Hadrian's Wall Walk Days 6 and 7
Day 6 - another sunny day for the highest portion of the wall walk. From the Twice Brewed Inn we drove to the Thirlwall Castle carpark near the golf course, where we parked Buzzbee, and met Steven, from Sproul Taxis in Haltwhistle. He was so helpful for the 2 trips we needed him for. Today he drove us back to Steel Rigg car park, and we set off with a long climb up to the trig point that marks the highest point on the walk.
What a beautiful day, and the views just got better and better. We could look back at the previous days efforts as well. At the trig point we found a poignant reminder of how lucky we were to be there at all.
The walk continued along the Whin sill ridge, with some serious ups and downs, and lots of wall, fort and milecastle remnants. We descended to Cawfields, one of the many quarries here that contributed to the destruction of the wall. They stripped the sheer face of it's Whinstone, highly prized for it's durability, but this destabilised the wall above. Now it is a peaceful quarry lake, surrounded by wildflowers and birdsong and with very welcome toilets! Also, campervans can overnight here for £10.
Another climb to the next, very pretty notched ridge, gave even more lovely views and a great spot for our picnic lunch, in a milecastle!
The last, very steep descent took us past another quarry where we saw pyramidal orchids, a great reminder of how nature can reclaim it's land.
Finally to Thirlwall castle, built in the early 14th century to resist the attacks from the Reivers in border raids. This was a tough place to live! It was abandoned in the 17th century, and became a much painted romantic ruin in Victorian times.
Back to Buzzbee and a quick dash to Sainsburys in Haltwhistle for supplies. We spotted 2 cream choux buns reduced from £1.20 to 9p! It would have been rude not to rescue them as today's treat! Our campsite, Whitlees, was a few miles away between Greenhead and Gilsland. A Caravan and Motorhome certificated site, we had electric hook up, water and emptying facilities but no loos or shower. A few pitches were sloping, but ok with levellers. Lovely and peaceful. We had been recommended a pub in Gilsland, The Samson Inn, so we walked a mile into the village. The normally quiet road seemed very busy, which sent us leaping up onto the verge a lot, but we found out at the pub there had been a bad accident on the main road so this was the diversion route. Gilsland is right on the wall, and there is a campaign to reopen their railway station, closed since the Beeching cuts. We had an excellent meal based on local produce, and headed back along a much quieter road!
Buzzbee our van was staying here for 2 nights, but we were abandoning him for the second night. Transport logistics were really tricky between here and Carlisle, so we had booked a night in an Air bnb.
Next morning saw us waving goodbye to Buzzbee and setting off with slightly heavier bags for our 1 night away.
Day 7 was slightly less hilly, through farmland, and with lots of wall to see, some with interesting plantlife!
We also passed the ruins of the base of a large Roman bridge across the River Irthing, built in 170 AD. Just around the corner is a new bridge, installed by helicopter in 1999, and the first time the river has been bridged since roman times! Next came the excellent fort at Birdoswald, high above the river. The museum had some good audiovisual information, including these pictures on what the wall would have looked like.
Rather daunting to any prospective attacker.
After the fort we followed long sections of wall, and decided to take a short diversion down to Lanercost Priory, founded in 1169. Home of Augustinian monks, it was visited in 1306 by Edward I on his journey north to war with the Scots. He was hated by them, and known as the Hammer! While at the priory, he was taken ill, and stayed here for 5 months, during which time the Priory had to feed and care for him and his large retinue!
A beautiful building, or substantial ruin, depending upon your viewpoint, it suffered thanks to Henry VIII. Given to the Dacre family,after the dissolution, they stopped short of demolition, and just removed the roof, so a lot still stands.
Of note is the excellent Tea room next door, which served very good lunches. Crossing rolling farmland, still surrounded by birdsong and wildflowers, we eventually reached Newtown and our very comfortable bed for the night at Hadrian's Wall Studio, which was right on the route!
A very compact but nicely furnished room and bathroom, it had lots of little extras that made it perfect. A small covered porch which would be ideal for hanging wet clothes, a fridge full of breakfast supplies, and a kettle and microwave for a DIY breakfast. Outside was the Snack shed, open from dawn to dusk to anyone passing, and selling all kinds of drinks, biscuits and goodies for the tired walker.
Plus a good sleep ready for an early start tomorrow!