Hadrian's Wall Walk Days 3,4 and 5
Days 3,4 and 5 saw us leaving the city behind and walking out into the beautiful Northumbrian countryside. At first, the path follows the road quite closely, which is not surprising as the wall was built to follow the existing roman road between the North Sea and Carlisle! The one annoyance was the frequent presence of thundering lorries heading to the nearby quarries. They weren’t taking any prisoners, and must have been getting paid by the number of loads they fitted in each day, but by day 4 they were gone!
The scenery gradually changed from farmland to moorland, and the things that really stood out were the great profusion of wildflowers everywhere, and the constant accompaniment of beautiful birdsong. We heard and saw Black cap, Willow Warbler, song thrush, Chiffchaff, Robins, Chaffinch, Sedge warbler, Curlew, oyster catcher, skylark, meadow pipit and cuckoo. While we usually think of Curlew and Oystercatcher as shore birds, they come up onto high moors to breed each summer. They are ground nesting birds so please keep dogs on leads.
On Day 3 we parked Buzzbee at the Errington Coffee House at Portgate, with permission of the owners, then took a taxi back to Heddon on the wall to start the days walking. If possible we prefer to walk towards our campervan, as then you aren’t trying to meet a time deadline like the last bus or a prebooked taxi.
The walk took us steadily uphill past fields, woods and lakes, with birds all around including terns nesting, and Lapwing doing their dramatic display flights. Suddenly the Robin Hood pub appeared, where we collected the second stamp in our Hadrian’s wall passport.
Of course it would have been rude not to stop for a pint of local ale! Then, on with the walking, for much of the time next to the deep ditch earthworks around the wall, and imagining what it would have been like living and working up here, especially in bad weather.
The Errington Coffee House were kind and said we could leave Buzzbee there all day. We stepped out as we were keen to get back in time to sample their amazing cakes.
Mission accomplished, and jolly good they were too! Overnight was a super Caravan and Motorhome certificated site at Bingfield Combe. £7 a night! On a working farm, our neighbours were sheep!
Next morning we drove to Brocolitia car park and had planned to catch 2 buses back to the Coffee House, but a taxi arrived dropping some walkers off, so I asked him, and he took us. We set off through gorse covered moorland, heavily scented with coconut, and with far reaching views appearing on either sides.
The stiles here are huge.. and quite tiring. Day 3,4 and 5 have also revealed the 2 huge ditches that ran along either side of the wall for additional defence. They are still quite deep in places.
The wildflowers were astonishing today, in particular in the meadow surrounding 14th century St Oswald’s Church, hidden in the trees.
The path then took us down to Chollerford, via a rather annoying diversion, to the old bridge, where the excellent Riverside cafe served welcome drinks, a superb sausage and caramelised onion tart, and, it had toilets! What a relief. It is hard walking with your legs crossed! The river here was a key defensive position for the Romans so they built Chesters fort here. Our English Heritage membership got us in free and we explored the remains of this sizeable fort.
A man called John Clayton inherited a house here in 1832, and noticed some old stones. He organised excavations, and recognised the huge archeological and historical importance of the site and the whole of Hadrian’s Wall. Sadly, the wall along its whole length had been plundered for its stone for many centuries. In fact any old house or wall you see around here looks suspiciously as though it is composed of Hadrian’s wall stone! Clayton purchased another four forts, and a 20 mile stretch of land containing the wall, and by doing so, saved it.
There was evidence of large cavalry barracks housing 500 men and horses, and a commanders house nearly as large as the barracks! The little museum holds some items found at the site including this wonderful painted glass, brooches, combs etc.
We also picked up our 3rd passport stamp!
Onwards and upwards from here and the Northumberland hills were looking wonderful. More and more sizeable sections of wall were visible, and the last few miles to Brocolita were heavenly.
On several occasions we saw about 10 supercars whizzing by? This was the best I could do for a photo. Any idea what they were?
Our base for the night was Greencarts farm, which was very busy with a lot of families and groups. It was a lovely spot, but there weren’t a lot of loos and just one shower, so we dived in as soon as we arrived! They tucked us up behind the farmhouse, and so we had a peaceful night. £20 with electric hook up. 10.5 more miles done!
Day 5 was going to be tough but epic. 9 more miles but with over 1400 feet of Ascent.. and I don’t like hills! In fact it was amazing. We started at Brocolita where there is a temple to Mithras. Worshippers of Mithras were all men, who followed ritualistic initiation ceremonies, and were 'known by the handshakes! Hmmmm, that made us think. Today the main worshippers were sheep!
The views were incredible in every direction, and the foundations of lots of turrets and milecastles were intact.
Halfway along is Housesteads fort, with free admission to English Heritage and National Trust members. It was another huge fort housing 800 troops, with a large granaries, raised heating system, and a very well preserved communal toilet room which apparently still flushes through naturally when it rains. They had water cisterns to trap water for regular use .You really get a sense of frontier life!
(Overheard at the fort. A keen mum talking to her children asked, “ So, who knows what is kept in a granary?”. Straight away, the younger child said, “Grandmas?”. Well it made me smile!)
I’m not sure what superlatives to use for the last few miles of Day 5.
Breathtaking was true in every sense as the path and wall roller coaster up and down steeply into dips in the dramatic crest that is Whin Sill.
Made of Dolerite stone, it was sculpted in the ice age and towers dramatically over the surrounding landscape.
Grassed slopes on one side but a sheer rock face to the north descends to Crag Lough. Climbers were making good use of the rock face.
Hadrian’s Wall, and the path, follow every up and down, including the dip containing the much photographed 200 year old sycamore tree that was UK tree of the year in 2016!
What a walk. We were glad to get back to Buzzbee, which we had parked at the Twice Brewed pub this morning, and had used the AD122 bus to return to the start of the days walk at Brocolita. We booked to park here for the night (£10). The pub has its own brewery, with lots of good ales.
Chris recommends the Vindolanda IPA! Today took us ( well me) out of our comfort zone, with lots of uphill, some very steep, so we are very proud of ourselves!