Saturday, 6 June 2015

In Search of Anthony H. Wilson's headstone

Back in February, whilst in Manchester for a funeral, I decided that the time had come to track down Tony Wilson's headstone. He is buried in Manchester's Southern Cemetery, and the funeral was due to take place at Manchester Crematorium, next door to the Cemetery. It occurred to me, the day before the funeral, that a recce to find the Crematorium would give me an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (if that is not an inappropriate metaphor).

Tony Wilson died in 2007, but his headstone was not erected until 2010. It was designed (in what might be seen as a Factory Records swansong) by Peter Saville, the designer responsible for the majority of the graphic design (posters, record sleeves, Hacienda decor) for Factory Records. It took him three years to arrive at a design that satisfied his own need for the memorial. Being no-longer resident in Manchester, I had never found the opportunity to visit the grave. I did some research (or what nowadays passes for research - I Googled it) and found some interesting online articles, as well as information about the locations of not only Tony Wilson's headstone, but also Rob Gretton's and Martin Hannett's graves, both in Southern Cemetery too. A very interesting fact to emerge from this 'research' (interesting to me anyway) concerns the Factory number of the headstone. Factory Records instituted a policy of numbering almost every artefact that they produced - FAC 1 was the poster, designed by Peter Saville, to advertise the opening night of the Factory Club in Hulme; FAC 51 was the Hacienda nightclub. When Wilson died, his casket was given the final FAC number, FAC 501, and his family decided that there should be no more. So even though it might have been apposite, not to say expected, that it should be numbered, his headstone was not given a FAC Number.

(Just to illustrate that not everyone in the world believes that the sun shines out of Tony Wilson's behind, the Creative Review blog published a post about the eventual arrival of the headstone. Somebody calling himself 'Shaun' (Shaun Ryder, lead singer Happy Mondays?) posted a comment:

"They could at least have fitted it with a mechanism whereby everything surrounding it disappears up it's own arse too.")


Anyway, armed with the information that Wilson's grave is in Plot B, Gretton's is in Plot G, and Hannett's is in Plot FF, I set out to Chorlton. After an hour wandering around in the drizzle and gathering gloom of an archetypal Manchester February day, I had to admit that it was not as obvious as I had hoped, and I left it for another day.

The next time that I had a chance, I determined to examine every headstone in Plot B (according to the info that I had, there are more than 1800 graves on Plot B). Sadly, a further hour and a half (on another drizzly afternoon) failed to turn up the headstone. I had to face facts - either I was looking in the totally wrong place, or the headstone had been stolen. (Not as outlandish as it might sound - the commemorative stone to Ian Curtis in Macclesfield Crematorium was stolen in July 2008). I needed more information.

Further research (Googling) found more-detailed directions, and a map of the cemetery (see above) showing approximate positions of the three graves. Closer inspection of the map showed me why I had so comprehensively failed to find Wilson's grave on the previous two visits - his grave is in a different Plot B to the one I had searched! Why would you have two different Plots B? One for the Catholics, and one for the Protestants, of course!

Well, now furnished with accurate information, I was in Stockport at the end of May. On my way home on Bank Holiday Monday, the fact that it wasn't raining persuaded me to take a short detour to the cemetery and try my luck for a  third time. Bingo! I found Tony Wilson almost immediately, and while taking a couple of snaps was approached by a woman (of about my own age) who regaled me with tales of the Hacienda in its heyday.

I then made the long walk to the north side to find Martin Hannett, which was trickier because he is in the middle of his Plot; and last but not least, back to the main cemetery to find Rob Gretton.

The story of Martin Hannett's headstone is a rather sad one. He died in 1991. In January 2008 Tony Wilson's first wife, Lindsay Reade, was visiting Wilson's grave in Southern Cemetery. She decided to call in on Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton as they were part of the reason Tony chose to be buried there. She had to get help from the cemetery office for location, but found them both, and was horrified to discover that Martin Hannett was lying in a totally unmarked grave. Her visit set off a chain of events which led to Martin getting a fitting memorial in December 2008. You can read more at the Joy Division Central website.

As it turned out, May 15th. was the anniversary of Rob Gretton's death, so his grave was rather overwhelmed with flowers. I still managed to get some picturess. I'm not sure of the fascination, because clearly I am doing it for me rather than the deceased, but I am pleased to have found (and photographed) the graves.

On the basis that one is never satisfied, I would like to go again when the light is better. Wilson's headstone, particularly, being highly polished, offers intriguing possibilities for reflections.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hadrian's Wall - after the dust has settled.

Look at this lot - they have no idea what they have let themselves in for! The fools!
Since posting my account of the Hadrian's Walk, I have had some feedback from people who have had an opportunity to read it. Generally, those responses have been positive, and quite a few people have made the same observation - a variation on the theme of "Sounds like you had a good time".

Now that some time has passed, and the aches and pains have subsided, I am able to look back and reflect on the overall experience. And having thought about it, I am prepared to say that I did indeed have a good time; but I would not go so far as to say that I enjoyed the walking.  My main problem was not fitness per se. I was fit enough to survive the ordeal, without being fit enough to find it easy. Couple that to the fact that, in my younger days, I was fit enough to achieve more with less effort, and I have to acknowledge that I am not as young as I once was.

However, that wasn't the problem. The thing that gave me most trouble was meralgia paraesthetica. This is a condition caused by the hip belt of a rucksack compressing the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (which runs over the hip). This results in altered sensation in the thigh and hip of the affected nerve (or nerves). This sensation can apparently range from discomfort, through burning, right up to electric shock-like pains. I find it rather ironic that it gave me so much trouble on Hadrian's Walk, when as a much younger backpacker I used to carry much heavier rucksacks much more often without difficulty. The discomfort started on Day 1, and continued right through to the end of the walk (and beyond). I have only myself to blame; because I wanted to photograph the journey, I carried with me my camera, lenses, and small tripod, thus adding to the overall weight on my back. I (foolishly) assumed that, because I used to do it with such impunity, I would still be able to do it today.

Tricky lighting under broken cloudy skies
 Anyway, as already stated, one of my principal aims in embarking on the Walk was to photograph the journey. I am not at heart a 'documentary' photographer, or a photographer of people, or of activities. So why, you might ask, did you set out to make a photographic record of a walk across the North of England along the line of the Roman Wall? Good question. In days of yore, it was one of my greatest pleasures to spend nights out on the summits of mountains, and photograph the sun going down, then rising again the following morning. In landscape photography circles, that last hour around sunset and that first hour of dawn is often referred to as the 'magic hour'. The sun is low in the sky, the light is usually warmly coloured, and there are often attractive atmospheric effects like clouds or haze to enhance the appearance of the scenery. It occurred to me that, in the same way as staying out on mountain summits, walking along the Wall would put me in the ideal position to photograph the landscape of the Roman Wall in the best possible circumstances. What I singularly failed to anticipate was the fact that I am not actually prepared to stay out late any more. Once I had reached our destination each evening, I felt very little inclination to go back outside to take photographs. I was much more interested in having my dinner and a few beers in the comfort of a warm pub.

Disappointingly unsharp, one of the risks of not using a tripod
But that's why I planned the Walk from East to West, so that I could take advantage of the better lighting offered towards the end of each day as the Sun got lower in the western sky. In actuality, the weather proved more challenging than I had wished for. To be fair, as mentioned in the daily accounts, our Roman weather god Deus Meteorologicus was pretty forgiving, and we had more sunshine and less rain (and snow!) than we might have expected. However, the rapidly-changing lighting conditions, dark cloud turning rapidly to bright sunshine and back again, did cause me problems with camera exposure. You see, I had chosen this week to begin experimenting with the manual exposure controls of my digital SLR!

Before and after Photoshop - manual exposure error
In the olden days of film, all my chosen cameras were manual exposure. I was thus very familiar with using manual exposure in whatever lighting conditions, and anyway, you expected to get a proportion of your exposures wrong (we called it bracketing!) I used the technique all the time, and I never had to think about it. Then along comes an all-singing, all-dancing electronic camera. Before I knew what was happening, I was using the digital SLR in Programme mode, not only allowing the camera to make exposure decisions on my behalf, but to do all the focussing, too! The automation certainly makes life a whole lot simpler when I am photographing the car trial events that I go to watch (see the 'Links' page of my Trial Car Photos website to see my online photo galleries). But having grown reliant on those automatic features, I have to some extent lost whatever abilities I may have had in using the camera manually, particularly with regard to responding to fast-changing conditions. So - perhaps the one week of the year when I was going to be taking photographs of a never-to-be-repeated, once-in-a-lifetime trek across Hadrian's Wall was not the ideal time to choose to start messing about with camera exposure settings!

The upshot of all this has been to leave me a little disappointed with my photographs. I can't think of a single, outstanding, classic shot out of all of them; there are many with inaccurate exposure, which will require a lot of work within Photoshop to bring them closer to "the picture in my head"; there are many shots "missing" - I can remember being there, but I don't seem to have a picture of that place or that incident; and, perhaps most damningly of all, it seems that I have lost that urge to be there at the dying of the light, and so I have no sunset or sunrise shots. However, as and when time permits, I intend to go through all the photos of the trip. I want to weed out the unworthy, tweak the fair-to-middling ones into some semblance of acceptability, and eventually to re-upload the improved versions into the day-by-day albums on my Picasa gallery. In which case, I hope that interested parties will check back now and again to see what progress has been made.

So to return to the original question: did I have a good time? On the final day of the Walk, as we were crossing the fields into Glasson I think, I asked the question of my fellow Wallers Hadriani:

"Ignoring all other commitments, work, family and so on, if you could have two days of complete rest at Bowness-on-Solway, would you just turn around and walk all the way back to Newcastle?"

Everybody said no. But I would have been prepared to do so, which must say something about whether or not I had a good time an the Wall. It may also say something about my fundamental inability to face-up to real life and the real world; but despite all the discomfort, the poor weather, the strong winds, even my disappointment with the photographs, I did have a memorable Walk along the Wall.

Where the broad wall meets the narrow wall at Planetrees
I wouldn't want to do it again, though. Basically, the three days in the middle (where some actual Roman Wall still exists) are good. The other four days, the two out of Newcastle, and the two past Carlisle, are a bit of a waste of time. I am pleased to have done it once (because now I know that I don't have to go back). When I do return, it will be to spend time visiting the forts and the museums, and not worrying so much about walking along the Wall. I know the parts of the Wall that are most interesting, and I will return to them for photographs, at better times of the day when the light may be better.

Corbridge Church
And I definitely wish to go back to Corbridge. It will make a good base from which to get to see more of the area, and certainly has pubs to which I would like to return. And who knows, with the pressure off, I may find that the desire to stay out late returns and I finally find some of those pictures that I didn't get this time.

Whilst writing up the story of our Wall Walk, I discovered the following websites, some of which you might find interesting:

Per Lineam Valli Along the line of the Wall
Hadrian's Wall - Guide Vallum Hadriani - Itinerarium
Hadrian's Wall Camera
The Walking Englishman Hadrian's Wall Path general information site
The Walking Englishman Hadrian's Wall Path
Stage 1 of an account of three blokes walking the Wall in 2012. The person writing the account makes frequent reference to 'the Vallum', when he is mostly actually talking about the North Ditch. Otherwise, the account is quite interesting. To see further stages, scroll to the bottom of each page and click on the 'Continue along Hadrian's Wall' button.
The National Trail Hadrian's Wall Path guide

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 7. Thursday April 30th. 2015. Last day so far!

Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway. 14.5 miles (23.2 km), 300 ft (95m) ascent

The final day of the Hadrian's Walk started badly. The lack of a firm plan led to confusion, dithering, and ultimately a very unsatisfactory start to the last leg. Decision by committee can be very trying. In this case, the deciding about what to do about breakfast, having not made any definite arrangement the night before, resulted in rising earlier than expected (for me, anyway), and a very poor breakfast at the coffee stand on Carlisle Railway Station platform. It could have been so much better.

Past the Cathedral

But at least it got us all out of the Travelodge and onto the road, and well before our usual kick-off time of 9.30am (09.08 according to EXIF) we were making our way through Carlisle's pedestrianised city centre, past the Cathedral, towards the Castle.

Through the underpass

En-route to the river Eden

Through the underpass to the Castle, left along the main road, across the bridge over the railway and the River Caldew, then right onto Bridge Lane. This becomes Willow Holme Road, and at the Stagecoach Bus Depot we turned left into the jungle and followed a footpath through the industrial estate until we emerged onto the bank of the River Eden.

The church in Burgh-by-Sands
Our route now, quite pleasantly, followed the Eden for a while. The weather was neither one thing nor the other - a few spits of rain, the odd splash of sun, the wind still cold and in our faces. We followed the river until we reached the village of Grinsdale (to my disappointment, not 'Grimsdale' with the consequent possibility of a sighting of Norman Wisdom) then made our way across the fields to Kirkandrews on Eden. From here, the route of the Path should have led us along another section of the river bank, but because of a reported landslip, a diversion took us out onto the road for a distance. This took us into Burgh-by-Sands (burgh pronounced bruff), where the bus shelter made a convenient place for a lunch stop.

I took the opportunity to get some photos of St. Michael's Church, which by its own admission was built from stone taken from the Roman Wall. The church tower, itself a defensive pele tower in its day, is now arranged as a small museum, with information about the church, the Romans, and the days of the Border Reivers. The church is definitely worth a return trip, even though physical evidence of the Roman Wall is largely absent all along this section of the Path.

The statue of Edward I

The sign in the church also tells of King Edward I who, after dying whilst on the marsh, was brought to the church and lay in state on July 7th. 1307. Soon after setting off again after lunch, we came to the Greyhound Inn, beside which stands a statue of Edward. The statue was sculpted by Christopher Kelly, given to the town by Story Construction Ltd., and installed as part of the 07/07/07 commemoration of the 700th. anniversary of Edward's death. After taking a few photos, we got back under way, and after passing Longburgh found ourselves on the margin of the Burgh Marshes.

Not the Roman Wall - a disused railway

Our path lay along the raised embankment of what turns out to be a disused railway - unfortunately not, as I would have preferred, the remains of the Roman Wall. The weather continued to be reasonable, with odd spots of rain here and there, a few sunny spells, but still windy.

Because we were on the final day, and because the landscape was so flat, time seemed to pass slowly, distant objects remained distant, seeming to come no closer, and the miles crawled by.

Drumburgh Castle

We rambled through Drumburgh, passing Drumburgh Castle. Hadrian's Wall Path then took us off the road and into the fields again, passing through Glasson, until finally we reached Port Carlisle (only a mile or so to go).

A short distance beyond the remains of the old Carlisle Canal there is a signpost. It is intended for tourists, similar to the one at Lands End, and has finger signs pointing in many directions. For a donation, you can have your team photographed in front of the sign with your home town name and distance showing. Carol and Dave reached the sign first (I was still adrift in the rear taking photographs) and they must have told the Sign Man something about Dave's origins in Yorkshire. By the time that Fiona and Dermot reached the sign, the Sign Man had started spelling out Huddersfield, but Carol and Dave had moved on, and no amount of persuasion could convince them to retrace their steps for a team photograph. So the team shot would have to wait until we reached the pub in Bowness-on-Solway.

Nearly there! (But always only ever here)

That last mile was the longest of the entire journey. But, a mere seven days after taking our leave of Newcastle, we finally arrived at our destination. Entering Bowness, a sign on the right announces 'Hadrian's Wall Promenade' and The Banks.

Ave Terminum Callis Hadriani Augusti Pervenisti

Fiona and Dermot (sore feet singing in concert) favoured getting straight to the pub, but Carol, Dave and I wanted to see what marks the terminus of the Wall Walk. We found a hut, the entrance bearing a sign: "Welcome The End Of Hadrian's Wall Path"; and also in Latin: "Ave Terminum Callis Hadriani Augusti Pervenisti".

The floor of the hut is covered with an attractive mosaic, with the legend 'Ave Maia' at each entrance. Maia was the terminal Fort at this, the western end of Hadrian's Wall. In common with the remains of the Wall throughout this Solway section, there is nothing to be seen of the fort today.

The final team shot
Carol, Dave and I therefore repaired to the King's Arms, Hadrian's favourite pub in Bowness-in-Solway! The present landlady has taken over the pub only relatively recently, and the website that crops up from a Google search is now very out-of-date. The King's Arms is a Jennings house, and on the day we visited had only Cocker Hoop on draught. However, there was also 'Shipyard American Pale Ale' available as keg draught, and Marston's 'New World' on the rack - sadly not available to drink, though.

So we had a couple of beers, took the final team shot, and just after 5.10pm. caught the number 93 bus back into Carlisle. The bus journey passed through almost every sort of weather, and we were treated to a bright rainbow for a brief spell.

We were back in Carlisle in time to catch the 18.30 train to Oxenholme, and that got us into Oxenholme by 19.15. The bike was still where I had left it, so I rode down the hill and picked-up the car. I then returned to the station, and had collected everyone, the luggage, and had them back to our house by 19.40. Carol and Dave decided not to eat with us, but to go straight home. And that's where it ended.

This is the way the Walk ends - not with a bang but a whimper.

All the photos from the day can be seen on my Picasa Gallery.
Dave's photos of the walk can be seen in Dave's album.

Total distance walked:     87.5 miles (140 km)
Total ascent:        5000 ft (1540m)

Friday, 22 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 6. Wednesday April 29th. 2015. Five down, two to go.

Banks to Carlisle. 14.5 miles (23.2 km), 400 ft (125m) ascent

Today's stage into Carlisle (and the following day out to the coast at Bowness-on-Solway) was going to be hard. Not because the walking itself, or the terrain, would be the most difficult yet encountered. To the contrary, we were now out of the High Country, and the nature of the walking would become increasingly mundane as we neared civilisation. But, we were by now five days in, and even with only two more to go, we had reached that point in the journey where, although fitter and more accustomed to the daily rhythm of walking, we were also more tired. So with less to stimulate us and encourage us onwards, the effort required to simply get going would be greater than on earlier days. The sore feet were still sore, the rucksacks were no lighter, and Hadrian's Wall was not going to walk itself, Barb!

After a comfortable night, we were up for breakfast at 8.00am. as usual. The weather, on waking, was overcast and showery, but some breaks appeared in the clouds while we were eating, and Dave even managed to get outside for a photo of the B&B during one of the sunny spells. Booted, suited and loaded up, at 9.30am. we set off in sunshine. We got rain quite soon, though, and the early part of the day was characterised by much stopping and starting to put on and take off waterproofs.

The renovated Wall at Hare Hill
First place of interest was only a short distance into the walk, at Hare Hill. The Info sign told us the following: "This was once thought to be the highest surviving section of Hadrian's Wall but in fact, it was largely rebuilt in the 19th. century. A building stone on the North face of the Wall, bearing the inscription PP, records that this stretch of Wall was originally built by Roman legionaries under the Primus Pilus, the chief centurion of a legion."

Approaching Milecastle 54

Shortly thereafter, approaching the site of Milecastle 54 (sadly nothing is visible of the remains) we were hit by a very heavy, very cold shower of barely-melted hail; after that, though, the weather became generally dry, with spells of good sunshine. The wind, true to recent form, remained strong, cold, and from the West, and shelter was hard to find.

Snow-covered Blencathra visible in the distance

We could tell, though, that the weather was unseasonably cool, because of the evidence of snow on the tops of the distant Lake District peaks, particularly Blencathra, which was prominent on the skyline all day long.

Dovecote Bridge, below Walton Church

All suggestion of the Wall proper effectively disappears from Hare Hill on, but it is still possible to identify sections of the North Ditch and the Vallum from the traces of dyke and earthwork that remain. At Dovecote Bridge, approaching the village of Walton, there is a grassy mound which conceals an extant section of Wall. The Info sign tells the story: "Until 1983, this stretch of Hadrian's Wall was the only visible part of Cumbrian red sandstone. It had been exposed for nearly 20 years, and in that time the weather had seriously damaged the stones. To preserve what remains the Wall has been reburied."

Until just past Blea Tarn Farm, the Path continues to follow the line of the Roman Wall, and we had lunch (in an attempt to find shelter from the wind) in what was possibly the North Ditch.

Blea Tarn, and the earthworks marking the Wall
Blea Tarn, now a boggy depression below the present-day farm, was a quarry for the stone used to build this section of the Wall, and the presence of the Wall is still visible in the ditches and earth mounds. Not long after this, the Hadrian's Wall Path deserts the line of the Wall itself, and heads off towards Carlisle along a variety of footways, including the bank of the River Eden.

The decoratively carved gravestone in St. John's Church

To reach the Eden, we passed through the village of Low Crosby. Dave's eye was caught by an intriguing carved gravestone in the Churchyard, bearing a detailed relief of a Dove and a tree. Being a wood-cutter by profession, Dave was duty-bound to take a photo. After the Church, the temptation of calling in to the Stag Inn was fiercely resisted, on the sensible grounds that: a). we would arrive in Carlisle sooner; and b). we would save ourselves for the Moo Bar in the evening. A visit to the Moo Bar in Carlisle was high on the list of priorities.

Crossing the Eden by the Rickerby Bridge

Fiona and I first discovered the Penrith Moo Bar in August 2014, and when we found out that there was a Moo Bar planned for Carlisle, we knew that our beer destination was ordained for when we reached Carlisle on our Hadrian's Walk.

We crossed the Eden at Rickerby Park, then followed directions from Fiona's phone to find the Carlisle Travelodge, our home for the night.

Travelodge room - basic, but comfortable and cheap

Minor panic at reception when it took several guesses to remember the name under which I had made the original booking! Then it was up to our rooms for tea, showers and a change of clothes, before meeting back in the lobby for 6.00pm.

From there, we set out to find Moo Bar for a couple of beers, before then finding a restaurant for dinner.

To my surprise, Moo Bar had a huge selection of beers on offer, most of which, sadly, were not as interesting as their names might suggest (or perhaps my taste buds were just becoming jaded from all the walking!). Thankfully, Thornbridge's Jaipur was available, and remained so (and on good form) all night.

Today's Team Shot - not so many smiles!
Masala Bazaar, bright and colourful Indian Restaurant
We had spotted an Indian restaurant, not far from the bar, as we were heading to the Moo Bar, so we decided to try there for our food. The Masala Bazaar turned out to be a good choice. The decor and design of the restaurant is very eye-catching, using lots of bright colours and large, bold artworks on the wall. It was not busy, so we were able to get a table with no difficulty, and our orders were taken and the food served very quickly - just what you want after a day on Hadrian's Walk, building up an appetite.

After food, back to Moo Bar for more beers.

Two young lads, one of whom was carrying a guitar case, came to sit at the table beside ours. The Moo Bar has a number of games available for customers to play, and the boxes were on a shelf behind our table. The two lads asked if we would pass them one of the games, which we did, but it was only a matter of a few minutes later that they were packing that one away and asking for a different game. Dermot made a comment about the fact that young people have very short attention spans nowadays, and one lad (who we soon learned was called John) said: "You sound like me Dad!", and we all laughed. The lads then got up to leave, and Dave commented that he had expected them to play something on the guitar. Against all my expectations (at eighteen, how many of us would have the confidence, the brass neck, to sing a song for strangers "who sound like me Dad" - not me!) John, as he now introduced himself, asked had we heard of The Band? Of course we had, but the surprise should have been that John had - even allowing for their second lease of life, at the Band's final break-up in 1999, John would have been only a year or two old! Anyway, he played "The Weight", and barring one or two moments of "not too sure of the words" made a very creditable fist of it. It seemed to make Dave's night, as he cited the song as his "best bit of the day".

It was raining on the return to the Travelodge, and we went to bed before making proper arrangements for the following morning.

All the photos from the day can be seen on my Picasa Gallery.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 5. Tuesday April 28th. 2015. Our spring is sprung.

 Twice Brewed to Banks. 13.5 miles (21.6 km), 1200ft (370m) ascent

The amazing thing about a night's sleep is what a difference it can make. You think that you have had a hard day, you are exhausted and you are never going to recover. But you have a shower, a good meal, a night's sleep, and when you wake the following morning you feel ready to do it all again. Of course, you realise that it's not going to be easy; the blisters are still going to feel as if you are walking over razor blades; your rucksack straps are still going to pull your arms out of their sockets; and yet ... you're still not ready to throw in the towel.

The ascent from Winshields Campsite back up to the Wall
 Snow had continued on and off overnight, but by dawn it had turned to intermittent rain. Breakfast was at 8.00am. in the dining room, and as I have already mentioned, served by the same young man who had been on bar duty the previous evening. Breakfast was good - I was again treated to a couple of croissants to go with my cereal and toast - and by the time breakfast was over the weather was starting to brighten up. As we resumed our journey, it was cold and windy, wet underfoot, and with a few spits of rain on the wind. Walking uphill past Winshields Campsite soon warmed us up and got the early morning stiffness out of our legs. We encountered a large group of schoolkids with their teachers as we began the ascent back up to the line of the Wall, but we took a different route up the hill and so left them behind. I did not envy the teachers the job of keeping tabs on such a group of children, particularly with the weather as it was - "Are we there yet?" We could see them, periodically, in the distance behind us, and continued to do so until we had passed Caw Gap.
Fast-moving patches of sunlight, and the Whin Sill continues ahead of us

This part of the Walk, continuing along the ridge of the Whin Sill, proved similar in character to the previous day. Good going underfoot, very varied terrain, great views all round during the spells of good visibility, and surprises at every twist and turn, and every rise and fall. And once again, Deus Meteorologicus was more generous than he might have been, but today was the day that brought home to us the penalty of walking the Wall from East to West. Had we been here a week earlier, we may not have given it a second thought. Today, though, strong Westerly wind made the day cold, and in the occasional snow showers, positively painful as the snow, hail and rain was driven straight into our faces. But we were also rewarded with some brilliant sunshine, accentuated by black and threatening skies, and dramatic skyscapes as the clouds were hurried aloft by the turbulent air. All-in-all, an exciting day to be on the hill.

Precipitation within sight!
 We were overtaken by the first of the heavy snow showers on the section over Cawfield Crags, between Caw Gap and Cawfield Quarry. Out of a blue sky, seemingly materialising out of thin air, precipitation was in sight. It was on us so quickly that I was still in the process of donning my waterproofs as it struck, and so fierce was it that, in spite of my wish to try to get some photographs from within the maelstrom, I could hardly hold the camera still enough to compose a

Still in sun behind us to the East!

A quick snap in the whirling white

In the end I had to settle for a couple of 'point and hope' shots of Fiona and Dermot below me in the white-out, and a couple of shots with my back to the storm.

Back to the wind and try again
 At that point discretion seemed the better part of valour, so I put my camera out of harm's way and finished putting on my waterproofs. According to the EXIF data from the digital photo files (digital photography - don't you just love it?), the shot of 'precipitation within sight' is timed at 10.44; and the shot looking down on a sunny day over Cawfield Quarry is timed at 11.03. So the whole episode, from start to finish, sun back to sun, took less than twenty minutes. In next to no time, we were drying out, and moving on to our next destination.

The barrage lessens ...

... and the sun returns

Sunshine on the Milecastle and Cawfield Quarry
 Cawfield Quarry and Walltown Quarry are two fascinating, not to say controversial, locations on the Wall. Fascinating because of the drama they lend to the landscape; controversial because between them, in fewer than 100 years, they have been responsible for the destruction of more of the Roman Wall than the previous 1700 years put together. As the Info sign in Cawfield Quarry succinctly observes: "The quarry worked until 1944, showing how different attitudes were then to such an important archaeological site!" You can find more about Cawfield's history at the Industrial Railway Society, and from a couple of entries on the Durham Mining Museum website - Entry 1 - Entry 2. Walltown Quarry, where again the Roman Wall is literally left hanging on the edge of the modern quarry face, is harder to find information about. There is a reference to the destruction of the Wall, though, at the bottom of this page of Haltwhistle's town website.

Walltown Quarry - the Roman Wall hangs over the top left of the crag
The wind continued to harry us all along the ridge, with bursts of blinding sunlight in between black cloud and sharp showers. We stopped for lunch at the Walltown Quarry car park. The descent from the remains of the Roman Wall above the modern quarry effectively marks the end of the Whin Sill, and thus the end of the drama and excitement of the high country. From here on we saw a return to the more rural surroundings of fields, fences and stiles, though true to its nature the Path still cleaved closely to the line of the Wall. And, to be fair, we were not yet finished with the Wall. We still had the Willowford Bridge crossing of the River Irthing, Birdoswald Fort, and regular appearances of the remains of Turrets and Milecastles to look forward to; they would just no longer be situated in the upland wilds.

Philippus built this

The Willowford Wall remnant, and the remains of the bridge that carried the Wall across the River Irthing, are very impressive. Incorporated within the wall of one of the farm buildings at Willowford is an incised stone, obviously 'rescued' from the Roman Wall. It records the fact that "Phillipus built this".

Willowford Bridge abutments

 The new footbridge that carries the Path over the river is also not without interest, and almost as soon as you reach the West bank of the river, you find yourself at Birdoswald Fort. This deserves a return visit, because we were not able to give it the attention it demands. As we arrived, the sky turned black, and (again before waterproofs could be fully deployed) the deluge was on us once more. It began as snow, big wet flakes clumping together. It turned for a while to soft hail (little white lumps that, if you examine them under a magnifier, resemble nothing so much as the Apollo capsules from the NASA moon landings) which hurt in the wind, and eventually to cold, persistent rain. This storm lasted a lot longer than the earlier one on the Whin Sill - there is a spell (EXIF data again) of 55 minutes during which I did not take any photographs - and we were all glad to eventually see the back of it.

Daffodils on the green to greet us in Banks

So finally the rain stopped, the skies brightened, and the sun reappeared. The Path along this stretch involves some road walking, as well as the by-now-classic narrow strip of grass along the road side, so we were becoming wearied as we began the final couple of miles to Banks, our destination for the night. There were still plenty of signs of the Wall all along here, including glimpses of the earthworks of the Vallum. Finally, after passing Milecastle 52 and Turret 52a, (click here to see a pdf, from Durham University, concerning Milecastles along Hadrian's Wall) we made the short descent into Banks in a burst of sunlight, passing daffodils on the green to find Quarryside B&B.

Greatly relieved to have made it, we were welcomed by Elizabeth, our landlady for the night, and ushered into the warmth of the house with offers of tea and coffee. After taking our bags to our rooms, we all decamped to the sitting room for hot drinks, cakes and biscuits, and to find out about the arrangements for the evening meal.

In a corner of the sitting room was an attractive, small, stained-glass widow, which caught some late sunlight and made for an unexpected photograph.

After a refreshing cuppa, and when we had all bathed or showered, David, Elizabeth's husband, ferried us to the pub for dinner. Because there were five of us, he had to make two trips, so Dermot, Carol and Dave went first, and Fiona and I were delivered about fifteen minutes later. The pub we were taken to is "The Belted Will Inn" in Hallbankgate, about five or so miles from Banks. Elizabeth and David have had the arrangement with the pub for some years now: they shuttle their guests to the pub, and the landlord of the pub returns the guests to Quarryside after dinner. (The only shortcoming with this system is that the return to the B&B was earlier than we would have chosen if we had been under our own steam. In all other senses it is excellent, because it allows an overnight stay in an area that would otherwise prove problematic to visitors who are on foot, and have no access to a car.)

The pub was quiet, and (from our point of view) had unfortunately had a very busy weekend. Unfortunate, because there was only a single real ale on draught (Thwaite's Wainwright), and also a dearth of bottled beers. This meant that, disappointingly, we could not buy any bottles to take with us back to the B&B. Now to be fair, there was nothing wrong with the Wainwright, it's just not one of our favourite beers. We were pleased to drink it, we were all more than satisfied with our meals, and we had an enjoyable evening in the pub. The landlord, also the chef, gave us our lift back to Quarryside when he had finished in the kitchen for the night, and during the drive told us more about the pub and the local area. Elizabeth was around when we arrived back, and kindly provided us with tea and coffee before we all retired for the night.

Day 5 had been a challenging day, arguably the hardest day of the whole walk. It was certainly the day of the worst weather, and involved a lot of ascent and descent. But, like the day before, it was packed with incident and interest, and many details to remind us how impressive was the Roman achievement in constructing the Wall. The next two days to the finish were going to be anti-climactic.

All the photos from the day can be seen on my Picasa Gallery.