Friday, 31 May 2013

Hadrian's : The Road to Carlisle

I left early on day 4, with a hangover, but eager to put some miles behind me.

I rejoined the trail near Cawfields Quarry and reached the highest point of the entire wall when I still had energy in my legs for the climb. The view from there was breathtaking, but as often was the case there was no one around to share it with.

I have met many people on The Wall walk, and when I do people are always polite and courteous and will share a 'good morning', a 'hello' or a 'hi'. There is a real and profound sense of mutual bonding around a shared experience. It is truly heart-warming!

However, I must say, I have noticed that an in-proportionate number of the couples I have met along the way happen to be middle-aged lesbians.
Now, hold on! Allow me to substantiate this comment by evidencing the fact they have short hair, no makeup, comfortable shoes and a noncommittal air about them.

This is an observation, not a homophobic remark.

In fact, I'll have you know, some of my most cherished jpegs happen to be lesbian.
It is merely an anthropological observation and I am sure they are all very nice people and good to their pets.

I pressed on to the small town of Gildsland when the path I was following crossed the A road to the south. It was a small attractive town whose narrow  roads were never designed for a large coach packed with tourists meeting a delivery lorry going in the other direction. The traffic had ground to a halt. It was at times like this I was pleased I was travelling on foot.

The next towns of Newton and Crosby were similarly contemporary with the look of the area, but rather spoilt by the inevitable appearance of KFC and Subway.

I was determined to make it to Carlisle by sunset. I was painfully aware that the patchwork of plasters on my feet had all detached several miles back and I had run out of replacements.

I stopped caring what the view was like or what point of historic interest I was passing by: I was, head down and 'in the zone' , concentrating hard on putting one put in front of another and keeping a fast and steady rhythm. This is where my iPod was a GodSend, with the setting on shuffle, I  used the fast tracks to beat out the pace and skipped over the slowies. At one point Bing Crosby, inexplicably, appeared in my ear singing a lullaby. Not now Bing! I could have done this that on my first night of wild camping.

I staggered into town feeling, finally, like a seasoned walker having put a good 25 miles in. I had used Carlisle as my goal, my utopia, my place of pilgrimage, as it represented the final significant habitation near to the end my journey. However, in my exhausted frame of mind and beaten body, I had a negative perception when it came to first impressions. The place looked run down and dirty and I thought the people had taken liberties with their God-given right to be ugly. (So says the steaming, smelly Gruffalow that just entered town)
There was also an extraordinary number of bargain shops all in one area.
The was Poundland, Less Land , Less than a Pound Land, Bargain World, Bargain Basement, Cheap Zone, Half Price Palace, Low Cost Castle and Cheapo Chappies all on the same street!

It was here that my brochure, obtained at the Tourist Information Office, told me the cheapest B&Bs were to be found. I found one called Cornerways and the doorbell was answered by a huge, red faced man in his 60's who spoke with a well-heeled, Home Counties accent. I know we mustn't make generalisation about people, but I presumed he had spent a long and  unsuccessful career as a Shakespearian Thespian before deciding to run a bed and breakfast with his mother. They probably lived downstairs together and would spend long evenings in  together watching reruns of Brideshead Revisited and the Onedin Line,  whist keeping her propped up and refilled with stuffing.

'Yaaaarss', the opened dramatically.

"I was wondering if you had a single room free for the night?" I was well aware he was making a top to toe analysis of me.

" I have one room left, the rate is 40 pounds sterling a night."

"But the Brochure says that a room is £30 a night?" I waved the brochure at him.
His eyes narrowed. "Yars, well that is our winter rate."

"Is that the winter as in the season or in climate 'cos it's still bloody cold?"

"It's the season!" I could see that the large door was slowly closing on me. The audible clack of another crushed vertebra under the weight of my rucksack prompted me to stop perusing the point and politely accept his generous offer.

The room was very small and I had to share a shower. ( Not with him and not at the same time, of course).

Before I showered I popped into a local charity shop and picked out an outfit for myself. Light blue shortsleeved shirt, said medium, but turned out to be extra large (£3), a dark, brown long sleeved cardigan with a blend of suede and corduroy, unique and another bargain at £4. I also bought some beige trousers that were never going to fit me for £3. I hoped the look might be so different as to be trendy, but at least it was clean. But I still wasn't.  I went back to the b&b, had a shower (alone), got dressed into my new/old threads, in front of the two-way mirror in my room and hit the town.

I found a huge Wetherspoons pub near the station, drank more than I should have done, given the circumstances and somehow managed to find my way back to Cornerways. The door was firmly locked. It was still earlyish, 10pm, but I had totally forgotten the code for the door lock I had been given when I checked in.

Reluctantly, I rang the bell. No answer. I rang again, still nothing. Just as I was going to consider what my next move might be the door opened. It was the landlord wearing what can only be described as a huge stripped nightshirt, come smock thing.

"I take it you've forgotten the code I gave you earlier? I did repeat it twice," You can consider yourself fortunate, we don't open the door after 10. That's what the code is for. They sleep on the door mat, they do."

Entering, I started to apologise, but we were interrupted by a dull, thud-like sound from the room behind him, he seemed alarmed at this and without a word hastily returned to the room closing the door behind him.

I can only presume his mother had rolled off her wicker chair again, spilling stuffing all over the floor.

I took the chance to nip upstairs to room 5 and barricade my door for the night.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hadrian's: the best night ever!

The benefiting sleep at the B&B in Corbridge had given me a new lease of life. I was positively bounding along again now.

I entered the Northumberland National Park, which was as bleak, desolate and unforgiving as you can expect, but it had a harsh beauty of its own.

It is in this heritage site that the real conservation of Hadrian's Wall was to be found. All the classic photos of The Wall following crests of hills, stretching on and on into the distance were taken here. The path was relentless, like following the track of a roller coaster, up steep gradients and down steep banks. Just when you thought you'd reached the hill top you had spotted an hour earlier, The Wall continued, relentlessly, on and on, always disappearing into the horizon.

Knowing that there was no real 'end' made setting targets difficult. The path was remorseless and this was just as mentally challenging than physically so.

It was late on, when I had had about enough of the endless trudge. I had been lashed by rain, but, luckily,  blown along by a favourable wind that was at my back. I'd covered 25ish miles and I hadn't seen anyone in hours and it was getting late and very dark. I spotted a building a good distance away. I imagined a Slaughtered Lamb experience, or worse, another Boathouse, but this was nothing like it.

No sooner had I got in the door, I felt comfortable. For one, it was full of walkers, all swapping their stories of a day's stolid hiking. It had an effervescent atmosphere. It was a long shaped inn with the bar at the centre . I requested a tab and they didn't even ask for my card. The staff were all young and I got a  feeling that the boss was probably out for the day and, so, anything went.

I sat at the bar. Something I would never do at home, but if you want to get to know what's going on, that's where you should sit.

One of the barman,  David, was in his 20's and I couldn't help notice the devil's fork pronged tattoo that was protruding over the neck of  his black work shirt. He opened his shirt to reveal an intricate and unfamiliar symbol. It looked like a black star with a red eye in the centre. He told me that this symbol gave him magic powers of destiny. Intrigued, but mildly disturbed, I enquired further. He told me it was a l'Cie. I said I would Google it and David disappeared out the back. I brought my iPad to the bar and logged on.

One of the barmaids, who looked remarkably like a darker version of Amelia Pond, came dancing in from the kitchen wearing a cowboy hat and was taken aback to see me grinning at her.

I told her that I was Googling her colleagues tattoo, " You've only been here 5 minutes and Dave's shown you his boobies."

I told her that I'd now been there 6 minutes and hoped it might catch on. Naughty!

I discovered that David's tattoo was, indeed,a symbol of destiny, but it only seems to exist in ... the computer game Final Fantasy 7. The barmaids both seemed less surprised than I was. "Yeah, he's got loads of computer tattoos like that on him. He's even got the X Box symbol on his shoulder."

"And Donkey Kong on his arse?" I suggested.

They both laughed, but David immediately reappeared from the kitchen and we all went conspicuously quiet.

Together, during the course of a promisingly entertaining evening, we discussed tattoos, Amsterdam, the Banana Bar and ping pong balls.

The inn was filling up now with a melting pot of quirky characters from all nationalities. A quick check of my Weird-dometre and it was off the scale!

A lady approached the bar with a handful of barmats and two posters. She gave another barman, young Colin ,instructions to advertise tonight's entertainment. Steve Bonham , The Rambling Gypsy, would be performing tonight as part of his tour of the North of England. She was also insisting that all food and drinks for Steve and his party would be included in the deal. Colin seemed to be the one who was left in charge (if that's what you could call it) for the duration of the evening and bending like Beckham, he reluctantly agreed.

 I felt a little sorry for him, as, I too, had inadvertently managed to get £20 off my room, because I told him I was doing my walk for charity. This probably contributed to my coming to his defence later in the evening when some conceited, Michael Winner lookie-likie had approached the bar and raised his voice. I had entered the discussion part way through.

He opened " Can I assume that the rest of the menu is of the same diabolical standard?" Winner exclaimed tossing his menu over the bar at the fraught and overly apologetic, Colin.

"No, not at all!" replied the helpless Barboy. " Can we off you something else?"

" No! We just want a refund thank you! I don't think I can risk anything else for my wife!" Winner had his claws firmly in and he could smell blood.

Then he followed up with a finishing blow, which he gratified in the whole bar overhearing.
"That was! Without doubt! The worst chips I have ever tasted!"

I could hear my voice talking even before I realised it was me. I admit, I was four pints of Guinness to the better.

"No !" I blurted out, surprising Mr Winner and Colin  "There was this place in Milton Keynes once... Awful! Cold, soggy chips they were".

Michael turned to me, " We'll these were no better!"

" You know," I said, rounding in my bar stool to face him, " I reckon, if you try really hard, I am sure you will find places that sell chips much worse than this place."

He hurumphed, dismissively.

" I presume you sent the plate back immediately to the kitchen?"

He snorted, but it was Colin that spoke next. " No, they both finished the lot!" he interjected surprised at his own bravery. Winner gave him a withering glare and Colin visibly flinched.

"Just give me my refund!" Mr Winner purposefully turned his back to me and thrust out his hand toward Colin, who duly handed over the cash.

" I bet you do this everywhere you go?" I spoke into the back of his head. Winner ignored the comment and beckoned over his submissive, canary-like wife, who had already gathered up their belongings right on cue. They left in silence, under the glare of the entire pub.

I ordered another pint.

"Gahd,  I can't stand people like that guy". I was joined at the bar by Ken, a loud talking Canadian who had that amazing gift of being able to bellow loudly out of one side of his mouth.

"I'm here spending my kids inheritance!" He proclaimed.

Ken and Jenny, his wife, were walking The Wall. They had originally met in England in the 1960's and has settled back in Canada.  They were enjoying their retirement years traveling. And in some style.

" I've got a team of people, I call my Sherpas, who pick up our bags each morning and take them on to our next stop along the way. That way we can hike with just small back packs and our things will be waiting for us the next inn. Tomorrow, we are at the Samson Inn , we've got the Caligula Suite. It's got a king sized bed." He gave his wife a sideways wink and she blushed.

The entertainment for the evening, Steven Bonham, approached bar,and asked for a shandy and a coke.

" Want to keep a clear head for the night?" I suggested. He was a portly man in his mid 50's and sported purple trousers and a swanky, brightly patterned waistcoat.

I told Steve that I had just Googled him and found YouTube videos of him. This pleased him no end.

"Ah yes", he smiled, modestly. "Now was that the Hexham or the Brampton gig?" I had no choice but to admit, guiltily, that I hadn't actually been motivated to press play on either of them.

"Well, I've been doing the same set in pubs for the last two weeks." Steve was performing this evening with his daughter, an attractive blond in a flowery dress and a very ample fellow with implausibly thick glasses who was setting up the speakers and mikes.

"That's a tuba?" pronounced Ken, loudly.

"Oh yes," said Steve," that man there is the best player ...well, .... in ..." Ken and I hung on for the end of this sentence, " in Europe... at least".

The three of us looked over at the virtuoso tuba player, who was currently busy bending over to attach some low cabling. His bulbous backside, to which some jeans had sunk so far down they were only superficially covering the top of his thighs, knocked over a mike stand.

"Yes, a lot of folk music lends itself to the guitar and the tuba. It's a marriage made in heaven. " Steve clasped his hands together to illustrate the point. Ken and I looked doubtfully at each other, before Ken erupted, " Hey! Bonham??"

"Yes!" said Mr Bonham. I was equally perplexed.

"Any relation?" bellowed the Canadian.

" To whom?" Asked Steve.

"Led Zepplin, man?" Ken was clearly feverish about this. " John Bonham? The drummer, man?"

Steve now had both of his drinks in hand and was turning to walk way, "Oh yes," he said unconvincingly, "er...a distant cousin."

Ken watched in awe as Mr Bonham walked away, " No kidding? Did you hear that? That's amazing! They're related!"

Not wishing to bring Ken down, but I had to interject, " Ken? You and I are distant cousins".

The rest of  evening went superbly well and Steve, his daughter and his tuba prodigy were magnificent. Not a melody ended without everyone in the room remembering to applaud.
Late in the evening Ken's request for Stairway to Heaven was duly obliged on guitar and tuba and Ken's backing vocals were so strident, they required the speakers to be turned up. Half -cut Ken finished his performance with tipping half a pint glass of ale into his wife's lap, to the raucous amusement of all present.

All in all, it was a great night!

If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend the Twiced Brewed Inn. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hadrian's : exhibit number 2

I' d hit The Wall, ( nice pun huh? ) about 4pm, both my blisters had popped within 3 steps of each other. My blister-resistant (or so they'd claimed) socks had done little to stop me forming two 50p sized blisters on either foot. I don't know how the company , Regatta, can make such a bold claim about their socks, as they hadn't worked for the guy walking for two days. Maybe they hadn't been tested on people who actually walk in any remotely serious way. Perhaps they had been trialled on on old man, at home shuffling around in his slippers, from sofa, to the kitchen, to the toilet, back to the sofa again. I can imagine a whole team of scientists in white coats checking his feet and announcing,  "All clear Steve, let's go to manufacture!"

I needed to stay in a B&B tonight, my body was in pieces and I needed a guaranteed good night's rest. I spotted Corbridge on the map and managed to make my way there on a dangerous road, with no footpaths, but steep banks on either side which seemed designed to tip you into the path of one of the huge lorries hurtling by. The only benefit of having two limps at the same time is that it balances you out a bit.

I found a room for one at the Golden Lion, for bed and breakfast, all for a reasonable £40.
I told the barman which way I had walked to get there.
'You take your life in your hands doing that m'n'.

Fed and watered I went on to have the best sleep I have ever had. Seriously ever! A sleep blessed by the Roman God of sleep, Nocturnus (probably).

Corbridge is a lovely little, grey stone village, 'quaint' I think the Yanks might call it. It had boutiques, pricey clothes shops and seemed extremely affluent.

It also has very narrow streets. In fact, I discovered this as my unfrosted bathroom window was directly opposite, and almost touching distance from an art gallery. I could clearly see the details of the paintings hanging from the walls from my perch on the bathroom 'throne'.

 A group of serious, studious looking people, led by an elderly tour guide, entered the gallery from a far doorway. Partway through my contemplations I didn't feel I could get up to lower the blinds. And I have to admit to taking a wicked delight in the imagined remarks about to take place.
It would have gone something like this. "If we can move on ladies and gentlemen to the next exhibit, here we have.... A man sitting on the toilet waving at us'.   Priceless.

Hadrian's :Here Comes the Sun

It was 4;15am.  Despite a terrible night with no sleep, my spirits were lifted once I found my way back to the path by the Tyne. I saw a blue flash of a humming bird, darting to and fro though the reeds and then three otters swimming and playing together.

I made my way across a partly constructed golf course and wondered if I'd have had a better nights sleep if I'd slept on a green surrounded by bunkers. Probably not.

I trudged up a steep gradient to Wylam, which offers the residents superb views of the landscape and, for those up early enough to see it, the slither of light of breaking dawn.

I spent the next hour walking toward the sun with a totally unobstructed view. I was able to look directly at it, a golden crescent slowly forming into a semi circle. I delighted in the way it slowly bathed my face and chest; I felt I was warming and energising  my whole body and ...
'Wait a minute!' I spoke allowed, ' The sun rises in the East doesn't it?' And I was supposed be walking WEST. I'd spent the last hour walking, half asleep, in totally the wrong direction.

I cursed loudly, which would have been a delightful wake up call for the few houses near by (apologies).  I turned on my heels and headed back west.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Hadrians: A Squeak in the Night

   Beneath the H-shaped rugby posts of some sports field on the bank of the Tyne, I finally rested.   It was 10 pm and dark. I was exhausted and was soon wrapped in the chrysalis of my sleeping and bivvy bags. My eyes were closed and I was wearing everything I had brought with me to keep out the cold. I breathed deeply looking up at the white posts above my head that swayed slowly in the breeze. I was certain to drop off to sleep at any moment. I was tired and my feet ached. I lay there. Eyes closed. Waiting for sleeps cloak to envelop my and carry me to dreamland. Any moment....any moment.
Then there came a squeaking sound. Not like a mouse per say, but like the sound a rubber duck makes in the bath.You know, like a child's toy?

'Hmm, what was that' I thought? From where I lay the sound came from above my head and to the right. There it was again, the same flat squeak sound, a little closer but still a good 100 metres or so away. It was no more than two seconds later when I heard the sound again, this time it came right next to my right ear!

At this sound, my whole body left the ground at once in some feat of levitation never before achieved, I screamed, 'WHAT THE FUCK!'. I fumbled around for my torch and on finding it shone it all around me, breathing heavily.   There was nothing but a sea of grass. My heart pounded. What was that thing? And how the hell did it  manage to cover that much ground in no time at all? And why get that close to me, doesn't it know I am a big, scary human and must be avoided.

Well, that was that for the rest of the night. It was out there and I knew it! For all the world it probably looked like a Furbie: small, cute, with big 'I-wub-you' eyes.

But it was out there.

I heard it several more times during the night, it taunted me, mocked me, tormented me, but didn't come that close again. It was the longest night of my life and I got exactly NO sleep! None!

At 4:15am, just before bay break, I staggered to me feet, packed up my things and headed up to Wylam to renew kinship with The Wall.

Hadrians: The Boathousemen, women and other animals

Desperately trying to walk the heart out of Newcastle I ploughed onwards, along the river Tyne, heading out of town.

I was going to sleep out tonight, in just a bivvy bag - no tent! The only thing was, I didn't want to do it in the city. The thought of sharing a sleep-patch with gaunt, 'sleepy' chaps calling themselves Horse, Toady and Scabby did not fill me with delight. Wind in the Willows it would not be.

So, instead, I was intent in covering enough distance to get me out of town and into the countryside, where I could camp in peace and not in pieces.  Unfortunately, I had not counted on one thing, the suburbs. Smaller towns, sporting a fine brand of hoodies, burnt out cars and kebab shops surround Newcastle. If I was to get clear of this lot I was to put my foot down, well feet really. I marched on for hours.

 It was 9:30pm when, exhausted and harangued by a ferocious thirst I came upon The Boathouse pub.

Adorned with a long, white flag pole with what can only be described as forlorn tassels where a flag once flew, the 'Beware of the Children' sign should have been enough to stop me going in. But it wasn't.

It was the evening of a Bank Holiday, which would explain why the small gathering of mainly 50 and 60 something's were all bladdered (define: smashed, squishy, trollied). However, the days long alcohol frenzy could not explain the fact that everyone in the pub, and I mean everyone,  had a shaved head, even the women and pit bulls.

I half expected a resident barber with clippers in hand to be sat next to the door. Thankfully, there wasn't, but it must have been my offensive coiffeured hair that meant that the whole pub stopped what they were doing to see me step gingerly toward the bar.

The bar man, to be fair, was in his 20's and not drunk, but you can be assured that his head was as cropped and shiny as the rest if the cult. I asked for a Guiness and this seemed to be received as an acceptable choice  to the locals who immediately went back to their conversations, which, from what I could make out, all followed a similar pattern no matter which group I listened in to. It was like this: one person would, using simple accompanying hand gestures repeatedly slur the word 'feckin', over and over again, before the other cuts them short with the line. ' Ahh, yowl talking shite m'n!'

I was fascinated by this for a while, but not so much that I didn't down my drink and leave pronto.

I needed to find somewhere suitable to sleep, and fast.

Hadrian Who?

I was now eager to crack on with the walk once leaving the pub and feeling like I was now sponsored by Guiness. It was now nearly 2pm and I had to get going. Despite the heavy pack I was full of energy and had a skip in my step (to be fair, that could have been down to the Guiness). I was heading to Wallsend and Hadrian's Way. Two examples of local place names reminding us of the distant pass when there is nothing to see, and there's was absolutely nothing to see in the City!  The Wall (what was left of it) was long since buried under the buildings and roads. So, place names and street names was all I had to go on.
It was soon to become clear that in the City of Newcastle and, to a slightly lesser extent along its entire length, things had moved on and Hadrian's Wall has been buried (in most cases) and forgotten. To be fair it, all started just as soon as the Romans went back to Italy. The wall was quickly dismantled by the local populous. Not in an political showing of defiance, but simply to build other buildings.

Many of the very old buildings in the area have stones that were originally used in The Wall. Some stones have been used as part of several other buildings along the way, like the fortified vicarage in Corbridge, that I was to stumble upon later. I love the idea of a fortified vicarage!

Never-the-less, the once mighty, immovable wall has now been brushed aside by business parks, nightclubs, roads and football stadia.

Even out in the countryside, the path that follows the line of the Wall, which incidentally has been created with the help of an enormous amount of Lottery funding, continuously skirts around privately owned land. This was to prove enormously frustrating, not only because the Romans built the thing pretty, dead-straight, but when you can see the direction you need to be walking, and the pack feels heavy, and your blisters are tingling in your boots, the paths leads you along a much longer detour around various empty fields, adorned with the classic signs like 'no trespassing', 'private property' and 'oh my favourite, placed on grand iron gates, on a long gravelled drive, ' keep out bull'.   Nice:-(

Day 1, part 2: Finding Nemo

Time to Go! But not wishing to rush into anything too hastily, I spied a pub with a name that caught my attention;The Rock of Gibraltar. Being my mother(and fatherland) I just had to go in.
Bar one print of an early map, hand drawn in the 18th Century, there was nothing inside that connected it to Gibraltar.  This was rather disappointing.
When my fish and chips arrived the battered fish filled the entire plate spilling over either side. I pushed my knife into the batter to a hiss of steam and a crackle of batter. Once the steam had cleared I looked down and noticed there was something missing.
 Where's the bloody fish?
 I peeled away the inflated brown batter to find a small, paper-flat, sorry looking, piece of fish inside the brown casing.  I'd thought I had been given Jaws only to discover I'd found Nemo. I paid the bill with disdain, if you can imagine what that looks like? They would not forget this day in a hurry, no siree!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Hadrian's Wall Trek. Day 1, part 1

Here we go.
The plastic bladder that is my mobile water source for the next few days leaked on the way to the station, rendering much of my clothing soaking before I'd even caught the train. When full it's 3 litre capacity gives the bag a significant amount of extra weight. To be fair, as a source of water for when you're on-the-go it's ingenious in design, offering a long plastic pipe which you can attach to your rucksack and sup on when you need to. The fact it had leaked was not a design fault, but mine. I had clumsily put the rucksack into the back of the car leaving all the weight of the pack pressing against the water bag. Water had squeezed out, but , thankfully, it hadn't burst altogether.

My rucksack itself is ridiculously heavy. I would have weighed it before leaving but Jenny had told me that the family scales were not working properly. I questioned whether the scales were genuinely broken or she just didn't agree with its calculation of her weight.

I don't know exactly how it managed to get this heavy. I have packed the absolute bare minimum. I fact, it's dangerously little, if not dangerously antisocial. I have one pair of pants, two pairs of socks, one pair of trousers and two Tshirts. I have a toothbrush and paste, but no soap or washing materials. Instead I have the shower in a spray-can that is The Lynx Body Spray. I have a waterproof coat, a sleeping bag, a bivvy bag and that is pretty much it!

 I managed to forget my waterproof trousers but remembered, at the last minute, the bloody map!  To be honest, I would have rather have had the waterproof trousers than the map. As I am following a wall, in theory, there should be little chance of getting lost! I simply follow the wall. Only if the wall dissected into several deceiving options would I hit a snag. Or, as I was to discover in Newcastle, the wall disappears under several hundred tonnes of tarmac and brick. Here, I would need to use other forms of  deduction to follow the line of its path.

If nothing else I could rely on the Ancient Romans for building things straight. Just like their roads, if they wanted to build a wall from east to west you could rely on it being as straight as humanly possible. That's not to say they didn't make the most of the natural contours of the landscape they met on the way, but their philosophy for engineering, which complimented their for strategy for war, was keep it tidy and keep it straight.

It is not grim up north- official. No sooner had I arrived at Newcastle station and stopped at the kiosk for Neurofen and Plasters that i was introduced to the uber-social Tynesiders. The lady was determined to give me every detail of how I was going to get to the metro station and was adamant that I took onboard that if I took the wrong train from platform 2 I'd end up at the airport and not the coast. ' You got that luv, look for the one that says the The COAST!"
Then the ticket machine attendant, very attentive. Then there was the dad who took my photo at Tynemouth, the start of my walk. He took several wanting to get it right, despite the fact we were both aware that during this time his young daughter had wander off and out of sight. "Ah she'll be fine, now let's just try a couple more.  So, how many days are you hoping to do it in?" He asked me. "Four?"
"Five," I replied, surprised at this blasé 'four'.
"Oh 'ay, you'll be fine. The first 8 miles is terrible though. You've got to get through the city first, but after that it's beautiful"
On we go!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Calm before the Off

Less than 24 hours before I set off for the 5 days solo trek along the length of Hadrian's Wall.
Nervous? Yes.    Excited? Yes.
 Looking forward to learning a little about the north of England and its people, learning  a little about Ancient Roman Britain, but learning a great deal about myself.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

12 sleeps left

Just twelve sleeps left until I leave home to travel north. After that, my travel companion will be an 87 mile stretch of stone and brick, for the next 5 days.

Hadrian's Wall may not be the most social walking companion, but at least it won't complain about sore feet, hunger and exhaustion and that suits me fine.  I can't say that I won't be complaining though, but I can't imagine the ancient Roman wall minding too much.

I will be wild camping. For me it's a big deal, partly because the last time camped was 29 years ago and and I was just 11.  I went with school. I remember hating it and crying the whole time, wanting my home-comforts, my warm bed, my mum. Perhaps this latest venture will prove exactly the same. No, it won't. This time it will have to be different. I can not wus-out.

The second reason why it is such a big deal is that I will be wild camping in a bivvy bag i.e. no tent! I know it sounds crazy, but I simply could not get my head around the idea of carrying around with me a heavy tent all day and then, when I am at my last eb of energy, ready to expire, having to attach pole C to hole F and twizzle end H and pull on rope Y and hammer in peg K.   It was a huge mental problem for me. I could not get round it!

Then, I read a website which promoted 'microadventures' (recommend the Google here)   which described the glorious idea of sleeping under the stars in a sleeping bag, in a bivvy bag. That did it for me! Great idea! I'll do my 5nights in Cumbria and Northumberland in a bivvy bag.  

 I really don't know what to expect, but at 40 years of age, it would not do me any harm in my finding out.