Walking Hadrian’s Wall ~ by Sheep

Walking Hadrian’s Wall ~ by Sheep

On the morning of Wednesday 26th July 2017 I was stuffed into my mum, Mandy’s, backpack & boarded a mini bus with 25 athletic looking humans.  It was to be the beginning of an exciting trip, full of surprises and adventure.  The first surprise happened when someone named Roly handed out bottles of beer & shortly after everyone started behaving in an extremely jolly fashion.  Being a teetotal sheep I laid low & watched the passing scenery through the mini bus window.  Many hours later we arrived at a place called Newcastle & I was made very comfortable in a Travel Lodge with mum’s room-mate Sam.  The next exciting event was a trip to TGI’s.  I thought this stood for “Thank Goodness it’s Sheep” but apparently I’m not that famous.  The humans all grazed happily on their troughs of food, they were clearly fattening themselves up for something...

 

At 5.30am on Thursday morning mum’s alarm went off.  She & Sam burst into a flurry of activity paying particular attention to their feet & food supplies.  I was stuffed into mum’s tiny rucksack & off we went with all the other humans on the mini busses again. Everyone seemed very excited & were all talking about someone called Hadrian, I wondered if Hadrian was another sheep?  Soon we were dropped off at a place called Wallsend and I discovered that Hadrian’s second name was Wall, just like my mum’s friend Sam.

I posed with the flock of humans to have our photo taken & then everyone started walking, heading westwards.  I had a lovely position in mums backpack, I could see quite clearly where we were going & could keep an eye out for Hadrian.  In fact everyone seemed to be looking for Hadrian & he became an even more intense topic of conversation.  He must be very famous as his name kept appearing on brown wooden signs.  

The flock walked through Newcastle & past all the big bridges.  Some of the humans popped off to watering holes for refreshment whilst me & mum kept walking.  It was lovely hearing the excited chatter as we trotted along with different groups of people.  Hadrian’s favourite food must be acorns as these kept appearing next to his name on the signs, I wondered if Hadrian was perhaps a pig as I know pigs are very fond of acorns.

Soon we were out in the countryside with the river still on our left until we walked inland & uphill to the first picnic spot of the day.  The humans were all looking a little weary but thankfully the two shepherds, Tony and Paul who were driving the mini buses met them with sacks of food & drinks too.  By the sounds of it the egg sandwiches were clearly a hit but apparently the sausage rolls were not so nice. Maybe Hadrian was not a pig after all as everyone seemed to like him.

We all walked on again, down grassy footpaths, along the sides of fields, over stiles & little bridges and through gates.  Now we had formed a little sub-flock with Lisa, Nicky & Alison. These three ladies/ewes had an unusual walking pattern which involved doing squats, lunges and even cartwheels when they crossed the stiles, bridges and gates. They said it was good for their flexibility and encouraged mum to join in. I didn’t mind the squats & lunges but the cartwheels made me feel quite dizzy & woolly headed.

Next stop was at a pub which I am told is the human’s favourite watering hole.  I was very concerned about Hadrian’s relative Sam as she was clearly having problems with her feet.  We sheep can suffer with foot problems too so mum & I stayed with Roly & Matt who were kindly helping Sam along.  Sam was so brave & even laughed when Matt & Roly baahhed Bohemian Rhapsody in the pouring rain to keep everyone spirits up.  Suddenly towards the end of the days walking the humans started pointing & calling “Hadrian”. I peeped over my mum’s shoulder expecting to see a very special sheep or pig or cow, but instead there was a big heap of huge stones all glued together in a straight line, so this was the famous Hadrian.  We all had our photos taken next to the wall & then with tired, wet feet everyone plodded slowly on until we saw our shepherds waiting patiently with the rest of our flock by the mini busses ready to transport us back to the Travelodge for the night. 

Mum slept well but poor Sam could not settle, I was going to suggest she count sheep but as there was only one of me I did not think it would help very much.  On Friday morning I began to witness just how brave humans can be.  Sam had to have her feet taped up by Roly before she could even attempt to walk on them.  Roly is clearly a very good doctor and I wondered if he is also a qualified vet in case I ever need any help.  Some of the other humans were also suffering with sore feet but everyone was still keen to get walking. 

Hadrian’s footpath soon became steep & hilly and rocky too. We climbed higher and higher passing through fields of sheep & cows.  It was lovely to see so many woolly friends & they were all surprised to see me having a piggy back off a human.  Matt seemed to like the cows a lot, he kept mooing to them & they answered back.  From time to time one of the humans would disappear behind a hedge or even behind Hadrian.  They wouldn’t tell me what they were up to but they always came back looking relieved & laughing about nature wees & poos!

 It was easy to follow Hadrian now as he stretched majestically in front of us into the distance curving his way over the hills.  Some off the very fit humans had trotted off ahead, me & mum were happy to plod along at the back of the flock & I started to make more new friends.   Allyson, Rachael & Georgie were also slightly lame & I sympathised with them.  Footrot in sheep is a very uncomfortable condition which thankfully I have never suffered from.  It can be caused by standing in damp conditions and I knew the humans had all got their hooves very wet the day before so maybe this was the problem.  They did have a real doctor to hand called Simon, as well as Dr Roly, so I felt confident they would be well cared for.

The weather was mixed with sunshine & showers which meant the humans had to keep taking their waterproofs on & off.  I have a reasonable amount of natural oil in my fleece so despite looking a little bedraggled at times I was actually very warm & weatherproof.  The scenery was quite spectacular with amazing views.  Matt & Roly had lots of funny conversations wondering how far away the mountains in the distance were.  At one point a member of our flock called Trevor took a couple of tumbles down a very steep & rocky hill, I think he was trying to be a mountain goat.  No serious damage was done and Trevor was able to continue on with the rest of us.  Some of the human rams, Shaune, Nathan & Johno were very good at looking after their ewes, Clare, Allyson & Debbie and helped them along like true gentleman.  Roly, who was clearly chief ram, had to look after everyone as well as his lovely ewe Georgie. 

Hadrian was becoming very interesting & there were remains of old turrets and forts along his way.  He even climbed next to some rocky cliffs and Roly kept a close eye on everyone to make sure no one fell off the edge.  The humans became very excited again when they saw a large tree called Robin Hood standing next to Hadrian.  Apparently he is a famous film star & there were lots more photographs taken.  Soon after meeting Robin we climbed even higher for more amazing views and then down into a car park where everyone bought cups of tea & coffee.  I enjoyed listening to Rachael & mum bleating happily away about all sorts of things as we walked on towards the food stop.  We caught up with Sally at lunch; she was doing very well & always had a smile on her face.

Soon after we had set off walking again we stumbled across a Northumbrian Visitor Centre where the naughty humans quickly got diverted by real toilets & ice-creams.  Roly had to do his ‘sheep dog’ bit & round everyone up & sent us all on our way again.  A little later walking through a village I spotted Alison, Lisa & Nicky playing in a children’s playground.  These humans are so easily led astray as mum & Simon couldn’t resist joining in and I became the first ever sheep to ride a zip wire.

Poor Sam was really sore by now and I don’t think she liked Hadrian very much at this stage.  She was such a brave human though, determined to carry on and she made it successfully to the end of day two.   A quick trip to Gretna in Scotland enabled all the flock to buy some nourishment from a chip shop before heading back to their beds for a good night’s sleep at the Carlisle Travelodge.

Day three dawned & brave Sam limped her way out to the minibus ready to have her feet taped again by Dr Roly. They were really bad and I hoped she would not have to be put to sleep.  When we first set off walking I wondered for a moment if she would be able to carry on. Then I felt a bit sheepish for even thinking this as of course brave Sam continued walking, she was made of strong stuff, just like Hadrian.  The very fast humans, Penny, Mick, Shaune & Clare, Debs, Anna, Vicky, Kevin and Glyn skipped off ahead like spring lambs and during the day our little group received reports on the human’s mobile phones about how they were doing.  They had taken Trevor with them too & we heard news of him being chased by a bull and frolicking in a playground.  There were also tales of blisters as big as balloons, sore toes, hurt ankles and Lisa finding a big stick to walk with.  There was a great team spirit and everyone helped each other along regardless of which flock you were in.

At first we were walking on grassy footpaths and through more farmland.  Mum crouched down to say hello to an elderly sheep, she didn’t realise that I was having a conversation with a cow behind her back who wanted to know where I had got my human from.  I had to explain to the cow that mum was a rather rare & crazy breed & I had to look after her which was why I was riding on her back.  Soon we were on the outskirts of Carlisle & made our way into the City via a pretty route next to the river.  We could no longer see Hadrian, now we were just following the path where he had once been.  Our little group of humans stopped at a supermarket for supplies.  I felt a little nervous as Roly had made one or two naughty comments about mint sauce to me but thankfully he had only been joking.

We were on the final stretch of the challenge now and the humans seemed more determined than ever. There were lots of discussions about “how many miles it actually was until the finish” and even more discussion about “would the pub still be open”.  Roly had to take his shoes off regularly to allow some air to get to his sore hooves, he definitely needed to see a vet as soon as he got back home.  When we walked through a particularly muddy farm yard, mum & Allyson & some of the others tried to pick their way across the grassy field area to avoid the worst of the cow dung.  Suddenly to everyone’s surprise a very red faced human appeared and started shouting “that’s not the path, the path goes down the middle” & “the cows were here before you”.  He was very upset, I think he had footpath rage as he then set off really fast on his quad bike and tried to spray mud & dung all over poor Roly & Matt.  I was most impressed with how calm the humans kept although they did start giggling very soon after and there was lots of happy banter about the experience. 

 Next we were onto the ‘road to nowhere’ a very long straight road which went on for several miles.  I saw lots of cows along here and Matt started mooing again.  I think the humans were beginning to get a bit delirious as they started singing too and the discussion about how many miles there were left to walk became more and more intense.  Matt promised there were just a few wibbly wobbly miles left, as he called them.  I think he was trying to pull wool over everyone’s eyes as there was still quite a way to go.

On one of Matt’s wibbly wobbly miles the footpath was blocked by a rope across the entrance to a farmyard.  The whole flock came to an abrupt halt and wondered what was going on. Being a farm animal I realised straight away that some cows were being moved.  The humans took a little longer to realise this and Roly was shocked when mum said ‘she might have to go and nut someone if they didn’t let us through soon’.  Clearly the tiredness was getting to everyone and it was a great relief when the cows came trotting through and leapt into their field allowing the humans to continue walking again.  

The final stretch took everyone along the edge of the beautiful Solway Firth.  As the flock approached the finish Glyn, one of the fast humans, came trotting out to greet us all.  It was lovely to see his smiley face and our little group baahhed excitedly for the last mile.  Suddenly we were there, in Bowness-on-Solway and at the end of Hadrian’s Way.  Everyone joined hands to cross the finish, there were hugs and celebrations and mum took me out of her little backpack so I could join in and be in the finish photos.  Then we all rolled into the pub where the faster members of the team had been for some time.  They flocked to greet us and show us their feet.  We had another photograph taken before the humans tucked into beer, food & cups of tea whilst I looked forward to a large bowl of hay.

What a wonderful journey it had been.  Although we had seen many sheep on route I was the only one lucky enough to be with Roly and his amazing group of humans.  All 25 of them finished and I know they could not have done it without the fantastic support of Paul and Tony, the two kind shepherds.  I witnessed firsthand how brave and determined these humans could be.  Even Roly the head of the flock had suffered with lameness, but he had determinedly led everyone through busy cities and across wild & remote countryside to the safety of the Kings Arms.  Thanks Roly & Norwich Road Runners for an amazing & fantastic adventure and thank you Hadrian for showing us the way.