In search of The Wall



After wrapping up at Harrogate, where I met up with my wonderful UK team from Transworld Publishers (below),



 it was time for some sightseeing.  My husband and I, along with my literary agent Meg Ruley, headed off in search of Hadrian’s Wall.  First we pulled into the little town of Alston in the gorgeous Pennines, where we spent two nights at a country inn called Lovelady Shield.  Every Sunday, the inn serves an exquisite eight-course dinner.  Here we are, Meg and I, feeling happy and well-fed.

lovelady shield
Our one and only goal during our trip north was to visit Hadrian’s Wall. 


We had no idea how difficult it would be to find it.

The first place we headed for was the ancient site of Vindolanda, where over a hundred samples of writing from the Roman Britain era were discovered.  They were little “postcards” written on thin slices of wood, and preserved by the oxygen-poor mud of the site.  These writing samples give us very human and intimate peeks into the lives of real people.  There’s a note from a woman to her sister, asking her to please come for her birthday party.  In another note, a man implores his brother to please send cash as soon as possible, as he’s in dire need of it.  Also found in the mud were leather shoes, so well-preserved they might have just been discarded by their owners.  The exhibit was astonishing and immensely moving, and I could have spent a week there.

But it was time to move on.  We still hadn’t seen the wall.

Next we went to the Roman fort at Chesters, where a diagram of the site showed the wall being present right there in front of us.  But where was it?  We thought we spied a small bit of it, half-buried in the grass – but no!  It couldn’t be that unimpressive, could it? 
We drove on to the Roman town of Corbridge, and along the way, we kept seeing signs pointing to Hadrian’s Wall.  Invariably, these signs seemed to point to … nothing. 

We began to wonder if the wall was a fraud, something devised by the British tourism agency to fool visitors into coming north.  Meg started calling our journey “Where’s Wall-do?” and “The Emperor’s New Wall.”

At last, defeated, we headed toward Newcastle to turn in our rental car and climb on the train back to London.  But we needed gas, so we stopped at a little town to fill our tank.  In exasperation, we asked the gas station clerk if the wall happened to be anywhere nearby.   Oh yes, she told us. 

A few minutes later – we finally found it.

the wall
Mission accomplished!

And finally — a photo I couldn’t resist sharing.  It was taken at the castle in Knaresborough, where we encountered the official “keeper of the ravens,” with her young charge.  This raven is only about six weeks old, and it sleeps in the keeper’s bedroom along with her other ravens.

bird lady

12 replies
  1. Rose-Marie
    Rose-Marie says:

    I am sooooo glad to see you posting again. Good stuff, too! I’m green with envy over your trip!

  2. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    Wow! What an exhausting journey to find Hadrian’s Wall. But one question, Tess. What is the significance of the “wall” and why was it necessary for you to find it? Just curious. Thanks for sharing.

  3. ec
    ec says:

    What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing. Vicarious travel to the UK is far better than none at all. 🙂

  4. bob k
    bob k says:


    Looks like the trip was wonderful – so glad you found Hadrians Wall finally!!

    And doubly glad to see the website describing your upcoming 9/9 release!! Happens to be my birthday so I know one gift I will get.

    I had just recently been thinking…she must have another book due out soon, but we haven’t heard anything. Unusual since it seemed like we knew a bit about the prior two well in advance.

    Can’t wait!!

  5. danielsellers
    danielsellers says:

    Glad you enjoyed the North of England, Tess. Beats the South hands-down. Next we need to get you out into the wilds of Scotland, particularly the islands! Lots of archaeological stuff to inspect in Orkney, for instance …
    Glad you’re blogging once more!

  6. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Hey, Tess! Please don’t tell me that the dude writing to his brother for money told him to send it by Western Union! Heheheheheheee!


  7. dustinhood
    dustinhood says:

    I want to go to Britain someday. I think their history and scenes are so beautiful and fascinating. I would love to tour a castle, such as Chelsea that housed Queen Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey and that such, and Henry VIII. And stand where Ann Boleyn was beheaded, as long with lady Jane Grey. You are so lucky, Tess. I wish you best with the novel coming out.

    Dustin, 16

  8. Mikal
    Mikal says:

    I am so glad to see you blogging again! The pictures of England were lovely; I truly am envious of your wonderful trip.

  9. therese
    therese says:

    I would also like to know about the wall.

    Since I have also just returned from the UK (and a few other European countries over these past few weeks) I am amazed you were ready to blog about it and not still trying to reacclimatize. Maybe the jet lag from the UK is easier on the east coast?

    Great pictures!

  10. lwidmer
    lwidmer says:

    Tess, I don’t want to cast suspicion, but doesn’t that bird lady look a wee bit like Dick Cheney?

    Glad you had a nice trip. :))

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