Day 5 : Walwick to Heddon on the Wall : 18.7 miles
We woke up to another beautiful morning albeit a cold one. It certainly makes your nipples sit up and take notice when you’re trying to function outdoors at this time of year. We shovelled a Summit to Eat into our chops, had a cuppa then went on our way. You can collect another passport stamp at Chesters Roman Fort & Museum, they have a box on the outside by the gate which is excellent news as it was way before opening time when we rocked up. We strolled through Chollerford and over the beautiful Upper Tyne River.
We reached Planetrees where there’s a tiny bit of wall left, and apparently it’s only still there because a local posh bloke stopped people from robbing it to build a nearby house. This part of the wall is narrower, it seems when they got to here they decided to start building faster and more economically. The foundations had already been laid at the same width of the rest of the wall but the wall itself was reduced to 1.8 metres wide, and this is the width it remained to the east of this point.
It occurred to us that this could actually be the last bit of wall we would see on this hike so I’m glad we actually took notice of it rather than just walking on through. Eventually we ended up on Military Road, which isn’t to be confused with Military Way, the Roman road that ran by the wall and was only used by soldiers. Military Road was built in the 1700’s and actually ruined a lot of the wall. Some of it is, apparently, actually built along the foundations of the wall. It’s as straight as a Roman road though and by now I was so over straight roads.
We were mostly walking alongside it though rather than on the tarmac though which is easier on your feet, but shit it’s still dull. It was about 11am, just as we got to a trig point that I had to climb a wall to bag, that the weather moved in, and I didn’t think we were going to outrun it this time. We went through the now familiar ritual of kitting up in waterproofs, but instead of the rain stopping after about fifteen minutes it just didn’t. Fucking. Stop. At all.
The trails were already puddles and the downpour didn’t help, all we could do was just trudge on through it, through fields and mud baths, just keep putting one sodden foot in front of the other and hope the rain held off for long enough at some point so we could have lunch. It didn’t but there happened to be a very strategically placed pub slap bang on the trail called The Robin Hood. We opened the door, stepped in and dripped all over the carpet. The bar staff didn’t bat an eyelid. Half-drowned, dishevelled hikers were probably par for the course at their establishment. The staff indicated a table for us to sit at and we grabbed menus, because sod trying to boil and consume noodles in this weather, we were going to treat ourselves to a bit of pub grub. The Robin Hood is also another passport stamp point, the box is outside so it doesn’t matter if you rock up outside of opening hours.
After lunch it was just a case of a long, straight, very wet walk into Heddon on the Wall. We met a squaddie from some nearby barracks along the way, jogging in the rain like a bloody nut job. He warned us about crossing the road here, you have to cross the road several times as the footpath switches from one side to the other and apparently most people drive like utter knobheads when faced with a long, straight road. I hate long, straight roads. I especially hate them when they’re flooded and vehicles don’t slow down and send the spray over the hedge right onto the footpath you happen to be walking on. I mean, we physically couldn’t get any wetter than we were right now, but it’s the psychological aspect to it, y’know?
It was just before 5pm when we squelched into Heddon on the Wall. It had rained near constantly for six solid hours. We shuffled into Houghton North Farm, silently congratulating ourselves for booking a bunkhouse with a roof for the evening because sod trying to get a tent up in this, and were greeted by a lovely woman who uttered those five magical words every girl wants to hear; “I’ve put the heating on.” We’d booked a twin room with a shared bathroom but because we were up so early the next morning and she didn’t want us disturbing other guests we’d been upgraded to the en suite right by the kitchen.
We promptly spread everything we owned out along every surface available for hanging shit up, cramming as much as we could on the radiator. We use Osprey pack liners which, by the way, are amazing. Everything inside the liner remained bone dry, and actually my Marmot waterproof jacket stood up to the test too. My gaiters and shoes were obviously disgusting, and Tarrant was probably going to end up with trench foot or some other manner of medieval disease given the fact her shoes were about as waterproof as Kleenex.
We weren’t long out of bed, taking advantage of having a kitchen to eat some proper food and have a couple of beers whilst playing cards. We might have gotten utterly drenched today but in fairness, we couldn’t be upset about the way the weather had worked out for us. The forecast had been horrible for the whole damn hike but we’d escaped largely un-soaked. The days when the weather was the worst, we’d booked into bunkhouses. The two most important days for history and sightseeing, days three and four, were mostly dry. Dampish at worst. I think, all things considered, we got off pretty lightly given we’d decided to go for a big, long walk in the north of England in September. Idiots.
Day 6 : Heddon on the Wall to Wallsend, Newcastle Upon Tyne : 16.6 miles
Of course we could hear the rain belting down over breakfast, and tonight we would be in a tent. Sigh. At least we didn’t have much planned in the way of sightseeing today, we’d mostly be walking through the suburbs of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Breakfast is included at the bunkhouse but because we wanted to be up and out at some god awful hour, our hostess had just put out some cereal, bread, spreads and eggs for us so we munched our way through that before assembling our nice, dry belongings and stepping out into the downpour. It’s only meant to be 15 miles to the end from here, I have no idea how we managed to add on an extra 1.6 miles. For some reason the path takes you a convoluted way through the village before you head down through some woods towards the river. I don’t know if the weather gods took pity on us or what, but by the time we got to a place called Newburn, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Oh sweet joy of joys!
From here on in we were on paved footways, walking through parks, spending a lot of time by the river. We were walking along main roads, feeling quite self conscious with our big packs and our hiking poles after spending so long in the countryside, walking through small towns and villages. We hiked along the back of a business park at one point, and once we were through the quayside we were walking through places that you probably wouldn’t want to walk through at night. We were well and truly back in civilisation. Do not want.
Once again toilets were an issue at the start, there are cafes every now and then along the way but we were here wayyyyy too early for those buggers to be open. You’re in the city now, the place is full of dog walkers and joggers, there’s nowhere you can really go. I risked a quick wee in a bush that looked like it used to be someone’s bedroom in a park. At some point the trail stops being the Hadrian’s Wall Path and becomes Hadrian’s Way, I’m not exactly sure when this happens though.
Also, it turns out that Newcastle has seven bridges and they’re all different! They’ve very cool. There’s this bit you walk through which seems to be quite trendy, because obviously I know all about trendy in my zip off trousers and technical merino wool long-sleeve, and this is where the bridges are and there’s one called the Millennium Bridge which tilts. I believe it’s nicknamed the Blinking Eye, because of the shape of it. It was actually starting to tilt just as we rocked up, and it moves so slowly you’re not even sure if it’s actually moving or if your eyes are just dicking with you. So we stood and watched that for a bit before decided we should probably crack on if we ever wanted to finish this hike.
It was just gone 2pm when we rocked up to Segedunum Fort. We overshot it at first because the dropped pin on my map said the end was a bit further along, and when we couldn’t find anything to mark the end there we doubled back. Turns out the end is, according to a bloke working at the fort, a bit shit, so they built a statue and that serves as the end, or the beginning, depending on which way you’re doing it. Yep, that’ll do then. We took a selfie with the statue, got our Passport stamped for the final time, and just like that it was over. 84 miles of trail. 95.6 actual miles when you take into account walking to and from accommodation, strolling around forts, going the wrong way, and nipping off into bushes for a pee. We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. We weren’t bothered about visiting Segedunum, so we just kind of sat down outside the gates and ordered an Uber to take us to the train station.
A train to Carlisle and a taxi to Bowness-on-Solway later and we were back at Wallsend Guesthouse picking up our car keys and they advised us that the pub where we’d intended to have dinner, the King’s Arms, wasn’t serving food tonight. Wait, what? Because we didn’t have a plan B and if I didn’t get food relatively soon my stomach would likely unleash a thousand terrors, the like of which Bowness-on-Solway had never seen and… Hunter Leisure! Our one stop shop for pretty much everything we needed when we were here a week ago. We heaped our bags into the car and headed into the village where sure enough, Ian produced a menu and we shovelled some pretty decent pub style grub into our chops, washed down with a bottle of prosecco. Because we’d damn well earned it and I don’t care what my liver had to say about it.
We were talking about not really wanting to be in a tent that night, the weather was turning to shit again and the forecast was predictably awful. Ian is converting an old barn into a bistro, it’s a bit of a building site at the moment but the second floor is in and he offered us a space there for the night if we wanted it. He didn’t want any money, he told us. He just wanted to help us out. It had a roof, if nothing else it’d be dry and sheltered. Well… it would be nice packing a dry tent away tomorrow… and in fairness we did intend to spend a bit longer here chucking a few more Proseccos down our necks… and it’d be nice to not have far to stumble afterwards… fuck it.
Our tent is freestanding, we didn’t need to be able to hammer pegs in to put it up. We took him up on his offer but put a tenner in a collection box he had to help fund the building of the bistro. We regretted absolutely nothing. We slept well, woke up in a dry tent, didn’t have far to go for the full English Ian cooked up for us the next day. And it’s all very reasonably priced as well, but bear in mind we live in Brighton, you could probably charge us £20 for a bacon sandwich and we wouldn’t blink as we tapped our card.
Walwick to Heddon on the Wall, Northumberland to Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
Stayed at: Houghton North Farm in Heddon on the Wall & Hunter Leisure in Bowness-on-Solway
Activity: Walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path from west to east.
Useful shit to know…
- We paid £30 each for a twin room at Houghton North Farm but were upgraded for free. We booked in advance but paid on the day by card.
- There’s a petrol station with a Spar just a short walk from the bunkhouse in Heddon on the Wall which is where we went to pick up a couple of microwave meals, snacks for the following day, and a few beers. There are other places to get food such as take aways, restaurants and a pub, but we just wanted to eat in.
- Uber operate in Newcastle so we just used that to get us from Segedunum to the train station. It cost about a tenner.
- The trains from Newcastle to Carlisle are frequent enough and cost £17.10 each for an off-peak single without booking. It took about 90 minutes, give or take.
- The taxi from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway was £30 on the meter. Not bang on £30, but only, like, pence over. He didn’t take card but drove us to a cash point before we left Carlisle. There’s a taxi rank near the station.
- The number 93 bus does run from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway but not frequently (and not on Sundays) so it’s worth checking the timetable to see if it’s worth the wait or if you might as well hop in a cab. For us it would have been a 90 minute wait. Bollocks to that. We took a taxi.
- If the Kings Arms isn’t serving food the only other option in the village is Hunter Leisure, but we recommend him anyway. Apart from that you have to go into Port Carlise where there’s a pub, but it’s more of a drive than a walk, especially when you’ve literally just completed a six day hike.
- Wallsend Guesthouse in Bowness-on-Solway charge £10 per person for camping and also offer rooms or huts. Hunter Leisure charge £10 per pitch, good for two humans, for camping and also have huts and rooms available too.