Hadrian’s Wall – The day the pain got personal…

Previously on Hadrian’s Wall – an idiot’s guide to walking…

” 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…”

“a real hippy moment” “The wind won 7-3″

” Chollerford here we come… But first, let’s just pop into that Spar to grab a pack of ciggies…”

“Plain Trees […] this is the last section of wall our heroes see today. Not that we are disheartened.”

“three slightly older self-made men of the middling sort”

“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… “

What do you mean you don’t remember that bit? Didn’t you read the first instalment? Well alright, go back and read it now and I’ll wait…


Ok, now read on… 

At The George Hotel, to start Day 2, ending in the Twice Brewed pub 16 miles away! (c) Tina Price-Johnson 14/9/11

Hold on, getting a bit ahead of ourselves there I think… Let’s back it up a bit… Let’s see… Whip whipwhipwhipwhip”..xeHnitaocauoytegotyrtll’I”whipwhip”tsafkaerbeciN”whipwhipwhip”taergtahtton,on”whipwhisckitch…

Our Heroes greet Day Two earlier than they had planned. Despite setting various alarms for the times desired by our protagonist and his ( 2/5 diminished) super-hero squad, the morning’s sleep is quite rudely interrupted by the shared jocularity of those sharing the bunk-house… Our fellow boarders, the three slightly older self-made men of the middling sort alluded to in the previous instalment, have rather louder voices than the thinness of the walls can compensate for… And so our trio start the day in a slightly grumpier mood than mere aching muscles and lack of daytime company can account for… Arriving in the (admittedly comfortable and homely) kitchen/social room to find a half prepared breakfast waiting is not lifting moods much either…  Step forward Our Hero and ta-dah!! Three cooked breakfasts. The phrase “Nice breakfast,” is heard more than once…

Using the prep time to arrange our various movements for the day and making sure that we have sufficient supplies of  Tea and James’ Cake ™… We soon find ourselves back in the car and back to The George Hotel ready for Our Hero and his Side-kick to start where they ended Day One. On the way it is decided that the long-suffering, supportive, angelic (Lone) Support Team member, Tina (beautiful, amazing, brilliant wife of Our Hero) shall venture into the wild and mysterious population centre known to the outside world as Hexam to try to find a coat to replace the one that Our Hero stupidly left hanging at home…

And so Our Heroes, filled with a pain/ache inspired trepidation and determined hope return to the walk (having learned the previous day to look for the yellow acorns and red arrows that will determine their path for the next few days )… First stop Chesters (Roman Cavalry Barracks)… Twenty minutes later, back on the path, “Oh I agree, paying £5 to see something we will probably see on The Wall for free, and that will really do no more than slow us down is just not worth it…”

Within minutes our fortitude and tight hold of the purse strings are rewarded with a glorious sight… To start the day with such a welcome is both heartening and refreshing 🙂

Ah, isn't that nice...
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11

Today’s wind, while still frisky and playful, is not as persistent as it’s siblingswere yesterday. The same can not be said for the rain. It is such a constant and insidious companion that Our Hero learns a new word. Mizzling- apparently it means a form of precipitation that is neither drizzle, fog or showers but a confusing and disconcerting combination of all three that leaves Our Hero constantly putting on and removing his coat.

Despite this constant fluctuations of body temperature our Two (a Lot closer to 40 than the previous day) Adventurers still have reasons to smile. With the terrain getting more up than down we realise we must reach some wall soon.

We're gonna walk that
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11

And there it was… I can tell you dear readers, it fair took Our Hero’s breath away!!

I have a confession to make here, dear forgiving reader, I cannot for the life of me tell you how Our Hero’s Side-kick felt at this point. This could be a combination of many things… Said Side-kick could have been forging so far ahead (to ensure safe footing and subduing rampaging woad-clad savages, I like to think ;))  that I wasn’t within ear shot of his exclamation (If he even made one), We could just have emerged from a particularly extensive and piquant concentration of “That’s yor real cun’ryside, that is,” (we did this quite a few times I recall, some places were so similar in size, colour and consistency to the planet Arboria in the classic 80s film Flash Gordon [you remember, Prince Barinwas played by Timothy Dalton and  Peter “Blue Peter Action Hero” Duncan got bit/stung/violated by a stump monster, Got it? Yeah, the one where Brian Blessed says: Gordon’s Alive?! For an extra point, Can you name Ming the Merciless’ Side-kick and head of secret police? You can? Good, now go reward yourself with a Queen song and a Jaffa Cake, But not just yet, we’ve got to get to the end of the orignal sentence…] that either English Heritage, The Land Owner, The Small Group of Lovely People with spare paving in their pockets, or whoever is responsible for this sort of thing had obligingly tried to alleviate the problem that they lay stone slabs, bricks or just random bits of rock throughout the affected area. Let’s just say… It didn’t always work and leave it at that shall we?! [almost there, keep going]) and he of the stalwart character and white head-band was busy trying to use the most plentiful tufts of grass as an organic shoe cleaner, Our hero could have just limped past his boyishly exuberant side-kick after watching the gleeful and abandoned passage of him of the much better camera at almost juvenile speed and balletic grace down the preceding descent {this happened more than once, dear reader, it became such a regular feature  that Our Hero soon began to fear if not for the safety of his companion then at least his sanity :)}, Or possibly One or the other of us made our remarks whilst plastering camera to face and clicking away like mad [see that wasn’t too bad was it?]. Of course, it could quite simply be that what I felt at my first sight of this section of wall had already been experienced by my friend and fellow adventurer the previous day back at Plain trees or was an event that was yet to happen. As I said, I cannot speak for Dom but for me to see that section of  Wall pointing away towards the horizon, and knowing it would be at our side for many of the hours ahead was a truly majestic and inspiring moment. [Go on, you can have that Jaffa Cake now.]

Gormless nerk on the Wall
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11

It is as we explore these ancient and troubled stones that my camera decides it has drained the batteries – inserted only three days previous – dry and is no longer going to be available to visually document my days travails. Cue quick call to (Lone) Support Team Angel. Sorted! More batteries and a new coat tomorrow 🙂

The wall is now our constant companion for quite a distance (don’t ask me how far, I told you in the last one, I’m a city boy I measure everything in terms of “so-many bus stops”) but quite a ways I’d say, maybe 8 or 9 stops…

I could quite easily fill up the rest of this blog with photos (admittedly they would all be Dom’s) but you want to read about my inner feelings and any profound thoughts or insights I may have had whilst walking the glorious (if in much reduced circumstances) example of Ancient Engineering, don’t you? Go on, admit it. You want me to tell you that this experience has re-awakened within my tattered and limping mind, body and soul a love of history and archeology, and inspired me to return to my studies. I know you do. Because I do too. Believe me, it would be fantastic and shadow lifting for me to be able to do that. But I can’t. I can tell you that I am returning to my studies in November 🙂 a decision I made a few months ago on one of those days when the shadows weren’t so close. And anyway, this trip wasn’t about that. Truth to tell, I couldn’t tell you what it was about. Was it on some sub-conscious “bucket list”? Was it a desire for a (not as) cheap (as we had hoped) holiday? Was it early on-set MidLifeCrisis? oh IBITS, am I going to start trying to buy a sports car?!  or a pipe dream that somehow became real? Was it a way to prove to myself that I don’t have to take up Golf just yet? Yes, to all. and No to all. Like I said, I don’t know why I did it but I am glad I did… {Hold On!! Hold on holdon!!! In the last one it was all flaming fairy wings and lyrical wax cylinders, and in this we are getting Deep and Meaningful with what appears to be sections taken wholesale from the closing monologue. Just get on with it. Ed}

The treasures of this enduring reminder of man’s political and military follies (or should that be the physical imprint of man’s ultimately pointless attempts to impose a social order onto another cultural system?) are coming thick and fast now. Soon after this section of wall peters out we find ourselves what appear to be a small quarry for the wall. Huge rocks, some with what appear to be chisel marks, surround us as we sit and have our first Tea Break of the day.

Soon after our trusty acorns and arrows guide us across the road, past the car park (with attendant coffee vanette) and down the gravelled path to the mighty Temple of Mithras.

I'd put a roof on that mate
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11

This place is really coming alive for Our Hero now. Conversations have ranged from the Mithras Legend, a Roman soldier’s probable response on seeing he was posted here, the latest emerging blister, and the ridiculous defence mechanism of sheep (from what I can tell, instead of running away or attacking their first response to a possible attack is to squat and take a piss).

Witty banter and pre-production socks aside, the path now began to reveal its real intent. The acquisition of blisters and the discomfort of aching muscles were apparently mearly a fore-taste of what was to come. From now on the Pain was Getting Personal. The terrain and the wind both now increased their separate attempts to dishearten and demoralise Our Intrepid Duo. But with stout hearts and determined chins Our Heroes push on. On and Up. And Up. And Up. And U – Oh you get the picture. Look I’m not saying we climbed a mountain here but for every Down there were more Ups.

For those of you that are interested (I’m sure at least a couple of you still are) The score at this stage in the eternal struggle between the wind and our hero for his Hat is: 0 for 3 to our Hero. Who would’ve thought carrying your hat for most of the day would stop it being snatched off your head by the weather?!

It is at this point (about two-thirds of the way up what appears to be [please god let it be] the last peak) that our reliable silent, primary coloured guides also let us down.

“Do we continue up this section of wall or do we follow the acorn and arrow over this ladder and across the lush looking field?” Now I’m not going to say who asked the question, nor who it was that answered “Well, the acorns have always worked so far…” Suffice to say we probably made the wrong decision… Watching as the Wall continues across the top of the escarpment behind us, we descend into the quagmire… Was it pride? Stupidity? Testosterone? Is that the same question put three different ways? Whatever it was, we didn’t quit crossing that shoe hungry expanse. No we didn’t. No sirree, we ain’t no quitters!! Not even when we look back and can see Housesteads Fort atop the escarpment almost level with us. You see we had descended into the quagmire but it had swiftly returned to its primarliy upwards direction within minutes of its first attack on Our Staunch Side-kick’s footwear. I did mention he was wearing his everyday trainers didn’t I? Yes alright I found it quite funny. Look, you weren’t there man, you don’t know what it was like!!!

Our return to Arboria was eventually relieved by another forest {copse. Ed.}. The trees welcome into their midst two tired, hungry and mildly irritated (not quite) middle-aged men. Half an hour later, the branches wave goodbye to two hippies fortified with Tea and Cake. These two behemoths are ready for anything, willing to take on whatever the Wall can throw at them. Oh shit, that looks quite steep. And look at all those cows. Why are they looking at us like that?

Look, I just do it, man. I can’t say it. I just can’t tell it man. I just… Oh those cows… Oh how could they do…? Oh no man, I can’t. Don’t make me, please?!!! {It’s Ok Man, What happened on The Wall, Stays on The Wall. Erm… Dear Reader, please forgive our friend as he goes for a little lie down and some soothing music….. Normal service will return shortly… Thank you. In the mean-time please enjoy some photos. Ed.}

Having a Hippy Moment
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker14/9/11 

Windy 'ere innit
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker14/9/11
Gods I'm Fuck'd
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11

As you can see from the last picture (right) the terrain became increasingly frustrating and rugged. Not help by Our Hero twisting his knee at some point along the way and now facing the rest of the day in teeth clenching agony. Did you think they noticed? Did we get away with it? Well, it’s quite a time jump… Well If you say so… Much as our dynamic duo are striding manfully against these hills, they are heartened whenever they look back along their path to see the obstacles they have already overcome. The Wall will not beat them.

The Day continues on with more mile castles, forts, gates, swamps, hills, cows, wall, signposts, sheep and the occasional whimper of pain. Conversation, when it comes, begins to revolve around the Twice Brewed Inn and the end of this gruelling day. And there, on the horizon (up another bloody hill) is the car park at Steel Rigg. All that is left for Our two weary Heroes is to extract the collapsible walking stick from a back-pack and follow the road down to civilisation. Or alcohol, whichever comes first.

Fuck me I need a pint!!
(c) Dom Kingsmill-Stocker 14/9/11


And that’s it. Day Two done.

What? Wait? What for? Oh I said I was doing Days Two and Three? Oh shit yeah. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t even finished Day Two yet. After all, you don’t even know if we get picked up yet. Or what excitingdevelopments awaited us back at the Bunk-house. Or even what we had for dinner that night.

Can I go into all that now? Do you know what, I’m just going to have to keep you all waiting I’m afraid. This has taken a bit out of me tonight {Don’t mention The Hill, Man. Ed} and so I am going to post this as is and cover day three next time. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Don’t go too far folks, we’ve got Vindolanda to come and more Steepy Steep bits and Boggy Bogs. Not to mention Brown 833.


For The Wall as seen Through the eyes of Our Hero’s Side-kick try here: http://roterbaron.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/ and I bet that bloody link doesn’t work either. I really must learn how to use this bloody thing properly one of these days



4 comments on “Hadrian’s Wall – The day the pain got personal…

    • I’ve noticed that too. Loving it! So the end of Day 2 is the next blog? With the invasion of the Germans (okay, one lovely Swiss lady and her hubby)? Cool…

  1. Pingback: Hadrian’s Wall – 3rd Night – The George, Chollerford to Twice Brewed Inn « RED BARON'S WORDS

  2. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable being the Burt Ward of the piece! But since I know how I’ve described our dynamic later I’m going to let it pass for now!

    I may have forgotten my shoes but at least I brought (a) coat(s)! Even if after 2 days it’s sweaty stench was singularly unpalatable!

    [Oh and to make a link attach to the word, highlight the word then click on the chain symbol and a little window will appear allowing you to put the link in.] – Sidekick Tech Support Inc.

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