Hadrian’s Wall – Day Two (the walk begins)
And so we rise, ready to take on the Wall in the case of our clearly insane Brave Heroes Wordicus Nevynicus and Rufus Baronicus, and to shop, sight-see and provide Support Team succour, in the case of your witless fool Humble Writer. We arise to the sound of our lovely couple with dogs preparing to leave, RB forced to part from his new canine-friend Merlin – how cruelly such young lovers are parted. We have booked breakfasts as part of our Bunkhouse experience, which we are informed by Sandra Pt1 will consist of the meat ready cooked and the eggs/tomatoes/mushrooms/beans (which vary according to the day, we are to discover) to be cooked by us in order that we don’t have to rise at a prescribed time. Very considerate, and very wise. Thus, this morning sees WN on cooking duty, and HW and RB on ‘checking we have everything’ duty. Not for the first time does your navigationally challenged HW bless the day she bought the TomTom; this incredibly useful piece of kit ensured safe pick-uppage and drop-offage at every point along the way and not once did we get lost. As your HW was to be driving solo for the entire week, it was to be a necessary and life-saving boon.
The weather was beaming bright sunshine and bracing winds, perfect for walking (or so we thought). Enthusiasm for the venture was high, trepidation middling, and fear non-existent. Our Brave Heroes were ready. Full of protein, and ready. Your HW was also ready, for food-shopping and history. Sadly, plans to treat myself to swimming/spa days had been thwarted by my body rebelling and deciding that Day 2 would be the perfect time to hormonally demonstrate that was not to be. Slight hysteria and stroppiness was expressed but quelled lest it ruin the Brave Heroes day, but your HW feels perhaps not quelled enough – I can be a stroppy mare sometimes (“Surely not? Such a paragon of virtue as you?” I hear you cry; sadly yes, that is a fault from which I suffer).
We I drive to Heddon-on-the-Wall where our naive Brave Heroes are dropped off to begin their walk. Photos taken, farewells snogged/hugged* (*delete as maritally applicable) and I programme TomTom to take me to Corbridge, the shops and to inspire me as to what the hell I can do today.
I arrive at Corbridge, which is a beautiful little village town which charges minimally for parking (as does most of the north; as long as you have a ready supply of change, there will be no problems) and has a Co-op so our nutritional needs are met. I find a little Information Bureau which is chock-full of ideas of places to go, and upon the advice of the lovely Tourist Advisor (who furnishes me with postcode-giving leaflets thus ensuring TomTom can be kept fed with the information she needs) I settle on visiting Corbridge Roman Fort and Museum. The proximity of the same, and the fact that the beautiful Ardon Castle (my first choice) is closed, are both factors in this decision. It is a lovely day, so far, and although I am alone, I love history so am excited and pleased that I have managed to make a decision. This also alleviates my strop with regard to body rebelling against previous plans (see above).
I was not disappointed with Corbridge Roman Fort; it is huge, built on over and over for a period of 400 years, only about ¼ of which has been excavated. The Audio Guide ensures I spend a happy two or three hours learning lots about the place the Romans knew as ‘Windy Valley’. The museum contains artifacts about which I had never heard: the cavalier cheek plate for sports events only, the bronze horse eye piece, how such metal engraved pieces are made (they tapped down the background instead of tapped up the design to create the raised picture – who knew?!). The rains lashed heavily but briefly and the winds were so strong that my umbrella was completely destroyed which gave me brief cause for concern with regard to the progress of our underdressed foolhardy Brave Heroes but they are big boys now so that concern soon passed. As did the rain and winds. Sunshine was the winner in the Battle of the Weather for today.
The actual site, the uncovered town, is very evocative. The visitor is invited to climb in, around and over the structure; down into the strong-room in which the Legionaries pay and savings were held, over beside the granaries, where 400 years of construction, destruction and rebuilding can be seen in the myriad columns and sit upon the start of Stanegate Road, resting against the final level of the road which led all the way to Carlisle; coincidentally the length of Hadrian’s Wall which our Brave Heroes planned to walk. I walked over watercourses and drains which still gave a glorious round tunnel effect over which the settlement houses were built, through Praetorium and into the Prefects house. I do enjoy a good historical visit.
As this was the inaugural day of walking, I was unsure at what time I may be called to duty as Support Team for the Brave Heroes, so determined to return to the Bunkhouse and upload my photos of today (I took rather a lot – I can’t help it, it’s an addiction!), labelling them in order to preserve what little remains of my memory. I would be alone; we had all been assured by Sandra Pt1that we would have the Bunkhouse to ourselves for the rest of the week. The couple with dogs was an aberration; they had booked the B&B but she no longer allowed dogs in there, thus their removal to the Bunkhouse. This would, therefore, give me time, space and
peace to do what I wished – which involved reading some of the many books I had brought with me. Thus, I programmed TomTom (I really need to pick a better name for it, it has a female voice and just doesn’t sound like a “Tom”) to return to Greencarts and set off. Getting petrol on the way – there is now nothing I cannot do with regard to the car (well, maybe check the oil and change the tyres, but only because I haven’t had to yet I’m sure…).
Imagine then, dear Reader, my surprise when amidst my joy at uploading, labelling, reading, ‘avin a faaaag, putting shopping away (from the list the gluttonous carnivores Brave Heroes and I had written the previous night), Sandra Pt1 announces that there will be three men staying with us tonight (not in the same room, that would be awkward due to there being only one spare bed and a trundle bed under RB). I texted the Brave Heroes to tell them this news and not to check up on their safety/progress in any way shape or form honest really truly, and wondered what form these three ‘men’ would take. I did not have long to wait, as Steve, Steve and Neil turned up and turned out to be garrulous (Neil) friendly and also walking the Wall because of age-related inspiration (turning 60, 60 and 50 whereas our Brave Heroes were merely reaching the big 4-0, the striplings). Sandra Pt1 assured us the Bunkhouse would be ours for the rest of the week, but by now we were wary of believing such problems. It was raining and windy at night (although sunshine for most of the day, which was nice) and the ground was boggy (as our swamp monsters Brave Heroes were to discover frequently and without joy), and Sandra Pt1 could not leave them to camp in her field on such a night. Naturally, I concurred.
I was enchanting the three men with my wit, wisdom and loquaciousness whilst uploading my photos (multi-tasking genius that I am) when I received a call from WN – they had reached The George just past Hexham, about two miles away, and simply could not walk any further. I am sure this had nothing to do with it being the last pub before reaching our Bunkhouse on the Wall walk. They made an impassioned plea for delivery which I could not refuse, so I left to collect them immediately. Ish. I had confirmed to WN the presence of the three strange men by text earlier (yay, phone reception!) and thus it was not the shock it otherwise may have been to hear me chatting and laughing away (okay, probably friendly flirting too, I can’t help it, it’s an innate trait) with three strange men in a Bunkhouse far away from said Brave Heroes. I immediately jump to it and set off to fetch the lazy buggers Brave Heroes, in no way making any type of sarcastic witticism to the three strange men with regard to their failure to reach the Bunkhouse as originally planned. In fact, they have walked about 14 miles, which given their total lack of any sort of preparation at all, is quite impressive.
I find our raggedy men Brave Heroes supping well-deserved pints in the George Inn. They are congratulating each other on a walk well done, as well they might. However, the state of the pair is not befitting the grandiose stature of the Hotel I find them in and with apologies to the extremely well-groomed Receptionist, I whisk them away from their comfortable lounge room amidst the doilies and cut flowers to our Bunkhouse.
The three strange men are well met by our fetid vagabonds Brave Heroes and after very much needed showers (seriously, it was acrid, I feared for the leather of our car seats) an evening of merriment and chatter followed again with beer. WN was on the diet coke, exhibiting a shockingly out of character sensible side which I am sure is merely a temporary aberration. RB prepared a delicious spaghetti bolognaise, we supped, spoke and our Brave Heroes typed notes for their blogs (links in the first paragraph). The three strange men were also walking the Wall but unlike our Brave Heroes had actually got a map, guide, touring itinerary, tents and walking boots (RB lacked this seemingly essential item) and waterproof coat (WN – see Day One). It was decided part of my mission for the next day would be to source a waterproof coat for WN (Support Team work is never done), which as I needed an umbrella anyway (the wind ate mine at Corbridge Roman Town), Hexham was to be my destination the next day. There was a Gaol Museum there; more history but not Roman, as I had fear there are only so many forts one can tour before you really don’t give a s~*t what the Romans did for us.
The talk turned to politics, and thence to proposed pension plan policy changes. Uh oh. Conflict looked as if it would raise its ugly head. I make my excuses and go to bed, leaving our opinionated drunkards Brave Heroes to their debate.
Here Endeth The Tale. For Now.