East Wallhouses to Chollerton to Steel Rigg

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.

Hadrian’s Wall rubber stamp box

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.

Here we go again

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.

The Wall under the road

Trying to explain semaphore to Americans was… challenging. David Bailey here wanted them to replicate the Beatles’ Help album cover picture.

Gorse v horse

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.

Gavin admiring Jyoti’s work

Some fields are full of sheep and evidence of sheep, but we did find some untainted meadows too.

A big old tree
Sheep of the day

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.

Tammy sporting hairstyle number 45
A long way to go
Jyoti by the wall

On the hill leading to the Temple of Mithras, we came across some very pretty flowers.

Northern Purple Orchids

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.

What a view
Not a Roman wall

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.

Sheep of the day

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.

Tammy at the Temple of Mithras
Pesky fly of the day

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.

Roman wall
Roman wool

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.

Flock of sheep on the move
Green and pleasant land

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!

Up, up and away…

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.

Negotiating a stile in style

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.

Sycamore Gap

And a couple of hours later, what a beautiful, welcome sight. Our Steel Rigg digs for the night.

Twice Brewed plaques

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!

Newburn to East Wallhouses

It will take a while to adapt to these early starts. No lie-ins for a while. Our breakfast girl was very friendly and bonny and we fueled up well before setting off for Day 2.

Tyne Riverside Country Park was very quiet, apart from the birds and the wind rustling through the trees. Yes, we heard the odd loud vehicle, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the countryside and the fresh air.

Fact-filled bench

A lot of the path was along a disused railway line, so very straight for long periods.

Every now and then, we caught a glimpse of a bright yellow field, rapeseed. Glimpse? The yellow flowers just draw your gaze, they’re so bright.

Field of rapeseed

We encountered our first serious hills today too. Nothing too onerous, I just find a rhythm and stick to it, until I have to stop or change my pace. I think we all have our optimum speeds on different terrain,  but on the whole, our group of five stuck together very well.

Heddon-on-the-Wall: I wonder why it was so-called? We followed a sign and snuck behind a hedge and saw the first secton of Roman Wall that we knew to be genuine. This was an exciting moment for us!

The Wall with Jyoti, Liesel and Teresa

One thing they’re not short of in the north of England is sheep.

How now, brown sheep?

Lots of lambs, and a surprising number of twins, as far as we could see. Sometimes though, the sheep looked a bit other-worldly.

How now, brown cow?
Gnarly tree occupant

At the risk of repeating myself, the views were spectacular today.

What a nice view

But never mind the views of the landscape, one thing I noticed was that in just two days, Tammy had gone through five different hairstyles. And while we ate dinner later on, a sixth one, a French plait executed by Jyoti, was on display!

It rained very slightly and ponchos and raincoats and backpack covers were deployed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long and we arrived at our final destination for the day, the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses.

Our tired and achy bodies enjoyed a drink and a meal before taking to bed early.

As the week went on, the walking days became longer, and so I neglected this blog. I will catch up properly when we get home.

I know you’ll want to know about this week’s broadcast Wythenshawe Radio show, which I recorded a long time ago now, or so it seems. The theme was,of course, Walking and you can listen right here.

The same guy that served us last night brought our breakfasts this morning. I don’t think he has a home to go to. But he did very kindly take a group photo for us outside the Robin Hood Inn.

Jyoti, Mick, Liesel, Teresa, Tammy

Thanks Tammy for the picture!

Most of the walk that day followed a main road, the B6318, so traffic noise was a potential problem. But in the end, it wasn’t such a big deal. The path stayed close to the road, with a wall or something separating us. It was sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy, and on the whole, much more comfortable to walk on for long stretches than the road itself.

To be continued…

Northenden to Newcastle to Newburn

One day to go before our next Big Adventure and I spent a couple of hours prepping the next radio show. I’ll be away from the Home Studio for a while and I’ll only have a small window of opportunity to finish it before the deadline. Apart from that, packing the right amount of stuff was the order of the day.

We’re going for a long walk so of course, this was the perfect opportunity to buy a new pair of trainers. It’s not the done thing to go on a major hike with shoes not yet fully worn in, but the old ones are probably a bit too worn out. But I found a pair in the shop that felt comfortable straightaway. Result!

Later on, Liesel dropped Jyoti and me off at Quarry Bank Mill where we had a very pleasant, relaxed wander around the gardens, down by the river Bollin.

River Bollin

Yes, the rhododendrons were out in force, and combined with the sunshine, our mood was lifted several notches on the happiness scale.

We had a look around the Mill itself too, and all its machinery. We’re so lucky that neither of us have ever had to work in such a hostile environment. But what amazing technological and engineering accomplishments from 200 years ago. Just to turn a few plants into tea towels.

Engineers make things that ‘work’ and make things ‘work better’. In the past Quarry Bank relied on the engineering brilliance of a few key men. Today, anyone can be an engineer. You just need to be able to think is a certain way. There are six habits that engineers all share:
Engineers work out what problem they want to solve
Engineers look for patterns and what connects things rather than just focusing on the smaller details
Engineers adapt and change, learning from what happens when they try things out
Engineers are creative, whether working on their own or with other people
Engineers imagine what the end result might look like
Engineers tinker. They test, try, improve and experiment!
There is an engineer in all of us.

What an inspiring sign for budding engineers.

In the evening, we all enjoyed a comedy night at Northenden Theatre, just up the road.

Dawn Bailey, Big Lou, Pauline Ayer, Bella Humphries

The MC was ‘Big Lou’ Jones, who I’ve seen before, and the other comedians to look out for in the future were Pauline Ayer, Bella Humphries, Dawn Bailey and Chris Oxenberry. They were all very funny but I only remembered to take pictures of four out of the five. And how nice to see a majority of female performers, yet sad that even now in the 21st century, it’s so unusual, it has to be commented on.

Late to bed, early to rise, makes a man tired. We had to rise early as a taxi was taking us to the coach station in Manchester. There was of course a spate of last-minute packing, and as usual, we were in that limbo between taking too much stuff and leaving something vital behind.

The cab driver was very fast. Well, he slowed down for speed cameras and sometimes stopped for red lights. Liesel felt nauseous and opened the window in case she needed to throw up. But we arrived in one piece, walked from the coach station to the temporary bus stop down the road, via Manchester’s Gay Village, and enjoyed a much more leisurely ride on the National Express to Newcastle.

I slept for a bit, did some puzzles, read my book but didn’t listen to any podcasts, which I’d come prepared to do. Overall, an uneventful coach ride but the highlight was passing by the Angel of the North.

Angel of the North

This work of art by Antony Gormley has only been standing there for a quarter of a century but this is the closest we’ve been to it. So far.

In Newcastle, we had a 15-minute walk to our accommodation for the night. The first landmark we saw was St Mary’s Cathedral.

St Mary’s Cathedral

But, carrying heavy bags, we didn’t pay a visit. The second landmark was the iconic Tyne Bridge. Google Maps insisted that we’d arrived at our destination but it was wrong. The Premier Inn was down below. A reminder that Google Maps isn’t very helpful in the third dimension. The other thing that surprised us was the number of gulls all around the bridge. What a racket!

Tyne Bridge
Birds’ eye view of the birds

The third landmark was The Sage, Gateshead, over the river. It’s designed to look like three ships approaching in the fog, and I’m sure one day, we’ll go to a concert there.

The Sage, Gateshead

We couldn’t check in yet, so we left our bags behind the desk, and went for a walk along the river. So many choices of food on offer, and what a great atmosphere.

Jyoti, Liesel and I did visit Newcastle’s other Cathedral, drawn in by the sound of organ music. Later, a boy’s choir started to sing, a wonderful noise and a reminder to me that I’m not really choir material, no matter how polite the other members of Northenden Choir might be to my face

Meet the Maddisons

Here are the colourful Maddisons that stand out in scarlet, blue and gold. Medieval St Nicholas’ Church once shone with colour, before the Reformation dictated plain stone and bare walls for churches.

Wealthy coal merchant Lionel Maddison paid for this memorial to his parents, Elizabeth and Henry, in the 1630s, Lionel was an alderman, sheriff and mayor, like his father before him. He was involved in Newcastle’s two wealthiest Companies – the Merchant Adventurers and Hostmen.

Our luck was in as we enjoyed a photography exhibition here in the cathedral too. Peter Marlow has taken pictures of all 42 of England’s cathedrals, and these photos were on display here. So of course, I had to take a picture of Guildford Cathedral while visiting Newcastle Cathedral.

Guildford Cathedral

I had a nice chat with someone who volunteers at this Cathedral, who has walked Hadrian’s Wall several times, who comes from Aberdeen but now considers themselves total Anglikised (sic).

The three of us crossed the Millennium Bridge, walked along the river and back over the Swing Bridge. This was of course all good training for the start of our long hike the following day.

At the hotel we met our fellow walkers from the USA, Teresa and her sister Tammy. I’d met Teresa before, in Portland, and she hasn’t changed a bit.

A personal recommendation took us to Träkol, by the By The River Brew Co. Thanks, Ross! We had a very nice meal, the four American ladies each choosing lamb, while I enjoyed a nut roast. The whole place is built inside old shipping containers, but you can’t really tell once you’re inside.

Our hotel room looked out over the Tyne Bridge, but here’s an unusual sight.

An open window

Yes, it’s a hotel window that you can actually open. Not too wide, mind, otherwise them pesky gulls might fly in.

The routine for the next few days is that we have breakfast, and we have to have our bags ready by 9.00am. Then some haulage fairies will take those bags to our next stop. We can walk with just the bare necessities for the day.

We could have walked to the start point of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk, or Hadrian’s Way, but we chose to take a taxi instead. It was only about three miles, but it seemed much longer in the cab, knowing we’d be walking back again!

Roman soldier (centre)

The Roman soldier at Segundum Bath House and Fort, at Wallsend, wished us well on our travels and we set off in a mainly westerly direction. The weather was perfect, and we made good time. Actually, in hindsight, I wonder if we set off a bit too fast to start with, we ended up with various aches and pains.

This first day wasn’t too hilly, but it was a hard surface all the way. We were looking our for the iconic bridges far too early, well, maybe that was just me!

On one path, we saw a couple of discarded supermarket trolleys. As Liesel remarked, if this were Manchester, they would have been in the river by now. In any case, one of our party decided to have an easy ride.

Jyoti, Teresa and Tammy (in the trolley)

On this day, we never deviated far from the river Tyne. And the route itself was well signposted. It was Hadrian’s Walk at this point, because there’s not really a lot of the Wall to see. But from the next day, we would see the occasional section of well-preserved Roman wall.

Four American ladies by the Tyne

I can’t remember who first noticed it and yelled ‘Bridge ahoy’, but we soon found ourselves back in Newcastle. It was canny to see wor old bridgey friends again. Picking up the lingo.

Millennium and Tyne Bridges

Last night, we’d been talking about Costco. So imagine our surprise when we actually saw one today. What a shame it was on the other side of a very wide river with no bridge nor ferry in sight! (Or, what a relief!)

We saw some bits of old wall, but weren’t convinced they were older than Victorian. Still, we can dream.

Not a Roman Wall

To bring us back to real life and remind us of more recent history, we passed this memorial in Scotswood.

Yesterday Today Forever

In memory of the 38 men and boys who tragically lost their lives in the Montagu View Pit Disaster on 30th March 1925, when an inrush of water from a burst seam flooded the mine shaft. The pit was finally closed on 13th November 1959

The pitman, pony and tank depict our past heritage. The house represents the present regeneration of our community. The children are our future.

The official unveiling took place on 9th June 2012 by Councillor Hazel Stephenson and children from Scotswood Village Nursery, Scotswood Village Playgroup and Bridgewater School. The children and local community were involved in the design. The sculpture was made by Xceptional Designs.

In Remembrance of “Men of Steel”.

We stopped for a late lunch at Healthworks Lemington Centre. Jyoti fulfilled her dream, finding a scone with clotted cream. I think we all realised we should have stopped sooner for a break. Various muscles ached but the break helped a lot.

Just a quick (-ish) jaunt to our final destination for the day and we nearly had our first disaster.

Jyoti by the river

Jyoti went down to the river and from where I was standing, it looked like she was in the river. Hence the photo. But then she dropped something, and I assumed it had fallen into the water. Big sighs of relief all round when the phone was picked up from solid ground.

I don’t think I’d heard of the Battle of Newburn Ford before, but we came across a memorial to it with a very good description of the events leading up to it. And it all boils down to religion, of course.

Battle of Newburn Ford

And look, the sky is still blue, a nice way to complete our first day. We stayed at The Keelman’s Lodging, Newburn,  after 11 miles and in my case, over 32,000 steps. There’s a micro-brewery here that we didn’t take advantage of, on this occasion.

Rules of the Inn

After confirming that none of us fell foul of the rules, we dined well. Unsure of what dessert to have, Jyoti decided on a bowl of custard.


Yes, an Olympic-size pool of custard. And look at that bloke next to her, concentrating hard on his rhubarb crumble.

The night ended too soon, we could have done with a little more sleep, but we met up early for a hearty breakfast before beginning Day 2 of our hike.