Not all companies would agree with you taking 5 extra days off on top of your usual holidays to support a charity of your choice. Cisco does.
Phil, Steve and I set out to complete the 84 mile* Hadrian’s Wall Challenge Trail in four days, a task that only about 50% of the challengers see through to completion, and we wanted to use this opportunity to raise money for a charity whose goals are close to our hearts.
Our choice was Children with Cancer UK, as it strives to support both children afflicted with this terrible disease, and their families.
What follows is a brief summary of our arduous four days, along with a short video showing the highlights of our path for each day.
Having arrived at Newcastle the evening before, we set out in the morning to Wallsend where, as you can surely surmise from the name, lies one of the ends of Hadrian’s Wall.
After sorting out the problem of a locked padlock and no clearly visible alternative route :), all in good spirits, we proceeded to amble through the post-industrial landscape.
It was around 20 miles in, where most of our water had run out and we were starting to really feel the blisters coming, that we realised with horror that what looked like a 22 mile trek to Port Gate was in fact a 26 mile journey. Miles versus “country miles”, I guess.
Salvation came in the form of a single local pub on the way, the “Robin Hood” coming to aid the poor again, where we were able to re-hydrate. Sparkling water never tasted so good before.
We arrived at our accommodation just past 7 pm – two hours later than planned, due to the difference in mileage and our stopover – and hoped that our legs would be serviceable the next day.
This day saw us traverse the most undulating path of the trail, and arguably the most picturesque. Weather was still on our side, as it was sunny and warm throughout the day, as it was the day before.
As we navigated the winding hills and admired the gorgeous vistas on our way to Once Brewed, we also counted up the miles and realised we would end up doing 20, not the planned 16. We started to notice a pattern there.
Having switched from trainers to hiking boots (we used the former the day before as they are said to be better for urban terrain), we had the luxury of blisters forming in different places today, instead of aggravating existing ones. So far, so good.
On Day III we set out from Once Brewed to Corby-on-Eden, knowing full well this will be the longest and most demanding part of our trek – combining the length of Day I with the climbing of Day II. It didn’t help that there was a near-constant drizzle in the air, and the air around the hills was quite chilling.
We donned our water-proof gear (some leading to inappropriate jokes I can’t quite quote here – but you’ll know what I mean when you see the above video), and carried onwards despite being drenched throughout most of the day anyway.
We struggled to get to our accommodation on time, and ended up route marching the last 5 miles or so just to get there before 9 pm – 26 miles versus the expected 22 miles. Ouch.
Remember when I said the third day was the toughest? On its own, it would be, but in this case we keenly felt all the previous days in our limbs (it is amazing how the human body can regenerate, but there certainly are limits to this, and we were way past that point already).
While this was technically the shortest leg of our journey, we still did 20 miles that day.
Carried at this stage solely by esprit de corps and sheer force of will, we closed down the distance to Bowness-on-Solway, just past Port Carlisle.
Between the three of us, I was clearly the worst for wear. I was hobbling at this point, while Phil and Steve somehow still managed to walk somewhat naturally, and definitely less funny. Chapeau bas!
Nevertheless, we were all extremely exhausted at this point, and after crossing the archway marking the Western end of the wall, we congratulated each other on completing this remarkable challenge.
After celebrating at the local pub, we sank into a well-deserved sleep and started on our way home the next day.
*As you can see, this walk is actually longer than advertised. We ended up doing around 95 miles over the course of four days, with only about 3 of those being detours.
We didn’t count the blisters, sore limbs and aching joints – although that would have probably tallied higher than expected as well – but were equally overjoyed by having completed this challenge. The Romans might have built it, but we conquered it! 🙂
The fundraising page for Children with Cancer UK will still be available for some time at:
and it’s not too late to contribute – we would greatly appreciate any and all support!
(Please be sure to select Gift Aid if eligible, and please note that the tip towards the website is optional)
A heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who supported and encouraged us along the way, and to those whose contributions – large or small – will help make a difference!
Matt, Phil & SteveTags: