New Hordes for Hadrian

Hadrian's Wall, built in the second century AD on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian to keep the Scots out of the Roman Empire, is currently troubled by conflict of another kind. This arises from plans by the Countryside Commission to create a 'national trail' for walkers broadly following the line of the Wall from Segedunum Fort, near Wallsend on Tyneside, to Bowness-on- Solway in Cumbria.

The Commission's detailed proposals, now awaiting the Environment Secretary's decision, seek to reconcile recreational access and conservation. The 80-mile trail would be the eleventh in a series of what used to be called long- distance footpaths, pioneered in 1965 by rambler Tom Stephenson's Pennine Way.

But the Commission has a statutory duty not just to promote access to and enjoyment of the countryside but to conserve both wildlife and historic remains. Hadrian's Wall and its associated forts and earthworks are generally protected as scheduled ancient monuments, and the whole corridor of the Wall is now also a World Heritage site. The Commission insists that its proposals provide for careful management and 'will in no way put the integrity of the monument at risk'.

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