Springing into Summer at The Sill

By Steph Scott

I have been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to explore the lovely new visitor centre on Hadrian’s Wall, called The Sill. Located next to the Youth Hostel and close to Steel Rigg, The Sill is a state of the art landscape discovery centre which houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, a café with a lovely view, a roof terrace and a shop selling beautiful, locally made items. Across the military road, there is access to one of the most popular stretches of Hadrian’s Wall path. The trail to Housesteads, via one of the most famous trees in the country at Sycamore Gap, is well-defined, rugged and showcases the beautiful county of Northumberland and some exposed sections of the Wall.

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I started my run heading East from Steel Rigg over the undulating section of trail which features in a local fell race at a traditional ‘Roman Wall Show’ in June every year. The path winds its way up along the crags and within a few minutes Crag Lough can be seen in the distance. On a sunny day, it shimmers invitingly and adds to the historic beauty concentrated in these few miles of trail. Crag Lough was formed by glaciers in the last Ice Age and is one of four Loughs along the length of the Roman Wall. This is my favourite section of the Hadrian’s Wall Path as it has so much to offer.

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The trail continues to undulate, but I am lucky enough to be able to run at a reasonable speed onto my favourite place of all and in fact, lots of people’s favourite tree – Sycamore Gap. No surprise that it was voted Britain’s Favourite Tree 2016 and is the most photographed place in the Northumberland National Park. Even Robin Hood came to visit it! Sadly, although I have passed by many times, I have never seen Kevin Costner! If you are walking, you might like to stop for a picnic or head back to the Sill for a coffee, but if you have the time and energy, it is well worth continuing along to Housesteads. How fortuitous to be able to run freely along this historic trail, enjoying the views and taking in the fresh air.

The trail remains interesting and varied for the rest of the route, but the final treat lies in store as you arrive at Housesteads, the best preserved Roman fort in Britain. From its high vantage point, there are more amazing views, but the fort itself has hidden surprises, such as the wheel ruts which can be seen by the gateway. I love running through the trees, jumping over the roots and coming through the little gate to see the ruins.

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It is at this point, after a moment’s reflection, that I usually turn and run back. If you prefer to stay a while, there is a museum and a visitor centre down in the car park.

Originally published 13/06/18

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