|Day 45 – May 23||Haltwhistle to Housesteads|
|Weather: Sunny and hot||B&B: Manor House Inn (£39)|
|Departed: 8:30 Arrived: 11:30||Walked: 2h 30m Rested: 0 hr 17m|
|Distance Today: 7.68 mi / 12.36 km||Total Distance: 700.61 mi / 1127.52 km|
|% Complete: ~ 61.14%||Pint of the Day: Cumberland Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 45|
Sleeping in isn’t conducive to a LEJOG and so even on my rest days I find myself wide awake at 7am. Of course today wasn’t really a non-walking day so I figured I might as well get up and get on the road before it got too hot. If you’d told me a week ago that I’d need to worry about walking during the cool part of the day I would have said you were mad.
I set off from Haltwhistle at 8:30am with the idea that it would take me 2.5 to 3 hours to walk to Housesteads Roman Fort. This estimate was important because there was an 11:30am bus that would take me to Hexham … miss that bus and I’d end up waiting 2 hours in the car park (or have to return to Haltwhistle instead).
It was already surprisingly warm and I worked up a sweat as I made the long climb out of town. After cresting the hill I descended to cross the dead-straight B6318 which I presume to be a Roman road. I figure if the Romans had done LEJOG my 1200 mile journey would have been considerably shorter!
I reached Hadrian’s Wall at the Cawfield Milecastle and headed east along the Pennine Way. I had forgotten how hilly the terrain is around here, which is unforgivable since I’ve walked the wall on at least three occasions and as recently as 2006. A fresh westerly breeze helped cool things down as I followed the 1900 year-old wall up and down over the undulating terrain. The views in all directions were fantastic and there were plenty of photo opportunities. The scale and engineering of the wall can’t really be appreciated until you visit it in person.
I passed the remains of several turrets, another milecastle and to the north the southern edge of the Keilder Forest which when planted was the largest man-made plantation in Europe. Eventually Crag Lough came into view, a small lake I remember spotting when I walked to Housesteads from the opposite direction in 2006. I was moving along at a reasonably good pace yet making the 11:30am bus was going to be a close call. I had been following the wall path rather than take the easier inland path but once I reached the point where the Pennine Way headed north I moved to the faster route for the last mile to Housesteads. When I arrived at the National Trust office it was 11:20 and I still had a long walk to the car park below. In the end I tightened up the straps on my pack and ran for it. I arrived just a few minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive but in the end it was 15 minutes late. In case you’re wondering I didn’t visit the remains of the fort at Housesteads because I had done so on my first visit in 1983.
When the AD122 bus to Hexham did arrive I was treated to a very informative narrative by the driver. The drive to Hexham took just under half an hour and I was soon wandering around the somewhat familiar streets. I was here in 1996 and it really is a wonderful little town. In retrospect I wish I had stayed here for two nights rather than Haltwhistle.
I found a Weatherspoons where I cooled my heels and took advantage of the free wifi to update my blog and check my emails. I then had a good walk around the town before finding a shady spot in the centre to sit and relax. The sun was blistering hot and many of the locals were having an impromptu siesta as well. I thought there might be a cricket game on somewhere in town so I went to the Tourist Information centre where I received directions to the ground. It was a 15-minute walk and by the time I arrived it was obvious, despite the crowd of people, that the game was over … a sprinkler on the wicket being a sure sign.
I wandered back to town and caught the next train to Haltwhistle. The forecast is for much cooler temperatures in northern England tomorrow, upper teens rather than upper 20’s. I’ll catch a mid-morning bus to Housesteads and then rejoin the Pennine Way for my walk to Bellingham.