The Great Wall of Hadrian, Day 4

Sunday was a chance to do another chunk of Hadrian’s wall.   With an expanded group we had the advantage of two vehicles, so were able to drop Heather’s car at the Brocolitia fort and Mithraic temple, before piling into our car to drive to our starting point at Steel Rigg, nine miles further west.


Martyn hiding Susannah’s bright pink leggings at Steel Rigg

Though we still had to climb over Highshield, Hotbank, Housteads and Sewingshields Crags (names to conjure with!), today felt much less arduous than our Day 3 walk.  This is partly because the crags come at the beginning of the day when we are fresh, but the ups and downs also seem less dramatic now that we are past the highest point on the wall.


We arrive at ‘Sycamore gap’, famous from ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’, sooner than we expect and the compulsory photos are taken.


Martyn tries hard to convince us that the (bright orange) green alga, Trentepohlia, growing on the north side of the wall is much more interesting……(actually it is, as an important algal partner in many crustose lichens).


Trentepohlia growing amidst grey, crustose lichens on Hadrian’s wall

I’m enjoying the profusion of rock roses along this stretch of the wall as well as the views west along the line of crags.

Common rock rose, Helianthemum nummularium, and the view to the west from Highsheild Crags.

From here the path climbs again into the woodland above the spectacular Crag Lough where we watch a family of swans at rest.  Beyond the Lough we are able to walk along the top of the wall itself to Housesteads fort, through another pleasant wooded section.


Though Housesteads isn’t quite half way back to Brocolitia, we vote to have lunch in the shelter of the wall, which is adorned with ferns and a small purple plant which I feel I should recognise…

Though we still have some uphill to do, there is much more sense of a gradual descent along the path beyond Housesteads.  Susannah identifies a Scorpion fly on bracken by the wall for us and I am lucky enough to get a beautiful photo of it.


Robert is happy to find another trig point at the top of Sewingshields Crags where he can wait for the rest of us to catch up.


The vegetation changes as we descend – Heath bedstraw on the higher ground by the path and swathes of Hare’s tail cotton grass on the lower, boggier ground to the north.


Hare’s tail cotton grass, Eriopherum vaginatum

As we reach Brocolitia, just before the rain sets in, there is one final botanical pleasure – the stream flowing beside the temple seems to be made of monkey flowers, Mimula guttatas.



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