Friday, 15 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 3. Sunday April 26th. 2015. The tough do not really get going.

Corbridge to Humshaugh. 10.2 miles (16.3 km), 550 ft (170m) ascent
Breakfast in the sunny dining room at Fellcroft
We were up for breakfast at 8.30am. the following morning (well, it was Sunday!) Outside, the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky, and though it had been cold overnight, it looked like it was going to be a glorious day. The forecast was still predicting showers, and the wind, still from the West, would make things seem cooler than the forecast suggested. Today would be the first day that the remnants of the Roman Wall started to appear, so the prospect of sun and blue skies, even if only temporary, was attractive.

None of us had any wish to make the return walk back to the Wall Path via the endless and tedious road down which we had journeyed the day before. There were alternative routes out of Corbridge that would return us to the Wall Path, and it would have been possible to do so without seriously extending the overall length of the day's stage. But that would entail missing out a section of the trail, and opinion was strongly in favour of picking up the Path where we had left it. Fortunately, a different solution was at hand. Tove - Mrs. Brown - told us that the local taxi driver would drive us, and our luggage, back up to the Wall, and drop us at whatever point we chose. However, there were five of us, and the taxi would only take a maximum of four, thus necessitating two trips. Tove, though, was kind enough to offer to take one of our number at the same time as the taxi, thus saving us time, and money. Because of prior commitments, the taxi was available at either 9.15am. (too early for my slow-coach habits) or 11.00am. We therefore opted for 11.00am. and Tove suggested that we load all our rucksacks into her car, which would allow us to walk into town unladen, have an hour or so to sit in the sun or explore Corbridge, then meet her and the taxi outside the church at eleven o' clock. So we did.

Walking into Corbridge in the sun

It was pleasant to walk, even if only for a short distance, unencumbered by rucksacks. The wind was sharp, but the sun was generating some real warmth, as we walked into Corbridge. We had a bit of a wander about, Dave and I got some photos, and we generally took things easy for an hour. We knew in the backs of our minds that we still had ten miles walking to complete before the day was out, so true relaxation evaded us. The time soon passed, and at the appointed hour Tove and the taxi pulled up beside the church.

Hear no, see no, speak no evil
In ten minutes we were back at the far end of the road that had cost two and a half hours of our lives the day before. The taxi ride cost us a tenner (a bargain at twice the price!) and all too soon we were loaded up and under way. While it was impossible to ignore completely the sore feet, the aching shoulders, and the twinges in ankles, knees and hips, the sun continued to shine, and that was much more pleasant than we had been expecting. The week previously, the long-range weather forecast had been filled with dire warnings of low temperatures and snow fall. Today, though, Deus Meteorologicus (as the Romans would say) was smiling upon us, and other than a few spits and spots of rain and hail, we got away with it all day.

Our little strip of grass
Initially the Path continued, much as we had become accustomed, as a strip of grass alongside the road. Not very inspiring, but the prospect of the first examples of recognisably Roman remains was sufficient to keep us going. In addition, though, to the things that we were looking forward to, some things conspired to put a dampener on things; and one such plague on everyone's leg joints was the plethora of stiles provided for crossing the many field, road and path boundaries! You have to suppose that cost was a factor, but why use a sensible gate when yet another bloody stile will do the job? Days 3 and 4 were the worst offenders, but stiles cropped up at many points all along the trail, and it's only as you get a little older that you start to realise just how many obstacles there are to simple pedestrianism.

The Vallum earthworks near Carr Hill

The first obvious Roman relic that we discovered today was the massive Vallum earthworks just West of Carr Hill Farm. The map shows the nearby presence of milecastle 21, and Onnum Roman Fort. On the ground, though, the only obvious features (and they are OBVIOUS) are the ridges, ditches and mounds marking the line of the Vallum along this stretch of the Wall. The Hadrian's Wall Path through this region follows the pattern that became familiar yesterday, with the tarmac of the Military Road marking the line of the Wall proper, and to either side are signs of the North Ditch and the Vallum.

Errington Arms
Not far beyond the Onnum Fort, we reached Port Gate, marked in our modern day by the passage of the A69. Today's A-road follows the line of the Roman Road known as Dere Street, and the Port Gate was built by the Romans to control trade and traffic across Hadrian's Wall. We discovered a more modern attraction sitting astride the line of the Wall, the Errington Arms public house. We took advantage of it being lunchtime, and called in for a beer.

Precipitation within sight - time for the waterproofs

The afternoon continued in much the same vein. The undulating nature of the terrain, the fact that the path was more often than not on grass, and the continuing fine weather and associated good visibility made the walking today much more to everyone's taste - it was even possible to forget about blisters for short periods.

Descending towards St. Oswald's, first view of the Whin Sill

We eventually passed the St. Oswald's Tea Rooms, followed shortly thereafter by St. Oswald's Church itself, at which point we began the gentle descent towards the valley of the North Tyne. Down past a tractor ploughing a field, across the road, and so to Planetrees.

The 'broad' Wall meets the 'narrow' Wall at Planetrees

Here we find a surviving fragment of the Wall, and the Info sign tells us the following:
"After 3 metre wide foundations were laid along most of Hadrian's Wall, the building of the 'broad' Wall began. At some point, perhaps to save time and resources, it was decided to continue with a 2 metre wall on the existing foundations. Here at Planetrees, you can see where the 'narrow' Wall joins the 'broad' Wall."

Descending into the valley of the North Tyne

The foundations of 'Chesters Bridge', Roman crossing of the North Tyne
Below Planetrees, the Path takes you away from the line of the Wall, and along a couple of minor roads. This appears to be, ostensibly, to take you past 'Brunton Turret', another surviving remnant. But I suspect that it is more to do with the fact that, when the National Trail Path was being established, a local landowner did not want to allow the public to have access over their land. When you finally reach the bridge at Chollerford, another Info sign invites you along another 1 km. path to view the remains of 'Chester's Bridge', the original Roman crossing of the North Tyne. Dave and I opted to take the detour, while the others chose to continue up to Humshaugh and find the B&B. The bridge remains are very impressive, and well-worth the extra effort to get there. We took some pictures before setting off back to the road to follow the others up to find our B&B.
Our room in Mingary Barn

Up through the village, past the Crown Inn (where Fiona had taken the precaution of booking us a table), and finally to Mingary Barn, our accommodation for the night. It turned out to be another pleasant place to stay. We got ourselves settled into our rooms, showered and changed, and then to the pub for dinner.

Fiona's idea to book a table turned out to be a very clever move. We arrived at the pub during what turned-out to be the the inaugural monthly "Open Mike Night". Once a month, on the last Sunday of the month, an opportunity for local musicians and singers to just turn up and play. The place was packed, noisy, and (no bad thing given the unseasonable low temperatures) warm.

The team, looking better, after dinner and some beers

Our table was waiting, so at least we had somewhere to sit, and there were three real ales available. Food was good, beers were good, music was a bit much, but did give the opportunity for some photos, and the performances ended at 9.00pm. The pub was much quieter after the music ended, so somewhat more relaxing for the Wallers Hadriani recovering from their day's exertions.

And so Day 3 draws to an end. We were all still upright, still going well, and nearly half-way along the Wall. The day had proved easier than it might have been, with better weather, good scenery, and better spirits than Day 2. What will Day 4 bring?

All the photos from the day can be seen on my Picasa Gallery.

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