Hadrian’s Wall – In the footsteps of an unprepared novice

 

It’s Monday morning… 9.40 am or thereabouts… Our intrepid explorer and his long-suffering but immensely supportive wife are making the final preparations for their first visit to The Wall (as it has become known over the past few months, during the “planning” stages)… Nerves are frayed and emotions running high as the final checks are made…

“Phone and chargers?” – Check!

“Walking boots?” – Check!

“Book?” – Check!

“Second Book, for when you’ve finished the first?” – Check!

“Emergency Flare, for when you get stuck on The Wall and need rescuing?” – Cheek!

“Car keys?” – Check!

And so, grabbing the infamous hat as we go through the door, we are off. A full ten minutes or so before the scheduled departure time… Things are looking good ūüôā

But Wait!

What’s this? An accident on the M1? Closing a huge chunk of our route to Dom’s?¬†Nooooo, this can’t be happening…

After losing nearly two hours due to diversions, road-works and unplanned comfort breaks we arrive at the home of Our Hero’s Trusted Side-kick Dom with just enough time for a caffeine and nicotine top-up before loading Dom and his gear (including a much appreciated crate of beer) in the car and back onto the road… Straight into the tail-end of the hurricane that has been visiting Northern Britain over the past few days… Beware High Winds!! And Bad Drivers!!!!

With our hero at the wheel (and the speed camera warnings on the sat-nav giving plenty of warning) we make good time to our home for the next four days…¬†Greencarts¬†Bunkhouse,¬†Humshaugh

Can you see where we are?
(c) Tina Price-Johnson 12/09/2011

Having explored the bunk house and chosen the smaller of the two rooms available we are faced with the news that we will be sharing our digs for the night with another couple of wall walkers (and their two dogs, Merlin and Skye)… Much as we miss having the company of our Entertainments Officer and Co-Pilot at least now these two nice people don’t have to spend the storm filled night sleeping under a hedgerow.

And so we settle in… and that’s when the “Oh Shit, I forgot…” conversation begins :/… Having covered the camera question that had arisen in the car we move onto Dom (walking shoes…) and our hero (Brand new waterproof coat bought especially). This trip is getting off to a great start… Time to pull out the Triv and the beer to fill the hours before bed (if our side-kick can stop trying to get it on with Merlin :D)

Our first day on the wall (henceforth known as: DAY ONE) begins with breakfast confusion and last-minute clothing issues (Thanks Dom for the loan of the coat).

Despite initial footwear/pedal conflict our hero’s long-suffering wife soon slips easily into the role of (Lone) Support Staff and Taxi Driver, taking our Intrepid Adventurers along the arrow straight Roman Road (B6318) to their starting point at Heddon on the Wall. Cue endless round of photos of the Decrepid Duo… and with the last good luck kiss still dusting his lips, Our Hero girds his loins, stiffens his upper lip, splices his main brace and strides forth on his Great Trek. Chollerford here we come… But first, let’s just pop into that Spar to grab a pack of ciggies…

I promised my trusty side-kick that I wouldn’t mention the taking a wrong turn straight off so please skip over this sentence.

Pretty soon we are ¬†back on track…

Dom has a quick rest...
Proof we were there (c)simon price-johnson 14.9.11

and the ground is flying by beneath the feet of Our Heroes. Getting off the tarmac after about half a mile we find ourselves walking with silly grins on our faces into the wilds of  Northumberland and our first Roman Archeological Site, Vindobona

I can't see anything
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 13/09/11

Undaunted by our first “Roman Encounter” we push on with renewed vigour… There WILL BE Wall!!! With the fields and earthworks passing with an unexpected swiftness we find ourselves outside the¬†eclecticly¬†decorated and quirky Robin Hood (don’t ask) Pub at about 1pm. How felicitous ūüôā Sitting down with a pint for our stalwart companion and a brand named¬†diet cola product for our virtuous hero we await our ¬†luncheon whilst watching the heavens open outside… one of the few times I’ve not minded waiting over half an hour for a sandwich…

Back on the path after about an hour we soon find ourselves (after a minor diversion involving a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and more unidentifiable, to us anyway, earthworks) going through our first stretch of forest – some may call it a copse or (as the sign claims) a plantation but I’m a city boy and to me it’s a forest. Feeling revived from our short tea-break surrounded by the pines and ferns we brave the increasingly challenging wind and precipitation to push on to Plain Trees and our first chance to actually touch The Wall.

If this is all there is, I'm going home
If this is all there is, I’m going home

Time for another tea-break ūüôā Our quiet¬†smoko¬†is rudely interrupted by the sound of car horns. Looking back towards the road we are greeted with the sight of a Winnebago holding up traffic so the passenger can lean out of their window to photograph this 30 ¬†foot (or was it 30 metres?)¬†¬†length of wall (and quite inadvertently Our Aching Heroes having a real hippy moment). Thankfully for our inner calm the minor traffic jam soon moves off. And so do we.

I don’t know if this is a deliberate act by the locals designed to keep us walkers on tenterhooks but this is the last section of wall our heroes see today. Not that we are disheartened. The rest of the walk is quite charming. If one can ignore the increasing number of bogs of mud, faeces, water and urine at every gate, style and¬†ladder. Yes, Ok so we all know it’s only Bovine and Ovine but that doesn’t stop the sinking feeling that enters your stomach as your foot slips beneath the crust of a green bit and the¬†gloupy¬†suckiness¬†tries to enter your footwear. At least that’s the impression Our Hero got whenever his Trusty Side-kick looked upon yet another fan of ¬†concentrated country-side on each side of a crossing point between fields.

Mud, mud, glorious mud
(c) Dom Kingsmill-stocker15/09/11

Was our hero down-hearted? Did he¬†feel¬†disenchanted with this adventure? Were his spirits plummeting like a fairy with flaming wings? Was he aching in bone and muscle? Well yeah, particularly the last bit. But as with countless other Wall Walkers before him, he reset his hat…

Just as an aside, for those that are interested in these things (and I know a lot of you are). In the constant battle between Our Hero and Mother Natures playful and Quixotic offspring, the wind, with regards the infamous hat and how many times said wind could flip it away from my noble brow before I could catch it. The wind¬†won¬†7-3. But not once did it land in anything more toxic than the rain wet grass…

And now back to the narrative…

As dusk approached and we walk across fields over-arched by perfect rainbows (don’t believe me? I have photos… well I don’t because my camera is shite, but Dom does), we spy ahead of us that the path is leading us back, once again, to tarmac. It must be near here that we will lay down our heavy backpacks (strangely heavy considering we’ve drunks all three flasks of tea). But no, the walk has one last trick up¬†it’s¬†sleeve. One that Our Hero is quite glad it played. Our intrepid Duo end the day walking through a bower fit for a fairy banquet…. {Hold up, what’s with the old wax lyrical?. Ed}

(c) simon price-johnson 14.9.11

And there at the bottom of the hill… well actually after catching a glimpse of the sign of the village of Wall, over another hill and around a few bends… we see it. The bridge over the river and Chollerford. Perhaps more importantly, just the other side of the bridge, The George Hotel. With the kind of non-verbal communication often exhibited by those engaged on this type of exercise, our adventurers decide this is their destination. It’s six pm, we’ve been on our feet since about 11am and we are feeling just a little proud of ourselves for covering about twelve (more like thirteen) miles… Just a mile or so to go…

See our Rugged Heroes enter the George Hotel (average age of resident 106), ragged, sweaty, under-dressed and just a tad ripe to be greeted with a warm smile and directions to the cocktail bar. As our hero sits and enjoys his fizzy black sugar-free soft drink, and his robust side-kick takes a man-sized swallow of his sample of the local brewers best, the following conversation ensues:

Our Hero: This it then? Are we calling it a day?

Side-kick: Yeah, I think so…

Hero: Shall I give Tina a bell and get her to come pick us up?

Side-kick: Yeah, I would…

And with such erudite proposal and assent are our plans¬†layed. Seconds later, after the call to our support team is made, we sit back and wonder if we need to take out a mortgage to get another round in… Our taxi arrives before a decision needs to be made…

On our return to our digs we are reminded by our Angelic driver that we have another group of travellers sharing the bunk-house this night. We had been warned earlier in the day through the miracle that is modern technology but it is only now, with our aching bodies yearning for a refreshing shower and sustenance that it sinks in. Steve, Steve and Neil(?) turn out to be three slightly older self-made men of the middling sort. And the scene is set for an evening of bad jokes,reminising¬†of the day (and distance covered) and towards the close of the day a foray into politics. Our Hero and his surprisingly still supportive wife, having spent the evening admiring each other photos and enjoying Dom’s delicious¬†SpagBol beat a hasty retreat as the question of private sector versus public sector pensions raises¬†it’s many heads…

Another night spent separated by the cruel fate of bunk-beds (No Dr, they are NOT fun!) letting sleep heal as best it can.

So ends our first installment. Stay tuned for more adventures to come as we move onto days two and three where there shall be some of this: ¬†“boggy bogs and¬†steepy¬†steep bits, gangland cows and horny sheep.” and a bit of this: “[…] a distinct lack of respect for their bipedal masters.
Nor did I (according to Dom) show much for the wall. […]¬†Always said I was a Celt at heart.”

P.S. The photos used in this narrative are all authentic images of our journey along The Wall, though some of them are being used out of chronological order. This is purely for illustrative purposes and are in no way a demonstration of my bad memory.

 

Or you could try this…¬†http://roterbaron.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/ for the adventure as seen through the eyes of my stalwart (and very¬†much-needed¬†and¬†appreciated) Side-kick.

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5 comments on “Hadrian’s Wall – In the footsteps of an unprepared novice

  1. Haha, I think your notes are just as good as mine if not in fact far more comprehensive and chronological, I enjoyed seeing it from your perspective and look forward to them same tomorrow!

  2. Pingback: Hadrian’s Wall – 2nd Night – Two Tuns, Heddon-On-The Wall to The George, Chollerford « RED BARON'S WORDS

  3. Pingback: 3 Euros and a Tip Box | inthewordsofnevyn

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