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Mon 18th April 2011

YouTube Film - Hadrian's Wall Walk, part 4

YouTube Film - Hadrian's Wall Walk, part 4

On Sunday 17th April we continued our series of day walks along Hadrian's Wall. The sun joined us which made for a special day.

The full blog from the walk can be found below but enjoy the short YouTube film.

It would be great if you can join us on the next section of Hadrian's Wall on 29th May.

You can view the full guided walk programme by clicking here.

Mon 18th April 2011

Hadrian's Wall, part 4 - Port Gate to Brocolitia

Hadrian's Wall, part 4 - Port Gate to Brocolitia

A chilly wind on an otherwise bright sunny day greeted us as we assembled on the car park at Brocolitia.  We completely filled Brian’s minibus, no seats spare, for the short transfer to Port Gate (aka the Stagshaw Roundabout) so much so that it required first gear to get up the hill after crossing the bridge at Chollerford and climbing from Brunton crossroads.

Having briefly discussed the importance of the Port Gate on Dere Street and how it fitted into the Roman road infrastructure we turned into the keen wind alongside the vallum to make our way to Stanley Plantation for “elevenses” right on time, enjoying the sun but protected from the wind in the lee of the trees.

By now the banter had started and Jim, as ever, was in fine form.  On through the plantation for a brief stop at the now redundant trig point to talk about how the maps are made and how skilled the Roman engineers were at surveying 1800 years previously.  Crossing the road to walk alongside the Roman ditch north of the Wall soon afterwards allowed us to appreciate the transition from arable to pastoral land as we gained height.  We could easily see distinctive outline of Simonside above Rothbury 31 km away and further round to the north both Cheviot and Hedgehope were prominent on the far skyline at 51 km and 52 km distant respectively.

The Heavenfield memorial proved to be a delightful spot, the sun had warmed the air and the wind had begun to lose its sharp edge.  The contrast between the brilliant white of the blackthorn blossom and the very dark bark positively shone in the sunlight and the location of St Oswald’s church was idyllic - if you ignore the reason it was constructed in the first place!  The St Oswald’s Tea Rooms a little further on did cause a short pause in our progress but the consensus was to carry on towards a lunch stop somewhere around Chollerford.  Reaching Planetrees it was easy to see the transition from broad to narrow wall construction in the first real exposure of the wall since passing through Heddon.  So far we have had to be content with observing the vallum to the south of the wall and the ditch to its north and the odd footprint of a milecastle – but it does get your eye-in for spotting the archaeology.  The zigzag route downhill to visit Brunton Turret (26B) provided us with a very pleasant lunch location, in the sun but out of the wind in an open parkland landscape.

Following a brief comfort break and the opportunity to purchase a hot drink at the garage cafe in Chollerford we made our way past Chesters, the stud farm and uphill towards Walwick desperately on the look-out for something to stop and comment on, the hill was steep and it was just after lunch.  Opting for looking at how you can use suitably exposed trees to find south due the “tick effect” of the way in which the branches grow differently on north and south sides of a tree.  I’m not sure that anyone really wanted to know that but it gave everyone a chance to get their breath back without loss of face!  Turning off the Military Road in Walwick was significant because it marked the last time we actually walk on the road, apart from crossing it, for some time.  It doesn’t however mean that we won’t be walking parallel to, and in sight off, the good old B 6318 for several days yet!

The deviation around Walwick Hall was slightly different to my previous trip as the footpath had been diverted and realigned.  Black Carts provided the next substantial exposure to the wall and from the top of one of the ladder stiles it was easy to appreciate the configuration of the vallum, wall and ditch. For the first time all three appeared alongside each other in the landscape, even if General Wade’s Military Road was built on top of the Roman Wall itself.  At Limestone Corner we arrived at literally the most northerly point on the Wall with excellent views in all directions.  We sat near the trig point (250 m) chatted about what we could see and identifying Chipchase Castle, Barrasford and Swinburne Quarries.  The good visibility enabled us to see the radar station on top of Great Dun Fell in the Pennines east of Penrith 43 km away to the south west.  Our field of view from Cheviot in the north to Great Dun Fell in the south west was just less than 100 km!

A little further on the change in surface geology to an outcrop of the Whin Sill had a visible effect on Roman efforts to excavate the northern ditch.  You could plainly see where attempts had been made, and failed, to split the hard dolerite rock.  Shortly afterwards we arrived back at Brocolitia and our cars, this was all the more civilised for being able to purchase a fresh cup of coffee there on arrival.  An interesting walk with a great group of people on a bright and clear spring day, thank you all for making it so enjoyable.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sun 10th April 2011

Pennine Way - part 1

Pennine Way - part 1

As Sundance made his way south and west his usual luck with the weather seemed to be holding that is until he crossed the county border into Cumbria.  The clouds thickened and darkened, until by the time the group were ready to set off we encountered the first drops of the first rain shower of the day.  Obviously the soft shoe shuffle only works in Northumberland.

Before the walk could start we first had to walk south through Alston to cross the river and get on to the Pennine Way Path.  Here we started to walk north along a drive /track passing several houses before we came to the first of many stiles and discovered the unexpected time it took to get the whole group over. 

The first field gave Mike the chance to really start to witter showing where some moles had been caught and how a mole catcher would set his traps.  A little bit further on we went through a very ornate field gate before contouring around another house on to its drive. After walking along the main road for a short distance we crossed over to start the first climb of the day that took us out of the valley and on to more open country but, we still had lots of stiles to cross.

A gentle descent took us down to the real proper start of The Northumbrian Pennine Way as we crossed the bridge over the Gilderdale Burn and the county border. We were back into Northumberland and another rain shower. A short climb took us past and above the Roman Fort Whitley Castle here we took the opportunity to have lunch as it was dry. 

From here the route descended back down into the valley crossing the road once more and passing Kirkhaugh Station which is the terminus of The South Tynedale Railway, although we could see that the track continued further north. 

More fields and stiles took us to a foot bridge over the Thernhope burn here the path went under an old viaduct and eventually along the banks of the South Tyne.  The route then joined the main road into Slaggyford. 

Making a slight detour to walk through Slaggyford Rail station and along the old Railway line before was more joining the Pennine Way.  At Burnstones we walked under Viaduct to then cross the Thinhope burn on the road bridge to immediately to walk under the viaduct again on the road.  Here Mike set us a challenge. How many arches does the viaduct have? From the west we counted five arches for the burn and one arch for the road but from the east we were only able to see five arches in total! 

One of the arches was a Blind arch. 

Climbing up away from Burnstones the Pennine Way follows the line of  an old Roman road called the Maiden Way. After a stiff climb we contoured the hill until we descended into the Glendue burn.  By now it was raining again so a quick dash to the waiting bus allowed us to get out of the rain, it only took a couple of minutes to retrace our steps to be back in Alston.