Hadrian’s Wall Day 3
Twice Brewed to Chollerford 12 miles, mostly along the Wall
As usual, we were up early and waiting for the breakfast hour to arrive. While waiting for breakfast, Craig and I talked to another walker. It turned out he was doing one of the “self-guided” tours which I had assumed I would do, until Craig came along (he can read a map). If I had used one of those “services”, I would have felt pretty gypped, because all they really do is line up the B&Bs and the luggage service, but they charge 3-400 pounds. But I digress.
Shortly before 9:00, we headed over to the Twice Brewed Inn and met up with Paul. The three of us headed toward the Wall, about a quarter of a mile away. This was the steepest part of the walk and felt pretty out of shape as Paul kept getting ahead of us then waiting for us to catch up. About three miles on, we got to a flatter bit, and he stuck with us, so he and Craig could catch up, but I felt like we were holding him back. After about an hour and a half, including a brief stop at “Sycamore Gap” to get a photo of the tree made famous in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, we came up on the back of Househeads Fort.
I’m not sure how we had gotten on the wrong side of the Wall, but it didn’t really matter, because there were plenty of footholds, so we just climbed over. There were lots of tourists there, and you could see them walking up the road in a steady stream. It didn’t really seem markedly better than the other places we had been, so I can only guess that the parking facilities for buses was better. It was about as big as Vindolanda, but there were no excavations in progress. There was a museum, but it was way down the road, and we had been to several museums about the Wall already, so we decided to give it a miss. Little did I realize it would NINE MILES to the next public bathroom. NINE. MILES. In Chollerford. It was 10:30 in the morning, and the next bathroom was at our final destination for the day. Can you tell this is a big issue for me?
Ignorance being bliss, Craig and I carried on. I think Paul had had enough moseying along at our pace, and decided to head back and go to work. We made good time the rest of the day. The land was fairly level with regularly spaced mile castles and turrets to mark the distance and break things up a bit. Somewhere along that stretch, we made an unspoken agreement that the information signs at the mile castles and turrets no longer rated careful reading.
The weather was sunny but quite windy and cold (to me), and with all of the recent rain, we had to step carefully, because the high traffic areas on the pastures were a quagmire. At one point, we lost the path– we were either following a path the animals or the farmers had made. We didn’t get too far before we realized it, though and we retraced our steps and found the path sign hidden in some trees. Back on track, we continued on our way to the Mithraic Temple and Brocoli Fort, 5 ½ miles from Holmstead Fort. I was initially excited by the signs leading up to them promising “really very good coffee.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t really that good. Or maybe fortunately, since, according to the signs, we were still over three miles to the next bathroom.
Once I’d had as much coffee as I dared, now that I knew how very far it was to the bathroom (which I had assumed the coffee shop would have, but it was just a truck in the parking lot), we headed around the ruins. After Vindolanda and Holmsteads, these ruins seemed singularly unimpressive to the point that we felt sorry for the people who drove out and paid to park there. Yes, it was metered parking in the middle of nowhere for people to look at ruins which could be thoroughly viewed in well under a quarter of an hour.
Between the dearth of ruins to keep our interest and my growing sense of urgency to get to a bathroom, I’m pretty sure we looked at the ruins for considerably less than fifteen minutes. So, we headed back along the Wall. Fortunately for me, the ruins, including the Wall itself, sort of peter put at about mile castle 33, so there wasn’t much to see for the rest of the walk that day.
Other than cows and sheep and rolling hills, that is. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous there– all rolling hills and emerald green pastures. The sky was clear and it seemed like we could see all the way to the ocean. We couldn’t, of course, but it was the kind of day that I long for when I’m standing at the top of a mountain in Korea. In winter. The views were amazing, but I was wearing a fleece and a jacket IN AUGUST.
From the first field we crossed, I had been trying to get a photo with an animal without getting injured by said animal. Until now, I had had no luck. Generally, they would move away just before Craig could snap a photo or two. At last, I found an animal too lazy to move away from me! Another cow bellowed somewhat angrily at me, but the rest just ignored her.
My spirits buoyed by my success, we continued on towards Chesters Fort when I realized I was never going to make it. Fortunately, after miles and miles of nothing but pastures, we came to a farmer’s wall with tall, broad-leafed plants growing about three feet in front of it. I stepped behind the plants, and did what had to be done. That decision changed the mood of the day drastically. For me, anyway. I’m pretty sure Craig didn’t care one way or another, since he’d been doing the same thing all day.
The museum at Chesters Fort had a number of stone pillars, altars, and the like, which we hadn’t seen that much of in the preceding days, so we took a fair amount of time looking aound the place. By this point, it was clear that we had walked the Wall in the wrong direction. We started out with a long, long stretch of visible Wall, excavated mile castles, turrets, and forts. As we walked, everything became increasingly smaller and less-impressive. The Mithraic Temple may have seemed a worthy way to while away fifteen or twenty minutes, if we hadn’t seen places roughly one hundred times the size with detailed schematics of the originals based on historical records.
Pretty much the highlight of the day, other than getting a photo with a sheep, was seeing a family which I assume were Hassidic Jews having a picnic on one of the lonely bits of Wall standing along that portion of the path.
After Chesters Fort, we headed the last mile into town to the George Hotel where we’d planned to spend two nights. We had a large room with a giant, comfortable bed and a sofa. The only thing wrong with the place was the horrid food. It was by far the worst meal I had the entire vacation, and also likely the most expensive at twenty pounds a head (it was a set menu), not including drinks. It turned out that a tour bus company owned the hotel and were used to a captive audience. So, the waitstaff was dressed up and the dining room was very well-appointed, but the food tasted like something I would have turned down at a food court.
Day 0 Low Row
Day 1 Low Row to Greenhead
Day 2 Greenhead to Twice Brewed
Day 4: Chollerford to… Chollerford