News from Hadrian's Wall Path
We are already into our eighth walking season since the Trail opened in 2003 and the Trail Passport is now more popular than ever. Almost everyone that you see carries the Passport, which operates between 1st May and 31st October each year, and during the peak season queues are not uncommon at the stamping stations along the way. This year we have introduced a new, seventh, stamping station at Housesteads Roman Fort where the exterior box is located beside the entrance to the English Heritage museum.
The idea behind the Housesteads stamping point is to help conserve the Trail/monument and reduce wear and tear to a steep slope to the north of the fort. At the beginning of August, some three months into the season, it is working well and the Trailís two lengthsmen, Alan and Richard, have repaired the slope with compost, re-seeded it, with a new line mown in the grass to guide day visitors and Trail walkers not carrying the Passport away from the area under repair.
The Passport costs £2.00 each and can be obtained in advance of your walk by mail order from www.hadrians-wall.org/shop or by sending a cheque, payable to Hadrianís Wall Heritage Limited, to: Hadrianís Wall Heritage Limited, East Peterel Field, Dipton Mill Road, Hexham, NE47 2JT.
Nothing stands still on Hadrianís Wall Path and it is in a continual state of improvement. At the time of writing two small-scale changes are planned for the route in 2010 with two more proposed. This August and September sees a major improvement to the Trail on the Northumberland/Cumbria border between Greenhead and Gilsland where several stiles are being replaced by easier going wicket and kissing gates. Every structure situated in the Scheduled Monument Area requires an archaeological evaluation where so far several shards of Roman pottery have been found in the trenches. (image Ė trench for kissing gate can follow Tuesday).
Each year our knowledge of how the Trail and the monument, on a field-by-field basis, reacts to visitor pressures and to different climatic conditions. 2008 and 2009 were both very wet summers but 2010, after a wet start, has experienced several long dry spells. Alan and Richard modify their management techniques according to the conditions and you are bound to come across their handiwork. Do stop and say hello to them Ė they will be pleased to explain what they are doing and why their work is important.
The conservation of the Roman Wall and its associated earthworks is always at the forefront of our minds. Almost everything that we do is geared towards the protection of the grass surface because it is still considered to be the best way of protecting any buried archaeology. (Visitors frequently remark that grass is their favourite walking surface). We have sponsored several archaeological evaluations over the years and in almost every case the archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North have found buried structures and artefacts only a few centimetres below the surface of the ground.
The preparations for the new road bridge across the river Eden, to the west of Carlisle, revealed the foundations of Hadrianís Wall (image Ė Wall foundations). Please note that the bridge construction site will continue throughout 2011 and, while it does affect the Trail, it will remain open with only very minor clearly marked diversions through the building site.
Trail walkers can play a big part in helping us to manage the Trail and monument in a sustainable way. We have published a couple of very simple tips that we ask everyone, whether you are an end-to-end walker or a day visitor to the Wall, to follow. First of all please resist the temptation to walk on top of the surviving masonry Wall, also where it survives as a buried Wall-mound. (There is one exception to this rule, at Housesteads Roman Fort where, because it is structurally strong enough, you are allowed to walk on top of two hundred metres of Hadrianís Wall - courtesy of the National Trust).
The Trail team, managed by Hadrianís Wall Heritage Limited, took the lead and coordinated the production of a new notice for the World Heritage Site that asks visitors to not walk on the Wall.
The other critically important thing that all visitors to the Wall can do is to walk side-by-side instead of in single file. (pdf image walk side-by-side) Simply by doing that the carrying capacity of the grass path and monument is effectively doubled. Alan and Richard say that enough walkers are following the tip for it to make a difference and, together with their stitch-in-time maintenance; it is helping the general condition of the Trail to improve.
This summer the Trail launched its visitor donation fund. Walkers are invited to make donations to pay for value-added conservation projects along the line of the Trail. The back panel of the Passport has a mail order form for purchasing the purple enamel achieversí badge (for walkers who collect all seven stamps in their Passport) where donations can also be made. Alternatively, you can make a donation via the Pay Pal page at www.hadrians-wall.org/shop.
This has been an exciting year for Hadrianís Wall Path. New path furniture and replacement signs, repairs to hitherto muddy farm tracks and the daily proactive grassland management are all contributing to the Trailís overall feel-good factor as well as the monumentís state of preservation. While on the Trail we hope that you will actively engage with our conservation work and in so doing feel that you have contributed to its well-being.
National Trail Manager