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Hadrian's Wall Path - Walking into History: Full-Color Version (Woman on Her Way) (Volume 2) Paperback – March 15, 2015
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"The book is an excellent background for anyone interested in Hadrian's Wall, and a valuable resource for anyone contemplating the same path." ~ Alan W. Roddy, President of the Appalachian Trail Club of Florida (ATFC).
About the Author
Jane V. Blanchard is the author of the Woman on Her Way series. She explores countries by foot and by bike, and than writes about the adventure for her reader's escape and entertainment.
She retired in 2011 to walk 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain—her first long walk.
In her first book, Women of the Way: Embracing the Camino, Jane mingles her personal story with conversations she had with modern-day female pilgrims who also trekked the Camino. In Hadrian's Wall Path: Walking into History, Jane shares her discoveries along the 84-mile path across northern England.
Jane was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Upon graduation from college, she worked as a travel guide in Madrid, Spain, and cried at her first bullfight. In 1975, she and her husband Dennis lived in a tent in Winchendon, Massachusetts, for six months (until December) while they built a log cabin. After two years of living off-the-grid, they lived a self-sufficient lifestyle on a five-acre “gentleman's” farm.
Before moving to Sarasota, Florida, she lived in Hampstead, New Hampshire for twenty-four years, where she raised two children, was a soccer and Odyssey of the Mind coach, and received the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Volunteer of the Year Award in 1996. She enjoyed hiking and biking, and climbed twenty of the forty 4,000-foot mountains in New England.
In her fifties, Jane started mountain biking and racing. In 2002, she placed second in the Eastern Fat Tire Association Senior Division. “Even though I was not the fastest competitor, I did attend and complete the majority of that year's races. Just like with the turtle and the hare, slow and consistent wins over fast but sporadic.”
In Sarasota, Jane became involve with several national and local organizations bent on helping women, and hosted a weekly radio show on WSLR, Woman Matters, for two-and-a-half years.
When she married in 1974, her husband Dennis and she joked about creating a lifetime of memories to chat about when sitting in their rockers in old age. Now in her mid 60s, Jane is still creating memories, experiencing life as fully as possible, and looking forward to a long future. “I have to live long enough to write about all my adventures,” she says.
In addition to having adventures, writing and publishing, Jane enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
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They walked from West to East in August while we walked from East to West about 6 weeks later. We collected passport stamps and pins, she wrote a book about her walk along the wall. An online conversation comparing our experiences resulted in her sending me a copy for my enjoyment and possible review.
Jane and Dennis included the Wall Walk in a six-month, thirteen country hiking and biking tour. The Blanchards were equipped to potentially camp and did carry everything with them much of the time. We all relied upon the Cicerone Guide by Mark Richards, “Hadrian’s Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description”. The guide book is designed to aid walkers going either East or West on the Trail, but as Jane notes if you are traveling East to West (as my wife and I did) you start at the back of the book. (We actually didn’t mind that but your mileage may vary.) Which way you choose to walk depends upon a number of factors including whether you want to have the prevailing winds or the sunshine (and it does sometimes shine) in your face or at your back.
As the author makes clear there are numerous reasons for walking the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, including the history, the landscape and scenery, and the shared experience of walking itself. Although both ends of the trail are in part an urban pathway, the greatest length of the trail passes through farm and pasture land. Her discussion of clothing and equipment to carry is realistic and helpful. You will need to be prepared for both muck and mire in choosing your footwear. The prevailing weather of the British Isles will require you to be prepared with hats, coats, and rain paints as well. (My wife especially appreciated my old soldiers’ tip of carrying an extra pair of dry socks every day to enable you to replace your socks as necessary during a day’s hike.)
Reading along with the author as she recorded her experiences and shared the lessons learned with the reader, you read about issues not usually covered in guide books. For example, both of us found that while we carefully planned how far we would walk on the Trail each day we had not included the distance to be covered each day getting to the trail from our lodging and from the trail to dinner and our B&B each night.
Whether on the trail, in the pubs and restaurants, or in the museums, we and the authors alike enjoyed our encounters and interactions with the local population and with other hikers and travelers. And the one thing that you do want to do when you encounter those walking the trail in the opposite direction is exchange information on trail conditions so that they (and you) will know what to expect. One additional piece of advice, if like us you are not as experienced walkers as say the Blanchards, you will want to put together what you intend to wear and especially to carry and try it out on your local trails first, before you get to the Wall Trail.
Some points of contrast between our walk of the Wall Trail and points made by the author. Walking the Wall Trail was our goal, going as I described it ‘from pub to pub’ much as the old livestock drovers of the British Isles did in the past. We walked from B&B to B&B and traveled lighter on the Trail as one of the services moved our luggage from place to place. Because the Wall Trail itself was our main objective, it appears we did more advance research into the history of the wall and its surroundings and specifically planned a rest day at about the half way point to visit a number of the museums along the wall but then the Wall was the single entire focus of our walking trip. But the Wall Trail certainly offers a wide array of experiences as you encounter history of Britain and not just Roman Britain, varied animal life of all kinds including the wild and the domesticated, and finally the chance to meet and mingle with both other walkers and the many folks who live and work in the midst of this beautiful historic setting. By sharing their experiences on the Wall Trail, Jane Blanchard offers a great addition to the books you will want to draw on in planning in your own trip to the wall (whether in boots and rain proofs or from the comfort of your armchair).
The work is packed full of details about the Wall, its construction in the early centuries A.D.(Common Era), and the countryside in which it is located, today. The book is true to its title, for as Jane admits she previously thought history was a dull series of dates and facts, she brings alive both the 85 miles of the contemporary hike and, especially, the time of Hadrian's Wall construction. She describes both the scope of the building project, with its walls, numerous towers and forts, and the overall security needs of the Roman frontier defenses. Her comments about the amount of space for soldiers, options for their relaxation, and challenges of "Northern" weather for troops of men from Southern climates of the Roman empire, emphasized her awareness of the loneliness of men sent to these military outposts.
This work really breathes from the thoughtful reflections of the author--she melds insights on the hiking experience, the impressive and varied terrain, and the life of real people, now and long ago. Not a hiker myself, I appreciated Jane's insights into making reservations, using travel resources, and practical clothing tips for the climate. Throughout, Jane's experience enriches this work, as she also pulls in some comparisons to her previous hike on the Camino across northern Spain. I loved her honesty about "mistakes" they made in travel, or difficulties in recognizing elements of the Wall, in parts where little remains visible of the original construction. I chuckled whenever she mentioned areas where subsequent inhabitants "repurposed" (re-used)materials of the Wall, after the Roman garrisons withdrew. Jane's varied vocabulary and the structure of the book both work to lighten would could be a monotonous narrative, ie. Day 1 "we walked to.." Day 2 "we went to..." etc.
Jane weaves historical information, travel narrative and personal musings in an entertaining blend. She notes particular lodgings, eateries, and pubs, along with some of the wonderfully helpful people they encountered. Although I AM attracted to historical settings, I had no interest in architectural detail, yet I was drawn in. As Jane unfolds the story of this couple's travel together, I think many readers will enjoy the view of these two people coupling their individual personalities in a joint venture, revealing their honest "real" selves; the reader will gain instructive insights, learn about a world and glimpse real people of the past. And like me, it might make make you entertain the thought of doing this hike too.
What I enjoyed most was the easy transition of the history of the wall to the use of the first person, present of the hike itself. It actually creates a rhythm as if the reader is walking on the path with Blanchard.
A great "bring-a-long" book on an actual hike or take an armchair hike from the viewpoint of the author.
Because of the vast amount of experience the author brings as a hiker of destinations around the world, this book is of value to all those planning
any hike to any destination.