Monday, 1 July 2013

Six get very wet in Northumberland

Six get very wet in Tony Bindle.                 June 28th.

     The jolly jock who shares weather forecasting duties with Hannah B. told us that Friday would be wet, very wet. And he was right. Nevertheless we gadgies had agreed to a walk on Hadrian’s Wall and six of us met in the car park at Once Brewed on The Military Road that runs from Newcastle to Carlisle a few miles north of the A69. The road was built by General Wade, shortly after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s abortive attempt to claim the crown for the House of Stuart in 1745,  to enable the rapid movement of troops across the country. Not being particularly interested in preservation or history he built part of the road on top of the wall.

Someone I know thinks it is high time I used proper names instead of the meister titles so the group who are out today are:

The punmeister, to be known in future as Brian;

The routemeister to be known as Harry

The vogelmeister to be known as Dave,

The halfmarathonmeister to be known as Ben although his name is Derek

The musicmeister to be known as Cornish Johnny or just John

And me, formerly known as the blogmeister.

At Once Brewed there is a National Park Information Office; next door is a Youth Hostel and next door to that is a pub called The Twice Brewed which has improved considerably since the first time I was in some 49 years ago.

A map is useful for this walk and it is covered by Ordnance Survey mapOL43, Hadrian’s Wall. The Information Centre car park is at NY752668.

As we started the walk it was raining, but not too heavily.


The Walk, at last.

                        The car park at Once Brewed. Classy and £4 for a day.

Leaving the car park, which costs £4 for a whole day, (How much?) we headed down the road in a southerly direction for about half a mile before turning left and following the sign for Vindolanda, Roman fort and ongoing archaeological dig. This is a narrow road, used by people in cars to get to the fort. Some of them are very impatient with humble walkers, so take care.

Not very far down this road, on the left and hidden in long grass is the stump of a genuine Roman Mile Stone. If you wear a pedometer, as some of us do, take a reading at this point as there is another one some way along and there is always the chance they are a mile, Roman or Imperial, apart.

A little further along, and also on the left is Causeway House, one of the few thatched buildings in Northumberland.      

                                         Two views of the thatched Causeway House.
                                                                                                                                                            A short distance further on is the entrance to Vindolanda. This Roman fort, unlike most of the ones on the wall, is  privately owned, is open to the public and has a superb visitor centre with a host of Roman artifacts, including the famous letter home asking for more socks and underpants. It is well worth a visit, preferably on a sunny day. We gave it a miss on this occasion but it is highly recommended.

                                     Vindolanda from the outside. Not much to look at on a wet day
but the Information Centre and Museum are well worth the entrance fee.

We continued down the lane alongside the fort, spotted the Roman milestone on the left and checked pedometers. The milestones were approximately 1.1 miles apart, measured in proper British units, which are a bit longer than Roman miles.  ( A Roman mile is 1620 yards, a proper mile is 1760 yards)

Not far from this point, on the right-hand side of the road just beyond Chesterholm  is a signpost which took us down a footpath alongside a stream called Chainly Burn.  This narrow valley contains at least two disused coalmines, drift or adit I presume and there is little evidence of them near the path. We emerged in a field occupied by several horses and a young lady. She was the wrangler and asked if we would please wait until she had some of the horses out of the field through a gate at the far end as they were a little nervous. Naturally we agreed and once the animals had cleared the field we followed them up a lane to farm buildings where the marked footpath goes off to the right. It was still raining.

In the second picture Little Dave the wrangler prepares to do his stuff.
( An obscure reference to a Marty Robbins song on Cowboys 2, one of the best ever compilations of gun fighter ballads)

At the end of the lane we turned left onto a minor road and after a short distance turned left again and approached Westwood Cottages where we turned right. Past the cottages we spotted the marker on the left side of the road. There was a remarkable stile to cross, so good I think it must have been imported from Yorkshire,  a stile with style and class indeed.
Cathy from Goole, these are for you, and there will be more human interest in the future. By the way, the best fish and chips I ever had were from a chippy in Goole.
Some of the gang cross the wonderful Yorkshire stile.

The footpath crossed two fields, diagonally and came out at a farm track. Turning right we came to West End Town, worthy of the name geographically but hardly a town and soon it merged with Thorngrafton.

We found the next marker; adjacent to some rather splendid iron gates, and walked up a lane and across two fields before reaching another classy stile. This one had a large piece of wood on which was cut the legend “sheep gate, please replace.” It lifted out of the stile and we replaced it, wouldn’t want any sheep to escape. It was still raining as we headed uphill over soggy moorland to what looked like a pole on the next ridge. It turned out to be “The Long Stone”, was about ten feet high and had a bench mark.

John practises signalling at the Long Stone near the site of the Roman signalling station.
                                                                Herbie Spot

Although it was still raining we crouched behind a wall under a tree for a Herbie Spot. Damp sandwiches but lunch was enriched with ginger biscuits from Ben, ALDI chocolate and some really fattening shortbread/caramel/chocolate from Dave.

Over lunch we discussed the rest of the day. We had intended to head for the Wall at Housteads and walk along it back to Once/Twice Brewed but decided for once to cop out, surrender to the miserable weather and head back to the car park the quickest way.

A short walk from the Long Stone, heading north east, we passed the patch of land formerly a Roman signalling station and headed downhill to the road. Turning left we walked a few hundred yards before a right turn took us back past Vindolanda, Causeway House and after another right turn we reached the car park.

Changed we headed for the Twice Brewed pub so we would be wet on the inside as well as the outside. A friendly pub, pleasant staff and some reasonable real ales, including one made especially for the place and called “Twice Brewed”. They could have got someone to do it in Latin.

A good walk on a wet day, well worth repeating, especially if we can do the stretch on the wall.

The Matrix MMMIV

                                              Steps                                   Miles

Higear                                      15294                                 7.2

ASDAPED                                15632                                7.54

Useless LIDL3D                      12079                                5.55   (Why?)


Dave’s LIDL3D                        15896                                7.31 (This is so unfair)

LIDLUSB                                   15461                               7.80


OUTDOORGPS                                                                    7.1

Ben Bragometer                                                               7.0

 Measured                                                                        7.1


Too wet for any selfrespecting bird to venture out of its tree, but we did see swallows.