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|
|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!|
|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|
|The barrage lessens ...|
|... and the sun returns|
|Sunshine on the Milecastle and Cawfield Quarry|
|Walltown Quarry - the Roman Wall hangs over the top left of the crag|
|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.
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.