As you might expect I chose a classic Great Wall landscape as the place to acquire my first farmhouse beside the Wall.
On the edge of a village within a valley on the northern side of the Great Wall, ‘Western Fence’ lies with Huairou District, about 67 km directly north of the centre of Beijing.
Since acquiring ‘The Farmhouse’ in 1998 we have also acquired the valley’s old school, rescued it from a state of dereliction and made it into a courtyard. We call this larger property ‘The Barracks’.
(Above: The Barracks, Below: The Farmhouse.)
Address: The Barracks, Xi Zha Zi Cun, Huairou Qu, Beijing.
Contact: 010-84166647 (Email reccomended)
Remains of the Ming Great Wall made of quarried stone blocks and bricks, and dotted with watchtowers, envelop ‘our valley’. The ridge lines crowned by the Wall are on average 850 metres above sea level, while the peaks rise to just over 1,000 metres above sea level. Marking the northern side of the valley is a 1,600 metre high peak.
In total there is about 20 kms of Great Wall on our doorstep.
The valley floor itself is farmed while the mountain slopes are thickly forested.
Most of our WildWall trips are held at the Barracks. We have nine guest rooms, which includes two adjoining pairs of rooms. Each room can take 3 persons in comfort, although in most cases they are occupied by one or two guests.
Our courtyard garden has bushes and gingko trees, and vegetables in summer.
We have a large common room which is spacious. In winter this room is heated by a wood-burning pot-belly stove.
We have four flush toilets of western style and an outside 'dry' toilet for using in the depth of winter when the water freezes. For washing we keep it simple, using traditional enamel basins full of warm water in showering cubicles.
The style of our trips is ‘back to basics’ luxury. Many of our guests are living in China’s and Asia’s megacities where there’s five-star everything if you want it. That’s easy to get. What we offer is something much rarer — solitude during the day, silence and stars at night, fresh water, traditionally furnished rooms and slow-cooked home-made food .
Footprint and Sustainability
Our properties are existing rural properties that have undergone minimal rebuilding and redecoration. All work was carried out by local farmers. Apart from our family we employ local cooks and helpers, and local drivers from Beijing.
We are pioneers in environmental awareness work in China. We believe in leaving any place we visit in better condition than when we found it — especially in the case of the Great Wall. We always carry garbage bags with us when walking.
We have western-style breakfasts, with fresh coffee of course. Lunches and dinners are Chinese. Our style of cooking is ‘healthy Chinese’ with no MSG used, and very low salt and oil. All ingredients are purchased by Mrs. Lindesay from reliable local shops in Beijing, where she does her own family shopping. All cooking is under the design and direction of Mrs. Lindesay. We easily cater for vegetarians and vegans — many of our dishes are made from veggies only, beancurd, eggs and fresh trout.
As well as free flow teas (Chinese, English, Twinings fruit teas), fresh coffee, mineral water and sodas we also offer local beer. You're most welcome to bring your own wine.
Hike the Great Wall with William Lindesay and family!
The main content of WildWall trips — be they our signature WildWall Weekends, Perfect Days or WildWall Academies — is ‘The Great Wall story the way I have discovered it.” My resource is drawn from 27 years' residence in the ‘Walled Country’ of China, during which I’ve spent more 2,500 days on its Great Walls. During this time I’ve written and published five books in English, made three documentaries and curated eight exhibitions.
In recent years our WildWall trips have been enriched by the increased participation of our two sons, Jim and Tommy. Jim is a history major at Peking University while Tommy is our young expert on military matters. Collectively the three of us have more than 5,000 days of experiences on the Great Walls of China.
We set out pre-dawn if we can, or early in the day. WildWall Weekend walks are always very early — that’s one of the main advantages of staying beside the Wall.
Participants are not barred on the basis of being either too young or too old. The ability to take part depends on spirit of travel and fitness. All participants should be in fairly good shape, and not be bothered by walking for a few hours, or some steep bits, or going through the bush when paths get a bit overgrown.
All of ‘The Lindesays’ will host you during a WildWall Weekend. One guest wrote the following in our Visitor’s Book: ‘WildWall Weekends are just like visiting friends in the countryside”. We aim to keep them just like that.
As well as ‘Wall talk’, our family has the knowledge and insight into many things Chinese, and with a global outlook. Mrs. Lindesay is Chinese herself, and our sons have been educated in Beijing and both of them are completely bilingual. We ourselves are regular travellers, having visited more than 35 countries as a family, often to immerse ourselves in ancient cultures and the great outdoors.
What We Do
I aim not only to give you the Great Wall and the Greatest View of it. WildWall trips provide a physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, inspirational and unforgettable attachment to a true wonder that I’ve got to know over three decades. In other words, we provide the best wild Great Wall hiking experiences.
Usually indeed over the weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime. The trip starts with a pickup in Beijing — most likely at your hotel, or by meeting you at the airport on an incoming flight.
Our guests arrive at the Barracks in time for dinner on Friday evening. The weekend features two classic WildWall walks, and usually a short afternoon walk. All transport, meals, drinks and one of William’s books are included in the price. On conclusion of the weekend at 12 noon on the Sunday you will be driven back to Beijing — either your hotel, the airport or the railway station.
WildWall Weekends are priced at US$ 625.- pp, which includes transport. To contribute to my funds for field research, all participants -- single travellers, or couples, or families -- are obliged to purchase one book for the 'Book-sourcing' fund. For further details on what we are sure will be an experince of a lifetime, please send me an e-mail to request a brochure.
The Perfect Day (Private Tour)
Perfect days (Great Wall day tour) are suited to travellers or visiting business people who want to see a good section of the Great Wall and learn as much as possible about it in the shortest time possible. If willing to start out from Beijing early enough, the perfect day can be done and cherished as an epic experience by lunchtime.
Depending on the energy level you have, and the time you have available, The Perfect Day can be arranged at either a good section of tourist Wall, like Mutianyu or Jinshanling, or a section of Wild Wall. For visitors who prefer a wilder experience (and have the footwear) we offer an early morning trip to our valley.
Whatever the chosen location, typically the pick-up would be between 5.30 am and 7.30 am, the earlier the better. After a drive of about 1 hour 45 mins to 2 hrs 30 minutes you will be walking up to the Wall (or at Mutianyu, if you prefer to keep your energy reserved for Wall-top walking, you may want to glide up by cable-car). We tell you the Wall story en route, and on the trail. Around 3 hours later you’ll have walked the Wall and can be back in the car heading back to Beijing, arriving there late lunchtime to mid-afternoon. Perfect Days are unscheduled and arranged to order, and are priced at: 1 person, US$450-, 2 persons, US$650-, 3 persons USD800-. Travel is by comfortable sedan car, typically VW Passat.
WildWall Academy for Students
Enjoy a week-long course in Great Wall Studies! This Monday to Friday course has been a hit with various international schools in Mainland China and Hong Kong.
As well as being fascinated by the experience and study of the Great Wall, students and their chaperones enjoy the quiet life of the countryside and relish various wilderness experiences such as camping, camp cooking, basic first aid and hands-on rescue exercise scenarios.
The Sights of Beijing
Coupled with their formal study of history as majors at China’s premier Peking University, as well as their long years of residing in the city, James Lindesay and wife Elise Li are perfect city guides either before or after your WildWall trip.
Whether you’d like to be fully guided for a day or two, or just want help at some key sites, they can enlighten you to the significance of these sites in particular:
'THE FORBIDDEN CITY: At Home with the Qianlong Emperor' in which you get both an introduction to the general history of the imperial palace as well as a detailed account of its longest and perhaps most fascinating resident, an emperor who ruled from behind its walls from 1735 to his abdication in 1795.
Qianlong created the largest ever China in terms of territorial extent, almost 45% larger than today’s China.
Time: Monday to Friday, hotel pickup at 7.30, tour concludes at 12 noon.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CHINA in 25 OBJECTS is a clever, efficient and intoxicating journey through 4,500 years of Chinese history, pausing to face its most significant antiquities to appreciate outstanding craftsmanship, key events and historical turning points.
This 2-hour tour takes you to meet 25 amazing antiquities within the Ancient China exhibition of more than 4,000 objects. It’s a tour that’s worth its weight in gold, and has been a 2015-16 hit with many discerning Chinese clients who have wanted to reconnect with their own culture.
Time: Tuesday to Thursday afternoons, 1-4pm. Optional afternoon tea or cocktails at nearby Capital M (5 mins walk away) overlooking Tian’anmen Square.
THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
is three times the size of the Forbidden City, used to be where the emperor worshiped the heavens and his ancestors. With it's unique architecture and significance in traditional Chinese belief, this temple complex is a must see for anyone wanting to understand the Chinese world-view.
TEMPLE OF HEAVEN BY NIGHT
We have special access to the temple at night for private viewings. During the day the temple is buzzing with the sound of tourists. But with this special night tour, we gain special access to the Temple for one hour. Prices start at 2000 USD. Bookings 6 months in advance required.