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Report 1057: Newcastle and Hadrian's Wall

By PatrickLondon from London, England, Summer 2006

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Page 4 of 5: 21/22 June: Greenhead to Banks, and home via the Carlisle-Settle railway

photo by Patrick Wallace

Hard to believe I walked along those tops..

Rain AND sun together this morning. But this day's walking was almost entirely in gentle farmland, and the rain disappeared within about half an hour.

Throughout the walk the sheep had either ignored me or moved away as I passed; but on this morning, one older lamb came up and started nuzzling me - presumably a hand-reared orphan who thought all humans were an easy touch. But I had nothing to give, and anyway tough love demands he should learn to take advantage of all that lovely grass. At least I had enough manners not to mention mint sauce, and passed on.

I was nearly at my destination by lunchtime, so when I saw the bus coming I flagged it down and went back to see the Vindolanda and Roman Army Museums that I had by-passed, thinking there wouldn't be time unless I kept them for a rainy day.

So I was able to see just about everything there was to see along this route, and all within a reasonable time. I would say, though, that one of the points about Roman forts is that they were all designed to the same pattern, so that newly-posted soldiers would know their way around at once. Chesters has the best excavated bath house, Housesteads the most complete latrines; Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran are run by the same trust and cover similar ground (Carvoran is particularly oriented towards children, but also has a good short overview film about the Wall and what it would have looked like when complete); Birdoswald is perhaps the least distinctive, Vindolanda the largest and most important, particularly on the rare writing tablets that are still being discovered and enable you almost to hear the Romans talking. It must have been rather like the life on the North West Frontier in the British Raj in India, or perhaps in the military forts in the American West in the mid-nineteenth century.

Final B&B: Quarryside, Banks, Brampton, Cumbria CA6 2JH, telephone: 016977 2538. Again, very comfortable, slightly more "old school" (no tea-making facilities in the bedrooms, but a pot of tea and home-made shortbreads on arrival). Their own eggs for breakfast, and still an ensuite bathroom. For an evening meal, they took me (the other two people staying didn't feel like going out: understandably, since they'd walked 15 miles) to the Belted Will pub in Hallbankgate: steak pie (again a huge portion I couldn't quite finish) and ice cream, 8.95. The pub drove me back again.

Thursday 22 June

I was depending on the first bus (due 10.41 at Banks) to be on time to get me to Carlisle for my train, so I left early to allow plenty of time to get my case up the hill. As it happened both I and the bus were early - theme for the day, it turned out.

I remembered the fuss there'd been, years ago, over plans to close the Carlisle to Settle railway line across the Pennines, so this was a perfect opportunity to try it out. This was also the day the rain really set in across the hills, so sitting in a warm train was a good way to see them. The line does pass through some dramatic scenery, and it was well worth the extra time of taking this route (pity the train windows weren't cleaner).

The train was bang on time at Leeds, and the train from Leeds to London was a few minutes early; out of the tube from Kings Cross to find the bus home just ready to pull up at the stop for me.

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