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Hadrian’s Wall – Day 5 (oh dear…)

September 29, 2011

Today is the day we have to load up the car, having partaken of our reheated protein, and decamp to our new Bunkhouse at the other end of the Walk.  We are staying in Burgh-by-Sands, which is just outside Carlisle.  Before dropping the boys off we are to visit the Roman Army Museum.  Luckily, having picked our knackered quatrogenarians Brave Heroes off there yesterday, the two activities can be combined.  Sandra Pt1 terrifies us with tales of robbed and vandalised cars if people have visible luggage in their vehicles whilst parked at the Museum, so we spread a sleeping bag over the detritus and put our bits of grocery shopping in carrier bags on top to fool them.  They’d never see through that.  I am relieved that I will be spending my day tomorrow with both, as my solitude is starting to get to me.  But then I overhear mention of continuing walking, of a Day Five, of OTHER PLANS OF WHICH I AM NOT AWARE!  Wordus Nevynicus injured himself on Day Two, and has been limping and using a walking stick ever since.  Rufus Baronicus, however, is still fit (to a given value of ‘fit’) and they both doubt their ability to reach Carlisle which was the desired end point.

I am afraid I did not conduct myself with the decorum to which those familiar with your Humble Writer have become accustomed.  I, to put it bluntly, lose it and proceed to vacillate wildly between ire and panic.  I was so sure that the plan had always been to spend the final day together in Carlisle; RB understandably wants to complete what he started, and WN wants to do both.  His injury decides him, and it is decided that RB will finish in Carlisle tomorrow, and both will walk as far as they possibly can today to get him there.  I am to spend the final full day of holiday with my sooterkin (which is olde Englishe for sweetheart, not that other meaning that may come up if you get bored and google the word).  All three of us forget that previously-made plans had included 5 people, not merely the triumvirate, which actually explains a lot…  Once the plans are settled though, the distress which all three to a greater or lesser extent (me greater, the boys lesser) have shown abates quickly.

Greencarts has served as a good base for the Walk, despite it only having one toilet possessing the only basin, and that on a different floor to the bedrooms.  It was warm, comfortable, and Sandra Pt1 was an amenable and friendly landlady.  I for one am a little sad to be leaving.  I am also very nervous about driving the entire distance to Hillhouse relying solely on ‘Kim’, and having to amuse myself with absolutely no idea how to go about doing so.  Today is the day I have least wished for, and now it was here.

We pack the car up (and manage to forget my last piece of James’ Chocolate Ganache, which breaks my heart as it is soooooo yummy), RB’s fake Tupperware containing pre-prepared bolognaise (the container from a takeaway so he is not that distressed, but the bolognaise was lovely so I am) and probably a few other bits I forget now.  Little matter, we are Museum-bound!

(c) Tina Price-Johnson 16.9.11

Half expecting to see the three strange men of our first night Bunkhouse night, whom I met upon arrival at the Museum last night when I was expecting to see our tardy nutters Brave Heroes rise like athletic supermen over the horizon, rather than stagger like exhausted couch potatoes after a two hour wait, we arrive at the Museum.  The Museum is yet another fantastically inventive display of life for Roman Legionnaries on the Wall.  I particularly like the 3D film, and disobey the rules by taking photos (but not too many of course, and never with the flash).

I adored the evocative image pointing out that, actually, there were people living in the land that the Romans wished to rule, and they didn’t particularly want the Romans there.

(c) Tina Price-Johnson 16.9.11

The local area is very peaty, and this has preserved the finds beautifully.  They have a complete horsehair Roman Helmet crest; how did that survive 1,800 years?  We tried our strength on the longbow, at WN appears suspiciously adept.  I learned, and promptly forgot, the names, ranks, groupings and orders of the Roman Army.   I did not know Hadrian’s biggest love was a young man named Antinous, which made for a problematic marriage to his wife who was the great-niece of who was his Guardian and Mentor, the Emperor Trajan, who was raising Hadrian up to follow his footsteps.

I am VERY glad that toilet facilities have improved!

(c) Tina Price-Johnson

The museum is so packed that once again, we tarry a while longer than originally planned.  Our misshapen lumps Brave Heroes wish to walk to Carlisle tonight if they can, but this now seems a psychotic fantastical unlikely reality.  I am glad, I don’t really want them to leave.  Today, I know, I am going to miss their company more than any other.  I’m genuinely quite nervous and wary of being a soloist; I have only been driving for 10 months and I don’t know the area at all, and I am unsure what awaits me on arrival at Hillhouse.  I don’t actually tell them this of course, I have to maintain my position as bossy harridan caring support team asset.  They might get big heads or something, and that extra weight would not be welcome on the trudge walk.

They leave and I set ‘Kim’ for the bunkhouse, and I’m off.  It’s a bit further than I expected.  Quite a lot further, and involves a drive right through the centre of Carlisle.  Like all towns, Carlisle appears to be constructed entirely of roundabouts, traffic lights and road-works, with the added excitement of sirens looming up behind me and pedestrians flinging themselves with abandon into the middle of the road.  Then I hit the countryside, but this time, it’s near the coast.  The ratio of cow/field appears to have increased in multiples of a billion and as I near the Bunkhouse I am alarmed to drive over a cattle grid which has a depth warning of 3 metres when the tide is in.  We weren’t so much staying in a sleepy village called Burgh-by-Sands as staying ON the Salway Firth on a cattle farm.  I find the bunkhouse which as the name suggests is at least on a hill, so we won’t be flooded out at least.  However, the entrance to it leaves about half an inch of manoeuvre space either side of my car, jangling my already jangled nerves.  I’m in, I park, I notice I am surrounded on four sides three of which are cowshed/stables, I get out and I reel from the hit of pure cow toxin that assaults my olfactory senses.  Tears spring to my eyes from the strength of the smell, not only from the strength of the smell.  I chose this place, I was responsible for the selection of all accommodations for this trek, our deluded hikers Brave Heroes will be returning requiring warmth and comfort and it appears I’ve booked us into a cow shed.  I check in with Sandra Pt2, who is a lovely woman and from whom I hide my immediate reaction; I fear this is a place for school trips and youth club jamborees, not middle-aged idiots.  The bunk room has no heating, but does have an extremely nice shower, which is the only plus I can find. The kitchen defines basic.  The flies clearly adore the place.  I dither briefly, but decide it only fair to warn our Brave Heroes and I call WN.  And burst into tears.  Oops.  I unload the car and head back to Carlisle, but my emotional state has now tipped over into outright despondency.

(c) Tina Price-Johnson 16.9.11

Blessing ‘Kim’ once again, I find a very convenient and amusingly named car park and set off for a wander.  I am so melancholy however that I find myself in McDonalds unable to stop my eyes from leaking.  Not for the first time I am relieved I have long hair and can cover my face.  I do feel faintly ridiculous, but I think I need this release.  Part of me feels I may be overreacting slightly, but I can’t seem to stop.  I do attempt a sight-seeing tour, and locate Carlisle Castle for my day with WN tomorrow.  The Abbey is exquisite, Carlisle is rather lovely even if it is raining (not helping with my general feeling of malaise), and I have a massive hazelnut & caramel latte from Costa Coffee (my personal addiction).  Even that fails to raise my spirits.  There is nothing left but to return to the Bunkhouse and await my summons from our bossy pantwearers Brave Heroes to come and fetch them from wherever it is they have managed to walk to before collapsing in sodden sweaty heaps of carbon.  Stopping to purchase sustenance of course.

(c) Tina Price-Johnson 16.9.11

I receive the summons at 5.30 pm, not a moment too soon.  ‘Kim’ is giving the destination, Irthington.  The Salutation Inn.  I set off, and spend 30 minutes doing 5 miles an hour behind an extremely wide farm vehicle which has caused a tailback of a mile by the time I join the queue.  Finally, I find the boys, and am so relieved I force both our sweaty nastinesses Brave Heroes to give me hugs.  It takes some time to tear RB away from the lovely Vicky, barmaid of incredible beauty and intelligent discourse, but eventually we manage it.  I am gratified to note upon their return that I had not exaggerated the nature of the bunkhouse and after discussion it is decided that rather than spend two nights here as was booked, we will only be spending one. We will tomorrow travel to RB’s abode and spend a comfortable warm night in bliss before completing our drive home.  Plans made, food cooked and eaten, a prolonged period of 20 minutes of hysteria from our frenzied amblers Brave Heroes (again which I video’d, again I apologise for being unable to work out how to upload it.  If I do, I promise it will be worth it – curse my techno-illiteracy!), and a pleasant evening passes uneventfully.  Sandra Pt2 does not appear to mind our leaving a day early.  I believe this is because she is expecting a large group of men tomorrow who have also booked space.  This had also played some part in our decision – we could cope when able to be ourselves, but I was not looking forward to sharing with 10 extra men.  Especially as it appeared there were only 12 beds… I must have miscounted…

I had received my rented sleeping bag earlier, and we all retired at the same hour.  The next day, RB had decided to begin his saunter from Burgh-By-Sands, further along than Carlisle and adding several miles to his journey.  He was no longer hindered by his lame colleague WN, who had been using one of the two spare walking sticks we brought with us ‘just in case’ since Day 2 of their Walk (Day Three of this blog series).  Both were exhausted, so my unbroken record of retiring first was, well, broken.  My sleeping bag appeared to have been intended for a very short and slender 2 year old, so I nicked three blankets from other bunks.  I still awoke in the early hours shivering, and with my teeth chattering.  Given my spinal arthritis, all guilt about leaving early flew away.  This was for my health, dagnabit!

(c) Tina Price-Johnson 16.9.11

I keep this image, taken on the journey to collect our Brave Heroes, in my head.  I have a day with my darling Sooterkin tomorrow, and RB is fulfilling his ambition.  It will be a good day.  However little sleep I have had…

This was the hardest day to write, for obvious reasons.  Thankfully it was the only day like this.  Repeat to self: “this too, shall pass”.

End of Fifth Day.


From → Autobiography

  1. It wasn’t the hardest bloody day to walk!

    And I started the last day at Bowness rather than Burgh – I say that merely for accuracy in spite of the fact that given the circumstance it makes me look even more like a chief than I already do! (And I don’t mean ‘chief’ in the Celtic sense!)

    I shall now go back to the images of the lovely Vicky as conjured up by your emotive post. I notice you didn’t mention the monsoon at any stage!

    • Bowness, dammit! I shall remedy that heinous error when I write my final instalment.

  2. I’ve just remembered, there’s a photo you haven’t sent me 😉

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