Hadrian’s Wall – Chester to Carrow

Looks like I’m doing Tuesday updates, eh?

Well… I have to admit that last week wasn’t a particularly good one. The “struggling to go out” episode starting last weekend was taking longer than I liked, and I just didn’t want to get up and do things… Well first of all I wanted to do nothing but sleep, and then I wasn’t exactly motivated to do anything other than going to classes. I also dreaded going to rugby training, and the only physical activity I’ve done during the week was 40 minutes of climbing – of course I got bored of it.

Oh and I was so pissed off at the beginning of the week, and the whole week just didn’t seem to work out. That, I think, is why I felt so drained even on Friday.

And yeah, Friday was the day I was supposed to walk the Wall, for the first time. When getting up at 6:30 to catch the train appeared to be too much, I decided an extra two hours of sleep would help. Well it did, a bit, and by 9am I was again pushing, forcing myself to actually step out of my place. When I finally arrived at the Central Station and bought my tickets, along with a cup of (not so great) Earl Grey, however, I was in a much better mood, and figured the extra hours of sleep was a wise decision. It may have been, but it also meant some inconvenience… But I was happily dismissing those concerns as I arrived at Hexham, and hopped onto the bus to take me to Chollerford…

This is the river Tyne, miles before it reaches Newcastle. Impressive on how 20 miles can make such a difference, eh?

Still on the bus, looking at farms and grazing sheep…

Chollerford is one of those small villages I’d love to live in. There’s a hotel, and a coffee shop, and that’s about it. I’m not even sure how many people live witching 5 miles but ok. The sense of rural-ness was really making me happy.

How about this, eh? Stone farmhouse, stonewall, trees, grass, and a not very well-maintained road – something about this picture just screams “ideal” at me. (Though… I swear if I ever move to somewhere like this, I’ll do the insulation by Canadian standards…)

And the SMOKE!!! In Chinese literature about rural lives, smoke like this always represents home – homecooking, mothers waiting for kids to come back and eat, expats longing just before they enter their home village… It’s a symbol of belonging, of love & acceptance, and of one’s own roots & identities. How can you get more Romantic than this?

Very soon I met a fellow Walker trying to get into the wrong path. Naturally, I went with him. We both got lost and found our way again thanks to a local farmer (who probably deals with this daily), but all those farms we had to cross were so muddy that my shoes kept threatening to be sucked into the ground. “They must keep horses”, I was told. For me, however, the more annoying problem was the lack of visible paths. I’m okay with walking on farms, but at least let me know where I can walk on please…?

After about three farms worth of mud and a good, 200m bit around some woods, we reached the first better-grazed farm and split up. The other walker was in a rush and I preferred time to enjoy the view & take pictures, so it was only fair. It was still muddy, but I felt safe enough to look back now…

It was another half an hour until I reached some visible Wall bits, thankfully all on well-grazed land now. I was moving fast, I was content, and this moment when I finally saw – and knew I saw – the Wall was almost sacred. It was as if I’d waited all my life to be here, except I’d only known about its existence 9 months ago. The entire time I kept thinking about one of my own stories where an artist attempts to sketch it. His sketch in my head is based on the Housesteads-Stell Rigg bit, one that I intend to walk later, but the sentiment was still in the air….

Sorry about this abrupt change of topic, as I was quite interrupted from my musings for those steps. Previously I climbed ladders to get across farm boundaries, and this was a bit of a surprise, if not shock. The steps were very stable and trustworthy, and the poles (installed to tell people where to go, as the paths themselves don’t exist) really helped as somewhere to put my hands on. If anything, these steps brings about more feelings of the countryside.

More ruins, trees, and the vallum (not sure if it’s the right part – the part where you dig a long hole in the ground so that the enemies will have a more difficult time trying to climb up). Once the mud bit was past, I was actually walking on and beside the Wall.

I should probably mention that the Wall was likely much thicker back in the Roman’s time, too, but I’m not entirely sure… It has to be, doesn’t it?

See that triangulation pillar on the left side, just beside the woods? That’s the triangular pillar that marks a summit. It’s supposed to be the highest & most northerly point of Hadrian’s Wall!

I honestly thought this is the OS grid reference, even if the format doesn’t look like so… When I reached the pillar I was literally looking at my map trying to find the square I was on but none of the numbers matched. I looked it up later though, the BM S6659 is the label of this trig point, and it corresponds to the grid reference NY 877 715. I’ll have to list all the summits I might be encountering for my Cheviots trip, just so that when I meet one, I’ll know exactly where I am. Besides, it’s loads of fun.

It may have rained for a few days before I can, and it was supposed to rain on Saturday, too. And that’s the result. With wet weathers like this, it’s no wonder the earlier farms are filled with mud!

Again, evidences that made me think the wall was a lot thicker than what’s visible.

And those rocks. I’m not sure what the Romans put them there for, but it looks like they never finished their work. As expected, too, as by the time the Wall was constructed, the Roman Empire was already slowly dying. Bad governments affects societies everywhere and all through history, eh?

I feel sorry for the slaves who were forced to do the labour, and the Scots (Picts as they were called at the time) who tried again and again to get in further South. I have a faint feeling that later the Kingdom of Northumbria was able to maintain peace between groups of people north and south of the wall, but I need more research on it.

This is not a burn. This is not a burn. This is not a burn… I was inclined to believe that it is a burn, but it’s really just a puddle of mud… Or maybe it’s a burn that looks like nothing more than a puddle of mud? Sigh. My brain’s dying.

This is one of the Roman Forts, except I forgot which one it is… It’s massive, and elevated above the ground, so I didn’t get to see the inside…

Beside the Fort, however there was a temple. This is also where I got lost again, lost as in not knowing where the path is. I first headed down south a bit thinking there might be a path, only to step into a muddy “stream” looking like nothing but the normal ground. Then when I came back to where the map shows the path should be, I once again stepped into the same muddy “stream”, this time it looked like innocent knee-high grass. In fact, I first thought this region to just be a muddy puddle, but now, after examining the map more carefully, I start to think that it is in fact one of the burns…

So, I was there, knowing I’d be doubling over to proceed. I’d already consumed three hours reaching here, the sun was going to set in 3.5 hours and it’s a cloudy day. I didn’t want to navigate those mud-filled farms in the dark or with insufficient light. So, even if I was only about 1-2k from Carrow (my goal for the day) and was staring right at it, I turned back, thinking I should’ve got up earlier and reach my goal instead. In hindsight, however, I shouldn’t have worried, as I got back to Chollerford about 2 hours earlier than planned.

The Fort is Brocolitia Fort, then… Or the temple is. It’s a very complicated name that I do not intend to remember. After all, it’s this place that made me give up on reaching Carrow, and I intend for it to hold at least some of the responsibilities lol

At first I wanted to try and walk back on the road, except it was one of the high ways in UK (not North American high ways – just good roads for cars to travel fast-ish). Turned out there was no pavement and after almost being run over twice, I clambered down to the farms on the side, and decided I’d follow the nonexistent paths…

And I was rewarded for following the rules…

Sheep! Loads of them! Right in my way! Grazing!

I might have gotten excited.

Naturally, the flocks wanted to know what this funnily smelling human is doing here. So whenever I went, they got out of their way quietly, and just stared at me as if I am the most interesting thing happened all day (I probably was). Good for them, but I was there, feeling awkward about having to disrupt their normal feeding schedule (they did move away for me), and at the same time like the Queen of the Sheep they are saluting to. I was also passing very carefully, not making eye contact with any of them so as not to make them defensive. Thinking back, it was such a hilarious experience!

Now, as you can see, I was doubling over, making my way back on the same paths. It was easy in terms of navigation, but sadly nothing more to see. A fresh angle is good, but still… I wanted to see more.

This is actually the very beginning & end of my route, just before (or after) the extremely muddy farms. It’s a nice little bump of woods, with an actual path and picturesque stonewall. A very different experience than the farms, but still a wonderful scene. I think I start to understand Wordsworth a lot more now…

And… I’ll finish with my muddy boots. There’s literally a shell of dried mud now, and I’m probably going to peel it off some day…

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