Sunday, 28 June 2009

Fields of gold

Did the circular walk from Steel Rigg, up onto Peel Crags, to the Sycamore tree.

Spent some time there waiting for folk to move on and for clouds to move on.

A ewe and two lambs obligingly walked through my shot and two jets put a cross in the sky above Sycamore Gap.

It was Father's Day and every one seemed to be out for the same walk as me. I carried on up onto Highshields Crag, a tour group had stopped for a break there, it's a good place to stop with great views over Crag Lough.
There was even a fisherman out on the Lough, first one I've seen this year!

Lingered a while taking photo's of the boats the headed off behind Hotbank Farm.
There's a new foal on the farm and he was determined I wasn't going to pass through the gate. He set his hind quarters and everytime I pushed the gate he pushed back, typical cheeky youngster.

Eventually I managed to persuade him to let me through, I paused to take a few shots of his mother against the landscape of the Wall and he nibbled at my backpack, much to the amusement of other walkers who were passing us by. Beautiful animal.

The track back to the car park runs parallel to the Wall and I was walking through fields of buttercups, literally a field of gold.

Passing the Galloway cows, youngsters with the bull enjoyoing the sunshine. Quite recently a vet was killed by cows but she was walking with two dogs and the cow was protecting it's calf from the dogs.
It did say in a situation like that dogs on a lead will hide behind the owner so you should let the lead go so the dog can run off diverting the cow away from you.

Back to the car park and ready for a lunch, off to the Old Forge Tearoom at Greenhead where I enjoyed a bacon, brie and cranberry toasty with a nice cup of tea. Perfect way to end an afternoon out.

Catch you later.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Misty mornings

Up for the sunrise, it was foggy at Gilsland and I drove along the Military Road wondering if I'd be doing a fast about turn.

Discussed it with the friend I met up with and we thought that, as we were up anyway we might as well climb up to Cuddys Crag, maybe a bit of height would take us above the fog.

Half way up and we came into a magical morning, mist swirling and moving around so that bits of the way appeared and disappeared in minutes.

Gorgeous light too.

The sun is coming up over Sewingshields Crag and that's as far as it will go to the north before moving back around.

It's been hot, very hot over the last couple of days and it was refreshing to be out in the cool morning air.

Some mornings the display takes your breath away and this was just that sort of morning, not a highly coloured sunrise but the sun diffused with the mist cast a golden glow over the scene.

This view from Cuddys Crag east has to be one of my all time favourites and now matter how many times I go there each one is different. As it got to 6am the sun got swamped with cloud and we put our gear away, a last look over the shoulder and much to my suprise the sky had cleared so it was bright and blue. I dashed back for one last shot.

One other person walking on the Wall this morning but they joined the Pennine Way path at Rapishaw Gap. We could see the person stopping every now and again to take in the scene.

The day has been beautiful, clear skies and sunshine, bet there were some hot walkers on the Hadrian's Wall Trail.

It's unfortunate that there is nowhere to buy refreshments along the Wall between Chollerford and the kiosk at Walltown.

If you're planning to walk make sure you have plenty of water with you and maybe try a sunrise start time, if it was like this morning it will be well worth it.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Sunny days

Hasn't the weather been wonderful?

Thank goodness the forecaster's got it wrong, here on Hadrian's Wall we've had Wall to Wall sunshine and people have been out enjoying themselves.

I was out at Cawfileds Quarry for a sunrise shot, lovely wispy mist curls rising in the first rays of the sun, just beautiful.
The sun came up like a big bright ball, so once it had crested the hill it was too bright for photographs.

It was on this early morning trip that I lost my Nikon remote shutter release, a replacement costs £60 so later that day, once the dew had dried off the grass, we went out to look for it.
(Didn't find it unfortunately)
Cawfields was transformed from the peaceful calm scene I'd witnessed some hours before, it was now a buzzing bright place. Families having picnics, children playing in the water and one couple had a boat and were paddling around the lake.
Not entirely sure they're 'allowed' to do this but on a hot day it looked the perfect way to spend an afternoon and I was envious.
Because there's a toilet block there and well manicured picnic areas it's a great place for families to spend a day.

The quarry lake is very deep, someone told me there are several cars and even an old double decker bus at the bottom of the lake so it's deep and it's cold, with a sudden drop not too far from the edge.
If you're tempted to cool off after a long tiring walk along Hadrian's Wall remember this and stay safe.
Catch you later.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Clotted cream tea's at Slack House Farm

Weather has been better than expected so we took the opportunity to get out for a walk from home.
Headed off towards Willowford Farm as I had something to drop off there, the Hadrian's Wall Path goes past the farm and on up to Birdoswald Fort, making a round trip for us of about four and a half miles.

They have some newborn lambs at Willowford, late in the season but very welcome - we stood for a while watching them.

There are some very good remains of the Roman Bridge by the river, and it's quite interesting to see the display board picture of how the bridge would have looked in Roman times. Considering they had no theodolites or cranes it was an amazing feat.

Speaking of feat, there was a man walking the trail with bare feet. That must have been so uncomfortable, standing in sheep's droppings can't be pleasant and in this area it's unaviodable.

The bridge over the River Irthing has a handrail coming loose, I took a photograph to send to the Path officer but probably, by the time I get around to downloading the picture, the rail will have been repaired.

To the west of Willowford Bridge there's been some tree planting in a newly fenced area, people were ignoring the official path and taking a shortcut up the grassy slope, now they can't and I did wonder if that's why the trees were planted.
'Elf & Safety' and all that!

The Wall at the top of the bank running to Birdoswald Fort is excellent, one of my favourite views is looking east and seeing the crags at Walltown on the skyline.

I spent some time with the barefoot walker looking for the Roman graffitti on the Wall stones, someone had told me the general area it was in and eventually we found it. Rather than being carved into the rock it stands proud (very proud!) and once you spot it you wonder how you could have missed it!

We took the road back to Gilsland but then decided to take a little detour to the tea room at Slack House Organic Farm, home of Birdoswald Cheese.
We had coffee, scone with jam and home produced clotted cream and I have to say it was the best scone I have had in a good long while.
(Don't be put off by the fact it's advertised as a Fairtrade Cafe, honestly, there's not a dusty raisin in sight)
I feel obliged to return and do another taste test ( on your behalf, of course) just to make sure of the quality :)

View this map on
Get directions on

Monday, 8 June 2009


After much rain the sun came out, so we decided to get some fresh air and headed off to Walltown.
Parked in the NNPA car park, we have a pass to cover parking fees at £20 for 3 years it's a great saving for anyone who visits on a regular basis, which we do.
See for details.

The swans seem to have moved on from the lake, I thought I hadn't seen them on the webcam, which is a shame as they are so elegant and it would have been nioce to have cygnets on the lake.
We headed up towards the Wall and the banks on either side of the track are covered in wild flowers with masses of wild orchids. They seem to have moved across the lake, last year the woody area to the south of the lake had the most orchids. So much easier to see, enjoy and indeed photograph in their current position.
It does seem to be a good year for wild flowers, doesn't it?
The Mallards and the Moorhens have chicks but there's a lot of weed on the lake this year so it's not that easy to spot them.
If you go along to Walltown remember to take some bread and your binoculars, nice safe access to the lake side for children and picnic tables for adults to rest a while.
Catch you later.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Digging around in the Roman times

Isn't it often the case that great places right on our doorstep are the ones we never visit, and so it was with us and the site at Vindolanda. NY768662

I'm still a bit sore from my tumble, so we decided to try something less strenuous than climbing up to Hadrian's Wall, so off we went to Vindolanda.
It's is a Roman Fort built in a lovely wooded hollow to the south of Hadrian's Wall and on the line of the Roman road, Stanegate.
The site is in the ownership of the Vindolanda Trust and the only place in the UK where archaeological excavations are on going. They even have a volunteer service so you can go and help with the dig, something I'd love to do if only my knees would still bend!

This is where the Vindolanda tablets were found, the best archaeological find ever, voted Britian's Top Treasure and quite rightly so.
Nothing brings history alive for us in quite the same way as the messages on these tablets do, my favourite is the trouper asking his mother to send more underpants.

It's another huge site with the largest collection of Roman buildings to be seen on the Wall.
The archaeologists will stop and speak to visitors and the days finds were in a tray near the fence so you could see quite easily what had been found.
The dig we looked at was on the settlement outside the fort where local tradesmen would have lived and worked. Pottery, glass beads, coins and bits of metal work were the 'finds' yesterday.

There was also a dig going on at the barracks area inside the fort, but we got to that bit at lunchtime when everyone had disappeared.

There's a reconstruction of the Wall with a Turret, climb up onto the roof of the turret for a great view across the site. It looks very impressive and the Wall when it was newly built must have been a sight to behold.

As it was another hot day we headed towards the cafe for refreshments, next to the cafe you'll find the museum and that's amazing. I loved it.
The soil around Vindolanda is perfect for preserving items and there are bits of shoe leather and material, imagine 2000 years ago someone ws walking in those shoes. The horse mask was incredible as was the plume from a helmet.

Everything is well labelled, well spaced and grouped logically.

The cafe was bright with a nice selection of goodies and situated in a beautiful spot next to the river.

We had a really nice day there and somehow with the excavations going on, it brought the whole Roman thing to life. The Vindolanda Trust were recently given a lottery grant and it will be interesting to see how it's spent, with the number of finds coming in each day I imagine extending the museum display area is on the list.
I liked it so much I'm signing up to be a 'Friend of Vindolanda' just £15 a year and you get free entry to this site and the Roman Army museum.

To quote from the leaflet: "The Vindolanda Trust is an independant charitable trust that raises it's income almost entirely from public support."
Great for children and with good access to the main site for people with disablities.
I highly recommend a visit.

Catch you later.