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Walking My First UK National Trail; Hadrians Wall… Solo!

My name is Rhiannon and I’m 23 years old and from London. I knew from a young age I wasn’t a city girl, so when I had the opportunity to move away for University, I made the huge move over 200 miles to North Wales, where I have lived for the last 5 years.

Living nestled between Anglesey (an area of outstanding natural beauty) and Snowdonia (Eryri) – one of the UK’s most loved and biggest national parks – I have fallen in love with the natural world and spend as much of my free time exploring the wonderful natural treasures of Wales and the UK as possible.

I love to use my social and online presence to inspire others to get out and explore, visit somewhere new, or try something they previously thought was not for them. By showing people, especially young women, that I have adventured alone or gone headfirst into a challenge with no previous experience, I hope to inspire others that they can do the same.

Rhiannon our Youth Adventure Grant winner hiking the length of Hadrians Wall
High point along Hadrians Wall

The Walk

Arriving in Bowness-on-Solway on Friday 16th June, I had 4 long days ahead of me to cover 84 miles with over 2,300 metres of elevation gain. I set off in the beautiful sunshine at around 7am on the 17th June for one of the longer stretches, covering just over 26 miles! The route starts with a flat long section along the coast, then winds through several villages where I would stop to rest, refuel and a have read about its history. It then meanders through the city of Carlisle, where I stopped for lunch, and then continues on towards Newtown.

On day 2, I saw my first sections of the wall! A shorter day today of 16 miles took me to just north of Haltwhistle. Unbeknown to me, today was also the annual ‘The Wall’ ultramarathon which saw hundreds of ultramarathoners running the route alongside me. It made for a lot of company, and distraction from the blisters forming on my feet, for which I was very grateful.

Day 3 consisted of the most iconic views and sections of the wall people hear about and come to visit, including Sycamore Gap and Steel Rigg, and also the highest point on the trail at Winshield Crags. The views went on for miles in every direction throughout the day and the path was full of walkers and tourists taking photos, enjoying the views and picnicking. The day came to a close after around another 16 miles just passed Chollerford.

My final day on the Hadrian’s Wall Path had arrived and in all honesty, I was ready to finish. The physical pain in my feet and back, the intense heat from the sun I had been walking under relentlessly with very little shade, and the loneliness from the past few days had all hit me at once. Apart from Carlisle and Newcastle, the path only goes through small villages every few miles, so apart from the occasional “hi!” from a passing walker, I was on my own. The company on the first part of Day 2 from the ultramarathoners, and the midday busyness of Sycamore Gap probably prevented me from reaching this mindset earlier on. But I was determined to finish what I had started, and changed my mental attitude to a positive one for my final 26 miles to Wallsend. It was a long day but approaching those final few miles through Newcastle and having random strangers cheering me on as I approached the finish, I began to tear up and began to realise what I had accomplished.

Youth Adventure Grant winner completing Hadrian's Wall hike.

84 miles. In 4 days. On my own.

I had never done something like this before. I was beyond proud of myself, and yes there were times when it got tough, but I battled through to reach the end of the walk. I also took on the challenge of completing this walk to raise money for the Meningitis Research Foundation. This was my third event this year to raise funds for the charity and have raised over £1,300.

Would I Do It Again?

Short answer – yes! The Hadrian’s Wall Path is a great beginner trail for anyone. It is not too long, you are not walking across mountainous terrain, there are plenty of accommodation options along the route so you can walk for as little or as much as you want and take rest days to explore more of the historical sites and the route is so well signposted; I only had to check my map twice along the entire trail! As I mentioned I did the entire walk solo and did at times feel alone or afraid but I was never in danger. It was the first time I had put my mind and body in such a situation so I expected there to be times of loneliness and when I felt scared but you have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions to grow, to learn how to cope, and to learn how to overcome. And that is exactly what I did.

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