Northumberland 2021: Part Twelve
15 June 2021
After the rush of last night’s photo, I stayed near to Hadrian’s wall, thinking I would try an adventurous hike (for me) and aimed go from Steel Rigg to Housteads and back again. I left at 9 carrying everything I might want, leaving the big lens and binoculars behind. With snacks and fluids, I didn’t want to struggle carrying extra weight. Today wasn’t as much about the photography (looking at the flat grey sky) or the birds, I wanted it to be about the hike. Although I wasn’t expecting anything too great photography wise, as the cloud wasn’t predicted to lighten until later in the afternoon, I still wanted as much with me as was sensible, just in case a shot presented itself – (which they did of course, have you seen how amazing it looks along here?!!) Other than a brief visit the other week, this was my first time to Hadrian’s wall, so I really wanted to soak up the atmosphere of this striking and fascinating place!
I met several people along the route and everyone was happy for a chat it seemed. A couple of guys I saw were doing a cross country challenge to walk the whole of the Hadrian’s wall path (84 Miles) all the way from Wallsend in Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria. They had given themselves 3 days to do this(!) and were walking to raise money for a sick little girl. I loved chatting to them, and was dead proud of their efforts, but I kicked myself after they moved on, because I, very shamefully, didn’t note the Just Giving page that I could have donated to. I then met a sweet couple who shared their route with me. Their printed out guide called it the barbarians way walk, and I subsequently found it on my All Trails app. Half the walk wasn’t along the wall itself, but more on the side that the Scots would have been, and it aimed to give us an idea of the view they might have faced as they approached this formidable barrier. I took a photo of their print out and decided I would give that ago as well, since it looked a bit more varied than the straight across and back route I’d had in mind. The couple were doing it clockwise, where I was going in the opposite direction… I wondered if we might meet up later?
Despite the intention to just walk, I found myself stopping frequently to grab photos despite the flat sky. The house by Lough Crag was one I hoped to get a better photo of, after my visit here from the 29th June. Although still not quite the dream shot, I was blessed with some of the early light starting to break through, and the view here was a marked improvement on the sight I’d had on the 29th. As the day progressed I found the sun starting to poke out more and more, and then within a very short space of time, the sky had pretty much cleared completely, giving me a totally clear blue sky. This, of course, produced an equally flat and uninspiring landscape (very hard to please arnt I?!!) It also became very detrimental weather for the hike. My walking slowed considerably, I drank all my fluids quickly, and basically became very fatigued and overheated carrying the load on my back. Things didn’t go very well from here on in, and as the hours passed, everything became considerably harder in my unfit state.
By the time I arrived at Housteads, I was physically quite exhausted. It was 3pm, my feet were painful, and I was ridiculously hungry for something to eat! I stopped by the first shop up near the Housteads fort ruins and picked up a bottle of rhubarb lemonade sold here. I adore the flavour of rhubarb, so guzzled the bottle down eagerly, instantly finding myself really disappointed in the taste, as it didn’t taste much of rhubarb at all. Looking on the back at the ingredients I noted there was only 3% rhubarb (and 40% apple!!) in it. I felt very cheated, and vowed never to buy anything by Franklin and sons again. They clearly mis-represent their drinks, and you pay premium for the pleasure. Feeling very disgruntled, I walked down to the cafe a little further down the hill, and was rewarded with there being only a singular hot pasty left. I say rewarded without sarcasm, because it was the most delicious curried cauliflower flavour! I couldn’t believe my luck at this one being the last option because it was SO tasty, and I only wish they’ve had two left so I could also have one for later! As well as the pasty I treated myself to a scone with clotted cream, and a cup of tea. (I am the biggest sucker for a cream tea!) I sat outside to eat, and kicked off my shoes for a bit to ease the stinging on my feet. The rest was a most welcome break! Whilst here, a tiny bug crawled its way across the table in front of me. I’d not seen one quite like this before, it had the prettiest colour and shimmer of green, was really small and quite delicately featured. I later discovered this to be a pale green weevil beetle, not a rare bug, so I am clearly not too observant with these!
After half an hour, the cloud was beginning to return and I was ready to continue (well, OK, I wasn’t, but I had to get back to Fred at some point today – preferably before midnight!) As I walked up the hill, I met the couple I had bumped into earlier. They told me all about their hike, and expressed some disappointment at having gone wrong somewhere, missing a chunk off their walk with something they wanted to see. I looked at their map, my All Trails app, and together we managed to identify the spot they’d gone off their route, so they resolved to re do it again at some point. After a short casual chat, we said our cheery goodbyes and I started onto the second leg of my trip. I carried on to Kings Wicket, which is a gate way through the wall a little further east, (see header pic) and then turned to the Barbarians route to get back to Fred. This part of the route was considerably easier as it was largely on the flat – but my feet were in a great deal of pain by now, and the exhaustion was also still simmering angrily. It all felt like a hard slog. I pushed on however, and once I got wide I looked back towards the wall. It was amazing how intimidating it actually looked from down here. I could imagine how threatened the Scottish ‘barbarians’ might have felt seeing these huge crags topped with a 16-20 foot high wall!
I continued the walk, stubbornly pressing on through all my discomforts and spotted birds my birdsong app identified as Eurasian Skylark, and a Northern Wheatear. Both birds looked like the pictures the app gave me, so I was a little disappointed to not have my long lens now! I’ve never photographed either of these before. It was a nice diversion to stop occasionally though, just to watch and try to identify them. My bird spotting skills are not at all good, but this app was a big help.
By the time I got back to Sycamore Gap and saw the tree from this side, I decided to take one last shot that I had left earlier. Now it was bathed in sunlight the image was far more what I had hoped it might be. Neither the Romans nor the Barbarians would have seen this back in the day, with the tree being a few hundred years old, yes, but not THAT many! I also believe that when this tree was younger, there were several others here, all taken down at some point or other for reasons unknown today. I am just glad this one was left – every visit has been a photographic treat so far! I was terribly exhausted by now so I didn’t bother waiting around for a sunset – I had my shot of that anyway. The plod back to Fred continued on…
Exhausted, the walk back from here took double the length of time it had on previous days, and I got back to the camper just before 9. I had completed 11.7 miles and over 28,500 steps.
Boy didn’t my feet let me know about that!!