Less Than 100 Miles To Go!
Not to be confused with York City Wall (just a minor faux pas from myself!) ‘Hadrian’s Wall’, a defensive fortification from Roman Britain, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the highlight of this section on the Pennine Way.
Stretching across the north of England for 84 miles, Hadrian’s Wall, or rather the ruins that remain, runs from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria on the west coast, to Wallsend on Tyneside on the east coast. As part of the PW, we got to walk alongside 6 miles of it, taking in some breathtaking scenery as the wall passes through rugged moorland. We also got to meet and chat with a lot of long distance hikers like ourselves, walking in the opposite direction. With less than 100 miles to go, we had a lot to talk about!
A significant portion of Hadrian’s Wall still exists from Roman times.
Day 19 – Alston to Greenhead. (18 miles) – Saturday 12th July 2014 – ‘Think Positive, It Could Be Worse!’
The 12th July – Wayne’s birthday! Usually we’d be booked into some swanky restaurant for a 3-course meal, giving me the chance to wear a posh frock, and hoping to dine al-fresco, weather dependent as July’s of late have seen more rain than sunshine. Instead, we were waking up in a B&B (not quite up to our usual standards, but we were just grateful of a bed for the night, clean bedding of course) mentally preparing ourselves for the 18 mile walk ahead! Cue birthday blues, not just for Wayne but for both of us!
On the positive side, the slight hangover from pre-birthday drinks last night was eased by the fantastic full English breakfast we were treated to downstairs in the pub. (You may recall from our last post that the BB was also a pub, and an Indian restaurant too. Apparently we missed the rave that was also going on underneath our room until 2am! We didn’t care. We slept soundly!)
With our bodies refuelled and our backpacks re-loaded, we finally set off at 10am. Destination: Greenhead.
The South Tynedale Railway. The steam train travels 3.5 miles from Cumbria into Northumberland.
Walking through a jungle was not a great start to the day!
We won’t lie. It was a boring day! Neither of us was in the mood to walk 18 miles. We were constantly clock-watching and checking our mileage at every opportunity. The high point of the day was stopping at Slaggyford (someone must have won first prize for naming this village!) where we sat on a park bench and stopped for lunch. There was a lovely chapel with stained glass windows and a country garden that caught our eye. I think that might just have been the highlight of our day!
The quaint Yew Tree Chapel in Slaggyford that is now a holiday let.
After that we were literally walking through field after field, after field. We just kept putting one foot in front of the other and ploughing on hoping to get there anytime soon.
A road bridge at the side of a private estate.
Heading across fields.
More fields to cross and still some way to go…
How much further?
The worst part of the day was when Wayne climbed over a stile and accidentally smashed a bottle of Chilean red that he’d hiked with which was tucked in the side pouch of his backpack. His beloved birthday bottle of wine was no more! Sad times…
No Chilean Carmenere for you birthday boy!
We finally arrived at Holmhead Guesthouse & Camping Barn just after 7pm, just as it started to rain. Typical! It was a hurried pitch of the tent so we could take refuge out of the rain and away from the midges. Usual story!
A little brighter than when we first arrived.
The campsite is straight off the Pennine Way next to Thirlwall Castle. The clue is in the name, there’s literally only a wall left standing. But we didn’t venture further than the toilet/ shower which we thought resembled a Vietnamese ‘wet room’. (Picture a very wet toilet when you’ve finished as the shower is practically mounted above it).
Just to dampen our spirits further, along with no wine, there was also no birthday cake. Our alternative was omelette wraps. Thank goodness I’d managed to hike with 6 eggs without breaking any! Our motto for the day was ‘it could be worse’! It could have been raining all day and the campsite could have been full. At least we had somewhere to wash, rest and sleep. PMA – positive mental attitude!
Still smiling… A birthday to remember! But not for the right reasons!
Day 20 – Greenhead to Hadrian’s Wall to Forest Wild Camp. (11 miles) – Sunday 13th July 2014 – ‘Hadrian’s Wall Doesn’t Go Through York!’
For me, today was a bit of a geography and history lesson rolled into one. (Anyone who knows me, knows that my geographical knowledge is terrible! I blame the National Curriculum of the 90’s teaching me about third world farming techniques and where to build a car factory, as opposed to naming countries and identifying where they actually are!)
Because of heavy rain through the night, we didn’t set off as early as we’d planned as we waited for the tent to dry out. After finally leaving the campsite nearer to midday, we were straight back on the Pennine Way heading for Hadrian’s Wall.
Every day’s a school day! I learnt all there was to know about Hadrian’s Wall!
The wall follows the contours of the hills so there was a lot of ups and downs.
Having only a vague idea about Hadrian’s Wall, Wayne spent the afternoon correcting me on a few things. (I felt like I was a contestant on ‘QI’!) With the Pennine Way following it for around 6 miles, I don’t think I’ll forget Hadrian’s Wall now!
In a better mood than yesterday!
Stopping for lunch at Cawfields Quarry.
When we reached Caw Gap, we couldn’t quite believe there was a group of people sitting on the wall and enjoying a barbeque. I mean, come on, it’s a World Heritage Site. You wouldn’t see that at Angkor Wat! We expected a ‘flat’ straightforward walk – Romans built straight roads after all. But Hadrian’s Wall follows the contours of the hills so you find yourself walking a constant up then down. There are some particularly sharp ascents and descents after passing Milecastle 41. So it was not an easy walk after all.
Just a bit further…
Another uphill – yes that’s me at the bottom!
Reaching the trig point.
Hadrian’s Wall continues… In fact we walked alongside it for 6 miles.
We wanted to go further than the campsite at Once Brewed, otherwise we would have had a really short day. So we pushed on looking for a place where we could wild camp for the night.
More of Hadrian’s Wall – if you’ve not seen enough already!
A great rest stop where Wayne did a time lapse sequence of the clouds.
More wall, more walking…
Eventually we found a great spot after Stonefolds where you enter the forest. It was down an old stone track that had been fenced off and left to grow wild. The bonus being it wasn’t too midgy as there was a nice breeze coming our way. We waited and pitched after 7pm (not that it would make much difference as it doesn’t get dark until 10pm anyway) but we didn’t see anyone at all.
Finally a stile over the wall to pastures new!
Heading to Stonefolds…
Our perfect wild camp at the edge of the forest.
It was our standard super noodles for dinner and an early night, ready for a 5am wake up call.
Day 21 – Wild Camp to Bellingham. (11.3 miles) – Monday 14th July 2014 – ‘An Unexpected Kindness’
The alarm might have gone off at 5am but we didn’t get away until after 6. We are just not quick with the ‘get up and go’ in the morning! We hiked around 3 miles through forest and farmland (which meant wet feet because of the morning dew) before we stopped for breakfast and got the tent out to dry.
Up at sunrise ready for a new day…
A long road ahead…
We saw this poster advertising a full English breakfast for £5! Brilliant – except they are only available on Sundays and it was Monday, boo hoo!
‘Beware of the bull!’
After setting off again, we later had an unexpected ‘rest stop’ at Hornystead Farm which is right on the Pennine Way route. There was a sign on the gate welcoming walkers to the shed in the farmyard, which on entering we discovered was filled with all sorts of goodies. Tea, coffee, chocolate bars, crisps, soup and a fridge full of cold drinks. You could help yourself to anything and leave a donation in an ‘honesty’ tin. Wow! What an unexpected kindness and welcome relief on a hot day! Wayne was thrilled that there was even the option of ginger beer! There was a table and chairs, an old sofa to sit on and rest the feet, as well as a heater to plug in on a cold day. It was completely awesome! There was no one around to thank personally so we left a message on the notepad provided – and would also like to say a huge thank you here to Hornystead Farm. Your goodie shed really made our day!
The sign that caught our attention!
The ‘goodie’ shed – lots of treats to revive any hiker!
Feeling revived and full of appreciation we continued on to Bellingham. Today was by no means one of our longest days, but my feet were really aching by the last mile. As we passed the Caravan & Camping Club site on the outskirts of Bellingham I looked on longingly wondering if they had wi-fi. Based on our previous experience, I knew it would be doubtful that we’d find it in town. We walked along the main road, taking a shortcut along the river to town, then finally reached our home for the night, Demesne Farm Campsite. We found ourselves a nice flat pitch and set to work on washing all of our clothing by hand. We were desperate for clean clothes and it had been a while since we’d found a launderette or had a campsite with laundry facilities. (I wished we’d have just gone to the C&C Club Site when we saw it!)
A little help over a boggy patch.
Hopefully the last stile of the day!
Bellingham finally comes into view!
Lovely reflections on our short cut across the river.
We also had to go into town and re-supply with food and gas for the last 3 days of the Pennine Way. Yes, Bellingham really is the last place to stock up. By the time we got back it was raining, so we grabbed all the washing off the line and took refuge in the ‘drying room’. What a great place to hang out! Wayne got the log burning stove going, which not only dried our clothes but kept us warm while we also charged our electronics, making use of the power socket in there. It was a win win situation.
Getting the fire going as we take refuge in the ‘drying room’.
Dinner was bacon butties as we couldn’t get fish fingers! And then it was bed time.
3 more days until we complete our first long distance hike!!! Find out how we fared hiking the last 40 miles or so into Scotland in our next update…