While I travel the long and dreary Wall, would have you travel with me, though by your own fire-side; would have you see, and feel, as I do; and make the journey influence your passions, as mine are influenced. William Hutton
After too many years writing-up other people’s excavations in the region of Hadrian’s Wall (first Corbridge, then Housesteads), I became self-employed in 1989 with the aid of a small incentive from the government known as the Enterprise Allowance. One of the first jobs I undertook – for the Archaeological Practice at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (in the next room to where I had been employed) – was a distinctly odd one. I was given a sheaf of large-scale maps containing the proposed course for a footpath that would stretch from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway. My job was to devise and apply a scoring system for the threat such a path would pose to the monument. So, walking on a tarmac road next to, but not on any part of, the Wall, would be a very low threat; striding along the top of an earthwork like the Vallum, or perhaps crossing the Wall ditch, would pose a high level of threat. Little did I think that, twenty years after taking part in this curious desk-based task, I would regularly end up walking it. Such is life. And, yes, it does require some striding along earthworks and traversing of ditches. Some even consider that it requires getting ‘passports’ stamped at key points, but why that should be continues to elude me; was that the only way walkers could be persuaded to undertake this spectacular venture?
This book came about because I habitually walk the Wall west to east (although I have tried it the other way) and the existing guide books do not really cater for such a beast. Some of them are also – how may I put it – slightly less-than-perfectly informed about aspects of the archaeology of the Wall. This is an archaeological guide: look elsewhere for flora, fauna, geology, accommodation hints, and mythology (although it must be admitted that elements of each, particularly geology, do crop up from time to time, since the latter is so intimately related to the course of the Wall).