THE MIDDLE SECTION. UNDULATING AND BEAUTIFUL.
Day 3 / Chollerford to Haltwhistle
The term undulating sounds quite pleasant doesn’t it?
In reality this oft-described undulating section is punishing. Miles of hills, after miles, after miles. However, hills aside this section does boast some of the most spectacular scenery on the path (including some massive sections of wall).
The day was overcast, but the cooler temperature definitely made for a more pleasant start to the day. First port of call was Brocolita Fort, truth be told not a great deal to see here, the Mithras Temple is however quite interesting. Knowing there were better ruins further along path I did not linger here long.
Unsurprisingly, the effects of too many cups of tea during breakfast were making themselves known so I was (quite desperately) on the hunt for a convenient bush. Not one to make a habit of relieving myself outside, there are times in life where you have little choice: Bush found, it didn’t take long to realise that my location of relief was in a nettle patch which resulted in some bonus nettle stings to the backside. 😂😂
Onwards. The path rose to a steady climb towards the Sewingshields Crags and the first spectacular view of the day looking towards Broomlee Lough.
Not long after, the second roman fort of the day, Housesteads appeared (as well as dozens and dozens of day trippers along the path). Housesteads, built in 122AD housed 800 men and unlike other ruins along the path, you will really get a sense of what a roman fort would’ve been like – the ruins are remarkably almost complete – I highly recommend stopping here for a poke around.
Finally, the path leads you to the most iconic image on the entire path, Sycamore Gap. A large sycamore tree nestled between the crags, best known (apparently) for its appearance in the 90’s version of Robin Hood. Unsurprisingly, this is also the busiest section of the wall – the day tripper bus stop is approx. 15 min walk away, so if you want a photo without folk in it you’ll have to be patient (35 mins in my case).
Hitting Steel Rigg, it was time for lunch and a stop off at Vindolanda. Vindolanda although not as spectacular as Housesteads, but is widely regarded to be on of the most important sites of Roman Britain. The artefacts displayed in the museum (the writing tablets for example) are incredible, and if you are a bit of a museum nerd like me it is very easy to lose track of time (3 hours). But be aware, this detour will add not only hours but an extra 3 miles to the day.
Vindolanda done, The sun has decided to make an appearance. Making up for lost time I ignored the fact I was in a village called Once Brewed, with a pub called “Twice Brewed” (I’m probably only person who finds this HILARIOUS!) and got myself back uphill to Steel Rigg and to the path.
Green Slack, the highest point on the wall at 345m was a bloody schlep to get to. But the views were worth. On a side note, this area reportedly has the cleanest air in the UK, so fill your lungs!. From here you can see exactly what lies ahead of you – more ‘undulating’ hills. The final part of the day was definitely brightened by an appearance of an army unit coming in the opposite direction (jogging!?)
Two hours later I was on flat ground, it was definitely time for a beer (or five). Stopping at the Milecastle Inn, it dawned on me exactly how far away (and off the path ) my accommodation for the night was, giving in to cold beer and sore feet I got a cab (technically not on path so doesn’t count).
Arriving at accommodation for the evening, I had inadvertently booked a super plush, super fancy B&B with a hostel price tag – WINNER WINNER! More about my accommodation, and logistics of the whole in another post, but if find yourself in Haltwhistle stay at the Belford Arms, its proper lush!
Dinner at the Black Bull Inn, Haltwhistle. I think I scared the locals by literally inhaling my food when it arrived, then had the best sleep I’ve for a least 3 months.
Day 3 Stats
Distance actually walked= 20.62 miles
Blisters = 0 (woo hoo!)
Angry Cows / Bull = 0
Detours taken = 1 (to see the fort at Vindolanda)
Random Observation: An army unit jogging by after Green Slack, certainly reset my motivation for the rest of the afternoon.
Day 4 / Haltwhistle to Brampton
There is nothing like good water pressure in the morning – after an amazing sleep and an equally amazing shower I was ready for day 4.
Arriving back to the path, an elderly gentleman had set a cracking pace ahead of me (it took me 2.5 hours to catch up to him). I completely aspire to move that quickly when I’m in my seventies.
Wildflowers and woods everywhere – there are times during this walk that I feel like I’m in an Enid Blyton book from my childhood.
By mid afternoon, my head just wasn’t in the game and as enjoyable as the scenery was I just wanted to get the day over with. Ignoring Birdsowold Fort, i got my stamp, a cup of tea and forged on.
As usual, my accommodation involved another 2.5 mile walk to the village of Brampton, which involves walking down a busy B road, bordered by hedges. A test of nerve, when you’ve got to dive into a hedge with a semi thundering around a corner.
Day 4 Stats
Distance actually walked= 22.10 miles
Blisters = 0
Insects ingested: 2 million (an overestimate, but not far off)
Random Thoughts: Singing “Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” at livestock will in fact calm them down