Day 3: Walton to Twice Brewed
- Distance: 16.9 miles
- Accommodation: Twice Brewed Inn
Day 3 meant the final day of going home each night to return to the wall the next morning, today I was being dropped off to walk the rest of the wall in one go. I was setting off knowing the next time I’d get in the car would be at Carlisle train station at the end of my trail.
I was treated to another day of blue skies and sunshine although by the end of the day the winds were quite something. It was finally time to see the wall appearing up through the green grass including the highest point of the wall at Hare Hill being the tallest section on the entire frontier. I also get my first glimpse of one of the towers which rises some 4 feet up from the modern roadway, sadly degraded by road excavation in 1870. From here I can see over the Irthing Valley we passed through yesterday, all the way back to the Lakeland northern fells and my home. A nice sense of peace comes with this knowing I will be completing this journey under my own steam, and for the first time the scale of the walk that lays out before me hits home.
Sydney and I follow the trail through woodland and open country coming across our first honesty box near Combcrag Wood (where later in the walk I wished we’d stock of the shed as I craved a sugary can of coke). All along the wall there are honesty boxes that come along with either cool boxes, garden shed and even some electrified fridges in the middle of nowhere, providing much appreciated snacks and drinks for the weary walkers along the wall.
Having worked along Hadrian’s Wall surveying some of the smaller millennium bridges, which are made of the same material used in Anthoney Gormely’s ‘Angel of the North’ sculpture, I was amazed to find a huge version spanning the River Irthing. It was interesting to read on an information board by the bridge, that it was helicoptered in during 2001, providing the link between Gilsland and Birdoswold following the 3 successive bridges built by the Romans.
We cross over the railway line and head through rolling farm fields towards Greenhead. We crossed Tipalt Burn over a footbridge alongside the original ford and across to Thirwall Castle. This is where we tackle our first proper hill, so far we’d had gentle farmland fields and the odd set of steps to warm us up, from here we started to break a sweat and rise up to the stronger winds.
The climb from Greenhead up to Walltown was a bit of a shock to the system carrying my pack and the wind started to pick up quite a lot as we headed out onto the expose Whin Sill. At Walltown I bumped into 2 of the Northumberland National Park rangers, it was lovely to see Tess who I had previously worked alongside both as volunteers now working full time in a ranger role. I had lunch in the shelter of Walltown quarry, 45 years ago, this site was a working quarry, where the hard whinstone was blasted with dynamite to provide road stone for the expanding road network of the early 20th Century. After it closed in 1976, the quarry was filled in and landscaped, planted with trees and flowers, and today is a haven for wildlife and nature, a lovely spot for a bite to eat.
Onwards from here the Wall is very prominent and provided a good scenic stretch with dips and rises alongside the Wall with stunning views of outcrops of the Whin Sill. I was then hunted down by Margaret the Northumberland National Park Head Ranger, I had worked with Margaret in my time volunteering with the Park and she had a huge part to play in my interest in access and the working in the outdoors. Margaret has recently been appointed as the Park’s first female head ranger so it was very fitting that this day walking on the wall was International Women’s day.
I’d been very keen and felt pretty pleased with my progress when I met Margaret at Cockmount Hill but continuing from here I started to lag. The winds were getting even stronger, poor Sydney was getting blown across the path with her pack acting as a set of sails and I was getting battered with the big bag taking the brunt of the wind.
Of course as the wind was getting worse we were reaching the most exposed section of our walk for the day along Winshield Crags, also the highest point on the Whin Sill and therefore on the entire path marked with an OS trig pillar on the top at 1132ft (345m). The name of the crags being quite fitting as Whinshield means ‘the windy summer shelter’, although walking the Wall in March meant no summer weather to enjoy, the winds had a chill to them and even with my ears covered I was starting to gain a headache from the wind noise.
As we descended off the crags it felt little bit of a trudge towards our final destination for the day of Twice Brewed. As we reached the road at Steel Rigg my legs started to cramp around my knees, I’m not sure if this was a purely mental matter as the end was in sight but boy did it feel like a long way to the pub from Steel Rigg.
When we finally reached Twice Brewed Inn we were welcomed with an amazing room with a lovely bath to soak the sore feet. I found as I de-socked that a previous little niggle had turned into a full blown blister thankfully not burst so wrapped that in some compeed and made the most of a comfy double for a lie down before tea.
I was glad to be met by 2 of the National Park Rangers Tess and Mic who joined me for tea at the pub. It was an evening of reminiscing about fun had on previous conservation projects we’d done together and plenty of chat about the future of access in the Park and a good old catch up. We were looked after by the pubs owner Steve who had some entertaining stories to tell about his recent winter skills course and we were fed some delicious pub grub. I was quite glad to finally take to my bed after good food and good company ready to put the boots on again the next day to continue my walk.