Saturday, 29 August 2015

Publius Aelius Hadrianus Muri iterum....Aug 28th
(or William in murum Roman)(Hadrian's Wall)
   William was quite excited, he had been invited out by the gadgies again, but this time for a walk on Hadrian's Wall. He had heard about the wall in history at the acatemy, it had been built by Emperor Hadrian in AD 122 to keep the wild cats of Scotland out of the Roman Empire's most northerly province, Britain.  He thought he had better practise his Latin in case they met any legionnaires on the walk so he sat chanting quietly to himself; "Amo, amas amat, amamus amatis acat" although he wasn't too sure about the last bit. He also practised the mantra he had learned from Rene Descat:
" Ambulo, ergo sum" a useful phrase when out walking. He had taught himself a few poems by Catullus also but thought they were a bit risque so kept them to himself. He packed his rucksack again, this time with a small tin of sardines in oil and a tub of fresh cream. Early on Friday morning he, with his friend Helen, were picked up by the gadgies and off they went. There were only three gadgies out today, John H,, the musicmeister Dave, the stonemeister and the blogmeister himself. The first part of the journey was by car to Hexham where they parked for free all day in the Wentworth car park which has a sports centre as well as a Waitrose.
                                      It was the biggest car park William had ever seen.

  From the car, once booted up, they walked to the bus station and caught the 10.10 am AD122 bus that runs along the wall, but only in the summer months. William was glad he had taken his pusspass, which allowed free travel all the way to Greenhead where the walk was due to start. He had also brought with him a pawometer which would count his steps and measure the distance he walked.
They got off the bus at Greenhead and started the walk. Going uphill on a minor road, not the one the bus had just come down, they soon found the signpost that pointed left through somebody's yard, down a lane, across a couple of fields to the junction near Thirlwall Castle where they turned west on the Hadrian Wall Path proper.
                                                  Through the yard..............
                                   The acorn is the sign for a long distance footpath, the arrow tells you which way to go.
                                                      Thirlwall castle, meaning "gap in the wall" apparently.
Almost immediately they crossed the railway line, very carefully of course, trains are big and fast.
Once across William headed for the signpost on the other side of the road but Dave told him not to follow that path, it was the Pennine Way and he would finish up in Derbyshire, which is a long way away.
They walked along, crossing fields until they came to the first real Roman ruin, the mile castle at Poltross Burn near the village of Gilsland. There was an interesting ruin, a mile castle at the burn and a more modern ruin in the village.

                                                 Poltross Burn Milecastle

William thought it looked nice but draughty.
  Having crossed the railway again, carefully, they followed the line of the wall to Willowford. On the wall farm they spotted the stone taken from the Roman wall during building but still with an inscription!
                      The wall near Willowford, facing stones and rubble core. Experts will notice that it is a section of narrow wall on a broad base.
 William used his knowledge of Latin inscriptions to translate without the plaque
Just beyond the farm they came to the remains of the Roman Bridge that had once crossed the river Irthing. Still impressive, but, like the river, the bridge itself had gone, moved several hundred yards north over several hundred years.

                             Roman Bridge at Willowford

One of the few information boards currently on display on the wall. It is a disgrace, where have they all gone? Answers please from English Heritage.

Not long after the party arrived at Birdoswald  (Banna to the Romans). The fort is an English Heritage site and has a shop, cafe and picnic tables so the team called a Herbie Spot and sat in the courtyard for lunch.  Another feast, Helen's home made lemon muffins, flapjacks, fruit bars and Pork Pies! Plus a sandwich and tea. The sardines were good too.
As they ate a Roman legionnaire appeared and gave a talk on life in the Roman Army. It sounded good  to William at 300 denarii a year and he considered taking the Emperor's offer until he found that your kit and food had to come out of your pay and you had to sign up for twenty five years.
                              Helen considers the military life

                                           Birdius Oswaldius, tells a good yarn, but was his pronunciation of Caesar as Kaiser with a hard c correct? Who knows.
                                        Birdius with his gladius and pilum  (sword and shield)
From Birdoswald the path heads more or less straight west, some times on the road, sometimes in fields. Originally this part of the frontier was a turf wall replaced later by the stone one. Not far from Banks the team left the Hadrian Wall Path and headed downhill along a road to the priory at Lanercost, which also had a shop and cafe and various entertainments, as well as a rather fine church. Somewhere on the wall  of the cottages is another stone with an inscription but they failed to spot it.
                                             This fragment of wall near Banks is supposedly almost the full height

                                       William met a friend on the wall
                                                           Lanercost Priory
Leaving the priory the team walked along the road and crossed the river Irthing by a very old bridge next to its modern counterpart. William was confused when the gadgies spotted a green and yellow tractor and called out "John Deere". He prefers Caterpillar machinery. Walking up the road the blogmeister was hit on the head by a branch which inexplicably fell out of a tree. It also cut his arm but fortunately John had some plasters and Helen some tissues so they stopped the flow of blood even though it looked bad.
At a road junction the team turned left and followed a public footpath sign which led through woods until finally descending into Brampton. After a few minutes wait the bus for Hexham appeared and the tired walkers were driven back to the car. But of course, before leaving for home they visited the local Wetherspoons pub for beer or lemonade.
Another good day out for all, especially William.

William enjoyed a prawn cocktail in the pub

The Matrix MMXV  RR
                                                               steps                                miles
LIDL3D                                              30647                                11.46
Dave's LIDL3D                                  25069                                 11.87
Daves USB                                         24731                                 11.71
OUTDOORS GPS                                                                         11
Etex 20                                                                                            11

Saturday, 22 August 2015

We walked from Beadnell to Belford along St. Oswald's Way....Aug 21st.(Northumberland)
It's a sure sign of age when you start discussing your ailments. There are four gadgies out today, Brian with his bad back, John H and I with our early days arthritic knees, and Dave with his osteo penic bones and almost fully recovered broken elbow. We are having a true gadgie walk, it involves the use of a bus pass. The start is at Beadnell, a small fishing village on the Northumberland coast which has a well preserved lime kiln and a lot of holiday cottages. To get there A1 north beyond Alnwick, turn right when you see a sign post for Seahouses and follow the maze of minor roads until, just before Seahouses you come to Beadnell. At the north end of the village, across the road from the fish and chip shop, there is a space on the side of the road for several cars and a park celebrating HM's jubilee which is useful for sitting to put your boots on. The jovial jock on TV had promised us a humid day with showers late in the afternoon, he was spot on.
The map for this walk is OS OL 340 Holy Island and Bamburgh.

                                              This week's free car park in Beadnell. 
The walk is easy to follow as it is part of the St. Oswald's Way and Northumberland Coastal Path, well signed:
                                                Follow the paths, but not as the crow flies.
We walked a short distance north towards Seahouses, the path sticks to the road but we went through a gate and down on to the beach. Like many of the Northumberland beaches it is sandy and although not sunny there were plenty of families making castles, playing cricket or just sitting. Nobody in the water, the North Sea can be cold, even at this time of year. Approaching North Sunderland Point it is sometimes necessary to go inland and cross the Annstead Burn by the bridge and continue to Seahouses by the road but the water was low, we crossed the stream and climbed up to the golf course with its sign to beware of flying golf balls.
Today's Geology lesson,sedimentary layers near Seahouses
                                                                            The footpath  overlooks the harbour from where it is possible to take a boat out to the Farne Islands. The Farnes are a National Nature Reserve, famous for puffins and seals and an assortment of sea birds.  The smell can be overpowering. Unless you are a member of the National Trust there is a charge to land on the islands if you take the boat trip.
   The one and only Billy Shiels! A boat leaves the harbour bound for the Farnes.
                                 Kittiwakes on the cliffs above the harbour.
                    Seahouses is a small fishing port and holiday resort. There are many cottages to let and there are several fish and chip shops. Near the roundabout in the centre is a large car park which used to be the railway station. The path goes through it and at the back a gate leads onto the old track bed.
                                            Spot the fish and chip restaurants.
The track comes to a road and we turned right, after a couple of hundred yards we crossed a stile on the left and headed across fields towards Bamburgh.
                                  Surely one of the finest castles in England.
  The footpath seems to wander through several backyards before it comes to the road at the foot of the castle. We followed the road and crossed the cricket field to the pavilion where we called a Herbie Spot. Mrs A had made us another quality cake, we had flapjacks and Alpen bars and pork pies, they are making a comeback.
Lunch over we followed the footpath a short distance before descending to the beach again as far as Stag Rock and the lighthouse.
                       Stag Rock, freshly painted. Who by? No eye deer.
                             Looking back at Bamburgh and another sandy beach.

The lighthouse at Blackrocks Point, near Stag Rock
It is necessary at this point to climb the few steps and follow the path across Bamburgh golf course, again taking care not to be hit by flying golf balls. The footpath is above the emptiness of Budle Bay although you can walk on the beach if you want. At Heather Cottages the path goes round the houses and across fields before emerging again on the golf course with its associated dangers. Reaching the road we turned left down Galliheugh Bank before turning right down a lane. Almost immediately a sign sent us across several fields to the caravan site at Warren. (Not Warren Mill). We did not enter the site but followed the road a short way before following a sign that took us along the edge of the site downhill through a wood to Spindlestone Mill, now a block of flats (apartments!!!)
                                                   Used to be Spindlestone Mill
                                            The Warren Burn by the mill
We crossed the burn and headed up the hill, stopping to admire this;
                Built as a store, the top was a dovecote. Now it is a holiday let.
We turned right at the dovecote, which is marked as a windmill on the map, right at the next fork and left at he next. After a few hundred yards up the lane we took the footpath on the left which climbed uphill across several fields. A combine was busy cutting the wheat in the fields. The footpath came downhill, crossed an old railway line that had served Easington Quarry and  soon we were at the main east coast railway between London and Edinburgh. There are several tracks to cross and pedestrians are asked to call the signalman using the phone by the path for permission to cross. Sensible really, there is a slight bend and the fast trains really are. You are asked to call when you have crossed too, as good citizens we did.  Amost at the end the path goes near the silos at Belford before reaching the A1, main road between England and Scotland on the east coast. Not that you would know, it is not a dual carriageway in this part of Northumberland in spite of government promises.
                                    Belford Grain silos.
Once across the A1 we crossed a couple of fields before finally reaching the village of Belford. With time to spare we had a well earned cup of tea before catching the X18 bus back to Beadnell.
(If you choose to do this walk check the timetable, there is only one bus an hour, sometimes the Arriva X18, sometimes the Travelsure 418. It may be more sensible to catch a bus to Belford and walk back to Beadnell, or have cars at both ends.)
Back at the car we changed and headed to Embleton, calling at Greys Inn which had several beers on offer including Alnwick Amber Ale and Tyne 9, a black lager!

The matrix MMXV RR
                                                          steps                         miles
LIDL3D                                             33922                        13.07  Little legs!
Dave's LIDL3D                                 27392                        12.87
Dave's USB                                       26952                         12.76
GPS                                                                                      13.1

                       I haven't joined the maps too well.Should be "Cricket field" and H S                                                                 It's not that steep!
It was a great day for the birders, we saw kittiwakes, sanderlings, dunlins, golden plovers, cormorants, assorted shanks, a kestrel but the bird of the blog, seen in Bamburgh was the Grace Starling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

               Grace Starling of Bamburgh.
Well you would be wet if you had just rowed the lifeboat out in a storm

Friday, 14 August 2015

 All In all it's just another walk on the wall......August 13th.
  An extra gadgie walk; not all of the team are too keen on walking Hadrian's Wall but Dave and I are having a trip along a section of the Roman Empire's northern boundary today. As there are the two of us and it's a linear walk we are making use of the AD122 bus which runs in summer from Newcastle to Haltwhistle along the military road close to the wall itself. It is called the AD122 as that was the year Hadrian laid the foundation stone for his wall.
For those of you who don't know about the wall it is 73 miles long (117.5 km) and crosses England from the Solway to the Tyne. It marks the northern boundary of the empire and arguments still rage as to its purpose. There are many books on the subject, or Wikipedia. Most of it has gone, used for other buildings centuries after the Romans left but much remains, particularly the foundations of the milecastles, forts and turrets that were built along its length. Because much of it is in open countryside it is a popular walking area. It is not however the boundary between England and Scotland as some journalists seem to think. I live north of the wall but live about 60 miles south of the border between England and Scotland.

We drove to Hexham, left the car in the huge car park and caught the AD122 to Greenhead.
Now that's a car park. Hexham is posh enough to have a Waitrose Supermarket and a sports centre on one site. Park free all day too.

 The trip got off to a bad start, the driver was seen pouring water into the radiator. We left the bus station but headed for the company depot where mechanics did things to the engine before we set off again. Near Acomb the driver stopped and called headquarters to say the engine was overheating. He was told to carry on. He stopped again near Chollerford, same complaint, same reply. Eventually we made it to Greenhead and started the walk.   From there we planned to walk the wall east back towards Hexham. A map is useful OS OL 43 Hadrian's Wall covers the trip. Having said that the wall is so popular and the path is so well marked it is possible to do the walk map free but if you want to know the names and sites use one. If you are a keen Romanist a better map is the English Heritage Roman Wall map which has greater detail of all the forts and camps and aqueducts and temples and latrines and bath houses.
From Greenhead village a road leads uphill. (NOT THE B 6318 which is the "Military Road" which runs parallel to the wall to Heddon) We walked up the road for a short distance before spotting the marker on the left which takes you through somebody's backyard, across a field before joining the Hadrian's Wall Path. It goes close to Thirlwall castle which looks more like a bastle house and was built in the 13th/14th centuries. Worth a visit on another day.

Thirlwall castle from the path. Thirlwall means "Gap in the Wal," apparently.
From here on we were on the wall path. We crossed several fields, going uphill alongside bits of wall and the ditch that was part of the whole frontier system.

In the top picture the shaped facing stones are clearly visible. In the lower picture they have been recycled leaving the rubble core clearly visible.
Close by is a Roman fort, Carvoran and the Roman Army Museum, well worth visiting on another day but we walked on to Walltown Crags, and beyond.
                     One of the turrets, numbered on maps of the wall from East to West. There are two between each mile castle, 36A and 36 B for example. Many of them had information boards once, in German French and English but they seem to have been removed. Hopefully for refurbishment or replacement.

The Acorn symbol is used for long distance paths in the UK, easy to follow on the wall

It is well worth pointing out that there are a lot of ups and downs on this path, the wall is not built on level ground but follows the Whin Sill, some of the ascents, and descents, may be short but they are steep.
Eventually we reached Aesica, a Roman Fort on the wall, now in a farm field but the standard "playing card shape" is easy to pick out as are the corner turrets, the gates and in the centre, fenced off is what may have been the bullion box for the camp's money.
We declared this camp a Herbie Spot and sat in the sun, backs to a Roman Ruin and ate lunch. No special treats today.
                       Fort wall at Aesica (Great Chesters on the map)
                                                           An altar in the fort at Aesica
                                                      Still gets offerings!
Remains of an arch in the centre of the camp. Could have been the strong room
Lunch over we carried on to Cawfield Crags. Today this is a pleasant picnic spot as up to 1944 it was used as a quarry which, flooded, makes an attractive stop off. Shame they ruined a bit of wall.
                                         Old quarry workings at Cawfield Crags.
Still climbing up and down we passed Bogle Hall, walked on Whindshields Crags, passing mile castles and turrets and the popular parking site at Steel Rigg. A good place to see the wall without walking too far!
                                                     Turret near Steel Rigg. An extra, it's not numbered.

                                                   Milecastle 39, and footpath.
 The Vallum defensive ditch south of the wall
                                                   A trig point, probably not Roman but this is for Helen.
No walk along this stretch of wall is complete without pausing at Sycamore Gap, made famous in the Kevin Cosner film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. If you have seen the film you will remember Robin made it from Dover Beach to Hadrians Wall, over 300 miles, in a matter of minutes. A true Hollywood hero.
                                                   Robin's tree
                                           Did Kevin have to walk uphill to find Marion?
Beyond this section is my favourite bit of wall, Crag Lough. The wall is built on the edge of the Whin Sill, two hundred feet above the Lough which usually has a few ducks and swans on it and occasionally peregrines have nested there.

                                                Crag Lough from the wall path
                          And from the farm to the east.

The last mile of our walk, up and along Hotbank Crags brought us to the fort at Housesteads, (Vercovicium) probably the best preserved on the wall itself, although nearby Vindolanda is a bit more interesting. Housesteads has a museum, information centre and gift shop which fortunately sold ice cream.
                                                        Housesteads Fort                                                                                            From here we caught the last bus* of the day back to Hexham, enjoyed a pint for Dave in the local Wetherspoons, soda and lime for me as driver. And I would have loved several pints. It had been a hot day with a gentle breeze to cool us. A perfect day for walking. The south of England suffered heavy rain today, tomorrow it is our turn and the usual gadgie walk is cancelled.
The wall walk, particularly this section is a great day out. Nice to see so many people walking sections of it, even short ones. Lots of young people out too, they don't all sit at their computers all day. Met several Germans, Netherlanders and Americans, all enjoying themselves but English Heritage needs to do something about those information boards.

The Matrix MMXV  SPQR
                                                            steps                               miles
LIDL3D                                             31172                               11.9
Dave's LIDL3D                                 26409                               12.41
Dave's USB                                        25201                               11.93
my Garmin etrex 20                                                                    10.72

* The AD122 runs from early  April to late September between Hexham and Haltwhistle Run by Tynedale Coaches and driven by friendly drivers.

All three maps:Contains OS data Copyright. Crown Copyright and Database right 2015