May 6, 2012
Today dawned with a blue sky and relatively warm air temperature. We met at 8 am for breakfast and were greeted by the waiter with the Newcastle greeting “Are ye all right?” Dave Wharton, our acquaintance from Vancouver who would be walking the path at the same time as us, took the group photo and then we were off. Our route took us along the National Cycle Path to the Segedunum museum, where a small part of the Wall is visible along with part of the fort which anchored its eastern end. This is the official start of the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
For the most part our route today was beside the River Tyne. We first made our way from Wallsend to Newcastle, passing various old shipyards and factories. The Swan Hunter shipyards were the ones which made Newcastle famous for shipbuilding. They built the Mauretania, the first of the great luxury liners, and they built warships for most of the combatants in the wars of the early 20th century. But times change and Swan Walker has recently closed down.
Walking along the river was interesting and made the route into Newcastle enjoyable. Although there was no river traffic, we did see a pair of swans (no nest in sight) and a shelduck on a mud flat. When we got into central Newcastle, the Quayside was full of people and full of stalls selling everything from pottery, fudge, and leather purses to DVDs and books. It took us quite a while to make our way through, but eventually we did. The city has seven bridges crossing the river in quite a short distance. The Millennium pedestrian bridge is particularly famous, as it tilts over in a very odd way to allow ships to pass. Because of that it’s called the “Winking Eye”. We waited until it opened so we could see it in action. When it opens the pedestrian walkway rotates sideways and up, and the opposing curved section rotates downwards to balance it. The resulting effect looks like an eye winking.
After that the four of got separated, and by the time we all got together again for lunch we were under a billboard beside a busy highway. Not the most beautiful of spots, but we were hungry and needed a rest. After lunch our path was mostly on an old railway grade, with the odd diversion. Walking all day on hard surfaces was hard on the feet, and Rosemary’s especially were getting very sore. It was still some distance to Heddon on the Wall, but we carried on. The trail was well marked and went through small forests with singing birds, through fields with sheep and lambs, past a golf course, and then finally up a hill to Heddon.
We had agreed to meet Neil and Christine at the Swan pub in Heddon. We arrived only a few minutes before them; it was now 5 pm so we decided to have dinner at the Swan. They have a carvery every night, so for £8.95 we had a choice of several roasted meats and a variety of vegetables. The meal was very good and we felt very satisfied. But unfortunately we still has about three kilometres to walk to Ironsign Farm, our destination for the night.
In Heddon there is a 100-metre section of the Wall, the first we had encountered. It was the “broad” type, which meant that it was about 3 metres thick for its entire height. So we made a small detour to see that before carrying on along the path. Although our feet were sore, the route was quite lovely as we walked through fields with baby lambs and then a field of oilseed rape (as it’s called in Britain, whereas we call it “canola” in Canada). To get to Ironsign Farm we had to walk around three sides of his fields. In the fields were sheep but more importantly – Highland cows! It wasn’t until we reached the farm that we were told that there were also three calves, of which one was only a couple of days old.
Our room was a twin room and occupied the top floor of the house under the eaves. We had windows on three sides with lovely views, especially of the cattle. From our room we could watch the little calf as he was curled up in a depression in the field. After a while we saw him nursing, then he did some exploring of the field, closely watched by his mother. Bed time was 10 pm after a long day of walking – over 30 kilometres.