Friday, 22 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 6. Wednesday April 29th. 2015. Five down, two to go.

Banks to Carlisle. 14.5 miles (23.2 km), 400 ft (125m) ascent

Today's stage into Carlisle (and the following day out to the coast at Bowness-on-Solway) was going to be hard. Not because the walking itself, or the terrain, would be the most difficult yet encountered. To the contrary, we were now out of the High Country, and the nature of the walking would become increasingly mundane as we neared civilisation. But, we were by now five days in, and even with only two more to go, we had reached that point in the journey where, although fitter and more accustomed to the daily rhythm of walking, we were also more tired. So with less to stimulate us and encourage us onwards, the effort required to simply get going would be greater than on earlier days. The sore feet were still sore, the rucksacks were no lighter, and Hadrian's Wall was not going to walk itself, Barb!

After a comfortable night, we were up for breakfast at 8.00am. as usual. The weather, on waking, was overcast and showery, but some breaks appeared in the clouds while we were eating, and Dave even managed to get outside for a photo of the B&B during one of the sunny spells. Booted, suited and loaded up, at 9.30am. we set off in sunshine. We got rain quite soon, though, and the early part of the day was characterised by much stopping and starting to put on and take off waterproofs.

The renovated Wall at Hare Hill
First place of interest was only a short distance into the walk, at Hare Hill. The Info sign told us the following: "This was once thought to be the highest surviving section of Hadrian's Wall but in fact, it was largely rebuilt in the 19th. century. A building stone on the North face of the Wall, bearing the inscription PP, records that this stretch of Wall was originally built by Roman legionaries under the Primus Pilus, the chief centurion of a legion."

Approaching Milecastle 54

Shortly thereafter, approaching the site of Milecastle 54 (sadly nothing is visible of the remains) we were hit by a very heavy, very cold shower of barely-melted hail; after that, though, the weather became generally dry, with spells of good sunshine. The wind, true to recent form, remained strong, cold, and from the West, and shelter was hard to find.

Snow-covered Blencathra visible in the distance

We could tell, though, that the weather was unseasonably cool, because of the evidence of snow on the tops of the distant Lake District peaks, particularly Blencathra, which was prominent on the skyline all day long.

Dovecote Bridge, below Walton Church

All suggestion of the Wall proper effectively disappears from Hare Hill on, but it is still possible to identify sections of the North Ditch and the Vallum from the traces of dyke and earthwork that remain. At Dovecote Bridge, approaching the village of Walton, there is a grassy mound which conceals an extant section of Wall. The Info sign tells the story: "Until 1983, this stretch of Hadrian's Wall was the only visible part of Cumbrian red sandstone. It had been exposed for nearly 20 years, and in that time the weather had seriously damaged the stones. To preserve what remains the Wall has been reburied."

Until just past Blea Tarn Farm, the Path continues to follow the line of the Roman Wall, and we had lunch (in an attempt to find shelter from the wind) in what was possibly the North Ditch.

Blea Tarn, and the earthworks marking the Wall
Blea Tarn, now a boggy depression below the present-day farm, was a quarry for the stone used to build this section of the Wall, and the presence of the Wall is still visible in the ditches and earth mounds. Not long after this, the Hadrian's Wall Path deserts the line of the Wall itself, and heads off towards Carlisle along a variety of footways, including the bank of the River Eden.

The decoratively carved gravestone in St. John's Church

To reach the Eden, we passed through the village of Low Crosby. Dave's eye was caught by an intriguing carved gravestone in the Churchyard, bearing a detailed relief of a Dove and a tree. Being a wood-cutter by profession, Dave was duty-bound to take a photo. After the Church, the temptation of calling in to the Stag Inn was fiercely resisted, on the sensible grounds that: a). we would arrive in Carlisle sooner; and b). we would save ourselves for the Moo Bar in the evening. A visit to the Moo Bar in Carlisle was high on the list of priorities.

Crossing the Eden by the Rickerby Bridge

Fiona and I first discovered the Penrith Moo Bar in August 2014, and when we found out that there was a Moo Bar planned for Carlisle, we knew that our beer destination was ordained for when we reached Carlisle on our Hadrian's Walk.

We crossed the Eden at Rickerby Park, then followed directions from Fiona's phone to find the Carlisle Travelodge, our home for the night.

Travelodge room - basic, but comfortable and cheap

Minor panic at reception when it took several guesses to remember the name under which I had made the original booking! Then it was up to our rooms for tea, showers and a change of clothes, before meeting back in the lobby for 6.00pm.

From there, we set out to find Moo Bar for a couple of beers, before then finding a restaurant for dinner.

To my surprise, Moo Bar had a huge selection of beers on offer, most of which, sadly, were not as interesting as their names might suggest (or perhaps my taste buds were just becoming jaded from all the walking!). Thankfully, Thornbridge's Jaipur was available, and remained so (and on good form) all night.

Today's Team Shot - not so many smiles!
Masala Bazaar, bright and colourful Indian Restaurant
We had spotted an Indian restaurant, not far from the bar, as we were heading to the Moo Bar, so we decided to try there for our food. The Masala Bazaar turned out to be a good choice. The decor and design of the restaurant is very eye-catching, using lots of bright colours and large, bold artworks on the wall. It was not busy, so we were able to get a table with no difficulty, and our orders were taken and the food served very quickly - just what you want after a day on Hadrian's Walk, building up an appetite.

After food, back to Moo Bar for more beers.

Two young lads, one of whom was carrying a guitar case, came to sit at the table beside ours. The Moo Bar has a number of games available for customers to play, and the boxes were on a shelf behind our table. The two lads asked if we would pass them one of the games, which we did, but it was only a matter of a few minutes later that they were packing that one away and asking for a different game. Dermot made a comment about the fact that young people have very short attention spans nowadays, and one lad (who we soon learned was called John) said: "You sound like me Dad!", and we all laughed. The lads then got up to leave, and Dave commented that he had expected them to play something on the guitar. Against all my expectations (at eighteen, how many of us would have the confidence, the brass neck, to sing a song for strangers "who sound like me Dad" - not me!) John, as he now introduced himself, asked had we heard of The Band? Of course we had, but the surprise should have been that John had - even allowing for their second lease of life, at the Band's final break-up in 1999, John would have been only a year or two old! Anyway, he played "The Weight", and barring one or two moments of "not too sure of the words" made a very creditable fist of it. It seemed to make Dave's night, as he cited the song as his "best bit of the day".

It was raining on the return to the Travelodge, and we went to bed before making proper arrangements for the following morning.

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

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