Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Hadrians Wall Day 3 St Oswalds's Day to Housesteads

I parked the “newer” knipemobile (I bought a new one) at Corbridge once again and found a nice path by the River Tyne and then back on the same lanes as last time to Turret 23b, which is where I left Hadrians Wall on the previous occasion. I believe I referred to it mistakenly as “Milecastle 23b” Which is wrong. Milecastles are bigger than turrets and formed control points where locals could cross the wall – and are numbered 1,2,3 etc. Turrets are small and have 1a, 1b etc.
Anyway, the walk continued in much the same vein as it had before – alongside the noisy B6133. But then, I noticed that the view to the North had improved quite a bit. You could see a long way up to the Cheviots.
Fast progress was interrupted by a short intermission at St Oswald’s tea room where a cup of tea and a toasted teacake were sacrificed to the god of broccoli – more of which later. I didn’t know that St Oswald had, in fact opened a tea room here and, this was confirmed a few hundred yards later where I came upon a big wooden cross and a chapel of St Oswald on the very site of the Battle of Heavenfield in 685, which, according to the decimal clock, is just before breakfast. Apparently, St Oswald, who was known locally as King Oswald at the time, and was a Christian, was faced with the warband of the vicious unwashed Pagan gansta Cadwallader, who had come all the way from Llandudno to have a bit of a ruck with our Ozzie. The night before the battle, Ozzie stuck a wooden cross in the ground (not the same one) and heard a voice which said “Divvent fret yersel bonny lad, ye’ll be orl right, they all had a pie off the coach last neet in a chippie in Wrexham and they might not be too weel termorrah, like.”
And so it came to pass that Cadwallader was more than a bit cut-up with the outcome of the next morning’s scrummage and so, the goodies won and the baddies, well, they didn’t.
And, on top of all of this, today was St Oswald’s day – August 5th – and there were even Christians sitting about in the grass by the chapel with guitars and stuff having a bit of a St Oswald celebration. Bit of a coincidence, that, I thought. The chapel is very nice and ideal for Hadrians Wall walkers who feel like a bit of a chat with a Higher Authority and/or a read of the interesting interpretation boards inside.
And so, onwards and Eastwards, down the hill to Chollerford. This part is actually on the road and the stupidly pointless diversion is on the road as well. I just got it over with. There’s another tearoom, a campsite and a hotel at Chollerford.
Yet more roadwalking followed up the hill to Walwick, then it was back to the path running alongside the road. But the views were getting much better, and, occasionally there were bits of wall and milecastles – and, always the enormous ditch that protected the Northern side of the wall.
Here, I came across a family of Dutch walkers, complete with gurgling, squeaking baby. As we all arrived at Brocolitia, where there was a chap serving hot coffee and hot chocolate out of the back of a catering van, I stopped and had a chat with them whilst enjoying a coffee. It would seem that the baby squeaks in English and knows three Dutch words. I know just six Dutch words and these are really useful if ever you want to tell them that they can't smoke here..
But what of Broccolitia? It’s a big infantry fort for 500 auxiliary troops and has the unearthed remains of a temple dedicated to Mithras. Mithras was an Iranian god who slew a bull in a cave, and the temple was small and dark inside to resemble a cave. On this occasion it was also flooded, so very cave-like.
Apparently, they used to sacrifice stuff, which upset the local Christians who didn’t like that kind of thing at all.
Broccolitia was also famous for that famous delicacy, the cheese and broccoli flan, which is how it got its name, obviously. Note that I use the word “flan” here. This is because the word “quiche” is just, well, a bit camp…. I note that there is a Roman marching camp nearby and I suspect this is more a style of walking than an actual place. I understand that some of the Roman soldiers weren’t averse to a bit of quiche, whilst hunkered down in their turrets of a cold January night. I’m not sure if the Romans actually worshiped broccoli or not, though.
Easy walking at a pace lead me, eventually, to Sewingshields Crag which has all the bits that a walk on Hadrians wall should have – i.e4. Some actual wall, a bit of “other” archaeology and some contours. Rather a lot of contours , as it happens.
But anyway, I was soon in the crowds at Housesteads fort. This is a cavalry fort where they had horses and eating quiche was frowned upon. It is here, too, that the AD122 bus appears at, roughly, Five past Five and whisks one back to Corbridge, which was closed, so I went home.
I did 18 miles today and 2150 feet of climbing, and I’ve now done 38 miles of Hadrians Wall. And this part is much better than the previous day’s walking. Much better views – today, ranging from Cross fell to the Cheviots, no shortage of tea rooms and tourist accommodation.
The countryside is also quite beautiful here. And there are contours and the walking is easy and the walk is well waymarked and almost impossible to lose. And the bus services are good.
On the downside, there’s that bloody road. And cows – mainly suckler cows…. I’m not really very keen on cows, specially as most of the time I have a dog with me.
Its also very popular. Some people might not like this. I don’t mind, really, in fact, I think it makes things even more interesting. I think that’s a plus.
Finally - The summer is getting old. They were haymaking in the fields today and the lapwings have gone on their holidays to the Solway and Redcar. And the air is full of floating fluffy white seeds.


ukmase said...

Good report Mike, close to the half point now...!!

Mike Knipe said...

Cheers, Paul. Yes - nearly half way. I really should be half way after three days, though. Maybe I've cocked up somewhere...but I'm quite enjoying it, really.

Martin Rye said...

That section is looking more like good walking. Very good to be honest. Summer is getting old. Soon it will be finished and good riddance to it this year. Wet old summer. I want some cold frosty nights and misty dawns to hopefully get a cloud inversion on a wildcamp. Full of joy and cheer I ain't at the moment.

Mike Knipe said...

Cheer up, Martin, we might get a cracking autumn.

Tykelad said...

Good report Mike, sounds like you're making excellent progress. And broccoli facts to boot !

I agree that the scenery around Housesteads and Steel Rigg is superb, I was quite surprised how beautiful it was.

It also reminds me that it's time I got my finger out and uploaded my own pics from last month.

Great news about the summer - apparently next year it's going to be on a Sunday !!!!! :D

Mike Knipe said...

I missed the summer the year before, too, Tykelad. I was in the toilet, apparently. I think it was June 8.
Just a warning about the broccoli facts, though. Don't rely on the information given here in a pub discussion.