Sunday 24th January 2016. 31km
I was home alone last night as Rachel and her parents attended a Burn’s Night supper. In some respects it was nice to have somewhere very familiar to just paddle around in and have a quiet night to myself. My evening meal consisted of more curry from the night before…….one can never have enough curry sometimes! Once my appetite was replete it was down to preparing the next days walk, highlighting the route and ensuring that my bag was packed ready for an early morning departure.
The alarm went of again before 7am and I slowly dragged my body out a nice warm bed. Within twenty minutes breakfast was over and I was completing my finally packing to include food supplies needed for the day. After the previous days walk and only carrying a day bag I was keen to off load as much from what I had previously been carrying in my larger bag. Surprise, surprise I am sure I got rid of about 4 kilos of weight, it might not seem a lot, but over rough undulating terrain even 1 kilo can really make a difference.
By 8am I was in the car and heading out of the driveway to be dropped off at Hexham Abbey. Once again Rachel was dropping me off before heading home, so when we arrived at Hexham Abbey Rachel was being a bit clingy, I don’t think she wanted me to go…… but a man must do what a man must do, and work was calling me. After a lengthy farewell and much hugging and kissing later ( sorry I should have added a warning declaration to readers of this blog ) I turned the corner and we were both out of each other's site.
There has been a church on the site of Hexham Abbey for over 1300 years since Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria made a grant of lands to Wifrids, Bishop of York c.674. Wilfrids Benedictine Abbey was constructed from the remains of Roman stone from the area. It is a wonderful peaceful place and I would recommend popping in if you are in the area.
My route took me directly to the railway line and along Cycle route 72 before following the river. Unfortunately due to the height of the recent floods the footpath had fallen victim and I was forced to continue on the road through Fourstones and Newborough. Newbrough and Fourstones are on the Stanegate Roman road, built in A.D. 71, which runs from the east to the west of England and formed the original northern frontier before the building of Hadrian’s wall. Newbrough’s church stands on the site of one of the line of forts along this road.
Soon I was leaving the tarmac behind as I headed across the moor to the Roman Military road. There was no sign of a footpath and once again I had to take a grid bearing, identify a point to aim for in the distance and just walk in a straight line irrespective of what lay ahead of me. Once more I bog hopped my way through squelchy, smelly muddy water. Just before reaching the end of the section the weather finally let me down and a windy squall of horizontal fine rain increased in persistence forcing me stop and put my waterproofs on. I had been walking for about ten minutes when my sixth sense kicked in, something was wrong, the Feng Shui did not feel write. I stopped and collected myself, thought long deep and hard……a rare experience for me nowadays! Agh….walking pole, where was my walking pole I thought? I retraced my steps hoping it was close at hand, maybe I had left at the gate I had to open, maybe it was at the stile before that. All sorts of dramas and scenarios were going through my head. Fortunately at the first stile, there is was patiently waiting for me to return. I am sure it smiled when it was in my hand once more…..
Once on the Military road I played dodge the very fast 'are walkers supposed be treated like bowling pins ?' crazy car drivers. I was now following the line of Hadrian’s Wall passing the fort called Brocolitia, and the site of the 3rd century Temple of Mithras. Thankfully, after bounding from road to grass verge, road to grass verge repeatedly like a demented bunny I turned right and once more followed a direct line Again the path faded from an ancient byway to nothingness. Fortunately the Gods were looking favourably upon me and I was able to take advantage of walking on top of a derelict stone wall that was nothing but very very lumpy grass, hard to walk on but far easier than being swallowed by a bog. Several times I encountered huge pools of deep water that had congregated within the confines of a closed gateway that required precision foot placing to avoid drowning. These were missed opportunities of seeing me triple salchow and pirouette on sods of earth or wobbly stones as I wrestled to open and close gates without mishap. There were also a couple of bridges over burns that had to be crossed and once more my athletic graces were brought to the fore as I slipped and slid along the wet, greasy wooden boards like Bambi on ice. I have never encountered such a plethora of obstacles along a path for some time and I was glad when I finally reached a tarmac surface. I was in such euphoria that I had to sit down and have a sandwich to celebrate.
It was well after midday and I had only completed half the distance, so after a quick respite I set off once more. Hadrian’s wall was behind me now and I was in what used to be the Border Reivers territory. I had avoided being TWOC’d in Middlesbrough and now had the thought of whether I would be safe crossing through this land that was once home to the lawless gang of horsemen, or would I encounter a group lost in time? I constantly gazed around, kept watch and listened out for the whinny of a horse that might give them away.
The fine mizzle of rain had eased off but I kept my waterproofs on and increased my pace along the road trying to make up the time I had lost crossing the boggy wastelands. I left the road and turned onto another ancient Byway before reaching the Pennine Way, a 267 mile path from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholme in Scotland. I was only following it to Bellingham today.
I was starting to feel the exertion of the day by late afternoon and I was starting to wish the end would come soon. By now I was starting to climb and this was only increasing my sense of fatigue. My legs were tired from having never really been able to go in a straight line what with all the slipping and sliding around I had endured and I was a sweaty uncomfortable mess inside my waterproofs.
Ahead lay Shitlington Crag and by now the light was starting to change as the end of the daylight approached. I bravely battled on and at the top I was nearly blown off my feet. I ducked behind a wall to recover and as I continued the fine wet mizzley rain started again. At last I was back on a decent track but the was short lived as the path turned left I was greeted with one final boggy, smelly waterlogged stretch of moor to end the day on. Again there was no sign of a path and I slowly criss crossed my way to the road before turning left again and my hotel in Bellingham. I am often surprised by accommodation givers different approaches to wet, smelly, muddy walkers and tonight was no exception. I took advantage of getting as much mud off my boots outside and I peeled my soggy waterproof trousers off and bundled them into a position where I would not drip mud everywhere. At reception I was met with a cheery Geordie greeting, and once checked-in was shown to my room. As asked if I needed to take my muddy boots off and received the response…Na bother!
My room was a Palace, the bed was huge, it was not raining inside and it was warm ….I was a very tired Happy Bunny!