been slathered with beeswax, and I’ve been careful to push the waxy gunk deep into the stitching that holds sole and upper together, although I suspect they’ll still leak if it’s really wet, and I confess to having a pair of goretex socks in reserve for that apocalyptic moment. The clothing that we’ll be wearing, made to Roman patterns by the excellent Claire Marshall of Plaeau Imprints) is made of wool that was woven ‘in the grease’, which means that the natural substances – lanolin, mainly – that keep sheep relatively dry in the wet are retained. Hopefully it’ll be pretty much waterproof! My overtunic – there also being under-tunics to keep the top layer more fragrant and provide some protection against the wind – will be edged with an amazing swastika pattern, from back when that symbol hadn’t been tarnished by the events of the last century, and my cloak

My other secret weapon against the sort of knee warping exhaustion that I suffered three years ago is the time period I’ve chosen to represent this time round. While Russ Whitfield will be exercising his sturdy musculature by carting around my chain mail and hard kit, which comes in at over four stone in weight, I shall be gamboling light footedly across the hills in nothing worse than a rather heavy 4th century helmet and spatha (sword) combination, my considerable girth secured by a fantastic Dorchester belt made for me by Ade Wink at Armamentaria.

I’ll blog again once it’s all arrived and I’ve worked out how it should all be worn I’ll post another entry to show you just how silly it all looks when I’m wearing it. In the meantime here are a few pics of the kit I’ve already gathered.

My lovely helmet during a heavy polishing session.

My lovely helmet during a heavy polishing session.

The cloak I've purchased from Claire Marshall at Plateau Imprints

The cloak I’ve purchased from Claire Marshall at Plateau Imprints

Excellent boots, being waxed. And Scotch, of course.

Excellent boots, being waxed. And Scotch, of course.

My Dorchester belt. Amazing leather work by Ade Wink.

My Dorchester belt. Amazing leather work by Ade Wink.

The edging for my over-tunic. Look closely and you'll see the swastika pattern.

The edging for my over-tunic. Look closely and you’ll see the swastika pattern.

This is the look I'll be going for. Shorter, fatter, and less beardy, however...

This is the look I’ll be going for. Shorter, fatter, and less beardy, however…

Thanks for reading.

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