19 of us travelled up to Greenhead during the day. 5 by car, 14 by train. Those taking the train met up in good time for the departure at 1.00pm. Except Jan, who hadn't read the email properly and arrived with 2 minutes to spare. And David L, who arrived just in time to see the train pull out the platform!
The trains ran to time and connections made. The only difficulty was Jeff R reaching the overhead luggage racks, asking Mary T if he could stand on her! David L travelled up on the next train and we all met up at Greenhead hostel. Jeff R was concerned about a strange, long-haired and bearded man in the room. This turned out to be Jim A, Claire's husband! Supper was at the Greenhead Hotel restaurant, 3 course meal for £12.50.
After a full English breakfast at the hotel, we all caught the Hadrian's Wall bus, no AD122 (the year the wall was built) out to Housesteads Roman Fort and spent the morning looking round the site. This is one of the best preserved in Northern Europe, the No1 attraction being the latrines. (Thank goodness they didn't do it for us!)
In the afternoon we walked the 9 miles back along the wall. The wall follows the scarp which lies across the Northumberland National Park. So being on the high ground we had good views in all directions across the park; the openness and vastness of the area impressing on all of us. A late lunch was taken at a pretty spot overlooking a lough.
We continued along the wall, counting back the milecastles (small forts built every roman mile), and watch towers, every 1/3 mile, getting back to the hostel in the early evening.
For supper some drove out to Hexham for a meal out, some ate at the hotel restaurant, and the others self-catered.
This was big walk day. 11 of us embarked on a lively 14 mile hike through the national park. Starting from the hostel we followed the river and crossed the railway lines (at a proper crossing - Steve R please note) to pick up the Wall to the pretty village of Gilsland. We left the Wall path here and walked north along a pretty river valley, crossing the river via stepping stones, arriving at the Gilsland Spa Hotel for elevenses. By now the sun was shining brightly in an almost cloudless sky. From the hotel we walked through the wooded dean, over open fields and entered Watered Forest. Here we followed tracks through the forest, passing Moscow (it's true) and, after crossing another river via stepping stones, had lunch by the river in the lovely sunshine.
Our walk then crossed open fields and onto higher ground. The mountains of the lake district forming a backdrop to the views across the national park. From the map we aimed to pick up the roman road back to Gilsland. It soon became obvious, however, there was no path or track to follow. Kick in navigation using a compass bearing. Following our bearing, we had to cross some bogland, and pass close to Snowdon (honest). Those without a compass soon walked off in the complete wrong direction (you know who you are). We all met up again at Birdoswald Roman Fort for tea and cakes, sitting out in the glorious Northumberland sunshine. We picked up the Wall again and followed it back to Greenhead and the hostel, the sun shining brightly all the way back.
Those not walking visited the Vindolanda, a Roman community living near the wall, still being excavated. Here an archaeologist and team, dressed as Centurions, gave a guided tour of the site. This included a dig to uncover more artefacts, a bottle of champs awarded for any imported find. The museum housing one of the best collection of Roman exhibits in Europe, including stone postcards sent from Rome. From here we visited the Roman Army museum. In the late afternoon we walked up to Thirwell Castle, where they served tea and cakes. Sitting out in the bright sunshine, we consumed a scrumptious farmhouse tea, the scones being worthy of Marcellus.
Jan B and Mick W had a gentler walking day, walking out to Haltwhistle and back along the river.
For supper we ordered in an Indian takeaway, which was delicious, washed down with plenty of wine and beer. Afterwards we all retired to the Greenhead Hotel bar to see the evening out. Look for the pic taken there with us all in.
7 bikes were hired and delivered the previous evening. Brian G sloped off early on one, not saying where he was off to. Claire and Jim A joined the other six of us with their road bikes and met up with Brian G later that morning at Haltwhistle. Here Claire suffered the first of her SIX punctures she suffered that day. By now the sun was shining brightly under a blue Northumberland sky. We all sat out in the Centre of Britain (see pic) for elevenses served from La Toot cafe. The owner did not believe in using trays, as each coffee was served to us individually!
Brian G was leading this ride, but was unable to find the start of the the cycleway to Alston. We eventually picked up the cycleway and followed this disused railway line for a couple of miles until Claire A suffered the 2nd of her six punctures! Rob W to the rescue. The pump supplied by the bike hire shop turned out to be little better than useless. So stopping a passing cyclist for help, he turned out to be a ranger for the cycleway! He kindly leant us his pump, and said we could keep it for the day. Brian G and the ranger then ensued in a heated debate about whether the cycleway was adequately signposted at the start!
Claire A decided to take the road to Alston to avoid any further punctures from the cinder track. She still suffered four more! So seven of us carried on along the track under a hot sun beating down, crossing the impressive Lambley viaduct where we stopped for photos. We continued on to Slaggyford, where we left the cycleway (under Brian G's instruction) and road-rided to Alston in order to take the 2.15pm steam train ride.
We missed this train. Unbeknown to us, five had walked from the hostel to Alston and were on the platform waiting for us. The others had driven over and so 17 of us met up at Alston. We booked ourselves onto the 3.15 train, and went into Alston for lunch. Some went for a takeaway, after which Rob W chucked his on the ground. Some went to a tea shop, the scones being worthy of Marcellus. And some went to a lovely pub, sitting outside in the beautiful sunshine (shame they did not do food before 3.00pm!)
We took the 2ft narrow-gauge stream train out to the end of the line, about 3 miles. Here the non-cyclists alighted and walked back along the trackside path to Alston. The cyclists took the train back to Alston and spent the next hour looking around the village,before stopping at a teashop for another round of tea and cakes, the scones being worthy of Marcellus.
We left Alston at 5.30pm, the gradient being downhill back to Haltwhistle. The cyclists caught up with the walkers just before the Lambley viaduct, where they finished their 15 mile walk, and were picked up by Keith L in his car. Brian G had to return the lent pump to the ranger, which meant a slight detour through the grounds of his house.
The cyclists arrived back at the hostel at 8.00pm, the cloudless skies meaning dusk fell late.
Steve R and David L opted for a big walk along the wall, walking out to Crosby, just outside of Carlisle, and returning on the AD122 bus.
Later that evening we went over to the Greenhead Hoted bar for drinks, where Rob W and Genevieve engaged in long chats about life, the universe and everything into the early hours of Monday morning.
A cloudy start to the day. But by the time we travelled back to Newcastle to spend the day there before returning home, we had another blue sky full of glorious Northumberland sunshine. We had lunch sitting out on the banks of the Tyne, looking out at Newcastle's famous vista of its bridges over the Tyne.
Newcastle, famous for its bridges, meant the subject of bridge construction and opening had to be explained to Genevieve, the pleasure of which fell to Rob W! We visited the Baltic Centre for contemporary art. Several exhibitions were on show. My favourite was the surround-sound stairwell. Very disorientating! Brian G inadvertently re-arranged one of the exhibits of Susan Sze, by kicking several pieces over. Well, they were all over the floor.
We spent the next hour or so again soaking up the glorious Northumberland sunshine, either looking round the sculpture park or having one final tea-shop visit, where the scones were worthy of Marcellus.
We all met up at Newcastle train station to catch the 17.20 down to London. Except for David L, who for the second time, missed the train, thinking we were catching the 17.30!
I must say this was a superb trip, each day was full on with different options for everybody to choose from. We were blessed with blue skies and glorious sunshine everyday, except for Good Friday which was overcast and bit rainy.
Thanks go to David L for sharing the benefit of his subscription to WalkingWorld.com by providing routes in the area, and to Keith L, for patiently driving us around and fetching the Indian takeaway on the Saturday.
Report by Martin J
Looking down to Crag Lough - Photo by David
Highest point on the Wall - Photo by David
Lunch stop on Hadrian's Wall - Photo by David
Our lunch stop on Good Friday's walk along the Roman wall. Little did we know we were nowhere near half way back to base - Photo by Emma
Northumberland scarp - Photo by Martin
Heading down to Robin Hood's tree - Photo by David
Up and down, up and down! - Photo by David
Descent to Mile Castle - Photo by Brian
On the wall - Photo by Brian
At Housesteads Roman Fort - Photo by Martin
Housesteads Fort - Photo by Brian
River crossing - Photo by Martin
In Watershead forest - Photo by Martin
Where's Jeff? - Photo by Brian
All in the pub on day 2 - Photo by Martin
Viewpoint from Baltic Gallery - Photo by Brian
Rob and Genevieve discussing cantilevers - Photo by Brian
Buffet car on Alston Express - Photo by Brian
On the Alston cycleway - Photo by Martin
Centre of Britain - Photo by Martin
Downhill back from Alston - Photo by Martin
Lambley viaduct - Photo by Brian
View from Lambley viaduct - Photo by Martin
Alston cycle trail - Photo by Brian
Thirlwell Castle tea rooms - Photo by Brian
At Vindolanda Roman fort - Photo by David
By Thirlwell Castle - Photo by David
Plenty of time for playing Tarzan in the park on Saturday's walk - Photo by Emma
We thought: Let's stop for a coffee. It's bound to be a leisurely, flat cycle ride to Alston station; plenty of time to relax. Of course later we missed our steam train! - Photo by Emma
Claire waves us off on the steam train - Photo by David
HAWOG can also do it in a sophisticated, Mediterranean style! Here we are on the quayside in Newcastle - Photo by Emma