The Roman Ring - part 5
Mon 28th May 2012
Sunday 27th May 2012
What a great day’s weather to finish this fifth and final section of the Roman Ring, better even than Day 3 at the end of March. Remember, it was hot and sunny then but we didn’t have any shade and the long straight drove road sections looked even longer than they actually were and, unlike last Sunday, there was no cooling breeze either.
An early bonus was meeting Jon Monks on the Wentworth car park just minutes after beginning the walk. Jon was dressed incognito in motorcycle leathers standing next to his magnificent machine. Several of our number hadn’t actually met The Boss before. He and his associates soon roared off leaving us to continue at a more modest three miles an hour through Hexham with historic buildings (Moothall and Manor Offices etc) plus the Market Place adjacent to the Abbey and Shambles. The shade was appreciated as we went uphill via Eastgate past the Northumberland National Park offices to overlook Hexham from Tyneview Terrace. The view from here was stunning, totally unexpected and taking-in almost the whole route of the day’s walk and dominated by a cloudless blue sky, fresh green vegetation everywhere punctuated with patches of bright yellow oilseed rape.
Into the trees of Halfmile Wood and on past the Gothic extravaganza of Dukes House with its 35 plus chimneys it was time for elevenses even if a bit late. Onwards towards Dilston Park Farm and the Scout Camp, lots of modern hooped frame tents in evidence and not a single bell tent with the tent walls rolled-up for ventilation, scouting has obviously moved-on since “our” day. A little further-on was the colourful Dilston Physic Garden alongside the Devil’s Water shortly before reaching Dilston Mill which showed some interesting building styles including wooden shingle cladding. Over the road bridge onto the opposite bank of the Devil’s Water we reached its confluence with the River Tyne for a picnic lunch in the sun.
A dog walker who we’d seen earlier being taken for a “walk” by his two dogs returned to report seeing two kingfishers a little further along, we kept our eyes open but didn’t see anything. We did hear the child who was making his presence felt for some considerable time however! Along the flood bank past the massive remains of the Roman bridge pier to the present bridge over the River Tyne at Corbridge led us to the ice cream seller on the south side of the bridge prior to a comfort stop on the north side of the bridge, the logistics were falling into place well.
The remainder of the route was mainly uphill, some parts steeper than others e.g. Deadridge Lane, the name provides a clue. Crossing the busy A69 necessitated a bit of a detour but we were soon on course for Aydon Castle, with only one minor unintended “deviation” just prior to the footbridge over the Cor Burn, sorry! Coffee, tea or water break at Aydon Castle in the afternoon sun, or just a quiet sit down – why was the “nice shady spot” where the castle wall bulged out and overhung reserved for me I wondered? Onwards gently uphill towards Halton, a lovely hamlet with beautiful views southwards over the Tyne Valley from the delightful little church. The topiary in the well kept churchyard was impressive as was Halton Tower and its manicured garden and lawn. American tourists would consider this a quintessential English scene. The final few hundred metres up to the Military Road revealed lots of “lumps and bumps” either side of our route, a combination of both ridge and furrow and the purposely unexcavated remains of Onnum Roman Fort. Turning west parallel to the Military Road took us back to the cars at the Portgate roundabout where the important north-south Roman Dere Street intersects the line of Hadrian’s Wall. The much later Military Road was constructed under the supervision of General Wade following the Jacobite Rebellion; he died before it was completed. It is interesting to reflect that logistic and communications routes remain just as important today hundreds of years after the Romans begun the process. The cars were like ovens so doors and hatchbacks were flung open whilst we changed footwear for the drive home. The Errington Arms across the road looked enticing but was closed on Sunday afternoons after they had served lunch, oh well. Thank you to everyone who has made this series of walks such a delight, never a dull moment, well, except for the dull wet days but even they had their moments.
Those of us who knew and walked with Jim on many occasions would like to dedicate this lovely day’s walk to his memory. We will miss the friendly banter, repartee and leg-pulling in his soft Scottish accent. Jim would have appreciated the irony of a pub being closed at the end of a walk on a hot day and would playfully have tried to negotiate a cheaper price for a 99 ice cream too. We will eventually have a drink on his behalf and he would laugh at that too, we will have to pay for it ourselves! He was a lovely man, always fun, interesting and a genuine pleasure to walk with.
Monday, 28 May 2012