Monday, August 14, 2017

To Be Read



I have multiple ways of finding out about books I think I would like. Obviously, as a book blogger, I read other book blogs and get loads of ideas that way. I also pick up Book Notes from my library each month and go through it, reading about all sorts of new books in various genres. And then there's chatting with friends and scanning the feed on GoodReads. I rarely browse bookstores as there aren't any near me, but that's still fun when I travel.

Here's my list of the 12 most recent additions I've made to my GoodReads To Read shelf. No telling if or when I will get to these. Their order is simply most recently added to my potential reading list.

  1. The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature, by Bill Goldstein - btw, the year was 1922. Source - Book Notes
  2. Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy - I like to read books I think I should've gotten around to writing. I love rereading children's books and I love talking about children's books that impacted me personally. Source - Book Notes
  3. A Very French Christmas: The Great French Holiday Stories of All Time - my friend Lucy at Fictional 100 reviewed this and I put it on my December reading list. With stories by Guy de Maupassant, George Sand, Victor Hugo, et al, how could I not love this? Source - book blog
  4. Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin - I loved her Home Cooking and part of it was her excellent writing, so I thought I would give one of her novels a try. Source - book blog (Lakeside Musing for Home Cooking) and then GoodReads for which novel of Colwin's to try.
  5. The Wayfarer's Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler, by Evan S. Rice - I love to travel...on my own terms. This book appeals to the wanderlust I harbor. Source - Facebook ad.
  6. London Belongs to Me, by Norman Collins - Karen at Books and Chocolate reviewed this and it appealed to me at the time but I'm not entirely sure I'll ever actually get to it. Source - book blog.
  7. Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker - first in a series set in the French countryside with a policeman as the detective. Seems a bit like the Donna Leon Guido Brunetti novels. I love the premise and good series are great fun and always good when you don't know what to read next. Source - I can't remember!
  8. The Widow Nash, by Jamie Harrison - everyone seems to be reading and reviewing this lately, and I like to read newly released books as well as the tried and true.  Historical fiction - Europe, New York, Africa, Montana - perfect! Source - many blogs.
  9. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, by Matthew J. Sullivan - another 2017 book and this one by a Colorado author (I think it's set in Denver but not 100% sure on that). I can't resist bookstore books. Source - Book Notes.
  10. Vindolanda, by Adrian Goldsworthy - yep, it's another Hadrian's Wall (Reading Northumberland) book, but brand new and set in the time period just before the wall was started. I first learned about it from Margaret at Books Please, and then saw it in a few museum shops during our walk last month. I plan to read it very soon--just need to finish up a couple of other books first. Source - book blog.
  11. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, by Diana Gabaldon - a collection of short stories, probably to tide us fans over while she works on her next Jamie/Claire tome. I'm reading Voyager right now, but these short stories will be fun as filler. Source - GoodReads newsletter.
  12. A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline - a novel inspired by the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World. I have always loved this painting and I like the subgenre of telling a story about how a particular painting came to be. This is another that appealed enough that I wanted to remember it, but not sure I will ever actually get to it. Source - can't remember.

Let me know if I should push any of these to the top of the TBR pile, and how do you find out about good books?

Happy reading.




Monday, August 07, 2017

The Women in the Castle


The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, is another WWII novel but what sets this one apart is that the women are all German instead of part of the Allied effort. The main woman character is Marianne von Lingenfels, a strong, aristocratic matriarch whose castle, by marriage, features in the story itself and becomes home for all three after the war and symbolizes the struggles they endure to face the reality of their situation, loss, and sense of identify.

The other women are Benita, an ingenue Aryan prototype who marries Marianne's childhood friend, a Nazi resistor, and Ania, the purported wife of another Nazi resistor.

Shattuck does an excellent job of telling the stories and back stories of all three women, weaving in their children's lives and experiences. I felt both sympathy and frustration with all three, and really appreciated getting a look at the German experience during and after WWII.

I particularly admired Marianne's leadership, even when those around her resented her for it. She is the reason any of the extended circle survived, and while her tactics and forcefulness may have caused their own wounds, she truly did what needed to be done.

I thought the ending was particularly satisfying and realistic.

Monday, July 31, 2017

July reading


Despite my traveling for most of July, I did manage to finish three books.  That's what long flights and layovers in airports can do for your reading life!

I reread Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, with the Victorians! group at GoodReads.  It's been decades since I read this book, and it was light, bright, mostly funny, and a good book to travel with. It was also fun to read a travel book while traveling.



I learned that JKJ actually did the Thames boating trip on his honeymoon, but decided to substitute two male friends for his bride in his story of the journey. I think this was wise as Harris and George were the butt of many jokes, snide comments, and general foil for JKJ, a position that might not have been well-received by a spouse. I also learned that Montmorency, the pugnacious dog, was also not along on the actual trip, and I think he also was a great addition to the narrative.

There are a lot of great illustrations out there for this book, and a particularly appealing graphic book. This book just cries out to be a graphic novel, so I may have to get my hands on it for the next reread.

If you're like me and love maps, then here's a map showing the journey related in the book.


The second book I read on my trip was Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg. Again it was a reread, and again I was reading it along with a GoodReads group, this time the TuesBookTalk Read-Alongs Group. Another again...I last read this decades ago as well.  I fell in love with all over again.

After months of focusing on Roman Britain, Northumberland, and ancient/medieval history, it was an absolute treat to return to Americana. Fried Green Tomatoes has one of my favorite narrative formats - an integration of "real" news reports plus multiple narrators from various time periods with past/present story threads. That's a very common format currently, but in the mid-1980s when Flagg first published Fried Green Tomatoes, it was much less common.

The novel takes place in a small town, a whistle stop town, in Alabama during the Depression and then in the mid-80s.  Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode is an elderly woman living in a nursing home telling a younger visitor about life in her town 50 years earlier and the friends and family, white and black, that peopled the town. There's a mystery, a villain, plenty of heroines and heroes, and a deep, rich vein of love and loyalty, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and joy of life that makes this a wonderful book to read...and reread. The book ends with a set of recipes that I vowed I would make when I got home, but haven't yet. I do have a garden full of green tomatoes, just waiting to be fried.

There's a very good movie version of the novel, though I haven't watched it in years, but my fellow GoodReads Tuesday groupons say that the ending is somewhat different, so we'll have to take their word on this.


The last book I read in July was Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, by Laurie Colwin. This book has been recommended many times by many book soulmates and I was wanting to dive into something completely different. It's short, it's a collection of essays about food, the writing is marvelous and Colwin's voice is amazing.  She is funny, self-effacing, and enthusiastic about the taste and texture of food, the endless opportunities for feeding yourself, family, and friends. I did drop everything and made a loaf of bread following her recipe and it was divine. I have her More Home Cooking on order, and am toying with the idea of reading some of her novels. I really do love her writing. Sadly, she died of an aortic aneurysm at age 48 in 1992.


You know a book is good when you are thinking of all the people you want to share the book with when you've finished it. I choose my daughter, Sarah, who loves to cook and appreciates good writing, and mailed the book to her this morning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: It's a Wrap



East Wallhouses to Newburn to Segedunum, Wallsend
Robin Hood Inn to Keelman's Lodge to Hilton Gateshead (Newcastle)
10.61 miles and 13.0 miles

And now we come to the urban part of the trek.

Leaving the Robin Hood Inn, we walked through fields to Heddon-on-the-Wall, a charming village that definitely caters to the wall walkers that pass through. A lot of walkers who do the east-west walk stay their first night here.

We ate at the Swan, which is a chain of pubs, and it felt like a chain. Not the best choice but the food was alright; the environment just felt a bit forced.

After lunch we walked down a steep hill to the Tyne, where we found the Wylam Waggonway. I had wanted to visit the George Stephenson birthplace in Wylam, but it is closed in 2017. Stephenson was a pioneer of the railway age, inventing steam engines and convincing the British government to support his vision of the future.

The Waggonway was lovely--wide enough for us to walk side-by-side and let cyclists pass.  Lots of people out strolling/biking along the river. 

Arrived at Keelman's Lodge in Newburn, which is managed by the Big Lamp Brewery. We lounged in the sun after checking in, had a pleasant evening surrounded by happy families enjoying the lovely summer weather.

Our final walk through Newcastle and out to Wallsend where the Segedunum Fort ruins mark the end of the wall path was our longest day, and according to Runkeeper, the most I have walked in a single day.

We got an early start and stopped late morning for a latte in Elswick, a western suburb of Newcastle.  We also spotted another new bird--a couple of very pretty Shelducks were just outside the coffee shop. Fueled with coffee, with enjoyed our walk through the city centre, and had fun spotting the seven bridges that span the Tyne and trying to take pictures that included as many of them as possible.

Obviously, not one of the bridge, but I cannot resist taking pictures of statues with gulls on top.

Signage through Newcastle was inconsistent, and we got a bit lost on the eastern edge but kept on going due east and hooked up with the trail at St. Peter's Basin, where we stopped for a pub lunch.

The last stretch to Wallsend was disappointing. Trash and graffitti littered the path, and despite the abundance of wildflowers (they literally grow everywhere), those last five miles were the hardest. I just wanted to finish. There's a section of the Tyne where signs warn people to stay off the river's edge because of chemical saturation from the plants that are gone but their effects live on. It will take years for the river to recover, and I felt badly for the gulls and other birds living on the river. 





While the last five miles were not pretty, I'm so glad that they were at the end of our walk instead of the beginning. Once we got to Segedunum, and stamped our passports for the last time and had a look around, we felt elated at finishing the wall. Later that night, at dinner at our hotel in Newcastle, euphoria set in!

Room with a view - we treated ourselves to a night at the Hilton in Newcastle (Gateshead) with a fabulous view of the river and city.


It's a Wrap

After Newcastle, we took the train to York and spent the afternoon at York Minster, and then the next morning at the National Railway Museum, both of which were fantastic and well-worth the extra day to visit.  Bird note - we got another new bird in York, the Ouse was full of Graylag Geese. Our total new number of new birds on the trip is 27!

Jeff and I both really liked the focus and intensity that walking the Wall gave to this particular vacation. I loved spending the last six months reading about the Wall, Roman Britain, and Northumberland in general, and we both were so glad that we had the time to enjoy the scenery, the history, and the people we met along the way.

York Minster had an exhibit on pilgrimages in general and the Camino de Santiago in particular. We discussed whether this trek was a pilgrimage and I'm still not sure that it was. We didn't walk it to prove anything, or to overcome anything, or to memorialize anything. However, the act of walking every day, climbing impossible looking hills, following a path marked by acorns, and feeling the sun and the wind and the rain was both truly calming and energizing.

Bits of Advice

Use a couple of maps and make sure they're waterproof. And then don't trust the mileage. We ended up walking further every single day than we had thought we were going to do--even when we didn't deviate from the path and visit a fort or museum or pub, the mileage on the trail maps are all deceptively short.

Believe the guidebooks when they say there are no services once you get past the first part of the trail at either end. We would have gone hungry had we not bought sack lunches from the B&Bs in the morning. We had this notion that we would be stopping at pubs for lunch every day. That only was possible on the first and last days, and the ones we encountered stopped serving lunch at 2 pm.

Jeff carried 2 liters of water in the reservoir in his backpack and we needed most of it.

As I said earlier, we couldn't have done the trail without trekking poles, ibuprofen, and Mars Bars. We also carried camp stools on our backpacks, and were thankful for them when we wanted to rest and didn't want to sit on the wet ground.

Compeed bandages are essential. Neither one of us got blisters, but I wore two on my left shoulder for most of the trip as my backpack ended up digging into my shoulder enough to be a problem.

We packed as light as possible but needed a larger suitcase than our carryon bags for the hiking poles (even when disassembled). Hiring a luggage service to transport our suitcases was essential--we saw a few people who were actually backpacking and I honestly don't know how they made it through some of those narrow kissing gates.

Since we knew we were stopping at museums and forts we each got an English History international visitor's pass for £32.  Everything we visited on the Wall except Vindolanda and the Roman History Museum were English History sites. 

One of the things that frustrated me in the planning stages was that roughly half of the B&Bs are cash only. That meant carrying more cash around than we typically do on vacation, and being remote meant there weren't cash machines handy so we had to think through what to carry and where to reload.

The season for walking the path is April to October, and the trail managers really discourage hiking outside of this time frame because of the damage to the trail that walking in mucky weather does.

If you want to walk in the summer, book early. I booked our July trip in February and got everything we wanted, but we talked to someone who booked in March and she found some places already full up because many only have 3-4 rooms. All of the places we stayed were either on the trail or within half a mile. Some people who used a tour group to book needed to go to a pickup location and be driven to their lodging. It was important to us to be completely on foot for the entirety of the Wall trek, so we didn't even want to take the AD122 bus that goes between Wall locations and the nearby villages. Also, it seems that many of the B&Bs have arrangements with the tour groups, so I think a certain number of rooms are just not ever available to individuals.

I think that's it--great experience. Loved every minute of it. Starting to think about where to walk next!

This photo was from early on the trek, just east of Bowness on Solway, but it is one of my favorites!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 9 (Humshaugh to East Wallhouses)



Humshaugh to East Wallhouses
Mingary Barn to Robin Hood Inn
10.32 miles

Bright sunny day of walking across fields, scaling and descending stiles and generally enjoying the English countryside.



Breakfast at the Mingary Barn was another set up of eggs, fried ham (aka bacon), very tasty sausages, tomatoes, and beans, which I always decline. We had a great time chatting with our fellow guests--a London couple who were walking end-to-end in the opposite direction from us, and a Yorkshire woman who now lives in the U.S. and was only walking three days and was about to set out on her first day. It was interesting to compare notes. Everyone has different reasons for walking, different time pressures and work/family commitments, and different things they hope to get out of doing a trek like this.

We started by taking a half mile detour from the trail to take a closer look at the ruins of the Roman bridge abutments that we viewed from the Chesters' Fort bathhouse ruins across the North Tyne. Well worth the detour as the river is just lovely there and since we got an early start, we had the place to ourselves.

After the detour, there was another diversion so we ended up walking a good bit along a fairly busy road that didn't have a very wide shoulder and we debated a good bit about which side was best be on--facing oncoming traffic or having it come up from behind. There were plenty of hills and blind curves to make the case for both. There was one stretch that went down a road that had absolutely no shoulder and the hedges along the roadside were overgrown. Luckily, no cars came through--walking early in the day has that advantage--and I imagine it rarely gets traffic, which is why the powers that be designated it for the Wall path diversion.




We stopped at St. Oswald's Church, located at the top of the hill of the Heavenfield battlefield, where Oswald, King of Northumbria, was killed in battle in 642 CE. He became a saint soon after.

The church had no electricity or heat--just gas lights. No one was around, but the door was open, so we went in and read the info posters, took pictures, and left a donation.  I was thinking that it would actually be pretty cool to attend an Easter or Christmas service in a church like this. I have no idea whether services are ever held there, but it was Sunday morning and nary a parson in sight.

North of the church was a plaque identifying all the points of interest that you could see on a clear day. I didn't recognize most of the place names, except for the Cheviot mountains in southern Scotland. Sure enough, the day was clear and bright and we could make out the mountains, which was a real treat.

We picnicked along the way, having had the presence of mind to buy a couple of sandwiches and some fruit from the Mingary Barn owners.  And we birded along the way, but didn't see anything new--mostly blackbirds, crows, and ravens, sparrows, and  swallows, martins, and swifts.

As the day progressed, we encountered more and more people out for a Sunday stroll, and by mid-afternoon we found a pub, the Erthing Arms, open and ready for all the Sunday walkers and pleasure seekers. It was a real treat to stop for refreshment and rest in the sun and breeze.

Most of the day's walk was along the Military Road, which pretty much runs the same course as the Roman road that ran east/west south of the wall/forts and was used for moving troops and supplies between the forts and milecastles and towns.

As we approached East Wallhouses, the path was mostly in the Hadrian's Wall ditch, which ran alongside the wall to the north of it. At times, we were actually well below the grade of the road, which was sort of a weird sensation to have cars whizzing by above us.

Just before we reached the Robin Hood Inn, our B&B for the night, we finally saw our first robin (our first real English robin, not the grossly misnamed American Robin).



The Robin Hood Inn was another very old building, but had been updated with modern bathrooms. Food and accommodation were great. I had a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner that tasted straight out of my childhood. I loved the carvings in the booths in the dining room--I dubbed one Mr. Pickwick, and could easily imagine the Pickwick Club pulling up in a coach and coming in to the Robin Hood Inn for a bowl of punch.

I never did ask why it was called the Robin Hood Inn since it is not near Nottingham Forest, but I will next time I visit.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 8 (Carraw to Humshaugh)



Carraw to Humshaugh
Carraw B&B to Mingary Barn (aka Chollerford B&B)

7.63 miles

Carraw B&B was absolutely excellent -  very rural but modern, open, clean interiors. We stayed in the annex and the amenities were luxurious.  Dinner was homemade cream of onion soup with crusty bread, fruit, cheese, and pate. Perfect! 




Rained overnight and woke to off-and-on showers so donned rain gear for the first part of the walk.  Our first stop was the  Brocolitia Fort, outside of which were the remains of a temple to Mithras, built by the Roman soldiers from the fort.  Another sacred spot that inspired whispering despite the passage of time since people worshiped here.

Late morning it stopped showering enough to shed the rain gear, which became unbearably hot as the material just doesn't breathe. 



We planned only a short walk for this day as we wanted to spend all afternoon at Chester's Fort in Chollerford where the English Heritage was hosting a Roman Cavalry event with reenactors. We arrived just in time for the 1 pm performance and got to see a small unit of soldiers fully outfitted and with a centurion (commanding officer) drilling them. I was particularly excited to see them create a shield wall, about which I've read so much. Next came three Cavalrymen, two of which were wearing Cavalry helmets with full face masks.  The announcer, who was part of the reenactor group explained everything they and their horses were wearing, and then they did some drills with spears and shields in full armour.







The fort itself is incredibly well excavated. Here we saw the tallest walls, and the bath house down by the Tyne even had the cubbies in the changing room where people could leave their clothes while they bathed. You could also clearly see each of the rooms, with some of the baths still partially there--you could actually progress from the warm room, to the hot room, hot baths, and then the cold room. 




I also really loved looking across the Tyne to the remains of the abutments of the Roman bridge that crossed the river at this point. 

We ate sandwiches and drank lemonade at the fort cafe, and then toured the museum, which was basically a warehouse of artifacts found on the site--hundreds of altars and tombstones, as well as pottery, cavalry horse armour, etc.

After the fort, we walk into Chollerford and had a drink at the George Hotel, which used to be a coaching inn back in the Georgian days.  Very pretty garden that faces the Tyne--enjoyed the sunshine and had my first shandy (lemonade and ale), which I liked quite a bit!



Then up the hill to our B&B in Humshaugh. Dinner at the Crown Inn, which was packed on this Saturday night, and then a good night's sleep at the Mingary Barn, which was actually an old stone barn, modernized for 21st century living.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 6/7 (Once Brewed to Carraw)




Once Brewed to Carraw
Vallum Lodge to Carraw B&B
8.2 miles

We took a layover day in Once Brewed in order to visit Vindolanda, a pre-Wall fort south of Once Brewed. After breakfast at Vallum Lodge, we had a lazy morning, snoozing, catching up on notes, reading, and repacking. Vallum Lodge offers laundry services, which we jumped at.

Late morning, we walked about a mile and a half to Vindolanda. It was a lovely day--sunny, breezy and soft. The site and museum were exceptional--clear maps, great plaques with interesting descriptions.

The site is currently being excavated--they had recently discovered more writing tablets earlier in the week--and we enjoyed chatting with a volunteer, who enjoyed taking a break. She has worked every season for over ten years, and showed us bits of pottery she had just found before we arrived. It's hard, painstaking work but fascinating.



In addition to the excavations currently underway, the Vindolanda Foundation also does recreations to help visitors visualize the Wall and fort system.  Here is a portion of the Wall reconstructed to full height.



After a great lunch at the cafe, we visited the excellent museum--so well organized, informative. Especially interesting were the varieties of shoes displayed--everything from soldiers boots to ladies sandals and children and baby shoes. I was thrilled to actually see the Vindolanda tablets--bits of wood with writing that were discovered in the 1970s and that revealed so much about life in northern Roman Britain. They were under infrared light and impossible to decipher, although their images were projected so you could actually see the writing. 

It seems that so many walkers are severely limited by time or on a mission to do the wall as fast as possible and so skip most of the sites and museums. Since we live so far away and are genuinely interested in the history, we planned our trip so that we could see everything and not feel pressure to keep moving.

Vallum Lodge was excellent--Claire, the owner, has everything down pat and it's efficiently run, pleasant, comfortable, and well-situated, less than a quarter mile down the road from the Twice Brewed Inn, a pub/restaurant/lodge where we ate dinner both nights. Only place to eat if you're on foot. 

There's a new visitor center, dubbed The Discovery Center, that is opening the end of July. It is quite large, cool design, and promises great exhibits on history (not just of Roman Britain, but Northumberland since the Romans left), geology, biology, weather, agriculture, etc. I was so sorry to miss it.

After our layover day, we were eager to get on the trail. Our next step was Carraw B&B.

The first three miles of hiking were quite strenuous. Lots of steep climbs and descents, requiring trekking poles and careful footing. Views were tremendous, and the famous Sycamore Gap tree was fairly early on. We got an early start, so we could take lots of pictures without other hikers in our way.  Just for the record, this was voted the most photographed tree in Europe in 2016, and if it looks familiar, then you recognize it from the Kevin Costner Robin Hood film, Prince of Thieves, which I will be rewatching just to see the tree!



With the exception of the Sewing Shields crags, I found what the guidebooks said to be true--the views are best walking west to east. We had great view of all the crags as we approached them, except Sewing Shields, and even after we climbed up and descended, I never did get a view of these crags. 



Stopped at the Housesteads Fort. The fort itself is extensively excavated but I was surprised and disappointed that there wasn't a museum. There was a shop, the back of which had a few artifacts on display and short movie. On the site itself, the plaques were well done and informative, but the wind had picked up and so we were blown about quite a bit trying to read up on the history of the fort. We did get to see the all-important lavatory for the fort--a small room to serve the 500 soldiers stationed there! It's the most complete excavated lavatory from Roman Britain, and was the top of my list to see at Housesteads, weird as that sounds.

After we left the fort, we had lots of company along the trail as many of the people who drove to the fort did hikes from Housesteads in order to see some of the magnificent scenery. We found a sheltered spot next to the wall where we picnicked on the sack lunch we bought from Claire at Vallum Lodge that morning. Delicious homemade meat pies, chips (aka crisps if you're not American), cookies, and apples.  Good thing we decided to bring a lunch as there are absolutely no places to stop for food or drink at the top of the Wall path. In fact, I think the shop at Housesteads only had candy and chips.

We saw a several gorgeous loughs (small lakes, pronounced lochs, I think), and with the sunshine dappling on them, and surrounded by field of green, they were breathtaking.

We arrived early at the B&B--checkin time is typically 4-7 pm, so we lounged in the sun for almost an hour, which was a treat in itself.

Another wonderful day high above the farmland, in the sun and wind, surrounded by wild beauty and the remains of a powerful civilization whose impact permeates modern life.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 5 (Greenhead to Once Brewed)



Greenhead to Once Brewed
Greenhead Hotel to Vallum Lodge
9 miles

Steps not recorded because I used hiking poles all day long.

First--Greenhead Hotel was not a good choice. Whole place is shabby and the room was small, overlooked the main road, bed was small, bathroom ancient. Shower head came off in Jeff's hand, spraying water all over the room. Couldn't open window for fresh air as tea things in way. Dinner was mediocre; breakfast was the usual ham/bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, beans, toast.



Easy walk from Greenhead to the Wall Path and then up a short distance to the remains of Thirlwall Castle. Lovely ruins--it was a bastle house on a hill, and the walls were thick. We saw swifts at Thirlwall Castle. Would love to come back and spend more time in the area, but that would require doing extensive reading on Sir Walter Scott, who basically put Gilsland and the surrounding area on the tourist map.

Another easy walk to the Roman Army Museum--got there near opening time at 10 am.  Wonderful museum--huge school group with about 100 8-year olds running around.  Okay except they made it hard to hear the 3-d movie. Bought a ticket good for both this museum and Vindolanda Fort, both of which are run by the Vindolanda Foundation. 

The 3-d movie was pretty good--it wasn't exactly on par with the HBO series Rome, but was a good way to visualize the Roman army in the area. The museum itself was first rate--good clear exhibits, and a good balance between telling the story of the invading Romans and the native, occupied Britons.  Well worth the hour and a half we spent there.

Bought sandwiches and candy bars from the cafe to eat along the way. My new saying is that I couldn't hike the Hadrian's Wall Path without trekking poles, ibuprofen, and Mars bars. 



From there we mostly climbed all day, either up or down, rarely level. Fantastic views--wall exposed for long stretches, and many turrets and milecastles provided a good excuse to stop, take pictures, and rest.

Trekking poles required both up and down steep slopes where you really had to pick your way carefully.  Would be extremely hard to do in any wet weather. 

Sunny and breezy all day--I got sunburnt and wind burnt, despite wearing sun screen and a hat all day.

Encountered many wall walkers--mostly Brits, Americans, and a large group of Germans. Many were just doing day hikes or a 3-day stint along the wall, but some were end-to-enders. 

Sheep everywhere except the very highest stretch along the Whinshields Crags.



Walltown Quarry area with a small pond was lovely. Lots of people in cars picnic there and then do short walks up along the walk. We saw one young family with the father carrying a toddler on his shoulders and the six-year old scampering around in flip-flops. My feet hurt just watching him!



Shortly after reaching the highest point on the path, we climbed down to Once Brewed where the Twice Brewed Inn is located, and our B&B, the Vallum Lodge was just down the Military road a bit.  Relaxed, did laundry, and then headed back to Twice Brewed for dinner--it's the only place around and was packed!






Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 4 (Lanercost to Greenhead)


Lanercost Priory to Greenhead
9.5 miles
Lanercost B&B to Greenhead Hotel

43 flights of stairs according to my Garmin Fitbit wannabe--steps not accurate because I used trekking poles for some of the day.

Lots of climbing--hills, stairs, stiles--up and down all day.



Started with another communal meal--breakfast at B&Bs are that way, and I opted for pancakes this time and bacon while Jeff had yet another English breakfast, but no beans this time. Good thing we're walking all day!

Climbing Hare Hill we stopped and watched birds at a bird feeder and identified a Siskin. 



Saw the wall first at the top of Hare Hill (and did a selfie) after which we stopped at remains of turrets and milecastles on our way to Birdoswall Fort, the first Roman fort that has been excavated at this end of the wall. Beautiful vistas of the Pennines to the south, and rolling grassy hills covered with sheep and cattle all around.

Saw some very shaggy cows near Birdoswall. As we neared the fort, we walked along the wall for a good stretch. After arriving, we had lunch in the cafe, then we toured the site--the cafe is in the tower next to the Bastle house. We ended up getting a guide book at each fort/museum and did some reading in them each night.

Here is the Bastle House on the Birdoswald Fort site--it operated as a farm until fairly recently.



The plaques at all the sites are really good--here's a great example.



We walked to the very back of the fort perimeter, and looked down a steep incline to the Irthing River below. Absolutely gorgeous.



Started walking again around 2 pm--needed the trekking poles for long steep climb down to the river. Crossed the new Willowford bridge (1999--helicopter placed it) and then went on to see the remains of the Roman Willowford bridge. River must have changed course over the last 2 millennia as the bridge abutments were far from the river itself.

Long, tiring trek to Gilsland--lots of steps and hills and climbing. Diversion through Gilsland and so backtracked to Poltross Burn milecastle. Met up with tour group and listened in a bit. This milecastle was built on a hill so interiors needed steps within one side of room to the other.

Took break and drank water, ate trail mix and used camp stools soon after Poltross Burn milecastle, before final leg to cutoff to Greenhead. Young man gave us directions to Greenhead shortly after we came down off trail and were looking at map. 

Greenhead hotel was pretty shabby--not on same level as any of the BBs, but okay for one night.

Here is an image of the ditch, which runs north of the wall and is part of the overall defensive zone of the wall.