So tw and I finally managed to get this long anticipated show on the road. It proving to be much easier to fit into busy lives once we decided to do a 'cut down' version of just the good bits, rather than taking on the whole wall.
We soon came up with a plan, which was to settle into a handy pub for two nights, to walk East on the first day and then West on the next using public transport to get us back to our base after each day's walking.
We decided on the Twice Brewed Inn at Once brewed. Apparently, even the locals are a bit confused by this nomenclature but not us as it included beer.
After a rather tedious journey through congested motorways we arrived late Friday evening and settled in for an evening at the Twice Brewed Inn with local brews on four pumps in the bar.
The first three were populated with offerings from the Yates Brewery who claim to be Cumbria's original micro brewery. Their informative beer mat informs us that the brewery was established in 1986 by Peter and Carole Yates and then bought by Graeme and Caroline Baxter in 1998.
It goes on to inform us that: "The original goat shed brew house has now been replaced by state of the art brew house and eco friendly reed bed waste water system"
Anyway, we decided that as there was no chance of doing any walking that day that we had better make a proper assessment of the beer. As usual, we started with the lowest abv and moved towards the highest.
The three Yates beers were: Twice Brewed [3.7 abv], White Heat [4.0 abv], Red Heat [4.5 abv] and the fourth was Lily Brewster from the High House brewery, the strongest at 4.5 abv but still in the pale ale category.
The beers were OK though all were lacking in goat we thought. They were also some of the clearest beers we had ever come across, we put this down to the quality control of all those Carols. There seems to be a bit of a National shift towards light coloured beers of late.
After a substantial full-english breakfast it was high time to get moving on our first day. This was in an Easterly direction to Chollerford about 20km away. The weather was misty, damp and cold but enjoyable walking despite this.
Tw's map had a photograph of a tree on the wall on its cover and when we got to Chollerford, the gift shop was full of postcards featuring the same tree and its place in contemporary culture. We were a bit underwhelmed by all this, though felt a bit guilty that we had passed it by un-noticed. When we looked at the day's photographs however, there was the tree. Then we remembered it and realised that we had far more interested in the circular structure behind it than in the tree itself. This we decided had been built to protect the rather blasted sapling in its centre. The why escaped us, and escapes us still.
The route swings close to the military road [B6318] which seemed to be extremely busy for a B road. When we got to Chollerford, they told us that the main route [A69] between Newcastle and Carlisle had been closed due to an accident. This explained our un-timely and rude awakening in the early hours of the morning by lorries rattling through our bedroom.
The route crosses the military road and then heads for the Temple of Mithras.
We met a family party at the temple who asked us what we were doing and when told we were just 'doing the good bits' responded "Oh just the greatest hits then". They enquired of the route ahead, which would have been an uphill grind in the mist alongside the military road for them, so were glad to take our advice to first worship at the temple and then get in their car and drive to the next good bit, Vindolonda.
We were full of high hopes of a beer in The George Hotel at journey's end in Chollerford but the ambiance of a geriatric hospice and preponderance of disabled parking spaces forced us to the "Tea Rooms" for coffee and a bun while we waited for the bus.
We were very pleased with the bus ride back both for its duration, hadn't we walked a long way? and for the wheezing and snorting of the vehicle as it struggled up and down the undulations of the military road, so unlike us.
After our day's exertions, we were well ready for a pint or two and a meal. We soon decided on a brace of Northumberland beef pies for our main course but the intriguing suggestion of a black pudding and pea sandwich with Northumberland sauce could not be missed as a starter. When it arrived, tw remarked "dessert!"
Once on the wall, it becomes rather too easy to slip into a Roman oriented mindset. To my surprise I found that I could decline the latin verb ambulo. Though why I should want to walk in all those strange ways remains a mystery. The ramparts invite one to search the countryside without for signs of life and to speculate on just how many people might have been tempted to cross the wall, both then and now. Our sympathies lay more with the barbarians than the romans.
Clearly we were not the only ones to contemplate "veni vidi vici". I came, I saw, I conquered.
In the car park we met someone who was just packing up to go home after two weeks of volunteer digging in the rain and snow at Vindolonda. She confirmed our suspicion that the romans were mad and that there seemed to be a lot of wall controlling not very many barbarians. Still building it kept the troops busy and occupied.
Cj actually able to tell which direction to go in by the sun. A navigation aid completely unavailable yesterday.
We met a group of walkers who wanted to know "are there many more ups and downs ahead?" We assured them that there were but that once they had completed them it would then be all downhill to Newcastle. This seemed to please them and off they went. As we progressed, we realised that they had only done one hummock and although they had said they were doing the whole wall they had only just left the car park.
The next group we met were carrying plastic cups of tea. Cj feigned interest in this as there was a likelihood of a proximal tea bar. Much information then given as to where to find it, the quality of the tea and the nature of the tea room. Far too much information.
The source of the tea turned out to be the visitors centre at the wall carpark. They were offering 'homemade' leek and lentil soup. "Did you make it yourself" Cj asked , "Oh yes" lied the proprietess.
We asked if the nearby Roman Army Museum was any good, she admitted that she had never been to it but then she "was not a museum" person. Then we asked about the location of the local pub in Greenhead. This information was expertly conveyed to us and she truthfully related that yes she had been to the pub.
We decided that the pub was just a bit too far away if we were to catch the bus , so we walked to the Roman Army Museum. Neither of us could bear the thought of the full 3-D fly-over of the wall experience, listening to a Roman army recruiting sergeant or living the life of a Roman soldier. Decided to leave the "Roman wall experience" to those who might prefer it to actually walking on the wall itself.
While waiting for the bus, we were able to observe yet another way of gaining the Hadrian's Wall experience. A coach pulled up and the driver opened the luggage bay with alacrity and aplomb. We expected that he would then issue frame rucksacs and walking boots to his German passengers. Instead numerous crates of beer were disgorged and the passengers were soon enjoying their wall experience beer in hand.
After a four hour drive back to Birmingham both emerged crippled from the cramped car, put on extra clothes and tramped off in search of beer and curry.
We were soon tucking into a Hereford Pale Ale from the Wye Valley brewery at The Old Varsity Tavern in Selly Oak. Very pleased to see the mural depicting the dangers of excess, "veni bibi vomit". Cj especially pleased to note the 30th barrel marked XXX.
Tw was somewhat mortified to be recognised by the bar staff, especially in the presence of his 'elderly parental unit'. It was good to watch an expert bar tender at work though as she served multiple customers, managed to work the right handed beer pump even though lefthanded herself and poured a good pint to boot.
Then we crossed the road for an excellent curry at Khanum.
A final walk back to Weoly Castle ended our exertions.
High House Farm
Twice Brewed Inn
The Goose at Selly Oak
National Trail, Hadrian's wall
Hadrian's Wall Trail
Visit Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall country bus
Temple of Mithras
Roman Army at Mithras Temple
Your Northumberland Hadrian's Wall guide
Explore Hadrian's Wall mapsite
Map by mapmyrun