Friday, 16 May 2008

Hadrians Wall Path – Day 1 – Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford – (Northumbria) – 10/05/08 – 15 miles – Helen

You all know about Hadrians Wall of course. Built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, over a ten year period from AD120, to keep the Scots and other bad sorts out of the North of England. As such it represented the very furthest point of the Roman Empire, with the emperor himself visiting it in AD122 (by some incredible coincidence there is now a bus with that same number that travels the whole route).

Now the first thing to mention here, is that we opted not to do the full 84 miles of Hadrians Wall (more of that in the postscript) but rather to do a ‘Best of’. This meant leaving out the Wallsend start in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and the Bowness on Solway finish. Our stretch over 5 days would therefore total some 55+ miles.

So after an overnight B&B stop in Wylam (en-route to which, we stopped and took in the Angel of the North) we set off through the car park of the Three tuns pub, almost managing to lose the path at the very start. Now Heddon on the Wall is where the wall apparently begins in earnest. Well you could have fooled me, as for the entire day this was not so much the Hadrians Wall path but rather the B6318 path. That is not to say walking slightly off the open road on a bright sunny day was unenjoyable (Helen commenting how much she enjoyed the yellow fields of fresh rape). However one was reduced to clutching at straws as we wondered whether any of the roadside dry stone walling was really …… well you know ?

As I said though the weather was good, and after a handily placed roadside burger van provided us with some morning refreshment, we passed through the Whittledene Reservoirs, and on to our first (but full distance people’s second) passport stamping point at the Robin Hood Inn. Naturally that provided the opportunity for more liquid refreshment, which was enough to keep us going until our lunch stop on the edge of a small farm. Having set off again however, it became apparent that another walker with a map was shadowing us, stopping whenever we did. This did start to get a little creepy and obvious. However a crafty boot tying exercise forced him to overtake, and that was the last we saw of him.

A late afternoon pub stop by Portgate roundabout, was soon followed by an encounter with two female walkers coming the other way, who were walking to our start point, from our finish point one night further down the line. Needless to say we paid homage to their superior fitness, whilst they chided us for not going the full distance. Once departed however, we decided that they might as well be walking anywhere, as they obviously wouldn’t have time to stop and look at anything around them. Which of course couldn’t be said for us, as our next sightseeing venture was St Oswalds Church (named after some medieval Christian sort). All very interesting I am sure, but hardly anything Roman.

Then just as we were coming to the end of our day it suddenly happened, with Helen being the one to spot it first. Namely a genuine chunk of wall (called Planetrees) just sitting in the middle of a field. At last a real photo opportunity, and confirmation that we were actually on the walk we thought we were on. Over the next three days at least, such sightings were to become ten a penny, but on our first day we determined to make the most of it, well that is until some grumpy cows decided it was time for us to be moving on.

Our pub B&B turned out to be reasonable, well that is once we were given a replacement room, after the first one was completely full of flies. Okay there was no en-suite (with us having to cross the corridor to Fly Central for our ablutions), separate beds, and only one towel between us. Oh yes and the milk at breakfast was off as well. However my sausage and mash for dinner was nice, and we did have a better view with our new room.

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