Today we’re walking another 10 miles from East Wallhouse (Robin Hood Inn) to Wall. Just love that ‘Wall’ pops up everywhere!
We had a good sleep. We’ve now got a good routine going – get ready, breakfast and go. We wandered downstairs for breakfast in the bar. There was another couple in the bay window already eating so we sat down near them, waiting for the staff to come. Usual tea/coffee and help yourself to cereal and juice. We fell into conversation with the owner who explained they were in a pub in Heddon on the Wall before they took over the Robin Hood. They had a good reputation there and it had followed them up to this isolated spot, which explained the busy bar last night and steady flow of cars. And we could see why – the breakfast, like the evening meal was excellent, scoring top marks in our food rankings. We were impressed.
As we ate, two young guys sort of fell into the bar from outside. They had appeared last night to check in and were evidently camping. Apart from an enormous rucksack, one of the them had a large circular pack on his back which we finally worked out was his tent. It was wider than him so he tended to get wedged in doorways unless he shuffled in sideways. The Inn had a camping area at the back and they had stayed there. It was the first time we had seen the same people a second time. His tent cover had “2 seconds” written across it, which I presume it popped out the bag and ping – it was up and ready in 2 seconds. Ha, that was all very well, but how long did it take him to put it back in the bag? I was just thankful that we weren’t camping – putting tents up and down, looking for the loo in the darkness, stuff getting damp and then lugging it all on your back. Maybe when I was younger. It just didn’t look like fun.
It was a sort of watery sun outside, not sure to burn off the cloud or succumb to it. The weather apps were telling us of rain later and our friendly hosts weren’t convinced either, so we got back onto the road. It was again following the military road, straight but undulating and we kept crossing it. The sun was winning against the clouds and it got warm. We started meeting military personnel, a lot of them veterans. They were doing a walk for a PTSD charity along Hadrians and heading to Newcastle. There was supposedly be 160 coming through and we did a lot of “hi’s, hello’s, mornings” but wasn’t sure it was all 160. They were a great distraction – some of them carrying huge flags. They came in groups or individuals, stretched out along the route and we cheered them on.
We stopped at the Errington cafe at Portgate, by a busy roundabout. Another Roman Road, buried underneath the A68, was constructed running north to south here. Another typical dead straight road. A coffee was beckoning, then we saw cake and decided we needed more carbs. Afterwards, we climbed a ladder stile and continued our walk across the fields. The sun was dimming and as we climbed higher and became more exposed, the clouds got blacker and heavy with rain. Noooo, not at this point. We carried on, walking through small woodlands, and bushy trails, the landscape was becoming more varied, rather than large wheat fields. The sky seemed to lighten, making us feel confident we would stay dry. But as we started to drop down towards Chollerford and Wall, we felt the first drops of rain. It was light at first and we got another half a mile in before it got heavier and we started to get wet. We sheltered under trees as we pulled out our waterproof jackets before carrying on down steep wooded green hillsides, dropping down towards the river Tyne at the bottom. A final mile or so on tarmacked road and into the village of Wall and the Hadrian Hotel.
We pulled off our wet gear before going in to check in, looking quite bedraggled. It was also a daily relief to find our suitcases sitting there patiently for us too. It was discerning to leave them at the mercy of hotels and a transfer company, but the system was working well. The rain was steady. We went up to our room – shower, empty flasks and water bottles, report on feet status, any aches or pains, Top trumping on steps/miles/floors, looking at the next day’s route and generally relaxing. We had got a rhythm.
Despite walking nine miles, we were restless. In the next village of Chollerford, just across the river, was Chester’s, the remains of a Roman fort. It needed checking out. So we wandered down, the rain easing off, along the road to the crossroads, left towards the bridge and left again by the roundabout. The river was beautiful, lined with overhanging trees. The clouds were low and brooding, dampness hung in the air and everything dripped from the recent rain. We walked up the road to Chester’s, now in the care of English Heritage, but before that was owned by a remarkable man called John Clayton. He lived in a large house and started digging on his land where he found pots, cups and other pottery and then a whole Roman fort. He put the engraved stones he found into the museum, carefully classifying and deciphering. We now wandered into the museum after paying the admission and was astounded. A large room was filled with all those stones, all labelled and with a story. Glass cabinets held the pottery, buckles, jewellery and ceramics. This keen philanthropist (thank goodness) then excavated the rest of his land and now here was the remains of stables, the commandants house, the bath house and other buildings. With the addition of information boards, you could begin visualise where soldiers slept with their horses, where the Commander enjoyed the luxury of his personal house including central heating (you can still see the underfloor heating system) and the bath house where everybody went to clean themselves and relax, just like today’s Turkish baths. It was fascinating. We wandered around for ages. We bumped into the couple with the terrier from yesterday – they recognised us and tentatively introduced themselves. Without the dog (in the motorhome) and without their walking hats, it took us a little while to click, but then we chatted about Chester’s, the weather, what we were doing next before wishing each other safe travels and parted. It was nice to meet fellow hikers.
The weather was closing in again. We didn’t fancy the 1.5 mile hike back, so discovered there was a bus just outside Chester’s. We waited about 10 minutes and was thankful when the bus dropped us right outside the hotel. We tidied ourselves up and wandered down to the restaurant for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. Haven’t had one for ages, so really enjoyed it. Afterwards we sat on the sofas in the reception area, trying to figure out why, when the Romans left, the Brits didn’t develop the heating system, the baths and other luxuries, instead remaining in their mud houses with their animals, shivering and caked in filth. We came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really a call for central heating systems in the sparsely populated area and they didn’t have time to bathe – these guys were very poor, sustenance farmers, they were too busy just surviving. But why it took the human race many many centuries to stumble across the idea again is quite baffling. The Romans’ were truly ahead of their time.
After asking ourselves “What have the Romans ever done for us?” and quoting chunks from the film “Life of Brian”, we decided we had enough intellectual discussion on the Romans and headed to our room, alarmed that the rain was once again, tipping down. Thunderstorms had been threatened, but despite the humidity, they never arrived. we fancied watching a good electrical storm.
We were enjoying the walk. It had crossed my mind that I would get fed up walking long distance every day – dreading getting up and trudging across fields for miles on end, bored, but I was full of enthusiasm every morning. A new day, full of new experiences, different countryside and potential adventures. I was full of energy every day (could down to how much I was eating) and the feet were holding up well. Yes, I limped in most days, hobbled for most of the evening (the two smallest toes on my left foot were in competition on who could cultivate the biggest and most painful blister) but by the morning, the feet felt good. No aches or pulls. I was in good shape and very pleased with myself considering I hadn’t really prepared for this long distance trek (apart from dog walking). We were both doing well. I was just loving the whole experience and long may it would continue.
We laid in bed waiting for sleep to take us, but it was a long while coming. Tomorrow was a big day – 15 miles to Once Brewed, to the highest point of the walk. It was going to be a challenge, but we were ready.