What a cliff-hanger at the end of the last post, eh? I left us standing outside the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses. The rhythm of the week was to be breakfast, walk, shower, dinner, sleep, breakfast, walk, shower, dinner, sleep and so on, leaving no time, nor energy, to write much at the end of the day.
One of the joys we missed out on throughout the trip was collecting rubber stamps. An organised person would have brought a little book or passport along to stamp at various points along the route. Not me. Unusually, I didn’t even have any scraps of paper with me. On the other hand, the compulsion to find a stamp at each point wasn’t there.
Hadrian’s Wall Walk was well signposted, we all looked out for the identifying white acorn, as seen on the stamp box above. Our guide book was ‘Hadrian’s Wall Path’ by Henry Stedman. It’s very detailed in terms of where to go and what to look out for, so I won’t repeat all that information here. But, if you’re tired, I suppose you could easily miss one vital turn, and end up in Scotland or Yorkshire. But I’m pleased to say, that didn’t happen to us. On this occasion.
As I mentioned, on this third day we followed a main road, but we walked on grass and well-worn paths rather than the hard surface. It was interesting to find that the road was actually on top of the wall in places. An excavation revealed the wall, and was left open for us visitors to enjoy.
Trying to explain semaphore to Americans was… challenging. David Bailey here wanted them to replicate the Beatles’ Help album cover picture.
When we say ‘Jyoti is in the bricklayer’s arms’, we don’t mean she’s having a quick pint down at the local. No, we met Gavin, a dry-stone wall builder with 28 years’ experience. Jyoti was very excited to be allowed to lay a stone. So, if this wall collapses soon, you know who to blame. Actually, it was interesting to meet a real craftsman.
Some fields are full of sheep and evidence of sheep, but we did find some untainted meadows too.
We arrived at the George Hotel Inn, Chollerford, ready for a lie down and a shower before dinner.
We were warned that Day 4 was the most strenuous stage, as well as being the second longest at 12 miles. So after breakfast, we all took a deep breath and set off in a westerly direction, marvelling at the weather which was ideal.
On the hill leading to the Temple of Mithras, we came across some very pretty flowers.
I wouldn’t have identified them as orchids, but I’m very grateful to the more botanically aware member of our team.
As well as looking down while walking, avoiding obstacles and holes and manure, and looking around at signs of the Wall and its forts and lookout towers, we were admiring the views, to the north and to the south.
We encountered flies of many species, some copulating, but for some reason, the cavern that is my mouth was particularly attractive to them. A sign, yes, that I was breathing through my mouth due to the increased exertion today.
Brocolitia, the Roman Temple of Mithras, was fascinating, and a good pace to have a bit of a rest. Mithras, rather aptly is an anagram of what was quite a presence in the surrounding fields.
The Temple was built in about 200 AD, about 1823 years before Tammy paid a visit.
We encountered many people every day on the walk. Quite a few were, like us, taking 8 days or so to hike the whole route, while some others were obviously day-trippers. Many nations were represented, UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Germany, not to mention Manchester. Everyone says hello, some stop for a quick chat. And some were carrying ridiculously huge, heavy backpacks. Our bags were carried from venue to venue by a local haulage firm: all we had to do was make sure they were ready by 9 o’clock each morning.
Near Sewingshields Crags, we witnessed a lovely display of sheep herding. Most of the flock moved down the hill, but three stubborn sheep remained lying down, enjoying a late lunch of grass. The shepherd, on his 4-wheel-drive vehicle, didn’t notice them, and none of his dogs seemed to be that interested either. The five of us and many others observed from above, and one of the dogs ran right through the crowd. I think he may have been a trainee, misunderstanding the whistled commands.
We stopped at Housesteads Fort. This is the only part of Hadrian’s Wall that Liesel and I had visited before, once with Liesel’s parents. We arrived at the top end of the fort, and the car park was way off in the distance. No wonder Klaus was complaining on that occasion!
It was indeed a challenging hike today, it certainly had its ups and downs. Literally. But I think the hardest part were the dozens of stiles we had to climb over. Stiles, ladderstiles, some wood, some stone, some with very high climbs, not easy with old, tired lallies towards the end of a long day! We prefer gates, and we encountered mostly kissing gates.
More hills and crags and a lough before we reached Sycamore Gap. Here resides, apparently, the most photographed tree near Hadrian’s Wall, mainly because of its starring role in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. It’s a mere 20-minute horse ride from the white cliffs of Dover to this tree, according to the film. It’s not a documentary, then.
And a couple of hours later, what a beautiful, welcome sight. Our Steel Rigg digs for the night.
Inside, a signpost confirmed that we were (just) over halfway in our journey:
Today, we’d climbed the equivalent of 56 floors, according to some marvellous technology owned by Teresa, Tammy, Jyoti and Liesel. My pedometer just counts my steps and, for the first time in a few years, I exceeded 43,000 in one day.
Jumping ahead in time, the radio show this week is a celebration of Jenny’s very special birthday. With some very special guest appearances too. You can listen to the show here. Happy birthday, Jenny!