Hadrian’s Wall Walk 2019

In AD122, a chap from Rome called Hadrian built a wall in the north of England.

In 2019, some 1800 years later, I walked all 84 miles of it, across some of the most stunning scenery in England.

We travelled by train to Newcastle on a bright sunny Thursday in the middle of September. It was like a summers day. Hubby and I walked to the Premier Inn hotel, next door to The Gate in the city centre and some 15 minutes from the railway station. Based in the old Co-operative department store, we nearly missed the front entrance – a set of double doors in a jumble of other frontages. We checked in and headed to our room – it was a rabbit warren of corridors, doors and corners that we wished we had brought a ball of string so we could find our way back out again. Our room was the far end of a long corridor, the type you expect a child on a trike to appear at the far end and Jack Nicholson grinning manically and snarling “Here’s Johnny”.

We staggered into our room with our suitcases and dumped our rucksacks on the bed. The usual bog standard format of a hotel chain room. Looking out of the window, we half expected to see the usual rubbish bins and dumpsters, with staff lurking having a furtive fag, but was staggered to see the outside grilles and metalwork of a multi storey car park less than 30 feet away. Well that was a first. You couldn’t see the sky or anything else except Clive from accounts heading back to his BMW on Level 4.

But on closer inspection of the building, we discovered a staircase dominated by a beautiful tall Art Deco window, the entrance rails held by little metal men bent over carrying the rail on their backs and a memorial for the Co-op employees who lost their lives in the war. Look beyond the corporate styling, a lot of the building and it’s quirkiness had been retained.

We headed out and wandered Newcastle, down to the Quayside, enjoying the early autumn sun. It was very warm. We sat opposite the Baltic art building and people watched, before heading for tea in a Cuban restaurant. Newcastle has many fine and ornate buildings and it’s an attractive city. I was impressed. After another wandering of Newcastle city centre, we realised how tired we were from all our travelling and headed for bed, looking forward to the start of our walk in the morning.

Friday

Wallsend to Newburn, Newcastle 12 miles.

We woke stupidly early, full of excitement and after a cuppa in bed, we got organised. We had booked this trip with a company who had arranged all our accommodation and would transfer our luggage to each overnight stop, saving us dragging our whole life across the top of the country. We packed our rucksacks with snacks, waterproofs and other essentials before heading for breakfast. There was a huge variety and we worked our way through the cereals, full English breakfast, toast, coffee and much more. With slightly distended bellies, we retrieved our bags, left the suitcases in reception for collection, hoisted our rucksacks onto our backs, checked out and walked around the corner to the Metro at St James.

The official start of the Hadrian’s Wall walk starts in the eastern suburb of Wallsend and easily reached by Newcastle’s Metro rail system. We jumped onto a very clean train carriage that whipped us out through the inner city. The sun was shining. At Wallsend, we walked down to Segedunum, the remains of a Roman fort, a museum and the beginning of our trek.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segedunum

We spent a little while here, taking the lift up to the viewing tower to see the Roman fort and far reaching views across the Tyne River and Newcastle. It was quite stunning. We lingered for a while, but we needed to start our walk. We were due to do about 12 miles and so we went back down, walked a few feet across the front of the museum, through a gate and dropped down onto the Hadrian’s Wall Path and took our first steps of our 8 day adventure.

It was an urban walkway. Initially, we passed by factories and industrial units hidden by big scrubby bushes, hiding our view of the Tyne. On the other side, more trees and hedges with glimpses of housing, yards and other urban development. It was pleasant enough, shielded as we were by the foliage, but the noise of the city intruded. The people we met were chatty and friendly, the cyclists pinged their bells warning us of them approaching from behind which was very refreshing. Usually urban cyclists think they own the paths and whip past without warning, startling you, but Tyneside cyclists were very considerate and lots of thank you’s were exchanged. Even an old man driving his car along the part of the path to get to a parking area, stopped, wound down his window and started chatting. “Aye, I’m walking t’dog, then I’m oft for the drink” he declared and we wished him well.

Soon we dropped down to the banks of the Tyne and the view opened up. We followed the river, past a marina with lovely riverside houses and apartments, landscaped with flowers, trees and bushes rather than block paving and concrete. We stopped for coffee and a snack by the Bike Hub, overlooking the river and the edge of the city centre and relaxed. We continued into the centre and back to the Quayside where we lurked the night before. The sun shone and we walked in T-shirt’s and shorts. We strolled through to the other side, past the pigeon lofts, the pleasant business park with red brick offices, pleasantly landscaped. We had lovely views across the river and soon started to spot the edge of the city with gentle green hills and surrounding countryside. Suddenly, the path lurched upwards and away from the river and we found ourselves on the side of a busy dual carriageway, with traffic hurtling up and down. It felt at odds with us dressed in walking boots and rucksacks, tramping along a hard concrete path with lorries bearing down on us. We weren’t on there long, thank goodness and the path took us up into a leafy corridor and the surroundings changed again.

We wandered through grassy fields, tunnels of green where trees touched each other, through city parks, across bridges and busy roads and skirted suburban estates. All the time, the ceaseless roar of traffic, police sirens and other city noises reminded us that we hadn’t escaped the city completely. We dropped back down to the river and followed it. The path was way marked with a white acorn nailed to regularly spaced posts, so it wasn’t difficult to follow – we had no need for maps or a fear of going wrong.

Finally we came to an urban country park, on the edge of a suburban village called Newburn, with a play area for the kids, where locals walked their dogs and where we came across an ice cream van in the car park. It was perfect timing – we decided to award ourselves a treat there and then – and so we sat in the afternoon sun, overlooking the river and eating our icecreams with sprinkles and a chocolate flake stuck in the top, underneath the marching pylons taking electricity to the city, feeling very happy and accomplished.

We walked another 2.5 miles to Heddon-on-the-Wall, up a long but steady hill to the village centre and keen to locate our next accommodation and a long cooling pint of beer. Tired from our walk, we googled Keelman Lodge as we didn’t fancy staggering around trying to locate it. Imagine our despair, when Google pointed it back in Newburn. We typed it in again and we got the same answer. We started to curse in disbelief, wondering how on the earth we had managed to overshoot our hotel like that, when a local sauntered over, asking if he could help. We told him we were looking for The Keelman and he sadly confirmed it was way back in Newburn. Our shoulders sagged despondently, knowing we had an hour walk back before we got our promised pint and dejectedly started to walk back down the hill we had so recently just staggered up, when the local offered us a lift in his car. We could of kissed him. And bless him, we went to his house, collected his car and he drove us back to Newburn, right outside our accommodation. He refused any payment, wished us a lovely trip and he was then gone leaving us to stagger deliriously to the bar.

http://keelmanslodge.co.uk/

Actually we kind of limped – our feet were sore and letting us know about it. We were taken to our room, across the courtyard in a block consisting of eight rooms. It was a large room on the second floor, with french doors opening towards the courtyard. Very pleasant. We showered, spread out our things and checked the state of our feet. They were not that bad. We then strolled back to the main building, across the busy courtyard into the conservatory for tea. The pub and outside was busy with families, groups and couples. It was quite nice. It then dawned on us that just over the hedge and beyond the car park, was where we had sat eating our icecreams earlier. What a pair of muppets!

We enjoyed a starter, main and pudding, the last of the sun’s rays shining through the legs of a nearby pylon, it’s tower dominating the tree line. We had inadvertently walked a total of 15 miles and wondered why we were tired and our feet ached.

Tired, full, pleased with ourselves, we wandered back to the little block of rooms. It was a funny little place, an urban pub in a country park busy with suburban people. It ticked a box.

And it turned out not to be a too bad a day after all. After our free lift, I was given a free walking stick by an Australian hiker who had no further use for it and when we highlighted that the bar staff had forgotten to charge us for earlier drinks, it was waived and they were free too. And a further bonus – as we had already walked 2.5 miles of tomorrow’s walk, we would have a shorter day! Perfect.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Day Four

Monday

It’s the Big One. 15 miles from Wall to Once Brewed, high in the hills and our half way point.

It had rained overnight and as we got up, it was still teeming, but the skies were clearing. By the time we had breakfast and got ready, the sun was coming out behind the clouds. Mist laid in the valley, the hills poking above – wet, vibrant green with tinges of autumn browns in the trees. It was a very beautiful scene. It made you feel good.

We were alarmed about how much heavy traffic lurched past our accommodation. Our room overlooked the main road and it was constant rumble of lorries, coaches and cars. It had been a funny night – we had developed a tendency to go to bed by 9 – 9.30 – so the other guests seemed quite noisy when they retired an hour or so later. Lots of banging doors and noisy water pipes and cisterns. Also there was a lot of light pollution from various sources which didn’t help. Another weird night.

We walked back to Chesters and continued up a long slow hill by the road. It gradually got steeper, but mercifully not too long. At the top on the edge of the village of Walwick, we turned off and followed a back road. We ended up doing a big loop through fields and ended back near the main road again. The Hadrians Wall Path (also known as the National Trail) goes through private land and not all landowners were happy about walker’s trampling across their fields. So we get these little diversions – there’s not many. Sometimes its to avoid a dangerous section of road or because it just wasn’t feasible.

The scenery was getting better with long distance views. We were again walking through fields and pastures, cows watching us with bored interest. We overtook one foreign couple sauntering along and then caught up with a couple probably in their sixties. We stopped to take photos and swap stories and they said they were finishing in Once Brewed too. We bade them farewell and continued. The Wall was making more of a physical appearance – a line of stone here and there. We stopped and read the information boards as we gradually gained height. We stopped for snacks where the view was 360 degrees with moorland and pine woodlands in the distance. We could of been in the middle of nowhere, but the roar of nearby traffic reminded us that civilisation was not far away. The older hikers caught up with us again here. We packed up and followed them to the site of a Roman temple, sunk into the moorland. There was a car park here, a lonely patch of black tar, with a van surrounded by a couple of chairs and tables. The enterprising van owner had turned his vehicle into a mobile coffee shop. Our fellow walkers succumbed to the smell of coffee and that was the last we saw of them. We never did know if they reached Once Brewed.

The sun was high in the sky with big fluffy clouds. By now we were walking by the Wall almost constantly, it sneaking away into the distance, over the undulating hills. It was probably half the height it was, but still strong. It was a good six foot wide too. We came across the foundations of mile castles, gatehouses and forts that were spaced evenly across the whole length of Hadrian’s Wall and the information boards gave artists impressions of what they would of looked like. We wondered if the soldiers were sent here as a form of punishment or did they line up, hoping to be chosen to be posted in a very exposed and chilly corner of Northern Europe. What was life like living here? You could see for miles so you had no excuse if a Barbarian managed to sneak up. It kept us occupied, discussing what it was like being a Roman all those years ago.

Eventually we parted company with the main road, we just veered away from each other and we headed higher along grassy pathways. With the sun shining, the scenery was stunning. You could see for miles. The muffled roar of traffic travelled on the prevailing wind and electricity pylons matched relentlessly in the distant valley. You couldn’t quite escape the 21st century.

Here and there, we came across some small holding or farm, hidden in a copse of trees for shelter from the worst of the weather. A brief change of scenery, strolling through a little woodland before being popped back out into the big country. To our right, it was a vast expanse of nothingness, the odd woodland and heathland.

We came across Housesteads, another excavated Roman fort, with tourists wandering around the ruins. We were too weary to give it justice and having already seen Chesters, we gave it a miss. However, it is here where you’ve got the only chance to walk on top of the Wall itself – so we did.

We dropped down by a farm where the cows were mooing frantically – apparently they were being separated from their calves. It was a dreadful noise. It was, as we were crossing a wide track, that we realised the biggest, blackest, meanest looking bull was lumbering with surprising speed towards us. Ahead of him, was a man, woman and a small dog walking briskly towards the same gate as us, with an air of restrained panic. They were doing a circular walk when they met him and quickly turned tail. Bringing up the rear, I whispered with quiet desperation for everyone to get a move on as he was bearing down on us. Luckily, the sound of thundering hooves failed to materialise, as he continued his steady plod into the next field to check out the noise and his faithful harem of ladies. Relieved, we all continued our respective walks.

From here, the wall could be seen snaking in the distance, up and down of the contours of the hills. We started to climb up, summit, walk a little distance and then drop down into a gully and immediately back up, quite steeply that steps had been placed into the side. They needed care, these steps – sometimes just soil, other times slate and stone. They weren’t particularly high, these hills but you had to concentrate. Up and down, I lost count. We thought of the poor men who had to construct the Wall here, where the land plunged downwards into a U bend and climbed out again. An entirely different construction was required here and they were numerous. An amazing feat.

We were now on top of a high crag where people abseiled off. It was a natural barrier that the Romans took advantage of. It was just a sheer drop. We dropped down to Sycamore Gap, where a solitary sycamore tree sits in the wall. It was featured in the film “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” where Kevin Costner kisses Maid Marian. On pictures it looked isolated as lonely, but in reality it was surrounded by tourists. It was our bad luck as we approached this area, a big group of German teenagers had got ahead of us and were leaping around and bounding down the steps, unnerving me. I’m not particularly happy on these type of steps, especially after 15 miles. So the kids beat us to the sycamore tree and started climbing it. Any special moment instantly evaporated. We stopped briefly, but these kids would be a while so we headed up yet another stone staircase, feeling disappointed and denied. Halfway up, they overtook us again, jabbering away loudly. I was tensing up with fear (I slipped on a narrow path years ago and have an irrational fear of falling – I’m making it sound like climbing Everest, but this section relatively simple and easy) and just wanted to get to the top. Thankfully, it was a short, sharp ascent and once there, we put a wiggle on and left the Germans behind. It was getting busy with tourists who had just parked their cars nearby, wandered a mile or two so they could claim they had walked Hadrian’s Wall. Another large school party of primary school kids stood, spread across the path. Our patience was being tested here. None of the adults shooed them to one side. Grrrr.

Our next hotel hoved into view, a seemingly distant speck. It was a welcomed sight. We dropped onto the little lane that lead to our destination and our little black mood lifted. One final insult was that we caught up with a boisterous mad professor type, full of energy, telling us about a nearby cottage being the Queen Mother’s and offering inane information that we didn’t really want to hear. We feared he was heading to the Twice Brewed Inn with us, but thankfully bounded into a waiting car and disappeared from our lives. We sighed with relief and quietly thanked God.

https://www.twicebrewedinn.co.uk/

We staggered across the Twice Brewed Inn’s lawn and to reception. We checked in and were taken to the smallest room I’ve ever encountered. I think if you swung a cat, it would of hit its head on all four walls. We couldn’t open our cases unless they were on the bed. We needed to close them up and store them away instead of leaving them out, and even then we had to pick our way around the room.

But we didn’t care at that point. Forgoing showers, we retired straight to the bar and got a celebratory beer and gin and tonic. We chinked glasses and toasted ourselves on our achievement. Our feet were beyond soreness, our knees creaked, but we were gloriously happy. We even forgave the Germans and the casual day trippers for blighting the last mile.

Once we had recovered, we tried to get a bigger room to no avail. The alternative was slightly bigger. We stayed put. We showered, rested before heading down to the bar again for food. We was going to eat in the restaurant, but the bar was livelier and had more atmosphere, so we ate there. Afterwards we played dominoes (though quite a bit of it was missing, so the game didn’t last long) and scrabble. We watched people come and go and a couple with a large adorable dog who didn’t get a moments peace as everybody wanted to pat the hound.

We went to our tiny bedroom (the bathroom had more room). We had completed Day Four, we were halfway through our walk and we still had more adventures to come. We fell into a deep untroubled sleep, very happy indeed.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk 2019 Day 3.

Sunday

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.

https://www.hadrianhotel.co.uk/

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.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/chesters-roman-fort-and-museum-hadrians-wall/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Clayton_(town_clerk)

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.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Day Two

Saturday

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.

http://robinhoodinnhadrianswall.com/

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.

Leeds – Liverpool Canal.

After days of overcast cloudy weather, the sun shines and the skies are blue.

I’m trying to incorporate a dog walk with some errands. Finally I decide to stretch our legs along the Leeds Liverpool Canal from Rodley to Apperley Bridge in Leeds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeds_and_Liverpool_Canal

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canal-and-river-network/leeds-and-liverpool-canal

The Dog and I drive there after our jobs. We pull off the outer ring road at Rodley and park up near the canal. There’s limited parking, but it’s free. We find one of the last spots and wander to the canal side, where a long line of canal boats are moored. On one side, it’s open fields, on my side there’s a clutch of houses and a small cafe operating out of a stone shed, alas closed today.

The start of the walk at Rodley

So off we set, the Dog dashing up ahead and me peering into the canal boats. There are a couple of really pretty, well cared for boats today – all clean and shiny. We follow the path towards Apperley Bridge, leaving the housing behind and the open valley of the River Aire. The valley is a classic lesson in physical geography – a railway, the canal, the River Aire and electricity pylons marching in between, only the road is missing, sitting on the hill above. Workmen are on the railway and there’s a plaintive bleeping alarm sounding across the fields which increases as a train approaches, warning the workers to clear the line. Then once it’s safe again, the alarm returns to its sedate bleeping. It follows us up the valley.

We go through a wooded part, The Dog running ahead, trying to find the little ramps that let her paddle in the water. No swimming today. There’s a brisk wind and it’s cold. Despite this, there are quite a few people walking, jogging and cycling along. I keep an eye out for cyclists as The Dog is off lead. Cyclists come in many forms – the worst being young men and the Mamils (middle aged men in Lycra). The former ride fast because they can, the latter think they’re still young bucks, racing the sprint finish of the Tour de France. Either group owns a bell or a tongue. They are upon you before you realise, whizzing past, not a hint of slowing down. “Watch out, there’s a dog…….” I splutter after them. Then there’s the women and older man, sedately cycling or at least slowing down, tinkling their bells or calling out gently. Most of the time I’ve spotted most of the cyclists coming and have The Dog under control long before they arrive, getting the odd thanks in appreciation as they pass. There seems an inordinate amount of them today, a small handful ignoring cycling etiquette when sharing with pedestrians.

We’re on the edge of suburbia, though you wouldn’t know it, the houses, shops and industry hidden from view above us. To our right the Leeds suburbs of Rawdon and Guiseley; behind the woods on our left, Calverley and the conurbation of Bradford. This is the valley taking trains to Morecambe, Lancaster, Manchester and other northern cities, the valley of fields and woods I mention in my blogs, that venture deep into Leeds before succumbing to warehouses and city life. We pop out of the trees, back into fields and distance woods. The railway comes close to the path here and we see the railway guys working on the rails. Two adults swans glide majestically on the canal, a respectful distance from their teenage cygnets, all stubby and brown. The youngsters are losing their ugly duckling persona, their white feathers overtaking their fluffy brown down, transforming into graceful birds. The Dog ignores them, after being being hissed at and pricks her ears up at an oncoming train, before giving it a half hearted chase.

The sun is warm in the sheltered parts, but the wind is eye wateringly cold and I’m walking into it. We enter the outskirts of Apperley Bridge, on the edge of Bradford. It seems full of modern housing and this past year or two, estates have been popping up all over. The only good thing, is they have been built on former factory and warehouse sites, but the whole area seems a mass of identikit houses as far as the eye can see. We pass under the main road connecting Leeds and Bradford, pass the marina and across another road. Here a huddle of stone cottages overlook a vast double lock, together with the Canal and River Trust offices, probably once the lock keepers cottages. We peer into the murky depths of the lock, look into the open door of the Canal and River Trust offices – nothing exciting – and carry on where we’re soon back into fields and farmland.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_%26_River_Trust

We walk a bit further, up past a farm abutting the towpath, full of equestrian paddocks and stables. They have diversified with a little cafe, but the last few times I walked up this far, they have been firmly shut. Today was the same. I’m not sure if my timing is awful or they have shut up shop permanently. I hope they haven’t and will be open again. For once I am organised with money on me for refreshments, but I’m thwarted from having a warming mug of coffee (and maybe a slice of fruit cake). It’s so dispiriting when you work yourself up for coffee and cake, and denied at the last moment. Sighing The Dog and I wandered up to where the railway bridges cross the canal and took stock.

I would of liked to walk further, but then you have to walk back. So we turned tail and sauntered back whence we came. The wind was in our backs and the sun shone. There were all sorts of people out – mums with prams, elderly couples holding hands, friends chatting – we all smiled and said hello to each other. The Dog galloped after ducks in the water and woofed at them. A canoeist paddled slowly up towards Apperley Bridge – what a lovely way to travel, under your own steam. The railwaymen had repaired the track and disappeared together with their annoying beeping alarm. It was a glorious day.

The cattle crossing

We sauntered back towards Rodley, passing the swing bridge which allows the local farmer get his cows from one side of the canal to the other for milking, before the houses began again and we neared the car. I hoped, with the sun out and plenty of people, the little stone shed cafe might have opened, but alas its picnic tables were empty and the door firmly shut. I looked at The Dog – she looked tired. It was past lunchtime and we had walked probably at least four miles if not more. I wanted a sandwich and a cup of tea, so pleased with ourselves we headed off home!

Storth, Cumbria

I was having a tidy the other day and found in a box, a leaflet about a walk around Storth, not far from Arnside. It pricked my interest. It was a 2.5 mile walk with points of interest highlighted and a detailed itinerary, so I put it one side for a future walk.

I didn’t have to wait long as hubby, me and The Dog set off a few days later on a misty overcast day. By the time we arrived by the shore of the River Kent, the mist was more like fog and you couldn’t see the other side of the river. We parked on the roadside, The Dog getting terribly excited, eager to leap out onto the sandy banks and have a run.

A rather misty day with no views whatsoever

We organised ourselves, denying our dog her sand run as the tide was coming in and there was a steep drop to the beach and wandered along the pavement, towards the village of Storth. There was a group of fishermen fishing, with their rods leaning against the railings waiting for a catch. We weaved ourselves through them, with hubby falling into conversation with one of them. We paused for a minute or two until hubby caught up with us, chuckling. The fisherman had offered us flat fish (if he caught any) to take home. Hubby had sort of said okay, but also made excuses of “we might not come back this way” – the thought of having to gut and fillet the damned things was something neither of us really relished.

We crossed the road, and walked up the road into Storth. We passed over the old disused Hincaster – Arnside railway line, now converted into a path and peered over the parapet. We continued on into the centre – it’s a small village with a little post office and shop, the old chapel and school converted into private homes and other old buildings. At one time, there had been a a flurry of bungalow building, as there seemed to be a sizeable estate edging out into the countryside. It gave the place an air of tranquility, a sort of sedate, genteel feeling. A nice place where people went to retire.

We got to the crossroads on the edge of the village and turned left, following the road into the surrounding countryside. It was damp and mizzly. I was starting to regret leaving my waterproof back home – it wasn’t drizzling when we left. So we marched on, following the route, but we hadn’t gone far when we were instructed to do a left. Two and a half miles isn’t long in our world, so studying our map, we decided to extend our walk and continued up the road on a long slow incline and make our own route up. The hill got the old heart pumping and we had a good pace. There seemed to be a myriad of footpaths and bridleways heading off on either side – it seemed a walker’s paradise. This area needed further investigation!

Finally at the top, we took a path left into the woods and unleashed the dog. A sign pinned to a tree notified us that red squirrels had been spotted in the woods and that we should report any further sightings. On a day like this, they’re probably curled up snugly in their nests, but we were quietly delighted. The poor old red squirrel has been repelled for many years by the non native grey squirrel and has only a handful of strongholds namely in Northumbria and Formby on the west coast (to name two of the sites) remain. It was lovely to find that they were establishing themselves here. We carried on through the trees, turning left and upwards. The mist seemed to get thicker. As we approached the top, we came across a mound with a concrete door imbedded in its side. We looked at our map, but couldn’t figure out what it could be for. Initially we thought it was a dam for a reservoir, but there was no lake. Our imaginations started to run away with us as it looked like an old nuclear bunker, but around here? Later after a little bit of Googling, we discovered its true purpose. It’s apparently a holding tank for water, that’s been pumped up to the village. The link below had a little information on it – it’s called Haverbrack Tank!

https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3096187

Haverbrack Tank

After our little diversion we dropped down through fields and footpaths, towards the main coastal road again. Any viewpoints or scenic vistas were not to be had today, the fog was in for the day. A path took us parallel with the main road, saving us walking along it and then dropped us on a tarmac back road, behind a unusually shaped office complex. We followed this, walking behind apartment blocks and a stone yard before coming up to the quarry, which mined asphalt. A tall stone wall had two kilns built into it, though disused.

We carried on along the road, admiring the smart offices that had been converted from an old mill or warehouse. It was nice to see an old building looked after so well. Then we took another path right and dropped onto the disused railway line and wandered along the deep cutting. The railway line was built in 1876 between Hincaster and Arnside to serve the industry there, but lasted less than 70 years. The effort to blast their way through solid rock and to build towering bridges to lay a railway line was incredible. It seemed they had no choice, as there was no room on the shoreline for another transport system. If they had known it would only last 70 years, they probably wouldn’t of bothered, but we had the pleasure of marvelling at their work, especially the bridges spanning across the line – as usual beautiful stone work and lined with engineering bricks in a herring bone, they’re a work of art themselves. Today, a prefabricated concrete span would be installed within days, totally at odds with its surroundings. I was pleased that these architectural treasures remain.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hincaster_branch_line

We wandered along this stretch of line beyond Storth until it brought us out onto the main coast road. It wasn’t a particularly long section, but pleasant. We walked back towards Storth, along the road until the pavement started on the other side and we quickly crossed. 

We came across our fisherman friend again and was relieved to discover that he hadn’t landed any fish at all, so he couldn’t fulfil his promise to us. But we ended up chatting to him for quite a while, so much so that The Dog sat down and waited patiently while we sorted the world out with him. After a while, feeling the damp chill penetrating, we bade him goodbye and wandered back to the car.

On the walk we had waddled past The Ship pub overlooking the estuary and had a waft of chips hit our noses. We started to feel hungry, having an urge to devour a chip butty at Arnside. Back at the car, we took a final look at the map to find an alternative way home (we can never do A to B and back to A – we always throw in a magical mystery tour on our days out) and spotted a couple of cafes. That pricked up our ears and so we headed to nearby Beetham and hopefully a little tearoom.

So through the fog and drizzle, we drove a few miles cross country until we came across the extremely enchanting and tiny village of Beetham, just off the A6. We pulled up outside a little shop with a tearoom sign above it, but couldn’t tell if it was open or not. We were on a tiny lane, so decided to check out where we could park. After a little recce of the surrounding village and another potential cafe, we voted to go back to the little shop cum tearoom (after checking it was open and it let dogs in).

We entered the little shop, and thought we had time travelled. It was an old fashioned shop of bygone years, quirky and delightful. It had timeless charm about it. I was enchanted, mentally making a list of people I could bring here who would love it. It had all the day to day essentials but on one wall, it had several shelves full of specialist paints for distressing furniture – it was highly unusual. The rest of the shop was full of antiquities and higgedly piggly. We went through the back of the shop, up some narrow stairs and bobbed into the cafe. It had half a dozen tables, with a roaring wood fire and full of odds and ends – roasting forks, old fashioned jewellery, pictures and other pieces. It was fascinating and just up our street. It was cosy, had heaps of character and as we found out, wonderful food too. We decided on a quick sandwich with a vague plan of visiting our local pub back home for an evening meal. That plan was soon scuppered as the plate appeared – sandwiches, a cup of crisps, coleslaw, couscous and a salad. Even the drinks came up with a little square of cake in the saucer. It was delicious. The Dog sat under the table, her head resting on my lap, her doleful eyes pleading for me to feed this poor neglected underfed hound. She did get several chunks of ham from my sandwich. The cake stand was also equally seductive and resistance was futile. We succumbed to home made apple, cinnamon and walnut cake and a slice of tea loaf with Lancashire cheddar cheese. Naughty, but extremely nice.

Very happy and very full, we left reluctantly back into the gloom, deciding that a quick walk around the village was required to get the stomach digesting. We found a route that went around the edge of the village, following a path that dropped behind the large paper mill on the edge of the village. Here we can across the Heron Centre, closed for the winter. Information boards informed us that it was a renovated water mill and museum, harnessing the powers of the River Bela to power the original corn mill.

http://www.heronmill.org/

https://www.visitcumbria.com/sl/heron-corn-mill/

We needed to come back to Beetham to check the Heron Corn Mill our and sample more food at the little tearooms. Stupidly, I forgot to take photos of the Corn Mill, so you will have to check out the links above to find out more. On the opposite river bank was the huge local paper mill, seemingly big, noisy and ugly compared to little Beetham. A noticeboard on the A6 gave a brief history of the site – there has always been two mills on either side of the river, the paper mill starting life as a corn mill until in 1788, when it became a paper mill and has remained so ever since. It must be a big local employer for the area which is beneficial, but it was a little jarring against the village. There were bits of the original stone buildings, but a lot of it had been added on and rendered in the standard brown pebble dash which made it look forlorn and drab. But at the end of the day it was a working mill, not a tourist attraction so I wandered off to admire the river that ran down the side of the mill instead noting that kingfishers could be seen here in the summer which pleased me very much!

https://www.billerudkorsnas.com/about-us/our-production-units/beetham

http://www.heronmill.org/mill/then-history/

With the evening closing in, we headed off back to our little home, pleased with our wanderings and little finds. We would definitely be back to check out those other footpaths and the Heron Corn Mill when it opened in February. A great little day!

A Wander Around Wray

Today, The Dog and I decided to check out Wray in Lancashire.

We often drive through this pretty little village on our way to Lancaster and the coast, though we have been known to visit the little garden centre and cafe at Bridge House as well as the Scarecrow Festival in May. So this afternoon, we gave it a bit more attention.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2018/may/06/wrays-scarecrow-festival-in-pictures

I parked up in the aforementioned Bridge House and wandered around the garden centre, poked my nose into the little shop and promised myself a coffee and cake after our walk. We went onto the street, crossed the bridge and dropped down by the river. The Dog galloped straight to the river and stood in it. It’s just above freezing. She wanted a stick thrown so she could swim after it, but it wasn’t going to happen, it’s far too cold – I walked off and her pricked up ears dropped in disappointment. It didn’t last, she soon overtook me and bounded along the path.

We soon came to a gate into a field of sheep, so The Dog went back on lead and we walked together, following the river Hindburn. We passed the Environment Agency’s flow monitoring station and then towards the main road. Here we paused as I had spotted a couple of stone slabs – one marked Meal Bank Bridge and the other with a cat like head carving.

It’s a fox rather than a cat…….

I was intrigued and looked for clues. I had a little pamphlet from the Forest Of Bowland about Wray that mentioned that visitors could “follow the carved stone way markers with images depicting the local landscape and wildlife. The images were designed by the local schoolchildren…….” but there was no further information of how many and whereabouts they were on the route I was following. I also spotted daffodils starting to sprout under some trees which I was surprised at – it’s was early January, far too early. But we had had a very mild Christmas so all the plants think it’s spring. I crossed the road determined to Google about the stones later.

I found this later at home about the Meal Bank Bridge. It was one of the many bridges lost in the great flood of 1967.

https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/video-wray-floods-50th-anniversary-1-8696062

We followed a muddy bridleway between two fields away from the village and let The Dog have a run. We approached the sewerage works by the river and discovered yet another stone carving. The Dog discovered another path. We followed it, but it just led to the river and a dead end so we retraced our steps. I hadn’t planned to deviate, but we found another path on the other side of the water works and we followed that through a couple of fields, found a track that led us back towards the village. We found more stone carvings.

We wandered back into the Main Street. I wanted to walk further, so we branched right up towards the school. It’s a tiny little school – they have an admission of 7 children per year and about 4 teachers plus the Head. How wonderful is that. Its made up of the village children and children from the surrounding farms. It had a lovely plaque over its door too.

o

Our school dates back to 1684 when it was founded by Captain Richard Pooley. Richard Pooley followed a successful career as a soldier of the Parliamentarian army under Oliver Cromwell, and after being made a Captain by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester he returned home to Wray. On his death he left £200 for the endowment of a free school for his village. A local farm was purchased, the income from which was invested and used to build the school and to pay a teacher to provide an education for the children of the village. The school was rebuilt in 1885 retaining many original features.

An annexe was completed in 2001 funded by money raised by the school and village community. Upstairs there are two large rooms for teaching Upper & Lower Juniors, while downstairs there is a large room for teaching Infants and a hall used by infants for teaching and play. The village hall (Wray Institute) is used for PE, and the school has a large playing field in the centre of the village which is used for sports.

I stood looking at the school with its tiny front playground, wandering around the side road to the front entrance and another play area, wondering what it’s like to be a pupil there – instead of having 30 classmates, you had half of that or less. I carried on with our walk, down a little footpath and towards the River Roeburn that flows into the Hindburn. It’s like a little gorge. On the road, houses cling to the sides, their gardens disappearing towards the river. It’s here that I spot a lovely little sign.

We head back into the village and to the Bridge House cafe for a mug of coffee and a choice of cake. It’s a lovely, cosy little cafe with friendly chatty staff. Today, I chose a lemon and orange cake which was infinitely better than the courgette and avocado offering.

I spotted this wood carving in the woods by the Roeburn river – it seemed to be in a private area so I didn’t get close. Seems that a tree was felled and someone has carved the fungi on the top. I just love coming across these little unexpected pieces of art work, wondering why they have created. It made me smile.

We had another wander along the Main Street, primarily because I wanted a photo of it. The picture doesn’t do it justice and the cars spoil it, but it’s really charming in real life.

I also took photos of the other carvings as I came across them. There were probably more, but I didn’t see them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wray,_Lancashire