Back in the winter of 2009, with a belly full of good food and alcohol, I made the mistake of mentioning to Robin Wade, my agent, an idea I’d had to walk a good sized chunk of Hadrian’s Wall in aid of Help for Heroes. The difference between this and most charity walks, I proposed, would be to do it in full Roman kit. Much to my surprise, Robin, who is a rufty tufty type and all round good guy, promptly signed up for the idea. Which is how I found myself carting four stone in weapons and armour across the rolling countryside that so attracted the Roman engineers two thousand years ago. All in a good cause, of course, but there were a few moments when I seriously doubted my sanity in making the attempt. The route was:
Day 1 – 31st May – Heddon-on the-Wall to Chollerford (15 miles)
Day 2 – 1st June – Chollerford to Once Brewed (13 miles including Housesteads)
Day 3 – 2nd June – Once Brewed to Banks (13 miles)
Day 4 – 3rd June – Banks to Carlisle (13 miles)
I can’t say it was easy, but it was a fantastic opportunity to find out what the average Roman soldier had to put up with. We (well I, mainly) suffered various degrees of wetness, hotness, dehydration and exhaustion along the way, and I can assure you that I’ll never write about Tungrians on the march again without spending a moment looking out of the window and remembering those four days toiling up and down an apparently endless succession of hills. Hard men for hard times. We (Robin myself and our staunch supporter Julian Dear) laughed a lot along the way, and we surprised a lot of people along the way with the sight of a rather tubby red faced Roman soldier being dragged along at the infantry pace by a rather thinner and better preserved colleague. The cherry on the cake was the money that we raised for this excellent cause.
Would I do it again? It’s not the last charitable effort I’ll make for HfH (good ideas welcome!), but whether I’ll ever stagger round anything larger than my back garden under the weight of all that kit is highly questionable! On the other hand, I still have it all ready to go. Now if I could just lose a few stone to compensate for the load on my aging knees…