Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wallsend - Heddon-on-the-Wall

Distance: 24,0km.

Wallsend has probably got its name by being the end of Hadrian's Wall (Vallum Aelium), but for me and Alessandra it is the start of the Hadrian's Wall Path. The walk will take us from Wallsend and over to Bowness-on-Solway on the other side of England. The trail is about 135km long and follows the remains of the wall as well as possible.

Ornament in the Roman fountain in the Roman bathhouse at Segedenum.

It is quite fitting that the trail starts besides the remains of the old Roman fort of Segedunum, so it is in place to start the journey with a visit there. Little remains of the fort now, but you can see large parts of the structure of the fort on the ground. The museum also contains the only Roman bathhouse in Great Britain, which has been reconstructed after excavations done at Chesters fort that we will pass later on at the trail. The observation tower of the museum provides a great overview over the remains of the fort and the surrounding area. It's little that reminds you of Roman times here now. Just outside of the fort do we find the first parts of the wall that we can see, and the last for a while, these are the only parts of the wall that you get to see before Heddon-on-the-Wall.

Remains of Hadrian's Wall at Segedunum. This is the only visible part of the wall before Heddon-on-the-Wall.

Segedunum. Overview over the old Roman fort from the observatory tower in the museum. The trail goes along the fence to the left.

The trail itself starts quite so modest next to Segedunum; it's only a small sign that indicates that you are at the beginning of a longer walk that will take you over to the other side of northern England. The first that strikes me is that it feels good to start off at another walk. In the start the trail has a little rural touch to it, even though it goes next to what is essentially a suburb to Newcastle. Since the remains of the wall lies well buried beneath the buildings of Newcastle and the surrounding area we are being led down to the shores of the river Tyne. The trail then follows the river for the most part in to Newcastle upon Tyne.

At the start of Hadrian's Wall Path. From here the trail goes past Newcastle and to the next stop, Heddon-on-the-Wall.

After going through a little boring part through the suburbs of Newcastle we came down to the river Tyne, which made the walk a lot nicer. A lot of fishermen were out along the riverside trying their luck.

To get to the start of the walk I flew to Newcastle, now we arrive at the city along the river. After about two hours of walking are we back where we started before going out to the end of the wall. The sun shines over the bridges. There's a market under the bridges, since its Sunday, and there are a lot of people out. We find us a place in a restaurant near the river and order us some lunch.

We arrive at Newcastle upon Tyne with its familiar bridges. To the right is the Baltic, an old mill now being used as a museum for contemporary art; behind is The Sage Gateshead, a center for music education, performances and conferences.

It gets a lot quieter when we leave Newcastle along the river with the Millennium Bridge and the Tyne Bridge left behind us. We're looking forward to getting out the city and walk in more rural surroundings. We pass through Elswick, the location of the former Armstrong Works, which must have led to more thirsty surroundings. In the middle of the 19th century there apparently were no less than 44 pubs here. Unfortunately it's been dried out here and you don't get less dry in the mouth by walking next to a motorway. Fortunately the path leaves the motorway and takes us through a park at Denton Dene.

With the knowledge of having walked through an area that contained a sea of pubs without seeing a single one it feels good to arrive at The Boathouse. Here we stop for a drink and to enjoy the great weather, with the river Tyne back alongside us again. Markers on the side of the pub indicates how high the water went when there was big floods here, in 1771 the water almost went higher than the door.

Alessandra in front of The Boathouse, one of several pubs and inns that we passed on the journey.

We're nearing the end of today's walk, Heddon-on-the-Wall, with the last part going alongside the river. We're finally walking in the countryside with the city left behind, on the other side of the river the church spire of Ryton church juts up from the trees. There is a small ascent up the hill towards the little place on the wall. We arrive at the place where we will stay for the night, Hadrian Way Bed & Breakfast, and is being met with a hearty welcome.

Follow the yellow arrows; they got yellow arrows here as well, which is nice for a Camino walker. But it isn't the yellow arrows we will have to look for on this walk, here it is the white acorn that counts.

Since Segedunum didn't open before 11 o'clock in the morning, being Sunday today, we didn't get off on an early start. We weren't on our way before the clock had turned half past one. That meant we arrived at Heddon-on-the-Wall relatively late. So after being received with tea and talked for quite a while with the very nice hostess of the guesthouse it soon dawns upon us that we've got not much time left to get something to eat for the evening (they closes the food serving quite early here). A quick shower and we're being driven up to The Swan. We arrive at the inn five minutes before they close the food serving. Outside the inn two people are camping for the nigh. The food tastes good after a long walk on the first day, on the menu was a trio of mini pies with sea salted caramel and whiskey ice cream for dessert. We finish the day with a short walk in the evening back to the guesthouse, in the horizon lights from the suburbs outside Newcastle glows in the dark.

The walks goes through the countryside at the last part of today's stage, we're getting closer to Heddon-on-the-Wall. Still by the side of the river Tyne. On the other side of the river the church spire of Ryton church can be seen above the trees.

On a historic note it is only the start of today's walk that is of any interest, it's only at Segedunum that parts of the wall is visible. The first stage of the Hadrian's Wall Path will for the most part be remembered as a nice promenade alongside the Tyne. It is a not to hard start on the trail where you mainly goes through rural surroundings, with some exceptions like Newcastle and the boring part alongside the A6085 motorway. A nice first day, but where the really exciting parts lie ahead of us on the trail.

On the way back to the guesthouse after having eaten dinner at The Swan in Heddon-on-the-Wall.

Wall ->

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