Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th March 2011
This was the third instalment of our regular monthly progression westwards towards Bowness-on-Solway starting from Tynemouth. The first two days were essentially urban transects and no less interesting for that but today saw us into more rural settings.
Beginning with a gentle walk alongside the River Tyne Jim was quick to remind us that the Scots won the Battle of Newburn in 1640, the friendly banter had already started and we were only a few hundred metres into the walk! Our party of regulars was joined by John who had forsaken his usual cycle to start training for a walking holiday in the High Atlas in the summer. We were all jealous and Andrea was able to fill-in some of the details having experienced a similar holiday in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco previously. Following the Wylam Waggonway, on which George Stephenson first worked as a cowherd before becoming famous, we left the riverside adjacent to Close house Golf Course to climb the valley side to arrive in Heddon –on-the-Wall. The views of the Tyne valley were exceptional and unexpected. The Spanish style haciendas along the road drew some wry observations about the vernacular architecture of Tyneside! In Heddon we saw the first stretch of Hadrian’s Wall since leaving Segedunum. Time for photographs (thanks Ian) and explanations about the broad wall construction and inset kiln feature before setting-off into real countryside alongside the B6318, our constant companion for the rest of the day.
We were nicely sheltered from the south-westerly wind in the Tyne valley but walking into wind was distinctly chilly and something we were to be aware of for the rest of the day. Next stop was Rudchester fort (Vindobala) which is preserved in its unexcavated state. This feature is easily missed being camouflaged in part by overlying “lumps and bumps” of ridge and furrow – or rigg and furrow depending on which books you read. On the section up towards Harlow Hill there was plenty of opportunity to explain that the Military Road referred not to the Roman road but to the one constructed by General Wade following the 1745 Rebellion of Bonny Prince Charlie. It was largely constructed on top of the Roman Wall using the wall fabric in its construction – conservation and heritage were not considerations in those days. We were beginning to “get our eye-in” by now an were picking out the remains of the Roman ditch to the north of the Wall and the vallum to the south as we changed sides of the road via numerous steps, styles and gates. Lunch was taken in the lee of a hedge beside a stream where the Chilvers team found a beautifully built vaulted chamber inset into a bridge on the March Burn.
At the Whittledene Reservoirs we caught-up with a group of walkers who had left Newburn before us which made us feel good. We used the picnic seats and benches kindly provided by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust for another break, the sun came out and in the shelter of the walls and bird hide we son warmed-up. Jim was amused by a note in the bird hide notebook “Seven ducks, too far off to identify” not the usual sort of entry from birders. Christine used the diagram of a cross-section of the Wall in the hide to sort out the relative positions of the ditch and vallum and see where the Roman Way fitted into the picture – a picture is worth a thousand words etc. On past the Robin Hood Inn and the Vallum Farm Shop, the only retail opportunity of the day which contrasted well with Royal Quays on Day 1 and Newcastle Quayside Market on Day 2, more wry comments!
Along this section we were increasingly aware of the skylarks singing and the spring flowers appearing wherever the sun could provide encouragement – there was a noticeable difference in the stage of flowering between north and south sides of hedges for instance, the trees and shrubs were in bud too.
By the time we reached the copse at Down Hill tow kilometres from where we parked our cars it was clear that we would achieve our planned five o’clock finish. It is always a good sign when everyone hangs around for a chat at the end of a walk; we’d had a good day. Considering that this section of the walk is reportedly the one that is most often missed out we certainly found plenty to interest us and the banter was good too. Thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable day, I hope to see you all again for part four of the series on April 17th.
Hadrians Wall, part 3 - Newburn to Portgate
Mon 21st March 2011
Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th March 2011