A countryside chief has become the first person to walk the full length of Hadrian's Wall since Roman times.

Richard Wakefield, chief executive of the Countryside Agency, is walking the Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail in advance of its official opening on Friday.

Visitors will be able to walk the entire length of Hadrian's Wall, along an unbroken 84-mile path.

The signposted trail stretches from coast to coast, from Wallsend, North Tyneside, to Bowness-on-Solway, west of Carlisle.

The trail is part of a £6m investment by the Countryside Agency that will open the area to tourists, bringing much-needed jobs and income into the rural economy, while playing a key role in protecting the fragile monument for future generations.

The project has been made possible by two Heritage Lottery Fund grants, totalling £3.14m.

By 2006, about 20,000 people a year are expected to walk the entire trail and, with day visitors, they are expected to spend £7m, supporting 86 new jobs.

Hadrian's Wall is a World Heritage site and one of England's most stunning and memorable monuments.

The trail takes in the cities of Newcastle and Carlisle, and runs through some of the most beautiful parts of the country, from rolling fields to rugged moorland. It is suitable for people of all abilities and offers disabled access to many stretches of the wall.