Ian and Sam Cleese

Back in 2020 I had an idea that when Lockdown was over I would get out and walk a walk, not just a day out kind of walk, but a big walk, and after some discussions with my son, we decided that Hadrian’s Wall Path would be perfect, a decent distance through not, so we read, overly challenging terrane. Once we had decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall my thoughts turned to why? Well, it was a bit of a personal challenge that would also take in some of the ancient history of Roman Britain, and we also decided to do the walk for the Warrior Programme charity.

As a ex Royal Navy veteran who served in the South Atlantic during 1982, I had suffered, mostly unbeknown to me, from PTSD and having suffered more and more bouts of what I now understand as PTSD related problems I decided to talk to my local GP. Luckily for me at that time my GP didn’t prescribe the usual Anti-Depressants, moreover he suggested I contact Combat Stress in the first instance, after a couple of consultation calls, in which The Warrior Programme was discussed, I decided to sign up for the 3-day residential course to be held in North Devon. Attending the course was a bit ominous for me, I had always thought that I was OK and that my active service had no impact on me and my wellbeing, but the 3 days revealed more than I had been willing to accept and brought me to terms with my mental and physical state at that time.

After the course was over it was a mixed bag of emotions, there was no magic wand, but I did feel slightly different and much more optimistic. Fast forward several years to now, over which I attended a number of Refresher Courses, and I am in a much better place, there are still days that are tougher than others, but that’s life and on the whole I’m feeling a lot happier and more settled, indeed I was able to revisit the Falklands Islands in February of 2020 and retrace my steps, make contact with Islanders I had met whilst there and pay my respect to comrades who were less fortunate than me and never made it home, something I would not have even contemplated prior to the Warrior Programme. More recently my son, who has also suffered from issues with anxiety and stress, was also able to take advantage of the help offered by the Warrior Programme and he too has recognised positive results and as such we both decided to walk our walk and raise funds for the Warrior Programme at the same time.

Once I had posted about our intention to walk the Wall on social media and set up the Just Giving page, a friend of mine asked if he could join us too, which wasn’t a problem. The walk itself was a truly memorable achievement, we had planned a week in which to do it and our stop overs allowed for some visits to the ancient Roman sites along the way, but it was still quite intense and there were a couple of long days of walking where “Toys were thrown out the pram” but all in all it was a truly memorable week with absolutely breath-taking views, fascinating history and sites and all in fine, sunny, warm weather, amazing.

After an early start and several hours train journey we started our walk in Bowness on Solway on Saturday 11th September at around 4pm, we had to walk just over 10 miles in as quick a time as possible to get to our first camp site where we had planned our first night under canvass and our evening meal, which we did no problem at all. 

The next day we had an estimated 14 mile walk planned to our next stop at a place called Sandysike, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and was actually 18 miles away, as the walk follows the river Eden which meanders it’s way through the countryside. On arrival, exhausted, we ditched our tents for a Bunkhouse, which we had to ourselves and the real beds were very, very welcome.

Day 3 saw a slightly less gruelling walk to another campsite in Gilsland, where great food was served up by Sam.

Days 4 was the shortest walk of all as we took in the Roman Army Museum and remains of the fortified town at Vindolanda, we stayed in a pub called the Twice Brewed Inn, again with great hospitality and they also made a healthy contribution to our fund raising, as did a group of
3 other chaps that we met along the Hadrian’s Wall Way.

Day 5 we slept for free on a village green at Wall and again had great hospitality at the Hadrian’s Hotel and a fantastic breakfast.

Day 6 was a fairly long walk to just outside Heddon on The Wall, where we stopped over for the night in wooden Glamping Pods where a few yarns were spun around the campfire.

Day 7 was a long walk to Newcastle and the Tyne Bridge and a night in the local YHA Hostel and some refreshments under the Tyne Bridge in the sun.

Saturday 18th left us a little over 5 miles of Hadrian’s path to finish our walk at Segedunum, Wallsend, Newcastle. All along the way we collected waypoint stamps at several locations to mark our achievement and also to contribute towards the upkeep of the wall, its path and historic sites and the last one we got was at Segedunum.

We were well chuffed to finish the walk and spent a few hours looking around the museum and site, after which a 20 minute ride on the metro (it took 3 hours of walking to get there!!) took us back to the YHA and the start of the return leg home. We celebrated the end with a glass of Newcastle’s finest and a large bag of pies and sarnies from a well know Bakery chain, for the train journey home.

All in all we have raised over £2400 for the Warrior Programme and I am so very pleased to have done this and contributed towards a really worthwhile cause, I know that the money will be well spent helping other military personnel and their families to achieve a more settled and happier life.