Monday, September 5, 2011

WALKING THE HADRIAN'S WALL PATH: Days 4 and 5 — Once Brewed to Newtown

Day 4:  Once Brewed to Gilsland

This would be the day that The Solitary Walker and I would meet the inimitable Dominic Rivron, author of the multifaceted blog, Made Out of Words.  Precisely where we would meet Dominic, however, remained a mystery, so we left Once Brewed (yes, this is actually the name of a village) and returned to the undulating path that followed the wall westward.

Robert and I at Green Slate, the Highest Point of the Hadrian's Wall Path

The Path and Wall Above the Village of Once Brewed

Heather Along the Pathway

The Solitary Walker

The Surrounding Countryside

Passing Through a Small Farmstead

Robert (left) and I Meet Dominic on the Path

A Young Family Walks Above the Windshield Crags

Lunch with Robert and Dominic Inside the Ruins of a Milecastle

The Wall and the Path Westward

Dominic Climbing up to What Remains of Thirlwall Castle, a Fourteenth
Century Structure That Was Constructed With Stones From Hadrian's Wall

Dominic and  Robert Walking on Top of a Turf-covered Portion of the Wall

A Scene That Prompted an Extensive
Discussion About Various Types of Relationships

A Point at Which the Path Dips Through The Front Garden of a Cottage

Day 5:  Gilsland to Newtown

Robert and Dominic Crossing the River Irthing

An Old Barn That Appears to Have Been
Constructed With Stones Taken From Hadrian's Wall

A Peaceful View From the Path

A Lovely Cottage Under the Darkening Sky

Spotting this straight line of cairns on a small stream, we initially thought we had discovered a work of environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy.

After further exploration, however . . . 

. . . we discovered a strange but fascinating spot, with a large canvass containing the drawings and scribblings of myriad people, many of whom appeared to be walkers along the Hadrian's Wall path.

Someone had also lined the stream bank with tattered pieces of furniture, covered in plastic to protect them from the elements.  As you can see from the photo of Dominic above and the photo below, we sat beside the stream . . . 

. . . listened to the water's music, and had a lengthy discussion about the possible meaning of the place.  One thing seemed clear:  Previous visitors had taken the time to mark their passages with additions to the line of cairns. 

In keeping with that tradition, we decided to construct our own cairn.  (For more on this streamside adventure, see Dominic's post, Almost Heaven)

In the funniest episode of the entire walk, we encountered a herd of cows at the corner of a field, blocking our access to the gate through which we had to pass. Oddly, the farmer who owned the herd approached us in the adjacent field on an ATV and said, "What are you going to do now?"  Since he seemed to enjoy our predicament, we decided to approach the herd calmly and maturely.  Our plans went quickly awry, however, when someone recalled a story about walkers being trampled by cows in a stampede.  The herd must have heard the word "stampede," for they immediately executed an about-face and began heading in our direction . . . 

This called for a brief retreat until the farmer, undoubtedly rollicking with laughter, decided to open the gate and allow his hungry herd to pass into the adjacent pasture.  

Mysterious cairns on a stream, inhospitable cows, some grizzly carrion found on a section of the road we had crossed in the morning — what would be next?  Perhaps two dead crows hanging form a post advertising nearby accommodations. Needless to say, we skipped the bunk house and moved on to Newtown.

Next Post:  Days 6 and 7 — Newtown to Bowness-on-Solway


  1. The view that prompted a discussion of relationships must have stemmed from those who chose to face each other and those who slept backside to backside. The Tao of the Cow? :)

    From the furniture to the dead crows it was a strange day's journey. The canvass reminds me of Newspaper Rock, the panel of Anasazi petroglyphs near Canyonlands in Utah, a place to record one's travels, to say "Kilroy Was Here."

    More wonderful scenes. I'm looking forward to your posts.

  2. Thanks, TERESA. Yes, the cows did suggest that some couples are more intimate that others. Perhaps it varies from day to day, head to head sometimes, backside to backside other times.

    It was, indeed, a strange day, especially at the site along the stream. Likewise, however, it was extremely interesting, if only for the "Kilroy Was Here" phenomenon.

  3. The countryside looks wonderful, it's not an area I've ever visited though one of these days I intend to do something about that.

  4. I took a picture of Thirlwall Castle in 1977 - it looked exactly the same - if it's falling down it's doing so extremely slowly.
    What business is it of yours to criticise bovine relationships? When approached by friendly cows you run away!

  5. Hi, ROWAN. The Hadrian's Wall country is wonderful, indeed. I hope you will get a chance to see it one day.

  6. Hi, JOHN. Thanks for the comment. No criticism here of bovine relationships, just observations about how different types of bovine relationships mirror different types of human relationships. Perhaps our cattle herd was friendly, but being cornered before a closed gate and simultaneously approached by strangers from the rear seem to put them in a bad mood. We thought it best to give the farmer an opportunity to open the gate before passing through ourselves.

  7. Watching cows ruminating could only remind you of long established couples being comfortable together, all passion spent and at peace.

    What a strange place the wall still is, your extraordinary finds prove that there is still plenty of room for eccentricity on these islands.

    As for the cattle, were they heifers? They can be quite boisterously scary. Just as well you didn't have a dog with you. Benno and I have been chased across fields before now, and both of us ran like the wind (well, in my case, a very gentle breeze).

    I can only imagine how wonderful your walk was. A time to refresh the tired spirit.

  8. Your photographs are great George, and the delightful commentary that accompanies them lets us in on what seems like a 'rollicking' good time. You three are really making some wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing a few of them with us.

  9. Thanks for the comments, FRIKO. How reassuring to know that long established couples can finally become "comfortable together, all passion spent and at peace."

    I am also reassured by the vision of you and Benno running like the wind from heifers. I was feeling a bit chagrined by John's comment that we were running away from friendly cows. In my experience, most cows are friendly, but not all, especially when they feel cornered.

  10. Thanks, BONNIE. It was a rollicking good time, indeed, and it's great to share the memories with friends.

  11. First off, the names of the towns are a treat. Once Brewed . . . do you think the brew was tea, or beer, or scotch whiskey?

    The layers of color in your countryside photos are inspiring. I wonder if you’ll paint any of these scenes. I can see swaths of abstract color …

    I like the “recycled” castle Dominic is walking to, and the barn …

    I loved the cow couples when I saw them at Robert’s. As I told him, I think the two at left are men, looking outward while they relate, and the ones one the right are women, facing each other when they commune.

    The seating area is a bit bizarre, but it makes a nice photo op I think (and resting spot, no doubt). Looks like you could have picked up a spare pare of shoes. Was the cairn a joint one, or individual ones?

    I think that cow farmer set you up. Hilarious!

  12. Thanks, RUTH. The village of Once Brewed has its history in the brewing of beer. It seems that one of the original customers, a military man, demanded that the once brewed beer be brewed again, hence the name of the local pub where Robert and I dined — The Twice Brewed Inn.

    The cow couples have ended up being a kind of Rorschach test for people. Your comment about one couple being men and the other being women is very interesting. I also like Friko's interpretation.

    As for the cairns, it was a collective effort, with each of us contributing several stones. And, yes, I agree that the farmer may have set us up. "I may have to allow your crossing of my pasture," he must have thought, "but there's no reason why my cows and I can't have a little fun with you."

  13. Thanks for posting these great photos, George - and for the "plug"!

    I kick myself for not taking a camera. Those couple of days were certainly one of the highlights of the Summer for me.

    I hadn't really registered how strange the dead crows were until I looked at the photo of them. Country people often string up animals they consider "vermin" (moles, usually) - but on a sign advertising accommodation for passing walkers? Strange.

  14. Hi, DOMINIC. Glad you liked the photos, and, yes, the dead crows on an accommodations sign were strange, indeed. I suspect they had a number of vacancies in the bunk house that night.

  15. Whoa! This post had everything! Very enjoyable.

  16. Thanks, GOAT. Glad you enjoyed it!

  17. Oh George, how I enjoyed this post. Robert of course is my nephew by marriage and Dominic is my son, so I had a vested interest! But I had not heard about the herd of cows. As I am now married to a farmer, who is Dominic's step father, I am astonished that Dom didn't know to just keep going in a determined way. If Masai warriors can approach lions and drive them away from a kill then what price a herd of cows I say?
    i love the photos of the old chairs. Dom did tell me about this episode. It must have made you think that the English are really an eccentric lot. As for the crows - gamekeepers used to string up predators - weasels, stoats, magpies, crows etc. to show their bosses (ie the landowner) that they were good at their job. Nowadays it just looks a bit macabre.
    Can't wait for your next episode. I am so pleased that you all met up.

  18. Hi PAT. So glad you liked this post. Actually, Dominic did approach the herd in a determined way, but the herd initially responded with equal determination. I'm quite sure there is a bit of Masai warrior in Dom.