Those who were alive in AD122 – apart from Sir Cliff Richard, Bruce Forsyth and at least half of the Rolling Stones – included one Emperor Hadrian who was worried about the mighty Roman army being shown up in skirmishes by bands of raiding wee hairy ginger folk from the north. Hadrian’s response to this potential affront was to build a wall. Well, history records that he built a wooden barrier at first, and no doubt had to change his mind in hunc effectum once the wee jock nyaffs started nicking the wood for making cabers. One would of course have thought that Hadrian, the beneficiary of that splendid classical education that the ed-yoocashunal heidies keep boasting about should have twigged that a pile of wood was not going to repel the ranks of the erm… rank -personal hygiene not being what it is now – in terms of a fortification. Quite apart from that, the fact was that Hadrian’s Fence just didn’t cut it as the name for a major raiding deterrent (more B&Q than PDQ), and its total lack of fierceness and foreboding was more likely to have the Caledonii falling down with laughter than runing off in fright. And so it became apparent that a rebuild was necessary. The rest, as they say, is history.
Or at least it was until this weekend.
Along with another 13 intrepid cycling types, this wee not-hairy person made a new onslaught on Mr Hadrian’s piddly bit of wall. My third Charity Adventure ride of this year started at picturesque Ravenglass on the west coast. From there we cycled the 53 miles to Silloth on relatively flat terrain with little to hinder us except for an escaped herd of Cumbrian coos. Day 2 started with another long and flat stretch before we started to hit the lumpy bits. And boy were they lumpy. 20 miles of grade 5-9%. And then, after a nice filling slab of rocky road at Lanercost Priory, we encounterd our first major climb of the trip – the 14% back up to the wall. 14 sweaty people finally made it up to the top – thankfully with the stomach contents still in place, although the rocky road did nearly take the high road in a highly projectile manner at one point – an effect which, had it happened, might just have resembled a well-aimed rock being hurled from a ballista. We did make it, however, to the top at Housesteads and posed a while atop the wall to have oor picters took as the Caledonii no doubt would have said.
Day 3 started with a minor climb – a mere 15% – out of Greenhead. Mercifully short but still a lung-buster and still a bit of a concern after a hearty breakfast. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse undulation-wise, of course it did. The climb out of Vindolanda registered as a 20% on my Garmin. Of course it was imperative that I stopped to admire the view half way up!
A light lunch of full carvery plus pudding was followed by the last leg of our journey over to Newcastle. Back to relative flat but of course the only real climb occurred immediately after lunch. I appear to be getting very good at restraining my stomach contents, which is probably just as well. Our trip back to Tynemouth was in pleasant sunshine and our arrival at the Spanish Battery coincided with the setting of the sun – all very atmospheric especially after 174 miles. My lovely husband had driven for three hours to come and get me (aw sweet) and it took us a further three hours to get home. I think. I have no idea as I didn’t see anything between Carlisle and home.
So, that was Hadrian’s Wall. Not as daunting a ride as I’d prevously thought – more of a rockery than a wall actually. All in all a great weekend: good ride especially over the hiily stretch, great company, and money raised for a worthy cause – Parkinson’s UK. Think the next challenge has to be C2C next year – then I’ll have done the most difficult of the CHADs. Bring it on.
So this wee Scot made it unscathed into (and back out of) bandit country. Just shows you that maybe us being no longer hairy and scary looking has helped.
And I’m not ginger either!