I’ve been absolutely blessed with dry weather. The sun even shone today at times. Many areas are so wet the trailsare unusable. The Crocs are working just fine, though this evening my socks were streaming gobs of mud. There’s a foot washing sink in the bathrrom here, and a drying room for wet clothing and footwear.
Jeff and Ann, Volunteer Guides, took a group of us on a tour of the wall beginning at Walltown Quarry. They are retired folks, local, and very knowledgable. I was fortunate that a walk was being offered so close to Once Brewed. They have a schedule all over the country. The walk began near a quarry and followed the Wall along a section that has been restored. It was originally scheduled to be focused on flowers, but that guide had a hip replacement two weeks ago, and was prevented from doing it by her doctor!
The Wall’s construction is an amazing feat, and the Romans used the lay of the land to offer a panoramic view of the north and south. There are many old sites wehre milecastles once stood.
The hillsides are walled with dunn colored stone stacked straight and true, and full of sheep and cattle. It’s impossible to fathom that the stones were all cut and dressed by hand labor and moved by beats of burden two thousand years ago for the wall. After the Roman era, the stones were hauled away for use in the walls and building construction. Much of the exposed wall is missing, and can now be seen in the local buildings.
Farm buildings are cllustered with a simple utilitarian beauty in the lee of the hills, with pasture running right up to the front door. All the roofs here are stone or ceramic, and the chimney pots faience. The landscape so closely resembles the images I have in my head from childhood reading that it’s hard to imagine I’m here in the 21st century.
Today’s walk was about eight miles or so, up and down hills along the wall for half the time and along a deadly flat straight military road for the second half. A number of us continued along to Thurwall Castle ruins.(sp? I don’t have my notes handy) This was built in 1300’s and is a ruined shell, but imposing in spite of its current state.
Tomorrow I’m heading east of the hostel to several sites recommended by the guides. I’ve met a couple from New Zealand who are a lot of fun. We went to the pub right next to the hostel tonight, which is where I am now, using the pub’s free wireless. These new friends are in their seventies, retired teachers, former Brits, and have traveled extensively all over hte world. That there are so many people here from all over the wrold just blows me away. In the group taking the guided hike, there was a couple from Westbrook Maine, believe it or not, and they have been to Catbird Creamery! There were French women, one of whom had been living on French Gauyana, and a local woman who was quite elderly. The fitness level here, and the dedication to walking is impressive. They take their trail preservation and walking rights seriously in England.
We stopped for a picnic lunch in a field, and along came two men and a boy, dressed in Roman garb, complete with metal armor and helmets. They announced that they were the Litter Police, but of course were kidding. Their accents gave them away as being not Roman, but Americans. On interrogation, they revealed that the concept of their hike along Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast resulted from a bar room conversation under the influence of strong spirits. Two were father and son, from of all places, Newton Massachusetts.
I’ve heard that tomorrow is supposed to be the best weather they have had here all summer. How lucky I am. The midges are horrible in the early morning and evening, just as I had read. Avon Skin So Soft works just as well for them as it does for the black flies back home. Although i detest its strong odor, I was grateful to the guide for offering it, because I left the new Badger stick I bought back in the hostel. I won’t forget it tomorrow!