Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Monday 7th August [Hadrian's Wall 1]

The mission for the day was pretty straightforward. Get to Newcastle-upon-Tyne quickly enough to commence the cross-country walk before lunch. Unlike yesterday's traffic disasters, everything fell into place quite well.

The A19 took us directly from York to Newkassle via Middlesbrough and Sunderland, before a final switch onto a road into the heart of Gatehead-Newcastle joined by the Tyne bridge, recognisable as the (smaller) model for Sydney's own Harbour Bridge. I quickly found our hotel in Jesmond, a pleasant middle-class suburb a little to the north of the town centre. I checked in and left the car there, so we could immediately get a local Metro train to Tynemouth.

Around 11.30 we found ourselves at Tynemouth, or more precisely at Longsands beach, where I decided that we should commence our journey from the water's edge. The waymarked Hadrian's route actually begins at Wallsend, 6 miles (10km) west of here, and so one follows the cyclists' paths to make this a true coast-to-coast walk.

I noticed that it's almost 6 months to the day since I started French lessons in the middle of Paris. Another challenge! I doubt whether I will learn to say "The sky is blue" in Geordie.
The start of the walk is pretty easy, downhill past the Tynemouth Priory to a riverside walk that leads to Fish Quay. There I saw a "Seafood training centre" - presumably a finishing school for fish fingers that just won't sit still on your plate.

After that it was a pretty dull tramp through housing and industrial estates, deserted fields stuck between arterial roads, and ... well I had been annoyed to discover that I'd left the 1GB memorystick for my camera back in computer, and was limited to 64MB for photos - but there just wasn't much to record at this point.

We rolled into the Roman Fort museum of Segedunum, almost missing it due to some confusing signage on the walking/cycling route. Apparently the issue is known, but the ownership of the signs belongs to the council and it's just not going to get fixed in a hurry.

Bondi flopped on the floor of the museum after a hard trudge over the concrete and tarmac. I resolved to take him straight back to the hotel to sleep it off and I would continue on alone for today. It took about an hour and a half to accomplish that with some good connections between West Jesmond and Wallsend stations. The latter is lovingly decorated with Latin signage, including directions for catching the bus, and a translated version of the Tyne and Wear Metro map.

Back on the track alone (but with my memory stick!) at about 4.40pm, I picked up the pace. It was a little cooler, and I was basically following the Tyne westwards. After an hour I started catching my first glimpses of the seven central area bridges, beginning with the Two Years' Late Bridge (that I half-crossed) and the Tyny Harbour Bridge.

As I left the city-centre I spotted the wheely fauna that makes its home on the mudflats at Tyne's edge, diverse enough to represent every age of man.

I trudged on, my feet aching tremendously, but I felt that I should get as much of the city surfaces out of the way before Bondi rejoins me tomorrow. I was not actually tired and was able to conjure up some short jogs from time to time, simply to stretch my nether muscles a bit differently.

The river gave way to a suburban diversion and I caught up with my first set of walkers. They were taking a break on a bench, but I didn't want to lose my pace, so exchanged a few pleasantries and kept going.

Once I reached Newburn, I figured that was as far as I could manage today AND get transport back into town AND have a good spot to carry on from tomorrow. Luckily a bus turned up quickly that took me directly into town near the Monument metro station and I was back at the hotel within 40 minutes of halting the walk.

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