Hadrian’s Wall – Day 3 (the walk continues)
The third day dawns, Day Two of the walk and muscles and sinew are starting to object to this unaccustomed and unwanted forcing into action. They have sat quite nicely on their arses for almost 40 years and see no reason why they should suddenly alter this life course, but the owners of the said bodies, our relentless idiots Brave Heroes Wordicus Nevynicus and Rufus Baronicus, are determined they shall walk to Carlisle in the company of the Wall. They will face various Nemeses comprising Sheep, Cow, Bull, Poop, Hill, Crag, Wind, Tempest, Storm and Mardy
Psychotic highly organised Humble Writer, and shall face temptation of the lusty (maidens of all nationalities) and murderous (each other, mostly) types, but they are mad men on a mission. It’s the mission that is important. Stick to the mission. So they do, although Brown 833 will have them waking in a sweaty fear-filled tangle of duvet for many years to come.
We feast again on pre-heated protein, having been very rudely awoken at a very early hour by the three strange men who do not understand that thin walls + loud voices = thoughts of violent retribution from weary neighbours. I strop to the kitchen and make barbed pointed comments for a while before coffee makes me human and I can joke about the revoltingly early time we have been forced to arise, and our Brave Heroes slowly arise, WN to re-heat said protein and RB to prepare for the day ahead (don’t worry, I reheated the protein yesterday; we are an egalitarian triumvirate in this group). I am to drop them at The George and collect their weary corpses bodies from the Twice Brewed pub about 16
14 some miles further down the Wall route. I am informed they follow little post with acorns on them. I have to discover what acorns have to do with Hadrian and his epic erection. From acorns do mighty oaks grow?
- The boys are pushed out of a speeding car dropped off gently and with love at the George Inn, thankfully not disgracing the place by entering this time, and I set TomTom (the female voice for which I have now been informed is named ‘Kim’) to ‘Hexham’ (okay, follow the road signs, it was very near). I have a coat and umbrella to get, and have to feed Orlando (the car, see Day One) who is reaching starvation mode, and the day is warm and sunny. It is my second day solo, and although I am missing someone to talk to about all the amazing history I am becoming immersed in, I am still content. It had already been decided our Brave Heroes would visit Vindolanda tomorrow with me, as that was near their end today/start tomorrow, so today I had both purpose and pleasure secure in the knowledge I would not have to amuse myself on a budget in the middle of nowhere where I had never been before for the whole of the following day.
The Old Gaol was closed when I arrived, so I took advantage to wander the gorgeous Medieval town which seemed entirely built from ancient stone (pillaged from Hadrian’s Wall). I found the Park, to which the Abbey Gardens led, itself an imposing building repeatedly enhanced throughout time.
There were fellow wanderers but it being September, term time, late morning and England it was not packed. A quick meander through the town, locating the Waterstones and buying the best possible waterproof/fleece for WN I could find (with which he was thrilled; score!) but sadly finding the promise of a Costa Coffee to be a cruel lie, and I was bound for the Old Gaol.
For such a small building (basically a stone tower with a dungeon and three floors) they pack in a lot of exhibits. My tour so far has been sponsored by English Heritage, and continues to be so. I try not to feel self-satisfied and smug, but I can’t help it, I do. I love history, it’s so important to know and learn from our past, and the fact I can support the research and enjoy the fruits of the archaeological/historical labour of others gives me big happies.
The building has been in continuous occupation, but by the Victorian era it was a town hall and then a solicitors’ office. Now, it is a museum which has overcome the size disadvantage by incorporating film presentation, mannequin exhibit, interactive displays and classic museum display to tell the story of the Wardens and Reivers, the Clan Feuds and the life of those of Hexham over hundreds of years. On the top floor, there is even a working tannery using the methods used in medieval types. I didn’t have the courage to ask whether that actually meant they used human urine in the preparation, but a big part of me hopes not. Most memorable were the skull and helmet of a man felled by a broadsword to the head, displaying matching holes, and the Plague Doctor’s outfit which still creeps me out more than any Dr Who monster/Sapphire & Steel episode EVER has.
Sadly I am unable to get the obligatory picture of WN in the pillory so have to content myself with imagining it. On into Hexham and a late lunch. Some darn fool lets me into Waterstones and I proceed to spend far too much invest in the economic growth of the book industry, picking up presents for our barely literate Brave Heroes whilst I’m at it. They are walking, and unable to pick up mementos for themselves (apart from half the Wall, as I am to discover. Honestly, walking the long distances they are and they fill their pockets with purloined masonry!), so I thought it would be nice. It was in no way an attempt to make amends for the hissy fit slight elevation in my usual gentle manner that it is rumoured may have occurred this morning. Okay, the solitude is slightly getting to me.
I am back at the Bunkhouse by late afternoon, to upload pictures and memories, and read the magazines I treated myself to and await the summons of our Lords and Masters Brave Heroes. Sandra Pt1 arrives to inform me we are to be sharing again, another couple this time without dogs. I hope RB will not be too disappointed. I decide to inform the boys when I reach the pub rather than ring them now in case that’s a bit checking-up/stalkery. Upon return to base camp it appears the reality of their undertaking is starting to dawn on our witless wonders Brave Heroes. Mild hysteria hits as they attempt to remove boots, and the news of our bunkmates is just another inspiration to a fit of prolonged giggling which of course I filmed. Unfortunately I don’t appear to be able to upload it, but if this post gets edited, you are in for a treat!
As it turned out the new couple didn’t arrive with Sandra Pt1 until we were discussing when to heat the dinner, having decided to eat the pizzas we had discovered in our freezer and which I had assumed based on previous experience staying in hostels had been accidentally left behind by previous tenants. Mortifyingly it turned out that these were actually provided, at a price, by Sandra Pt1 and we agreed to have the same added to our bill. The forlorn looks on the faces of our pathetic pizza fetishists Brave Heroes was more than I could take.
RB proceeded to impress the couple by not only speaking fluent German with them (she being Swiss, and both of them living there) but also by recognising she was speaking Swiss German and even understanding dialect and intonation. Of course he cheated by having a degree in German and a Swiss mother, but it was still quite impressive. The boys had had a good day, their sense of achievement and endorphin levels were up, so I took advantage by making them play more Trivial Pursuit with me (RB 2, HW 1, since you ask). Hearing their stories is a joy as they are erudite, witty and daft as a field of football players. The photos are pretty good too. Check out their blogs (link in the first paragraph).
Once again though, I am the first to bed. We have arranged tomorrow’s pick up point (the Roman Army Museum, which our overly-optimistic Brave Heroes anticipate reaching by about 4 pm) and are to be at Vindolanda at 10 am (when it opens) tomorrow. That shouldn’t leave me too long to sit around and wait in. Mobile reception has not proven as available as we might have hoped, so pre-arranged pick-up points are a necessity. It’s a foolproof plan.
And Here Ends Day Three.