Friday, August 11, 2006

Chollerford to Steel Rigg

Thursday 10th August [Hadrian's Wall 4]

We unloaded at Chollerford just after 9.15, making it the earliest start of the week, although with the initial trudge up the side of the military road, probably the least exciting. An early turn around a farm resulted in us hitting a field full of cattle, so we had to retrace our steps, costing us an extra mile.

After that the day improved considerably as we started hitting real stretches of wall and most of the walking "passage" was not interrupted by cattle or roads. Stiles were still a recurring problem for Bondi, many being too steep or slippery for a dog to scale. I saw a family of three hauling their medium-sized labrador over one stile, and they were very impressed to see me getting Bondi over single-handedly. By the end of days like this I've cumulatively lifted 500kg or more.

One section of the wall, rebuilt by a 19th century Newcastle town clerk by the name of John Clayton, is known as Clayton's Wall (the wall you have when you're not repelling barbarians). Its construction is entirely different to Roman techniques, but you do get to see how an entire wall of this scale appears as it marches across the landscape.

Several notable points were
  • Limestone Corner, northernmost point of the wall, and thus of the entire Roman Empire.
  • intersection of the Pennine Way, running north-south through the heart of England
  • Sycamore Gap, the lone tree there having (I'm told) featured in the Kevin Costner film, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

Robin: get out of my way o sycamore, or I'll cut ye down and make ye into a pile of arrows

Tree: oooh, I'm all a quiver...

The cooler weather has made the walk much easier, although there's often a strong headwind to contend with. Views in all directions were generally stunning.

The final stages were a real rollercoaster as the wall and path undulated through to our finish at Steel Rigg carpark. We sagged down the hill to the National Park Centre at Once Brewed, and were lucky enough to hit the eastbound AD122, this time running late, so we got back to Chollerford very quickly.

I let Bondi have another dip in the North Tyne before dropping into Tesco at Hexham for supplies. I got him some of the frozen chicken pieces he loved and left him out the back of the guesthouse to dry out and have his dinner.

When I returned to check on him an hour later (chicken demolished), he didn't seem terribly happy about being banished there so I thought I'd bring him around the front for a brush out and then a nap on his mattress in the car. As I gave him a last towel dry and started brushing him, I noticed that he was shivering - something I'd never seen him do. As an Arctic breed he's usually very happy in appallingly cold conditions. I sat with him for a while, worrying whether he had succumbed to something (stile injury or something picked up from drinking roadside water). Some other guests arrived and he sat up, seeming more alert. I brought him back inside again, and he seemed to improve almost immediately, and as I write, is sleeping quietly in the corner of my room.

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