Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Out...

For some time now we have been planning to be in the North for September this year.  We certainly didn't want to be at a loose end here as the schools went back and term started.  So, although it felt as though we had just got back, we headed to Cumbria again.

In our fantasies we are the sort of rugged individuals who can set out on a long-distance footpath, carrying only minimal luggage, and taking pot-luck as to where we sleep the night.  The reality is somewhat different.  There is a path running the length of Hadrian's Wall: this seemed like as good a place as any to begin with.  And we needed a section where the actual wall is still in evidence.  We know that between five and ten miles is our limit for the day, and we needed public transport links to get us to there and back again.

So we hopped on the little train up to Carlisle and changed to the one that runs across the country to Hexham.  Hexham Abbey is very atmospheric, with Roman remains and Celtic crosses.

We were very taken with this coffer, right by the stairs the monks would have used to access the church by night.

In Hexham is a wonderful bookshop called Cogito, where I picked up a leaflet for Persephone Books, a publishing house reissuing writing from between the wars, mainly by women.  Their website is an aesthetic delight, as their shop must be.

Roman memorial in Hexham Abbey

Next day we caught the bus up to Chesters Roman fort as our starting point.  Soon we passed this very impressive stable block, which is looking for a new owner, for non-residential use only.  Imagine the possibilities.

It did not take long for the weather to change from high cloud to the kind of strong wind and penetrating drizzle which must have made the Wall a favourite posting for the legions.   At Brocolita, there was  a temple to Mithraus with pierced stones through which a light would have shone for added drama.  There was also a coffee vendor doing a brisk trade in hot chocolate and warning people that the wind could lift off the froth like a custard pie.

Section of Hadrian's Wall

We squelched onwards into the wind.  Ahead the ground rose over Sewingshields crags - and the wall rose with it.  This was a very spectacular section.

Celtic cross in Hexham Abbey

Eventually we reached Housesteads where we were to pick up the bus back to the train. It had taken us about six hours to walk that short stretch, although  walking into the wind made it seem much longer.  We were very glad not to have to set out again the next day.  So much for long-distance footpaths.