Hiking through History: Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northumberland National Park

As we invite you to share your story of National Parks as part of our Big Give appeal, one of our National Parks: New Perspectives bursary holders Charlotte Ditchburn leaves her home in the Lake District National Park to explore one of the most popular walks in Northumberland National Park... 

 

I have lived in Cumbria most of my life and studied at Newcastle University, so have spent many hours driving across the breadth of the country, often along the Military Road driving on past Hadrian’s Wall. Throughout my academic studies of Countryside Management, we headed out into Northumberland National Park for several field trips from agricultural audits to soil sampling at Simonside. This gave me my first taste of what the National Park had to offer and inspired me and my friends to delve into more of the landscape.

We explored Kielder Forest and climbed the Cheviot Hills, giving us a place to discover more about the spectacular spaces surrounding Newcastle. As part of my studies, I completed a student placement with NNP, this involved working alongside their Rangers helping with practical maintenance jobs, delivering talks to schools to engage the next generation of volunteers, and surveying the National Trail of Hadrian’s Wall Path. I loved my time with the rangers and National Trails Officer, and this inspired my career in access.

During my time at Newcastle University, I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. With this huge strain on my mental health, I found time in nature the only place of release. Spending time in Northumberland National Park gave me time to unwind and gave me the distraction of fixing bridges and clearing invasive species with groups of volunteers. Since then, I’ve gone on to develop a career in access, inspiring others to get outdoors for their mental health.

I’ve been working in access for nearly 5 years now and I recently took the opportunity to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail. It was as if I had come full circle having come to terms with my mental health issues and living back in Cumbria. It felt only fitting to make the journey across the Wall to give some closure to my past and reconnect with a landscape I’d missed for several years.

I set out from Bowness on Solway in mid-March with my rescue dog Sydney. We walked 84 miles, arriving feeling foot sore but accomplished at Walls End 6 days later. Hadrian’s Wall takes in breath taking views including Hotbank’s Crag View, Steel Rigg and Sewingshield’s Crag. The wall is remarkably intact, we passed through the towns the wall built, as its stone was pilfered away by opportunistic Brits after the Roman empire’s withdrawal.  

The Wall took us through the rugged, rolling Northumbrian landscape giving us a real sense of history as we walked. We learnt so much about the story of the Wall learning about the 158 turrets, 80 guarded posts and 17 larger forts along our way. I met 2 of the Northumberland National Park Rangers I used to volunteer with and bumped into the Head Ranger for a catch up, fittingly on International Women’s day as she’s the first female Head Ranger.

It’s special people like this that help to protect and maintain the National Park, who tirelessly replace fingerposts, waymark routes and care for the hidden history of these places that make Northumberland National Park a perfect place to explore for everyone.