18th May 2010 – Greenhead to Once Brewed – 7.5 miles
“…you say walk, I will walk. To the end of the line and back to you.
My name is Steve and I’m your walking man.”
Seasick Steve – Walkin’ Man
I was nearly blinded by the light when I pulled back the curtains this morning. The sun was fairly cracking the flags in the yard of the Greenhead Hotel. The sky was completely blue and the weather forecast was unequivocal – no cloud would blight the sky for the rest of the day. That meant I could pack light, leave the fleece and the cold weather gear in the luggage and take it really easy today.
I munched some flapjacks for breakfast, no point paying for it when all I’d eat is tea and toast and I had the tea free in my room. Tight wad, I know. I rushed my packing in my eagerness to get out into the beautiful weather – the earlier I Ieft, the more time I could spend dawdling along the path. As it was I almost left a shirt and a fleece in the wardrobe where they’d been left last night. I legged it back upstairs, grabbed them and stuffed them into my luggage and set out.
I remembered the path from Greenhead up to Thirlwall Castle from my brief stagger along Hadrian’s Wall last year. From the castle I turned right and followed the vallum (I think), up a steep field to the quarry at Walltown. This was new to me as I’d not gone any further than Thirlwall last year and to be honest I wasn’t really prepared for the amount of up and down that’s involved today.
The path leaves Walltown and immediately heads steeply uphill to meet an exposed section of Roman wall. It then drops precipitously and immediately climbs again, up another wickedly steep section. And so the path goes for about five or six miles in this same manner. There are various turrets and sketchy outlines of milecastles as you walk this section, but nothing startlingly Roman. It’s all great walking though and Tim from Canada was right – with the weather in your favour this is a cracking section.
In areas you can see the farmers (of yesteryear) have appropriated stones from the wall to build their own boundary walls and for long sections I wondered how old the wall I was walking beside actually was. In general I get the impression that most of the exposed wall is not that old – maybe Victorian or a bit older, but certainly not Roman. Maybe I’m being too cynical and I’m certainly not speaking from any scientific standing, but I just can’t see this amount of masonry staying in place for almost 2000 years.
I wound up and down the wall all the way to Windshield Crags, where I bagged the trig point and then headed down the hill to see what the situation was at Once Brewed. I had arranged to meet Gregg Nielson in Carlisle today. He was finishing his Cumbria “High” Way and our schedules overlapped for about an hour. I’ve not met many of the Walking Places folk and this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I checked when the Hostel opened and then double-checked the bus schedule and the place from where it left and then ducked into the Twice Brewed Inn for a quick cold drink.
I caught the Hadrian’s Wall bus (appropriately numbered AD122) into Carlisle and had a little shopping trip before sitting down with Gregg for 50 minutes before my bus left and he had to go and get his train ticket.
The bus back to Once Brewed went all round the houses on the way back – literally – it must have dropped half a dozen women off at their various front doors as well as doing its usual route. Rather odd. As it arrived at Once Brewed I saw about 30 kids crossing the road and heading for the Hostel. My heart sank as I got off the bus and followed them into the building. The place was heaving with 10-15 year olds.
I met Tony, the solo German backpacker at reception and we ended up in the same room, along with two guys who are excavating at Vindolanda. It’s been 5 years since I’ve used a Youth Hostel – and then it was at the insistence of Rob as part of our Herriot Way in 2005. I don’t like them. There’s too many other people in close proximity, too many complete strangers, too many strange smells and strange noises. I chose to use the Hostel at Once Brewed because I didn’t fancy doing 20+ miles today to reach Bellingham and because I couldn’t really justify £60 for the Vallum Lodge. It’s only one night though and I’ll put up with it for the sake of saving £45.
I grabbed a shower as Tony made up his bed and then I made up my bed as he had a shower. The room wasn’t really big enough for 2 people to be doing things at the same time. So what it will be like in the morning with 4 people milling about doing stuff I have no idea. Probably best to sort everything out tonight and leave as little as possible for the morning.
I’m now sat in the Twice Brewed Inn. I’ve just had a massive burger, which is exactly what I fancied for tonight and I’ve replenished the fluids I lost in the heat and ascents this morning.