Hadrian’s Wall: Day Three (ish)

Greenhead to Nowhere! – 5th July 2009 – 2 miles

Last night was the first night I’d had any company – the first night I was in an empty camp site and the next night I was in an empty bunk house. The camp site in Greenhead, Roam ‘n’ Rest, had filled up a bit after I returned from the pub. A couple of caravans, a couple of camper vans and a car with a tent had all pitched up around me.

It had rained quite a lot while I was in the pub and although it stopped before I left, I got back to a wet camp. The tent at least is waterproof, unlike my jacket. The midgies forced me into the tent and also forced me to zip up the inner to prevent ingress of wee beasties. This meant I was rather warm for a while, until the temperature dropped outside.

The noise from the site gradually dropped as people settled down and just as I was dropping off a car alarm went off. It stopped fairly quickly after a muffled curse from the camper van opposite me. 10 minutes later it went off again, stopping almost immediately this time. This continued for about another 30 minutes, until a rather pissed off female voice was clearly heard to shout, ‘Are you just going to lie there, or are you going to fix this bloody thing?’. A door opened and closed a couple of times and then silence, until about 10 minutes later I heard a satisfied but rather sarcastic ‘thank you’ from the same female voice.

I was awake early, planning to get an early start, but then fell asleep again, so didn’t. The gentle sound of rain on tent awoke me again, so I got the stove on and had some hot chocolate and flapjacks for breakfast. It soon stopped raining and I dashed to the toilet block for a pee and a scrub and then started packing away. I had to pause and take cover from another brief rain shower and hoped this wasn’t going to be the pattern for the day – rain on, rain off. There’s nothing worse than walking in intermittent showers, especially on a warm day.

Once packed I set out down the road, my feet were already feeling sore and my back, from where the pack had rubbed it raw the previous day was also very painful. I was alternating my painkillers; 400mg of Ibuprofen and 1000mg of Paracetamol every 2 hours, it was helping… a little.

As soon as I passed the gate of the camp site, the rain cam down again. I stopped and donned my ‘waterproof’ coat. 10 minutes later it had stopped, so I stopped and took off the coat as it was too hot to leave it on over my fleece. I followed the path up to Thirlwall Castle, where I dropped the pack and climbed the steep grassy path to have a closer look. It started raining again. I felt wretched. This rain shower just about broke my will. I scrambled back down the grassy bank to my pack and my coat and found shelter under a tree.

It was only 08:30 and I’d already had the coat on and off three times. The weather forecast for today and tomorrow was showers – getting heavier and more persistent the closer I got to Newcastle. The blisters on my heels were sore already and my back felt raw and tender under my pack. The iPhone told me I could get a bus from Greenhead to Carlisle at 10:10 and there I could catch a train that would get me home for 14:30. The prospect sounded wonderful in comparison to 18 miles of ‘rain on, rain off’ today and another 16 miles of possibly the same on Monday.

I hate quitting things, but it’s getting to be a habit for me. I sacked the Lyke Wake Walk recently as I was exhausted and although I could have pushed on for a while I was fairly sure I wouldn’t be able to finish, but I still quit before I needed to. Two years ago I abandoned my Offa’s Dyke walk, due simply to the fact that I’d come to hate the walk, the stiles, the endless cow pastures. Now I was contemplating kicking this long weekend into touch as well.

I realised though, that if I continued it would be down to simple bloody-mindedness, rather than any desire to see the Roman wall remains – that had always been a by-product, the icing on the cake if you like, to the four day walk. Now the joys of the walk were fading and my sole focus was on my feet and my back and how much discomfort they were giving me.

I took the easy way out and walked slowly down the path, back to Greenhead. I sat at the bus stop for an hour or so until the bus arrived and then waited at Carlisle station for another 50 minutes for the train, which became more and more packed at every station. By the time I got off at Crewe there were folk standing all over the place. My son picked me up from the station and I got home about 14:30, as predicted.

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