We had slept fitfully. Another different bed. The sun shone through the curtains as we drank our tea and nibbled the hotel biscuits in bed. Then we prepared for the day. Flasks of hot tea, bottles of water, snacks and packing the rucksack. Checking the weather apps. Another glorious day.
Over breakfast, we checked our general health. It would become part of the morning routine. Aches, pains, blisters? The breakfast was okay, but the Premier Inn has spoilt us with its extensive array of breakfast products and this morning, we found it limited. But we managed to fill ourselves up that would hopefully last us til lunchtime.
We got our rucksacks. We had ordered a taxi to take us back to Heddon-on-the-Wall and the exactly same spot where we stopped last night. It wasn’t cheating. We took a selfie to remind us in later years, how we managed to miss a hotel and set off. We headed first, to the edge of the village and the first glimpse of the Wall. A long stretch of stone and mortar heading gently down a slope in a field. It didn’t seem real that 1800 years earlier, Roman centurions had lived and worked here in arduous conditions and we stood there, chatting to a dog walker as cars whizzed by on the main road and an housing estate abutted the field.
We said our goodbyes to owner and dog and walked through the village to the military road that took us towards our next destination. It was long and straight, houses on one side and countryside on the other. We crossed over the A69, a busy dual carriageway and dropped into a field. The sun got warmer and we shed our jumpers. We were gradually climbing. We walked fields, clambered over stiles, went through gates. We came across an isolated information board describing a long buried Roman tower in the middle of a field. We chatted to another couple who were hiking to Newcastle with their little terrier dog. We walked alongside the military road, a typical straight Roman road, now the B6318 where cars whizzed by constantly. We kept crossing this road, but always walked next door to it. There was good reason as this was Hadrians Wall. Over the centuries, various roads have been built over the foundations. The Wall itself had been robbed of its stones by the locals to build their houses and walls for their livestock many centuries ago. There was no physical wall to see, but you started to get an inkling of how a strategic master plan it was in its day. You could see for miles. We could see the Vallum, the main deep ditch that formed the outer defences of Hadrian’s Wall and other ditches that were part of the structure, so you could get a picture into your head of how it looked. It was a shame the wall had been lost, but our ancestors had no idea of history like we do now and anyway, building a house and shelter for your animals and hay were top priority in those days. Survival was top of the list. And as there was no building merchant lorries around to do a delivery – you used what was at hand – and the Romans had (very conveniently) left a very large stone wall to help yourself to!
We walked at a good pace, through an arable landscape dotted with haystacks. The sky was blue, the fields were yellow. There were great views to be seen – gentle rolling countryside. Aeroplanes from nearby Newcastle airport flew over us. We still hadn’t escaped city life completely. We stopped for tea and a mouthful of nuts and fruit. Soon a large reservoir appeared in the distance and we wandered down. Here we stopped for quite a while as we didn’t have far to go now – it was just after midday and too early to check in. So we loitered here, enjoying the warm sun on our backs.
We continued on, passing through little hamlet of houses called Harlow Hill sitting beside this busy road – it was the first sign of habitation since Heddon-on-the-Wall some 4 miles away. Finally we rock up to our next overnight stop – the Robin Hood Hotel, sitting alone on a long stretch of straight road. We were far too early so we wandered down the road to a farm that had diversified with little retail outlets and a very welcomed cafe. We sat outside, easing our walking boots off and letting our feet see some sunlight. We enjoyed sandwiches and a coffee as we studied our maps. We had done just 6 miles, which really should of been nearer 9 had we started from Newburn. A new obsession rose its head as we now compared how many steps we had taken, how many miles we had walked and how many flights of stairs we had climbed via our iPhones and watches. It was a game of Top Trumps.
Fulfilled, we sauntered back to the hotel and checked in. We had a lovely room that overlooked the car park, the main road and the vast vista of Northumbrian countryside. We showered, clambered into fresh clothes, and relaxed. There was a lovely window seat to watch patrons of the pub come and go. The Robin Hood Inn was surprising popular considering it was miles from anywhere and a steady stream of customers pulled in.
Later we went downstairs to the bar, armed with our travel books and maps and sat drinking beer and cider. We discussed today’s aches and pains. We ordered food and enjoyed a really lovely meal. The best yet. It started a page in our travel log to rate our plate for breakfasts and evening meals as well as the actual accommodation. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies and we overindulged. But we needed all the calories and energy we could get – well that was our excuse. Eventually we went back upstairs, sorted out our rucksacks and laid out clothes for tomorrow. It has been a relatively easy day – tomorrow was a good 10 miles to Wall. The beds were soft and deep, the duvets thick and cosy and we were soon gently snoring.