Friday, September 2, 2011

WALKING THE HADRIAN'S WALL PATH: Day 3 — Wall to Once Brewed

Robert and Dominic (orange shell) Walking on Top of a Turf-covered Portion of the Wall
From Wall I'd been shadowing a figure in a blue rain shell and red cap for about half an hour.  I was pretty sure it was him.  We crossed the river Tyne at Chollerford separated by only a few minutes . . . 
                                                         The Solitary Walker
                                                         "Bloggers are Real People Too"
                                                          Post of August 29, 2011

On the morning of my third day, while checking out of the Hadrian Hotel in Wall, I briefly glanced at another guest whose face vaguely reminded me of the tiny photo of Robert that appears in the profile section of The Solitary Walker.  Quickly, however, I dismissed any thought that this might actually be The Solitary Walker, because Robert and I had specifically agreed to meet the following afternoon in the village of Gilsland.

Leaving the hotel, I walked through a light rain toward Chollerford, detouring along the way to explore another fine section of the wall and the foundation of one of the old turrets. . . 

In Chollerford, I crossed a lovely old bridge over the River Tyne . . . 

and then proceeded to Chesters Fort, which is considered to be the best visible remains of a Roman cavalry fort in Britain.  Arriving a few minutes before the gates opened, I walked up several steps to the museum entrance and began chatting with a couple of German walkers.  Sensing the presence of someone behind me, I stepped back ever so slightly, and in doing so, I slipped off the edge of the elevated platform and began tumbling down the steps.  In an effort to avoid a small disaster — and obviously inspired by some of the free-style skiing maneuvers I have seen in the winter Olympics — I executed what I would call a "half twist with poles," which, fortunately, allowed me to remain upright and uninjured, though I almost collided with a stranger in a blue rain shell similar to my own.

As soon as I regained my composure, the stranger made a comment about how amazing it was that two walkers in similar rain gear had so much in common.  As I hesitated, trying to come up with an appropriate response, the stranger asked if I was doing the entire Hadrian's Wall walk alone, whereupon I replied that I would be joined by a good friend the next day.  And then came the stranger's zinger: "Would that friend happen to be the solitary walker?"  Well, as they say, folks, the rest is history.  Robert and I began talking as if we had known each other for our entire lives, and we continued to talk for the next four days as we hiked through some of the most beautiful and historically interesting countryside that England has to offer.

Robert — The Solitary Walker

Some of the other sights seen on this day's walk are set forth below. With nothing more than captions, I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Ruins of Chesters Fort

A Portion of the Hadrian's Wall to Left of the Path

A Farmstead Near the Wall

Ruins of a Mithras Temple
(Mithras was the Latin name of the Persian god, Mithra, and Mithraism,
a religion which emphasized truth, honor, bravery, and discipline,
was the unofficial faith of the Roman soldiers)

Close-up of Inside the Mithras Temple

The Solitary Walker and Other Walkers Discuss a Navigational Issue

  A Portion of the Path on Top of the Turf-Covered Wall

Foundation of Old Turret

Path Along the Wall

Beautiful Views of the Countryside From Higher Elevations

Distant View of Wall Snaking Through the Hills

Other Walkers on the Path

Ruins of the Roman Fort at Housesteads



Housesteads — Ruins of the Granary


Robert Walking Up the Whin Sill Ridge

A Stone Structure Near Sycamore Gap

Robert Ascending From Sycamore Gap

Sycamore Gap (behind Robert) is named after the large, solitary sycamore that grows in the dip.  According to Henry Steadman, author of Hadrian's Wall Path, "the sycamore is something of a local celebrity, having appeared in the film Robin Hood alongside Kevin Costner (where, despite the distinct disadvantage of being a tree, it still managed to appear less wooden than its co-star.)"

Another Milecastle

The Path Took Us Toward the Village of Once Brewed . . . 

. . . Before a Final Descent and a Short Walk to the Village

Next Post:  Days 4 and 5 — Once Brewed to Newtown


  1. All I can say is I just want to be there in the midst of all that beauty and history ... and, to be with two very wise and wonderful walkers. (Sigh ...)

    A girl can dream can't she?

    Incredible photographs George - just breath-taking!

  2. What a wonderful way to meet Robert. Not the topsy-turvy part, but the setting. Although, the topsy turvy does make it even more memorable. It contains a story. It's Perfect.

    The photographs are all wander-lust inducing. I love the wall undulating atop the hills, but my favorite has to be the cattle grazing alongside the turf-covered path. I think I might want to stand there and look at that vista for a very long time.

    Thank you so much for taking us along on your journey.

  3. Thanks, BONNIE, for the nice comments. As I've noted before, The Solitary Walker and I would have welcomed and enjoyed your company.

  4. Hi, TERESA. Thanks for your lovely comments. I'm especially delighted that you like the photo of the cattle grazing on alongside the turf-covered wall. Initially, I didn't plan to post that photo. When I came back to it, however, I thought it captured the peacefulness of what remains in the countryside some sixteen centuries after the departure of the Romans.

  5. Great photos. It's great to be able to see the bits I missed - and scrolling is a lot easier than strolling!

  6. Thanks, DOMINIC. I'm already working on the next posting (Once Brewed to Newtown), in which you make your unexpected appearance. Hope all is going well with you and that you have a lovely weekend.

  7. I'm still enjoying your journey! The photos are excellent and transport me back to the Wall country in a flash. Thank you.

  8. Well, nothing original to add. Great switching between your two perspectives, and I just love looking at old stonework. All that green grass is soothing too. We don't see much of it in my part of the world.

  9. Very nice post, George, which brings back many memories of the walk. I must say, though, you have blown my cover. Anyone looking at these pics would be forgiven for thinking my 'solitariness' to be a real sham!

    Re. the pic with the two girls: I fear I'm misdirecting them as I was too lazy to get out my map. And, by the disbelieving look on their faces, they know it.

  10. George,

    your photos are so vibrant and inviting, really, and I love the accompanying stories. I'll strive for equally interesting photos of the very lovely town we've moved to... :)

  11. Thanks, JOHN, for the commets. Glad you are enjoying the journey with us.

  12. Hi, GOAT. Yes, I quite agree that one could do worse in life than looking at old stonework and walking the green fields of England.

  13. Hi, ROBERT. Well, I certainly hope I haven't blown your cover. I think solitariness is a state of mind for the most part. In any event, a few miles of walking with a good friend here and there is nothing compared to those many solitary journeys you have taken.

    Yes, that photo of you and the two other walkers always makes me smile. You were not misdirecting them, but she clearly was not convinced. I think that had more to do with her innate skepticism than with your considerable navigation skills.

  14. Hi, NEIGHBOR! Good to hear from you and thanks for the lovely comment. I'm still catching up and will try to get get over to your site this weekend and see what you're up to. Have a nice Labor Day weekend.

  15. I was kind of joking in my remark about solitariness, George! Well, I think you knew that. I love solitary journeys. But I also love journeys with like-minded companions.

  16. Yes, I agree, ROBERT. There is room is the walking life for both kinds of journeys.

  17. Ahhh...these pics from both of you are truly making me wanna rush up the stairs and grab my pack again. And, it's lovely hearing the tale from both sides. Thanks guys!

  18. Thanks, KARIN. Yes, grab that pack and go! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  19. Lovely photographs as usual George - glad you and Robert found each other easily. Of course when Dominic met you he would recognise Robert, so it would be easier, although he said the red cap marked you out too. Lovely that the three of you could meet up.

  20. Stay tuned, PAT. I have quite a few photos of Dominic in the next posting.

  21. It really is an even better walk than I remember from the short stretches I did. The path was a lot rougher then and parts of it still used the wall itself.

    I've just read Robert's list of topics you covered, how I would have loved to be there beside the two of you. But then, three doesn't really work, it would have to be four, two by two works and then one could have an infinite number of pairs.

    Bloggers who get to know each others from afar can become friends, you've proved it.

  22. Hi, FRIKO. I can assure you that Robert and I would have enjoyed your company, and if I may disagree slightly, walking as a threesome can work out well if all three are kindred spirits. For two of the days, Robert, Dominic, and I walked together and had a great time — never a dull moment.

    I think that Robert and I were both amazed at how much authenticity there is in the blogging world. I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that we find more authenticity in the blogs we choose to read than in the social encounters of our day to day worlds. Whatever the case, Friko, I consider you a friend, regardless of whether we ever meet personally.

  23. AMAZING! I LOVE that homestead and would be in heaven if I could tour the inside. The scenery is almost too good to be true. The only thing better would be to ride that trail on a horse. ;)

    I am off to see the other entries. And thanks for the laugh - too bad Robert didn't capture your Olympic maneuver on film! :)

  24. Hi, MARGARET. Glad you liked the post, and, yes, that farmstead look very inviting. Ride the trail on a horse? Not me, but that other Margaret — my wife — would be happy to join you.

  25. :) I just bought TWO horses. One a QH and the other a 1/2 Friesian. I look forward to more posts of this fabulous trip! I think I would have taken 2000 photographs... it would have taken me 2 weeks to travel such a beautiful trail with all my photographic stops. I guess you got pretty good at shooting photos on the go. :)

  26. For all the bloggy walkers who wish we could have joined you and Robert, we would never be able to refer to him as 'solitary' again. Truly, it's like an itch I can't scratch to want to be there.

    This is a pretty great sequence, going from Robert, to you, back to Robert, and seeing how you each tell the story and show the scene. These photos are so great, and from both of you I can feel the sense of open expanse. To experience that with someone as charming and compatible as you both are, makes me smile nonstop when reading these posts.

    I'm also glad to know your poles were useful, both in saving you from a bad fall, and on those steep inclines!

  27. Hi, RUTH, and thanks for your thoughtful comments. I like your reference to "bloggy walkers;" that would be a good title for a new blog.

    As you can see, we had a great walk, not only because of the great beauty and history of the place, but because we shared so much in common. You would have been a welcome companion every step of the way.

  28. Spectacular countryside... amazing photography. And always the good company of like minds. What better way to spend a journey.

  29. Thanks for dropping by, REFLECTIONS, and thanks for the nice comments. Yes, this was a great way to spend a journey; indeed, it's a great way to spend a life.

  30. Hi George, I don't think my comment last night went through. Such long views in your photos - I like seeing the walls and path stretching into the distance. All that GREEN! I see there was plenty of moisture. Good thing you weren't camping. (And good that you use hiking poles!)

  31. Thanks for the comment, BARB. Yes, England would not be a good country for anyone who does not love the color green. As for the trekking poles, I never undertake any kind of strenuous hiking without them.

  32. Goodness what a vast amount of green to cover on foot! But so deeply imbued with history. Your photographs are wonderful, and the tale of Robert equally so. Bit harsh about poor Kevin Costner though!

    I am interested in the Mithra Temple. My heritage on my mother's side is Zoroastrianism - do you know much about the connection between Zoroastrianism and Mithraism? Is there one?

  33. Thanks for the lovely comments, SHAISTA, and thanks for stopping by. Sorry about the description of Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood." These were not my words, but rather those of the author of my Cicerone guidebook on Hadrian's Wall.

    Yes, there is a connection between Zoroastrianism and Mithraism, but I am in no position to provide more elucidation. I think you can find more about the connection by researching Mithraism on Wikipedia.

    I've taken a quick look at your website and find it quite interesting. I plan to go back an spend more time there. Enjoyed the piece about your birthday visit to Bruges.

  34. Yes, Friko, I agree with George, and think threesomes can sometimes work - they certainly did in this case. But the keyword here is 'sometimes'. I've been in certain situations when two can get on like a house on fire and the other is the 'wallflower'. But there were definitely no "Hadrian's Wallflowers' among our temporary triad!