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Sleeping in mist is neither warm nor dry.
I woke in the night to find my nose was freezing. I had to go into full snuggle mode in my sleeping bag to warm it up. That’s been the only time I’ve felt cold at night so far. Colin’s sleeping bag is thinner than mine, so it’s easier to pack, but it’s not as cosy. Poor Colin.
The tent is single shelled, so there was condensation on the inside, but nothing else was wet inside. The clothes we’d hung up in the vestibules to dry out from yesterday’s rain were wetter than they’d been when we took them off. It was delightful to put them back on, I can tell you. Once the tent had been wiped down, inside and out, it was pretty dry once again.
Our neighbours had not fared so well. Our immediate neighbour said the fabric of his tent absorbed the water, whereas our seemed to repel it. You could see it gathered in drops on ours, but his looked evenly wet. A wet tent is a heavy tent. He’d borrowed the tent from a mate who usually camped in a bivvy bag affair.
He was also intrigued by our use of my walking poles as tent poles and of Colin’s poles being used to keep the groundsheet in place. Making use of the poles like this means there’s somewhere to put the poles when you’re not walking, and you’re not carrying the extra weight of tent poles when you’re walking.
I suspect that if our neighbour were to buy his own, he would buy one more like ours than his mate’s.
I think the mist and the wet distracted me from the fact that there was another Roman willy to be seen in Chollerford.
When we set off, we discovered the reason for the localised mist and the continuous sound of falling water: the River North Tyne was behind the trees, with a weir placed inconveniently close.
Something to look forward to
We had another long walk ahead of us, but tonight we would sleep in luxury: there aren’t any campsites around Heddon, so we’d booked ourselves into an AirBnB for the night. Other walkers were staying further on in an Italian Restaurant or off-trail somewhere and such places. The reviews for our AirBnB talked favourably about the shower. I was looking forward to it. But first, we had to get there.
We passed the road to Wall, a village built entirely of stones from the Roman wall, and which we’d seen on telly when they did a programme about Hadrian’s Wall. I thought the name hilarious; it was a shame it was off the beaten track a little because I’d liked to have seen it. But we had a lot of walking between Chollerford and my power shower.
The sky was mainly blue, and the sunbeams through the trees and mist were beautiful.
The way was mainly downhill, not too steep. We crossed a ‘stile by holly bush’ (p.166 of the guide book ); I didn’t particularly notice the holly bush, but Colin did because it tickled his hat. We passed a ‘lovely old oak tree’ (p.166) with a good knobbly trunk. There were some steep steps, but only a few at a time, and nowhere near as scary as this up and down the crags.
While walking along the edges of fields alongside a road, we came across a diversion sign not included in the guide book. Instead of continuing in the same vein, we were directed away from the road and through the trees that were presumably part of the Stanley Plantation. The diversion seemed to go on forever, possibly because we didn’t know how long it would be or where we’d end up. We eventually came out at the other end of the same field it started in. We missed a trig point in the wall because of the diversion.
We stopped in a café for elevenses shortly after that at Port Gate, a big roundabout on the A68. They did have plant milk, but it didn’t look like they had anything vegan to eat. My pre-vegan self would’ve been spoilt for choice: it was a sweet-tooth’s dream with its cakes and its crumbles and its pies.
Onwards, ever onwards, we ploughed on. A red-face man appeared out of a B&B for what we thought was a rather late start. The sun was pretty warm by this point, and after a while the man put some sunscreen on his face, just in case. I thought it was maybe too late, given how red his face already was, but I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t polite. Instead, we bantered about how it was tempting the return of the rain. Colin had also put his sunglasses on, another portent of drenching doom.
Mr Sunscreen passed us while we removed stones from our shoes: the path was covered in loads of tiny ones, and we weren’t wearing gaiters.
The eight kissing gates around a farm have been replaced with new and shiny gates with yellow paint on the latches. Very fancy. The farm had a lot of cows, and we had to walk through their field, of course. And, of course, there was a bull knocking about. We’d seen a bull earlier in the walk, but it was busy eating grass and ignored us. This bull ignored us, too.
At East Wallhouses, we reached a passport stamping on the outside of a pub wall. Well, it would’ve been churlish not to go in, and it was lunchtime, so in we went.
We were quite awkward customers, asking if this and that was vegan, but the poor girl serving us didn’t seem to mind. She ascertained that they did have margarine as opposed to butter and that the onion ring batter was vegan, so I had a plate of chips with a stottie on the side and Colin had chips and a massive plate of onion rings.
I was expecting a slice of stottie cake, but it turned out to be an individual one, which I’ve never seen before. Nevertheless, I stuffed a load of salt-and-vinegared chips in it to make a chip stottie, and stuffed it all in my face. You can’t imagine how good it was to have a stottie after so long of not having had any.
Colin didn’t understand the stottie: ‘It’s just a bread roll.’
‘It’s not “just a bread roll”, it’s a stottie cake! And they’re normally not this small, they’re this big.’ I indicated a largish dinner-plate sort of size with my hands.
We had to change the subject.
After lunch, which I thoroughly enjoyed, we continued on. A bird pf prey hovered over a field over the road, then swooped down, and flying off to a tree on our side of the road either to eat its catch or to reconsider its tactics.
We got to Rudchester Fort (Vindobala), which lies under a farm and under the land on the opposite side of the road. The landscape was much less bleak, more domesticated but his point, with roads and farms and buildings.
Then we approached the A69, chatting to a couple with a dog about the trip. They, like us, were wearing the same shoes as each other (although ours were different colours). They’d switched from Altra, which was what we were wearing, to this other brand. I forget what it was, but the shoes were black with wavy bright yellow lines. They seemed to like them. I like my Altras.
It had been a long day, and I was starting to flag. Luckily, we were almost upon Heddon. Sadly, we arrived at the same as the school bus so we were surrounded by school kids making their way home. I would never have got away with wearing a skirt as short as some of those girls’ at my school. We weaved our complicated way through Heddon, which is pretty steep, along the path, turning off towards our AirBnB.
The street was pretty steep from one side to the other, and the way the houses were built reflected that. Our home for the night was on the lower side, so the garage was at the front, at street level; steps led down to the main house, which was a full storey below the garage. The building containing the garage had the garage on the upper floor and a floor below, level with the ground floor of the house; I suspect the house had a further storey below. The floor below the garage was our home.
The layout was quirky, but it worked – and there was no need to cross a field to go to the loo or to use the shower. Speaking of the shower, it was every bit as good as the reviews had promised; I could’ve stayed in there a lot longer.
The room had its own boiler for hot water and heating, so we took advantage of this and washed our dirty and/or wet things in the sink (the colour of the water!), and hung everything up dry while we went to the pub, where we had a very tasty Thai curry after discovering that the burger option was unsatisfactory (salad instead of chips. Who does chips that aren’t vegan?!).
We went back to the room after that, looking forward to sleeping in a real bed with a real pillow and a real duvet. We also turned the heating off because everything was more or less dry by then, and it was boiling.
- (2020). Hadrian’s Wall Path, 6th edition. Trailblazer Publications: Surrey, UK