Thursday, August 10, 2006


Wednesday 9th August - Corbridge to Chollerford [Hadrian's Wall 3]

I took Bondi out for ablutions before breakfast. I was sitting on the back ledge of the car, and the guesthouse door opened. The host (I quickly surmised) came out and said "your dog stinks". I apologised and said there must be some residual odour from his ditch-dip yesterday that I hadn't picked up. He tactlessly went on to infer that Bondi always smelled that way, so I tried to defuse the situation by asking if he could suggest somewhere that I could shampoo him.
So I found myself washing Bondi out on the backlawn at 8am. A German lady came out to talk to me afterwards and said she admired how calmly he put up with the whole procedure (she must have missed the small chase sequences).

I resolved that we would in fact do the entire Corbridge-Hexham diversion from the wall path, and not simply pick up where we'd left the military road at Portgate.

My legs were feeling a bit better after some Deep Heat had been applied, and so we set off across at Corbridge Bridge, following the River Tyne along an embankment, across a railway line and then through some woodland into Hexham.

Caffe Nero disappointed again with something conjured up from stale coffee beans, which has the side effect of making me lose my taste for coffee for hours. I left Bondi outside Hexham Abbey for a few minutes while I went in to check the building that had evolved over the last 1350 years.

After Hexham the path turned back to the north as our diversion lead back to the "main line". The directions in my guidebook started to get a little wobbly at this point. At the village of Acomb, Bondi caught a glimpse of some doggies in the Miners Arms Hotel, which led to a brief stop while staff and hounds came out to talk.

Further north things came increasingly unstuck, as I found paths led through more cattle-pasture, with one actually having a warning about a bull at the *exit* stile. For the final stretch before rejoining the road, I was instructed to "cross the sheep field from south to north" with an arcing dotted line to indicate. Unfortunately there were several public paths crossing multiple fields, and none were labelled.

I negotiated with 3 horses before entering their paddock, and dodged a nervous stallion in another before hitting tarmac again. I took off in what I thought was the direction of the main road, but it didn't seem to go anywhere. Consulting with a local lady wielding ordnance survey maps (who couldn't make head nor tail of the vague instructions of my guide book), I got back on the straight and narrow.

We rejoined the military road and stopped in at St Oswald's Cafe for a late lunch. I realised that if we were to catch the last through-bus to Corbridge at 4.58pm we'd have to really move a lot faster towards Chollerford.

As we crossed Heaven Field I saw a sign offering a direct route via a public path rather than the zigzag official wall path. At first it looked pretty good, lovely vistas and a downhill run, but we were hitting an exasperating number of stiles that required a lot of effort to get 68kg (yes he's lost weight!) of malamute over. He now looks at them and immediately goes to ground, knowing that I am going to try to heave him over. At some point in the last 5 years he turned from being an irresistible force into an immovable object. When he was much younger I would have sometimes have to brace myself to hold him in place if he wanted to go charging off on a walk. Over the years he became more tractable and I got a lot stronger. Nowadays I can usually control him with only a finger on the leash...of course this is a finger wielding tremendous power. When Chris challenges me to a thumb war I usually have to throw the game lest I risk tearing forearm from elbow.
We nervously circled another couple of fields housing cattle - trying to slink across before any of them noticed us - and then got to the road again. It looked like we were pretty close to our destination, and after negotiating some awkward road sections, emerged at .... ChollerTON. Oops, I had just taken a short-cut to the wrong place...

It was pretty obvious now that we were not going to make the bus, but there would be a much later one to Hexham where I could change buses for Corbridge.

So we retraced the awkward road sections, and then shortly afterwards came to a riverside path leading directly to ChollerFORD. Halfway along that Bondi saw an opening down to the North Tyne River, and gave me a "can I get a drink" look. That of course meant "can I get *into* the drink", so he had a bit of a paddle around - and then he was much happier on our belated arrival in Chollerford. We had a 40 minute wait for the last AD122 bus, and luckily it turned up 5 minutes early. At Hexham that gave us time to do a six-legged hobble to the bus station where we just caught the Newcastle-bound bus for Corbridge with seconds to spare.

Path for days 2-3

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